ESV and TNIV debate continues

There has been a sudden rush of interesting posts around the subject of Bible Translation, mostly focusing on the TNIV and ESV translations and moving beyond just the gender issue.

So here is a collection:

I suspect that the different views on the origins of the ESV are actually entirely compatible and it is just that different groups came together with different histories. One from the publisher and others from the churches and scholars.

It may be that we have heard far more from those assiciated with the ESV who hold a complementarian view (characterised by wanting to use male language in their translation work). It appears to me from the blog post that the publisher wishes to separate themselves a little from that position.

10 thoughts on “ESV and TNIV debate continues

  1. Jeremy Pierce

    Packer doesn’t raise any questions about how well the ESV translators knew NT Greek. He raises questions about how many were experts in classical Greek, which is as different from NT Greek as contemporary English is from KJV English. In fact, it’s a well-known exegetical fallacy to assume from some classical Greek meaning or usage that NT Greek will have the same meaning or sense. People like Suzanne and me who are trained in classical Greek but not Hellenistic Greek have to be especially cautious about that sort of thing. It’s good to have some classical Greek experts involved, but it’s not necessary to expect most of the translators to be especially expert in classical Greek, nor is it good if they are so well trained in classical Greek that they don’t know Koine as well.
    The other funny thing about some of the claims I saw in those discussions is that some people were treating classical Greek as the Greek language, as if Koine were a perversion that no one needs to know anything about. How can it be that you don’t know Greek as a language if you just know Koine? Does someone not know English as a language simply because they’re not fluent in the particular dialect the KJV translators would have known? That’s what the view amounts to.

  2. DaveW

    Thanks for the correction, I have corrected the post to read classical rather than NT Greek.
    As a non technical person in these areas it does seem to me that when one is translating Koine knowing more about how the language was used at the same time as well as before and after from other sources is a good thing. I kind of assumed that Lexicons are used to compare the meanings in Scripture to other documents of the same time.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy

    I am surprised that you would say that I was not trained in Hellenistic Greek. It is true that I had to go back and study Hebrew first, but I was admitted to the Near Eastern Studies department at the University of Toronto where I studied Hellenistic Greek. I then studied exegesis the following year.

  4. Jeremy Pierce

    Sorry about that, Suzanne. I misread you from having read only the Packer quotes and what you immediately say afterward. I think my points still stand, just not as clearly about you as about myself.

  5. Suzanne McCarthy

    The real point is that when you do Hellenistic Greek, you learn some Hebrew first, and 3 years of Greek lg, and then you are given intertestamental or church father’s texts for which you have no English translation and you do not know the plot or summary, something you have never heard of and then you come back to the next class with a translation. You never know first what the English might say, so you don’t have presuppositions. Then you might read from the Septuagint and then a gospel and then the prof says “Now what do you think?”
    So if you learn NT Greek and you always read something in Greek that you have previously read in English very well – rid yourself of bias and presupposition. But Aristotle is more like the NT – I have some idea first, some presupposition about him and then I read it in Greek and it clarifies it for me but I already know what someone else thought he had said. I can think about it first, but it is not a test of my Greek, just a pastime.
    But the hebrew is essential also. The point is that Grudem and Poythress did not look up words in the Lexicon before drafting the Colorado Springs guidelines. Do you really think that they were qualified to do what they did. Have you read thier book. They don’t even mention ‘autos’ once except in a footnote about Don Carson. Does that make any sense to you?

  6. Suzanne McCarthy

    I am afraid that I pressed publish on my previous comment accidentally so it appears unedited. I think though that the general gist is obvious. I learned Greek “as a language” before I worried about NT exegesis, so I am coming at things from a different background than others.
    I am still trying to understand exactly how the Colorado Springs Guidelines came into being without being further revised by people who had studied Greek. Most of what I am reacting to is really a surpriese to me. I was not aware before I started that I would find so many discrepancies. I didn’t know they were there before and I had never interacted with anyone else who had seen these discrepancies.
    I just happened on a blog one day that talked about the “male semantic component” of the word anthropos and I got to thinking about how that would affect the meaning of the word philanthropy. I still don’t completely understand how this neolexicology has come about but I think it may have something to so with the use of software searches in documents to discover hidden and previously unperceived meaning before. That is my latest theory.
    Maybe these hidden ‘male semantic components’ will in retrospect be called the first wave of “software theology”.

  7. John

    I don’t have any strong opinions on particular translations because I don’t think that I should until I am fluent in Greek and Hebrew. These gender debates aren’t something that I can sink my teeth into.
    But I have noticed Calvinists going hogwild over the ESV, which perked my suspicions.

  8. Jeremy Pierce

    Well, obviously anything a Calvinist says is wrong, so that’s decisive. Really, what’s that objection supposed to amount to? Given that the translation committee consisted of people from various theological backgrounds, the fact that Calvinists seem to like the ESV is really irrelevant. If there’s some reason Calvinists are attracted to it that constitutes a bad reason, then state the bad reason. Otherwise this is just blowing smoke.
    The most reasonable explanation for Calvinists liking it is that Reformed people tend to prefer more formally equivalent translations in general, and the ESV bills itself more that way. It’s part of the general culture of Reformed Christianity to be more conservative on many other things, including translation philosophy, and thus traditionalist translations like the ESV get more support. There’s nothing more insidious than that in the large Calvinist support for the ESV.

  9. Jennifer

    Actually, I can relate to what John wrote. I am “suspicious” any time one particular group overwhelmingly favors a particular translation. Not at all because “anything a Calvinist [or fill-in-the-blank other group] says is wrong” but because it makes me suspect a bias in translation. (I have no idea if this is true of the ESV or not, but I have also noticed that Calvinists overwhelmingly favor it, though in the churches I’ve attended, very conservative and at least predominantly Arminian, the ESV is relatively uncommon.) There may have been lots of people on the committee, but someone was responsible for a final decision when disagreements arose.
    Just to provide the most over-the-top example — would anyone on this blog want to use the version favored in particular by Jehovah’s Witnesses? Yeah, probably not — ’tis a bit biased.


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