13 December 2007

Translating Translations

I'm going out on a limb today, but I have to say it, though I know of several people who won't agree with me and won't like that I'm saying it. All I can say is "even among misfits you're a misfit" (misfit not meaning the critique group but a broader definition).
Here goes.
I just don't get all the to-do over the ESV Bible translation. I'm not saying it's a bad translation, but what's all the hype about?
It's tauted as a brand new version! solves all translation problems! but it's an update on the RSV. It's only about 5% different from the RSV, and most of that is thees and thous. Oh, yes, everyone points to the passage in Isaiah that changes "young woman" into "virgin," but even that isn't a big deal. After all, the Hebrew term means both and in the immediate context, it did mean young woman even if Matthew used the nuance "virgin."
Also, from what I've read, it seems that the translators take a verbal inspiration view of the Bible. Verbal inspiration means God inspired every word of the Bible. I take a dynamic inspiration view of the text, which means that God inspired the message, the ideas, the story, and the human authors put it in their own words.
Sometimes, when you try to stick too closely to "word by word" translation, you not only have a wooden translation, you lose some of the message because idioms aren't understood.
Now, I do like the literary study esv bible, but that doesn't have anything to do with the translation itself, just how it's packaged.
After all, I did my thesis on story structure in the Bible. That's what draws me to these rich Old Testament stories. That's what makes me look at each gospel on its own merit, its own structure and plot, it's own message, rather than try and synchronize the events.
The other amusing thing: some of the translators that ate the TNIV for lunch for using gender inclusive language then used gender inclusive language for the ESV.
Don't get me wrong--I think gender inclusive is good. It's the original intention, kind of like how we saw "man" sometimes to mean humanity. (Now, there are times that the masculine should be kept, like "son of man" in Daniel and Ezekiel instead of "son of mortal" or something because Jesus later picked up the term for Himself and it was loaded with meaning. Well, I guess son of mankind would work for both, but you get my point--I like when it's translated "brothers and sisters" when Jesus addresses a mixed audience kind of thing.)
Let me reiterate that I don't think the ESV is a bad translation. I just wonder if the big deal is more because of the names tauting it. Celebraty-ism now intruding in translations?
Well, I so-and-so said I should use this Bible, or I use the same Bible that this person uses.
Of course, we can only have these discussions because of the plethora of translations in English. Guess you can't have these discussions with Swahili bibles.

Jefe, what is a plethora?
Why, El Guapo?
Well, you told me I have a plethora. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has *no idea* what it means to have a plethora.
Forgive me, El Guapo. I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education. But could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me?

3 comments:

Danica/Dream said...

Oh you crack me up! I have an ESV in my purse. Mostly because it fits. I like a variety of translations because I'm a nerd that way. But I've never gotten the hype over one being better than another.

Christianne said...

Huh. I have no idea what people out there are saying and why they are saying it, nor do I know any celebrities standing behind it. I was into NKJV for many years and loved it because I had read and re-read passages in that translation so that they'd become an intricate part of my soul and they flowed through me with lyricism eventually. Then I moved to NASB because it was the translation used in my college program, and eventually the same pattern emerged: I became attached because I had read and re-read passages that filled my soul with lyricism of meaning. Then, when I went back to teach for that same college program, the program switched to ESV (based on the recommendation of the Bible scholars on faculty). I don't know the nit and grit reasons why it was chosen, but I respected the men who recommended the switch. However, I didn't personally start reading the ESV myself (even though they gave me a free one in leather with gold-tipped pages) until Kirk gave me a hand-sized red leather (no, not red letter, but it has that, too) for our engagement. It was so easy to carry that small one around. Eventually I got the journal-lined hard-bound ESV, which I love. And, as you probably can expect, the same pattern has emerged there for me too: I love the lyricism of the passages, the new way things are worded that bring a new life to passages I've been reading my whole life. Nothing earth-shattering, I guess. But that's my story with it.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Oh a rant!! Love it.

I have heard "how great" the ESV is, but I've actually never used it.

I love the NASB for meaning illumination and the NIV is just fine with me for readability.