Constructive feedback for the ESV team

Ray McCalla at Sinaiticus likes the ESV:

When I first read the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible back in 2003, I immediately fell in love with it.

Ray has just blogged with some constructive criticism for the ESV. He hopes that the ESV team might accept his input. It helps when criticism comes from ESV friends. Ray prefaces his criticism with:

So I am writing a blog post to offer some constructive feedback to the ESV translation team, hoping to improve the clarity and accuracy of the English in the ESV.  Let me be clear: my motivation is love; I want to help make a good Bible translation even better, for God’s glory and for (English-speaking) humanity’s edification.

Ray asked that I consider linking to his blog post and I am happy to do so. Thanks, Ray, for thinking of BBB and thank you, also, for your constructive feedback of the increasingly popular ESV. I will also add Ray’s critique to my own webpage of ESV Links.

14 thoughts on “Constructive feedback for the ESV team

  1. Nik says:

    I received a reply to one of my unassuming blog comments in which the commenter implied that the NIV employed a ‘cover-up translation’ in Nehemiah 8:17.

    The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.(Nehemiah 8:17 NIV)

    In his conclusion, the commenter proudly stated, “One more reason to commend the ESV…”

    And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.(Nehemiah 8:17 ESV)

    The NIV was criticized for “leaving open the possibility” that Israel could have celebrated the Feast of Booths since the time of Joshua, whereas the ESV did not leave open that possibility.

    First of all, I do not think that the ESV translation disagrees with the NIV translation at all in Nehemiah 8:17. Also, after studying a lexicon, the NIV translation seems good, but so does the ESV translation – they both seem agreeable. It does not even bother me that the ESV decided to spell Joshua different; I would recommend either Bible translation to people.

    Can someone describe any contrast between NIV and ESV in Nehemiah 8:17? Am I missing something?

  2. sinaiticus says:

    Thanks, Wayne, for linking to my post. I want to make clear that I appreciate much about the ESV, but that I am no ESV-only zealot. I’m really not an anything-only zealot, except maybe sola scriptura. I recognize that different translations suit different situations better. For instance, if I meet an inexperienced believer or a young person, I quickly give them an NCV, which is great for such people. When our church goes to replace our NIV pew Bibles, I will probably encourage them to adopt the TNIV, because they are used to that style and because it’s a good, all-around translation suitable for preaching and liturgy. The ESV makes a great step forward for N/KJV and RSV folks who are looking to upgrade, and it’s a good scholarly translation that makes the original languages more transparent.

    Thanks again. I hope, through our common work, we can elevate the quality of our English translations.

  3. Nik says:

    I like the RSV, and just read from a paper that estimated that the ESV is 6% different from the RSV. So if the store is all out of ESVs, see if they have any RSVs left.

  4. Michael Nicholls says:

    Nik, I think the difference is this:

    ‘until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this.’ (NIV)
    ‘to that day the people of Israel had not done so.’ (ESV)

    By the NIV’s wording, it seems like the Israelites had celebrated the Feast of Booths, but ‘not like this’, or ‘not in this way’. Perhaps they had been celebrating it a different way?

    The ESV says that they hadn’t celebrated it at all..

    That’s what I get from reading the two English translations. Not sure what the Hebrew says.

  5. Peter Kirk says:

    I looked quickly at the Hebrew. The relevant part is literally “had not done from the days of Yeshua son of Nun thus (ken) the sons of Israel until that day”. That word ken implies that the Israelites had not done exactly this, not that they had not celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles at all. NIV is correct, and if ESV can be understood as meaning that the Feast had not been celebrated at all then it has been misunderstood and so is an ambiguous translation.

  6. Nik says:

    For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like (θέλω thelō) to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.(Romans 7:15 NASB)

    In Romans 7:15, based on the meaning of thelō, isn’t Paul referring to what he is determined to do, rather than what he would like to do? Is there a better way to translate 7:15?

    In English, like applys to something people take pleasure in, e.g. going out to a restaurant. That meaning of like is one reason I disagree with the NASB translation.

    Based on the nature of Paul’s ministry, and the consistent determination demonstrated by him, I think anything Paul did carries a stronger meaning by default.

  7. Charles says:

    (ESV) And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so.

    (NIV) The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this.

    The ESV is not ambiguous.
    They both say the same thing. They hadn’t built booths and lived in them until now. If they built them and lived in them it obviously means to did it now, whether or not you say to or until. And both mean they hadn’t done it like this since Jeshua. They both mean doing it like this and they both don’t prevent doing it in another way.

  8. Nik says:

    Just now beginning to recognize the potential for ambiguity…

    The term so, in English, carries many senses, so far as I know. Could that affect a clear understanding of the phrase …for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so? Which sense of so do you say it is? With so at the end, the meaning feels open-ended – with so many senses to choose from.

    On the other hand, if the phrase is understood to be absolute, is there an even better way to translate it, so as to eliminate the potential for ambiguity?

    NIV: From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this..

  9. Charles says:

    To me it means “as was previously stated”, in other words “…made booths and lived in the booths.”

    So, what does it mean to you?

    Please specify several of the “many senses to choose from” for this particular sentence.

    To me “like this” is a rather juvenile way to end a sentence. I was always taught to avoid it because like means similar to. For example when someone says, “like I said “, it means similar to the way they said, when most of the time people mean in the exact manner they said. They should have said, “as I said”.
    This really isn’t a case of mistranslation from a foreign language as it is failure to apply proper English grammar. In this particular case “like” could mean, they hired Samaritans to build booths for them and they spent the day in booths but returned home at night.

    So, the NIV is actually more ambiguous!!!!!!! 😉

    This is probably before your time, but there used to be a popular advertising campaign , “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!” It used to drive my English teachers crazy, because this usage for like became popular with high school kids, when the teachers always assured us that it should have been as..

  10. Kevin Sam says:

    It seems like this issue of Nehemiah 8:17 is ambiguous. It’s funny how everyone here feels the other translation is ambiguous. Personally, I feel the original language leaves it ambiguous.

    There are also other translations that take opposing views (e.g., NJB and GNT: “this was the first time it had been done since…” vs. NLT: “had not celebrated like this since…”). So which way is correct?

  11. Nik says:

    Charles, I can devise a lengthy description for what is wrong with a particular translation based on why it just doesn’t feel right. That’s the sort of freedom I have as a layman. 🙂

    Maybe if I would have compared several Bible translations, I would have discovered how that particular phrase has been proven to be collectively ambiguous. Oh well.

  12. Billy says:

    Thursday, March 19, 2009, Dallas, TX—The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) announced tonight the winners of the 2009 Christian Book Awards during the 2009 Christian Book Expo (CBE) in Dallas. For the first time in the award’s 30-year history, a study Bible was named Christian Book of the Year, the ESV Study Bible (Crossway).

    The ESV Study Bible, which has sold more than 180,000 units within five months of release, also won its category for best Bible, the first time a Bible has won both its category and the overall Christian Book of the Year award.

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