Thursday, July 31, 2003


This may be the only chance I get to post for a while as I'm leaving town for an extended vacation in a few days but I thought I'd respond to Brian's post. The translation of the Bible that I've primarily used for the past year and a half is the English Standard Version. This was recently put together, as in the past two years. I first came in contact with it when it was being given away for free at a theology conference I was a part of. While I figured it was going to be a lousy translation, since it was free and put together by evangelicals, I have been plesently suprised.
First, there is a general distinction in translation types. In one column would be "word-for-word," or as you put it, the more literal. The goal of this translation style is to, as acurately as possible, capture the precise wording of the original text as well as the personal style of each Bible writer. This tradition includes the King James, the RSV, and now the ESV. Why I like the ESV is that it seems they have gone to even greater lengths to present the wordings and style, willing, in some cases, to sacrifice the "easy read" effect. There are certain illusions and word choices that are presented as they are and they may make little sense to a current reader.
The second group is best described as a "thought-for-thought" translation. Here, the translators are looking help the reader to "make sense" of the text they are encountering. That beign said, the translator would be prone to translate several sentances at once, maybe, over individual words and word combinations. The goal is to present continuity of the text and provide an easier read.
SO, for the evaluation: I think that both are necessary and helpful. What I have found, however, is that often the "thought-for-thought" group (NIV, NASB) tend to, for necessity, include to reflect more interpretive opinions than the "word-for-word" group. I think it's important to introduce a particular claim: there is no translation (of anything) without interpretation. That being said, I desire to have an opportunity to interpret the text without a certain interpretive bend already being presented. I think the NASB and NIV offer a readable format as well as provide a soft level of in text, and unmarked, running commentary within the translation. For the person looking to more in depth biblical research, I suggest they use the "word-for-word" version and then read multiple commentaries. I think the ESV has made significant steps toward stripping away interpretive trends, or at least the interpretations they are taking are unique.
Because I'm not used to writing for Blog pages, I realize this is already long, but I would like to point toward a particular passage as an example of what is going on here.
Matthew 7:15-20- This is the good tree/good fruit, bad tree/bad fruit passage. Take a second to read over it in whatever Bible you have near by. According to my parallel bible, every translation that's popular translates this as the good tree...good fruit..bad tree...bad fruit. The ESV translates this as healthy tree...good fruit...diseased tree...bad fruit. Now, avoiding what would be an interesting translation/interpritation discussion, the other versions do nothing to point out that Matthew has in fact used four words to describe the trees and fruit instead of only two. While this may not seem important, think of all the different ways that good and bad can be understood. healthy, appealing, positive, cool, morally acceptable, etc. There are distinct Greek words used in each case and I believe this is significant to understanding the text. While the other translations leave this out, the ESV has managed to bring to bear something worth talking about.
Now, I'm aware that this appears at the surface to be a nit-picky example and that is correct because we're talking about serious, nit-picky bible reading for the sake of interpretation. For the sake of closing out this post, I suggest using a multiple-translation aproach as the best way to go until you learn greek. and yes, implied in that is the need for everyone who wants to study the bible to learn greek. I reccomend the ESV, especially for Biblical study but I also recommend it for pure pleasure reading as well because the Psalms and the Prophets read more poetically in their original style. Anyway, that's why I use this Bible Brian, thank you for asking. I'll be fielding questions all week. Just kidding. I want to pursue a conversation about interpritting the Tree and Fruit passage when I get some more time but it will probably be a few weeks. In the meantime, maybe everyone should take some time to look at that passage and the surrounding ones and then think about the possible things this could mean. Or, don't and worry about your jobs and loved ones.


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