OK, I couldn't wait till tomorrow. Mark Driscoll has, in my opinion, gone too far in trying to make the ESV the new KJV of evangelicalism. He has six reasons why his church uses the blessed ESV.
In a previous post, I was a bit mocking of the contradiction of saying God is obsessed with the precise wording of the Bible and yet using an English translation at all, let alone one that does not represent the wording most Christians have used in worship throughout church history. Let's call that post, "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
In his second point, his eminence tells us all not to use dynamic equivalence translations like the NLT or the Message.
2. What it says comes before what it means.
Driscoll is saying that commentaries should unpack what the Bible means but that a translation should try its best to render the text as it is. A translation that tries to stick fairly closely to the sentence structure of the original is called a formal equivalence translation. One that tries to render the thought in idiomatic English is a dynamic equivalence translation. A free translation or paraphrase is one that is very free in trying to translate the basic thoughts in equivalent categories in the target culture.
Again, don't get me wrong. I myself prefer formal equivalent translations like the ESV and RSV. But for preaching, I prefer a translation that brings out the message the sermon is about. It should be a both/and, not an either/or. Even among formal equivalence translations, it is good to use more than one.
There are two rubs here. The first is that all translation involves interpretation. It is impossible simply to translate "what it says" and leave the "what it means" to the interpreter. A translation often has to choose to go one way or another. That's why it is good to use more than one if you do not know Greek and Hebrew.
In fact, it is with fiendish delight that I notice Driscoll contradicting himself on his #6, where he compliments the ESV for translating in a complementarian way. So take Romans 16:7. The NIV2011 gives us exactly the kind of translation Driscoll is talking about: "Greet Andronicus and Junia... They are outstanding among the apostles." No doubt he prefers the ESV's version: "Greet Andronicus and Junia... They are well known to the apostles."
The ESV wants to make sure you don't think Junia, a woman, was an apostle. Accordingly, the ESV has given us a "dynamic" translation that is possible, but it does exactly what Driscoll is condemning the other translations for--doing the interpretation for us.
Physician, heal thyself.
The more important rub is that the NT authors wouldn't know what the heck he's talking about. As I mentioned in the last post, the NT authors felt entirely free to change the wording of OT texts they were quoting because it was the spirit rather than the letter of Scripture that they were interested in. A free translation like The Message is a far better example of how the NT authors used the OT than the ESV.
I came across one such passage this afternoon in John 7:38: "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." The problem is, what text is Jesus/John quoting??? The best suggestion I've heard is Isaiah 55:1--"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters."
Yep, you know what you're talking about, Mark. Jesus sure was preoccupied with a literal translation, wasn't he?