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Isaiah 1:2 Good one. This comes down to whether the metaphor of "giving an ear" is still meaningful in English or not. If it isn't there is an excuse to translate it off, if it is there isn't one. I'm running a quick experiment with the Russian English community to see if they understand a phrase like "Give me your ear for 2 minutes" and so far the answer is yes they do. I've asked my daughter but I suspect I'll get the same result.

Which means the NRSV made a poor poetic judgement in dropping this phrase.

Isaiah 1:6 comes down to tariy. And I agree with you on "open wound" or "raw wound". Bleeding implies something that isn't evident in the text, it is a mistake. I hope a few others jump in to confirm but otherwise I think I have to give you the prize on this verse. Congratulations you are the first to win my verse by verse contest!

I'll reply to the editorial separately.


I wrote a whole post responding to the editorial, Why be an ESV hater.



I appreciate your fair-mindedness. We are not exactly on the same page in the culture wars, something, in any case, I don't hold against you (can you tell that I was born and raised in a liberal Republican family?), but I treasure the fact that we can nonetheless agree on simple truths.


If you don't mind me veering off topic, speaking of "demonizing particular translations", you should check out Ryken's "Choosing a Bible" and from there you will see someone from the ESV Translation Oversight Committee do quite a bit of

Ryken, who was asked to join the Translation Oversight Committee of the English Standard Version, at the time had no idea what an “essentially literal translation” meant. If you don’t understand the larger scope of translating, how do you do oversight on a Translation Oversight


Bryon --

Excellent point. It is amazing how often in that book Ryken criticizes other translations for things the ESV itself does.


Byron and CD,

Your criticisms of Ryken's polemics carry some weight. But what would you say if I remarked that you do the same thing (single out ESV for criticism for things virtually all translations do, including the ones you prefer)?

I think you guys and Ryken have a similar polemical style.


John --

I'd ask for evidence. I conveniently have a recommendations list of bibles I wrote in April. Most of the ones on there I've never seen any advertising at all. I only wish the REB had advertising that I could be critical of.

But a fair comparison might be the campaign for the TNIV which does have advertising. Take for example the IBS's discussion of their translation philosophy. I can't see anything deceptive about that ad. I feel perfectly comfortable sending people to to get factual information about the TNIV. I can't send someone to to get factual information about the ESV.

So no I think there isn't a parallel here.


The link to the bibles list didn't work 10 really good bibles you may not know about.

John if you can edit, feel free to correct in the original and delete this.



I'm pleased to see you sticking up for the TNIV, a thoroughly evangelical translation. This despite the fact that you are by no means an evangelical. Perhaps the rule you are following is: a little bit of political correctness covers up a multitude of sins.

Do you really need evidence that the Tyndale (Luther) - Geneva (Calvin) - KJV - RSV - NRSV translation tradition is a specifically Protestant Christian construal of the Bible and its message?

If so, my first suggestion would be that you read everything written by David Daniell you can get your hands on. You are in for an amazing intellectual adventure. Here's a convenient point of departure:

Bruce Metzger, the evangelical who wrote the preface to NRSV, glosses over the fact that NRSV, far from being an a-confessional translation, is a traditioned translation, specifically a Protestant Christian translation.

According to Metzger, yes, the NRSV is a product of the education bureau of the NCC (a coalition of US churches long dominated by mainline Protestants), yes, the NRSV hews to the KJV-RSV tradition except insofar as modern historical critical perspectives suggest otherwise, and insofar as what some view KJV-RSV language as linguistically "sexist," was taken out (which caused resignations in the translation committee, a controversy of course he does not allude to), but the important thing is:

there was a Jewish [Reformed, of course] member of the committee, several [Protestant-friendly] Catholic members, an Eastern Orthodox member [apparently acting on his own].

Metzger's preface, with the best of intentions, gives the impression that NRSV is an ecumenical translation acceptable to all Jews and Christians of goodwill. The last paragraph of the preface is heart-rending to read now, given the wide rejection NRSV has met in most branches of organized religious life:

In traditional Judaism and Christianity, the Bible . . . is recognized as the unique record of God's dealings with people over the ages. . . . The Bible carries its full message . . . to all persons and communities who read it so that they may discern and understand what God is saying to them. . . . It is the hope and prayer of the translators that this version of the Bible may continue to hold a large place in congregational life and speak to all readers, young and old alike, helping them to understand and believe and respond to its message.

It's a wonderful prayer, but it has not been answered in the way Metzger wished. For excellent and quite rational reasons.


Actually I just try and be as fair as I can. I'll attack the TNIV for where it screws up and praise it for where it does a good job. I've even complemented the Reformed Study Bible (ESV) for the best typesetting of any bible I know. On my list, I did pick the NIGTC as exegetical commentary of choice not the Anchor.

I read the link... I like the REB endorsement. I'm not sure what specifically you were expecting me to get. The main theme that the reformation quickly morphed into a move for freedom is something I generally discuss with Catholics who are critical of the reformation. There you have a very different discussion about authority of Christ and the church. Anyway I'm not sure what specifically you were looking for me to get from the link.

As far as the NRSV, I don't disagree that the NRSV is in the Christian and to some extent Protestant tradition of translation. And to people who attack it for being non Christian I generally recommend they look at Price's translation to see what a non-Christian translation would really look like.
That being said I think the NRSV team made a definite attempt to be ecumenical and claimed they made an attempt to be ecumenical. The NCC is a liberal protestant coalition that tries to reach out. The NRSV is a liberal protestant bible that tries to reach out. You could argue for failure but I don't see dishonesty there.

And even on failure, I'm not sure the NRSV was a huge failure. I certainly remember when the big two were the NIV/NRSV. And even today the NRSV seems to be doing well among the NCC churches. Retail sales are soft, but no worse than many others. But even here it isn't horrible, looking at Amazon's Best sellers the first NRSV comes in strong (sales rank 4523 among all books) the Green Bible, an environmentalist bible. The Oxford makes the list in multiple versions the Harper Collins, the NISB both make the top 100 bibles list.

So anyway I don't see anything that Metzger wrote that is dishonest.



Another supporter of REB! I love it.

With respect to the history of English Bible translation, I recommend Daniell's "The Bible in English." His biography of William Tyndale is likewise awesome. It will then be perfectly clear to you that the NRSV, insofar as it is stands in the Tyndale-Geneva-KJV tradition - to a surprisingly high degree, all things considered - is a thoroughly Protestant construct of the Bible and its message.

You say:

"Actually I just try and be as fair as I can."

Don't we all? That you do not assume that all do is not a good sign IMHO.

No one said that anyone was being dishonest, except you, of course.

I regret this for your sake. The politics of vilification that you practice, and countenance in others, drowns out the reasonable things you have to say.


Your criticisms of Ryken's polemics carry some weight. But what would you say if I remarked that you do the same thing (single out ESV for criticism for things virtually all translations do, including the ones you prefer)?

I think you guys and Ryken have a similar polemical style.

I was criticizing Ryken for his misstatements on competing translations and some of his rather bizarre views.



Ryken is a sincere believer in the merits of translating word-for-word. That is exactly what you would expect from someone committed to seeing through a revision of the RSV. Word-for-word translation technique is a characteristic of the KJV translation stream. As the NRSV team put it, as literal as possible, as free as necessary.

He measures the translations he cites against his standard, and finds them wanting. That's really pretty logical.

It would be easy, I admit, to formulate his own arguments better than he does, but I don't think they are unreasonable. The premise, to be sure, is not a slam-dunk. But these are things nevertheless about which entirely reasonable people tend to disagree.

Nida, whom he takes to task, certainly had a very different approach.

In short, Byron, you are not a very merciful reader of Ryken. I get the impression that he is, as it were, a sinner in the hands of an angry Byron.

The people I respect most are scholars like Tom Schreiner who are catholic on these matters (Schreiner is a former Catholic; maybe that works to his advantage).

Schreiner is a top-notch NT scholar who supports both ESV ("literal") and NLT ("paraphrastic").


Ryken is not a sincere believer in word for word. There are good quality word for translations, on the market. If he believed in that philosophy you'd expect him to attack the ESV and defend the Concordant or the Amplified, or a good interlinear. This claim that the ESV is "essentially literal" is part of ESV propaganda. The fact that this 336 page book doesn't mention that there are readily available translations far more "word for word" than the ESV is yet another perfect example of what I would call a lie. The book is designed to leave the reader with the impression that the most literal you can get in English is the ESV, ASV, RSV, KJV or NRSV. If Ryken really believed in word for word and had integrity, we would expect to see something like:

While the RSV family are all very literal and in my mind present the best possible balance. I think I should take a few pages to describe bibles which are substantially more faithful to the Greek text than ours. In later chapters I'll be describing other advantages like suitability for liturgy where these bibles fall very short. But on the issue of fidelity .....


BTW on the Isaiah 1:2 I forgot to mention. My daughter knew exactly what it meant and in fact corrected my modernization back to a more archaic usage, "lend me your ear'. So given my sample of a half dozen of non native speakers and children all understood the expression I'd say the NRSV was being overly cautious.

bryon are not a very merciful reader of Ryken...

My critique was born out of concern and not anger. I say that because having been exposed to moving from Korean and Japanese into English, I know that a "literal" translation method misleads at times. I also once went through a basic Hebrew class. With my exposure to other languages, I know for certain that something always gets lost in translation.



Thanks for doing all that field-testing on KJV-RSV-ESV Isa 1:2.

Your defense of "the Concordant," "the Amplified," or a good interlinear is interesting. I haven't heard anyone recommend any of these for a long time. Laypeople in my experience who use these expedients almost invariably think they know a lot more than they really do. Ryken is to be praised for not arguing as you suggest he should have.

Come to think of it, you are making a very odd argument indeed. First of all, the Concordant is one thing. It is truly the reductio ad absurdum of the word-for-word translation technique. Unless you know Greek very well, the Concordant is likely to throw you way out in left field. Surely this is obvious. The Amplified is another animal altogether. It gives 10 different possible meanings for a word in context, suggesting to many that the word in context means all of them. All of this is patently absurd except to someone who knows nothing about language at all. An interlinear, on its part, is supposed to help someone learn Greek (and I don't recommend one, in any shape or form). It is useless, really, in terms of giving the meaning of sense-units of the text itself. That's because the sense of a text is always located at the discourse-level, not the word-level. It is this basic truth that many people, even a lot of scholars, never grasp. If it isn't grasped, interpretation inevitably goes haywire.

I repeat, Ryken is to be praised for not arguing as you suggest he should have.


You are exactly right that a literal translation method is misleading at times. On this blog, I have demonstrated that many times. One can demonstrate this from any translation in the KJV family, the NASB, and many others.

Is there a reason why you single out the ESV for criticism? That's what I don't understand. All translations, of course, make high claims for themselves. Implicitly or explicitly, they all present themselves as the best in some sense. Otherwise, why produce them in the first place.


Is there a reason why you single out the ESV for criticism?

My criticism here is of Leland Ryken's views. For me, the ESV isn't the issue.


Wow when it comes to the Amplified, not such the postmodernist anymore. Now suddenly there is one absolute catholic truth.

There are really 2 arguments here:

1) Should a supporter of word for word translation recommend AMP, concordant.... I think this one is a clear cut yes and that was my point. Your counter argument is that you don't support word for word but rather support phrase for phrase, "the sense of a text is always located at the discourse-level, not the word-level". You are disagreeing with the premise not the conclusion.

2) What is the best level of formality without assuming word for word is desirable? That's basically what BBB spends their time talking about. I happen to like a pair system of very dynamic and a literal (not formal). Gaus / Brown & Comfort is my recommendation. But that is a whole other argument, I believe strongly in dynamic but think that translation loses too much and this pair is the best way to recover as much as possible.

As an aside, what I like about the Amplified is that it sends a clear message to people, generally charismatics, to remind them that when they read a translation they aren't reading the bible but an editorial about the bible. The translators aren't so hot, but it feels very greek.

Take Romans 12:2 in the AMP, which is a fairly representation of both the good and the bad:
Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

They are doing a fantastic job of capturing the double meaning of the Greek there. The handle aion well which is important since "world" (as per the KJV) is very common and totally misses Paul's point. But better is the the [] materials on lower vs. higher realms capturing the Hellenistic tone about flesh vs. mind. And remember this Bible is aimed at someone with a High School education. You aren't going to get me to jump on the anti AMP bandwagon. That despite the fact that I think "prove [for yourself]" is wrong and that they handle Romans 11:36 in such a way to sever the connection between this verse and that one. Basically the AMP is a very good idea, with a mediocre translation team.

But what I like the effect on the lay reader. It gets them to start really seeing the scriptures and helps to cut through the 2000 years of gobblygook that obscures the text. I know from the other thread we differ on that.


Fun discussion, CD.

I'm not a post-modernist, just a Nicene Christian. Someone who regards the "gobbledygook" (you really are an unreconstructed fundamentalist) of the past 2000 years as by and large preservative clarification. You seem to forget that; hence your surprise.

You certainly have boutique Bible translation preferences. If we were talking cheese and wine, would you have similar preferences? I'm impressed, but in the end, it's kind of off-topic. The translations you prefer are more or less devoid of ecclesiastical location: just like you are, since you are an unbeliever. The Bible is, when all is said and done, a book by believers for believers, and prospective believers.

The AMP is another matter. As I've said before, experiences with it in group Bible study compel me to consider it misleading to the average reader.


I really would like to know what you think about the ESV not putting in the footnote in on Isaiah 7:14, but simply translates it as virgin, with no indication that it could also mean young girl. This is somewhat bothersome to me, can you perhaps tell me why it shouldn't...or why it is justified?

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    by Christian Brady, targum specialist extraordinaire, and dean of Schreyer Honors College, Penn State University
  • Targuman
    on biblical and rabbinic literature, Christian theology, gadgetry, photography, and the odd comic, by Christian Brady, associate professor of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature and dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
  • The Biblia Hebraica Blog
    a blog about Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the history of the Ancient Near East and the classical world, Syro-Palestinian archaeology, early Judaism, early Christianity, New Testament interpretation, English Bible translations, biblical theology, religion and culture, philosophy, science fiction, and anything else relevant to the study of the Bible, by Douglas Magnum, PhD candidate, University of the Free State, South Africa
  • The Forbidden Gospels Blog
    by April DeConick, Professor of Biblical Studies, Rice University
  • The Naked Bible
    by Mike Heiser, academic editor at Logos Bible Software
  • The Reformed Reader
    by Andrew Compton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (focus on Hebrew and Semitic Languages) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • The Sacred Page
    a blog written by three Catholic Ph.D.s who are professors of Scripture and Theology: Michael Barber, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma
  • The Talmud Blog
    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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