Thursday, August 12, 2010

I'm over the ESV

For some time now, I've been telling my classes that the ESV is possibly the best formal equivalence translation of the New Testament out there right now, but that I refused to buy one because I had it on Logos and didn't like the politics of why it was created. Today, after actually finally breaking down and committing to buying a copy, I suddenly found myself disavowing my confidence in its literality.

I've never claimed it was the most literal OT translation. It often confuses Christian readings with most likely readings, like when it goes with the OT manuscripts from 900AD over the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint from 100BC: it can bring itself to go with the most likely translation of Deuteronomy 32:8--that the Most High divided up humankind according to the number of the gods, not the Sons of Israel. So I guess I'm sticking with the NRSV as the best formal translation of the OT, although it can also be dynamic at times.

But yesterday we came across this ESV translation of Romans 11:25-26, "a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved." A good formal equivalence translation would read something like, "And so all Israel will be saved." It seems to me that the ESV goes beyond a literal reading and inserts a replacement theology--the fullness of the Gentiles coming in = all Israel being saved.

Throughout the passage I found many points where the ESV was less than helpful in doing detailed observations on this passage. So I'm done with the ESV before I began. I'm back to the drawing board with no favorite formal equivalence translation of the New Testament. Maybe I'll end up with the NASB again.

9 comments:

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Is your beef about Rom 11:26 that ουτως is ambiguous (as either "in this way" or "in the end"), and they picked one of the meanings, rather than going with the ambiguity of the English "so" in accordance with good formal equivalence?

William Watson Birch said...

I constructed a rather lengthy post against many of the ESV's renderings but decided not to post it because so many people have benefited from it. I think I may change my mind and post it in the near future. This translation has its problems, as well as its particular theological bent (Calvinistic). It's a great translation for Calvinists, but few others.

Ken Schenck said...

Yes, Stephen, that was my complaint. What I have been wanting to use the ESV for is a good formal equivalence translation. I had printed it off for a detailed observation assignment in class and discovered this and that some of the connecting words were missing.

Anonymous said...

Ken, what are your thoughts regarding the NIV for NT study?

-RD

matthew said...

"In this way" doesn't make it a replacement theology. Who is being replaced? Jesus and Paul have already established that true Israelites are those that are in Christ. Nobody is being replaced. True Israelites are still in and believing Gentiles have come in.

"Replacement theology" would mean that God has switched from having Jews as His covenant people to having Gentiles as His covenant people. 99% of the people accused of having a "replacement theology" don't believe that.

matthew said...

What's more, "in this way" doesn't even dictate that you believe "Israel" equals believing Jews and Gentiles.

It could simply mean that the fullness of the gentiles coming in provokes Jews to jealousy and, thus, brings them in.

The translation still leaves room for multiple views.

Ken Schenck said...

WWB, I have been eyeballing the ESV from Logos for a while but this is the first what seemed to me somewhat overt Reformed translation. Do you know of others?

RD, the NIV is occasionally dynamic in ways I think are suspect, so I generally encourage others when we are doing "detailed observation." We used the RSV at Asbury for it. The NRSV is sometimes dynamic and sometimes formal. All in my opinion...

Matthew, I probably didn't use the word replacement right...

Marc said...

I must admit, the fact that Piper uses ESV made me skeptical from the start (and William seems to confirm that it's for Calvinists) but I use it together with the excellent NRSV on eSword to try balance out the, apparently Anglican (Episcopal) bent of the NRSV.

RD - N.T. Wright is highly critical of the NIV and even to the untrained eye (i.e. mine) it appears highly theological. It's ideal for mainline evangelicalism.

Kevin Jackson said...

The ESV has some complementarian bias as well. For example: Romans 16:1 (translated as servant rather than deacon in reference to Phoebe), Romans 16:7 (Junias is "well known to the apostles", rather than "outstanding among the apostles".) Also note the inconsistent footnote use for these two passages in James. Apparently "sisters" are capable of cursing but not teaching. :)

Having said that, I have a copy of the ESV, and still find it helpful.