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« ETS Day 1 by Bill Mounce | Main | Don't Stop Believing 1 of 5: Communicate without Compromise by Michael E. Wittmer »


"His solution appeared to be that we should adopt a more dynamic view of translation, and then we would have gotten it right."

Is this necessarily the case? I'm not sure. Many of the suggestions made by Strauss are represented in the NRSV, which is not a Functional translation. I think that the ESV team should examine many of the changes and see what ones can be accepted (or adjusted) in a way that doesn't violate the ESV's formal philosophy.

No translation is perfect any more than the translators are.

Bill, your comments were right on the mark concerning Mark Strauss's statements and his own use of language in his paper. There were many interesting suggestions and comparisons throughout his paper; however, few of these had to do with whether or not the translation was actually "right" or "correct" - instead, they had to do with "better" or "worse" translations based on translation philosophy and English language usage. In addition, the paper was intentionally and, perhaps, unintentionally, inflammatory throughout. Even the title of his paper was deliberately inflammatory and the same tone of superiority continued all the way through the paper.

When will professed Christian scholars grow up into Christ and start arguing on the basis of facts without injecting personal "digs" and the loaded inflammatory language that is such a hallmark of non-Christian secular writing? Time after time I've read about how ESV supporters are so critical of the TNIV and yet time after time I continue to read TNIV supporters speak with an air of superiority towards ESV supporters. That this takes place from both sides is undeniable - but, I ask, when will Christian scholars start writing with the proper respect for each other that is inherent to our common life in Christ? May I suggest the works of F.F. Bruce and G.E. Ladd as first class examples of how this can be done.

As you blog on the ESV, could you address why the NRSV is not used by Evangelicals. In my mind, the ESV was a duplication of effort, since it is close the NRSV, the NRSV has more global acceptance and is more readible.

Bill, I disagree that "In all but one of his examples, our translation was the one required by our translation philosophy."

Many of the examples Mark gave had to do with obsolete or archaic language used in the RSV (retained from the ASV) and retained in the ESV. It is possible, as the NASB (another revision of the ASV) has shown, to follow the ESV translation philosophy but use current English word order and words which would render the Hebraic, Aramaic, and Greek literally, rather than dynamically.

Rod Decker (with no ties to either the TNIV or ESV) and other scholars who have evaluated the ESV have said the same things about the ESV.

I agree with you that Mark could have used less emotionally laden language. But I think that it would be good for the ESV revision team to listen objectively to what Mark (and others) has said and examine it a verse-by-verse basis to see if the ESV can become an even better translation by tweaking the word orders and other syntactic oddities. The ESV team has already done some of this, as you know. May the Lord give you all strength and wisdom to continue "to make a good translation even better."

Every Bible translation can be improved. How well I know! It's the business I'm in.

Bill, as you probably know, much of the history of the history and its endorsements and promotion is also full of emotionally laden language. It is natural for people who have certain personality types and believe strongly in what they are doing to use strong emotional language. My namesake (first name) on the ESV team is a prime example.

"history of the history" was a mental typo for "history of the ESV"

I appreciate and use the ESV, but I think that the idea we are ever going to have one translation that is ‘best’ misses the depth of the original languages and the complexities of translation. In addition to the ESV I also utilize the NRSV and TNIV quite often, and I think all three have their place. None are perfect, all can be improved, but even if improved the ‘best’ translation will always vary by verse, by book, by what your intentions in reading the passage are, by level of literacy, and by personal opinions about translation issues on which knowledgeable people disagree.
Favoring a translation if it fits you best is fine, but we shouldn’t assume that our favorite translation is ‘the one’ (unless you prefer the original Greek and Hebrew I guess, though there is still some room for disagreement there as well).

Just a thought, but I'm really tired of the "archaic language" arguments; an archaism, properly, is language retained to meet a need that contemporary language cannot; and much of what I see called "archaic" among commentators is often just literary, not oral; people are forgetting that English does distinguish the two; furthermore what's often frowned upon by some groups is completely current and customary among others. Should we translated high-register English as used in upper class New York City? Or how about Houston? Or Southern England? Midwestern U.S. English? Or that of California?


Mr. Mounce, I found that paper to be...more than unhelpful, but unwarranted; maybe an accidentally helpful point here or there, but seriously, complaining about "knew her not" or other Biblicalisms? Christians used to cherish these, and now we have bedwetters upset that the Bible is a foreign, ancient, document that doesn't conform to their own expectations or thought patters; no offense, but I often think the ESV can in places be overly accomodating, and sometimes more "charismatic-reformed-evangelical" than accurate here and there, but by no means do I think it's this aweful junk we hear so many unliterary, high-minded, critics decrying it as.

Thanks for all the good efforts put forward in that translation. : )

Wow. Lots of responses. Darrell Bock wrote a good followup on his blog as well (www.bible.org/bock). He makes good points about there not being a "right" translation, something we understand.

Let me refer to a few of your comments.

1. I can absolutely guarantee all of you that Mark Strauss is a world class scholar and a world class person. Let's give him and the rest of the TNIV translators the respect each one deserves.

2. Let me assure you that the ESV committee will look at all of Mark's examples. It will be my job to evaluate the NT ones. I was referring to the examples he covered orally, not all the ones in his paper since I did not get a copy. (I have one now.)

3. The failure of the NRSV to capture an audience among evangelicals is interesting. The gender language accounts for some of that. The history of the RSV and the positions of the National Council of Church would also contribute I would think. But in reality I am not sure why.

4. Don't ya just love language! It is so subtle, inexact, flexible and flowing, gaining from context while still allowing individual words to punch us when we least expect it. I love it.

One reason a lot of evangelicals are wary of the NRSV is that it seems to favor the LXX over the MT whenever there's a significant difference between the two. Take a look at the early chapters of I Samuel to get a sense of how different it is from the RSV. It preserves the MT in the footnotes, but it really doesn't take a very conservative approach to OT textual criticism, and a lot of evangelicals who realize that are pretty resistant to it.

Dan Wallace is doing more for biblical scholarship by collecting photographs of all the NT manuscripts than any man has done for centuries. We don't need endless rubbishy papers on the same old stuff, while the raw materials remain inaccessible. This work at CSNTM must be of permanent value to everyone.

I was interested in one comment:

"Dan’s conclusion is that it is better for the church to live with a little uncertainty about the text than with a false certainty based on incorrect text critical assumptions."

Dan is absolutely right. The fact is that modern printed bibles can have typos. Ancient hand-copied ones could more easily get mistakes in them (which could get corrected rather more easily too!) These are just facts. We live in an imperfect world.

But the ancients knew all this. They lived in the age of manuscripts. They wrote complaints about sloppy scribal practices, as we know from Cicero. Yet it didn't stop them from realising that the NT was inspired by God; that the eternal had entered into an imperfect world.

How do those two incompatible things work together? We don't know. The scriptures don't tell us, and the fathers don't either. But their experience - and ours - is that they do.

It's a mistake to feel that we have to try to define how the interface between eternity and the world in the scriptures works. The data isn't there to explain it, and only God knows for sure. We do know that people who going around talking about "mistakes" in the scriptures somehow end up with a gospel which merely reflects their cultural predispositions, and is not centred on God or blessed by God.

We can't invent truth. On some things we should just say "don't know."

Not that we should allow the specious argument that says that the bible can't be inspired because a printer can make a typo. Those who make such a theological argument are asserting that God can't perfectly inspire a text in an imperfect world. The evidence, after 2,000 years of church history, is to the contrary.

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