Thursday, December 08, 2005


Just a quick post to say that despite what you may have been told the New Revised Standard Version is actually quite good. The most common problem evangelicals have with it is it's liberal approach on translations of gendered terms such as 'son' or 'brothers'. I believe that some degree of gender-inclusivity is needed in our translations, in order for the bible to be translated accurately in today's culture (I am not alone either e.g. Don Carson, and Craig Blomberg agree). However, the NRSV probably still goes go to far (the TNIV is better); in contrast the ESV probably doesn't go far enough.

The most important test of a translation is how well it acheives both accuracy and readability. The Revised Standard Version was widely aclaimed in its time for both, but time has took it's toll on it's archaic language (e.g. 'Thou..'). The NRSV and the ESV are both updates of the RSV seeking to include recent research and language changes. In my experience the NRSV and RSV get draw on the changes on the basis of recent research, with perhaps the more conservative ESV translators edging it. But I really believe that the ESV dropped the ball on updating the language of the RSV sufficiently. It follows the RSV word for word an increadible amount, and although it gets rid of the most awful archaicisms I get the feeling they just didn't try very hard. An example of this that lead me to post was my Christmas card text (Heb 2:14):

RSV: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

ESV: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil

NRSV: Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil

This is typical of many examples I've come across in my bible reading. Both the NRSV and the ESV follow the RSV closely, and accurately translate the greek, but the ESV slavishly follows the RSV, where as the NRSV updates the language where necessary. I mean who uses the word 'partook' anymore? The NRSV definitely wins on readability (NB it occasionaly makes helpful changes in the word order as well). If only there was a New English Standard Version which makes these kind of updates, then I would not feel like a donkey unable to choose between two equally juicy carrots!

I wonder if I've now blown any chances of entering the Evangelical blogosphere.


At 4:45 pm, Blogger Ant said...

Hi. I wandered your way via Bish.
Interesting stuff. I too think the ESV is not all it is cracked up to be, and at times is simply dreadful English. I read an article recently which described how, measured even by it's own criteria in the intro, the ESV fails to measure up. Issues such as translating words consistently etc...
Do you have a view on the TNIV? I've not read it, but I have a friend who thinks it's great. Since beginning to look round blog land a few months back, I've been quite amazed at the massive ESV club there is online. Most of the people I read seem to be ESV-ers. I remain to be convinced.

At 12:40 am, Blogger Dave K said...

Thanks for dropping by.

Don't get me wrong, I like the ESV. It is my standard bible although this is because of it's popularity, ease of access on the internet, and the fact I have a nice small one which fits nicely in my pocket! The reason it is good though, is all down to the quality of the RSV. But I do not think it has updated the language enough (or de-jargonised it) enough. Also it is a bit pedantic about changing the word order from the greek which makes for some sentances which do not read as smoothly as they do in english. I was once a king-james only person, so to be honest I do not find it a problem to read, but it is not as accessable as it could be. The NRSV is much more readable, although occasionally opts for strange liberal/inclusive language options.

So in a way I would like to see an end to the ESV mania, although I think life is a lot easier if there is a universally common standard (my church cell group has a different translation per person which can lead to some real tangents with new Christians) and I do not think the NRSV is that much better.

So... the TNIV.
I have read the TNIV NT a lot, and the OT not at all. From my reading and reviews my opinion is that it is a definite improvement on the NIV. Corrects some howlers, improves the language, and I am generally in favour of inclusive language to the degree of the TNIV. Lack of word consistancy is my biggest hang up. As I mentioned readability is not a big deal for me so it will not become my main bible. I feel more comfortable with a more literal translation (rightly or wrongly). I hope the TNIV is successful though, but I am glad to see the success of the ESV as popular literal translation (it is a 1000 times better than the NASB which was the previous literalists favourite).

Oh! also, in light of your picture you really ought to check out this.

Talking about good English though, I do sympathise with translators, I have great trouble with it myself!


Post a Comment

<< Home