Bill Mounce, who is New Testament Chair of the ESV translation committee, has responded to Mark Strauss’ paper as reproduced on this blog. Ironically he has done this on Zondervan’s Koinonia blog, and hidden in a post on ETS Day 2. Here is the relevant part of what Bill writes:
But hands down the paper that engendered (pun intended) the greatest response was Mark Strauss’ paper entitled, “Why the English Standard Version Should Not Become the Standard English Version: How to Make a Good Translation Much Better.” Let’s start with disclaimers:
Mark was not part of the original TNIV team but has been used by Zondervan as one of their most eloquent spokesmen and is now a member of the CBT (Committee for Bible Translation). I am the New Testament Chair of the ESV, and Mark and I have been good friends for many years, and are both on the board for the Zondervan commentary series mentioned above.
While the content of the paper was helpful, I am afraid that it only increased the gap between the two “sides” of the debate. There has been a lot of hurt and damage done toward people on both sides of this debate (e.g., someone shot a bullet through a TNIV and mailed it to the publisher), and I got the feeling that Mark was getting tired of being attacked. I would be tired if I were in his shoes. He kept saying that the ESV has “missed” or “not considered” certain translational issues. While I am sure they were not intentional, these are emotionally charged words that do not help in the debate. They are in essence ad hominem arguments focusing on our competence (or perceived lack thereof) and not on the facts. He was not in the translation meetings and does not know if we in fact did miss or did not consider these issues. Time and time again Mark said that if we made a change, then we would have gotten it “right.” This, of course, is not a helpful way to argue because it implies there is only one “right” way to translate a verse. His solution appeared to be that we should adopt a more dynamic view of translation, and then we would have gotten it right. The solution to this debate is to recognize that there are different translation philosophies, different goals and means by which to reach those goals, and the goal of the translator is to be consistent in achieving those goals. In all but one of his examples, our translation was the one required by our translation philosophy.
Mark invited us not to argue with him after the paper but to engage in the debate next ETS, so I am going to break my decades of silence at ETS and will read a paper about why we did get it right for our audience. The inside story of the ESV and specifically our translation guidelines have never been told. And when done, I will invite Mark to write this blog next year.
It is good to hear some balanced comment from the ESV camp. I look forward to hearing something of the inside story of ESV. I take the point that ESV is in general following its own translation guidelines, but I don’t consider these guidelines to be helpful. Quite apart from the issue of gender language, I consider these guidelines to have led to the situation which I described in a comment here a few days ago (which Mike found humorous although I intended it seriously):
At least ESV as it currently is has found a niche market among those who believe that archaic and unclear language is the sign of a proper Bible, and that clarifying such language is the job of a preacher.
See also Mike’s response to what Mounce has written.
UPDATE: And see also what Bryan has written in response, and Jeff’s comment there.