Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Watch Out for the Flying Email!

Email is a blessing.  Email is a curse.

While email can rapidly help you communicate with others, it can also rapidly cause you to miscommunicate with others.  I'm posting an example of a conversation about the ESV that illustrates this.  The emails are shown in chronological order.  I've labeled the two authors as "Steve" (the first author) and "Eve" (me).

On Thu, Sep 3, 2009 at 8:53 AM, [Steve] wrote:

Among Bible translators, there are two schools of thought: one is to translate word for word, from Greek or Aramaic into English; the other is to restate images and metaphors in modern English.

"The English Standard Version Bible, published in 2001, takes the literal approach. The New International Version, first published in 1978 and updated in 1984, straddles that and what scholars call the "dynamic equivalent" approach.

Bible scholar Wayne Grudem, an English Standard Version translator, explains the differences in these two passages:

Mark 6:2

• ESV:  "How are such mighty works done by his hands?"

• NIV: "... He even does miracles."

• Why it matters: "The NIV has no mention of hands. But hands are important. Jesus and his disciples laid on hands to pray for healing. You can't use that verse when the hands aren't there," Grudem says.

Galatians 5:16

• ESV: "Walk by the Spirit."

• NIV: "Live by the Spirit."

• Why it matters: "Everyone agrees, the Greek word means 'walk.' You lose a lot when you don't say it. Walking means progress, movement toward a goal. And it connects with other parts of the Bible: walking in Jesus' footsteps, or not walking in the counsel of evil," Grudem says.
I didn't write this (I'm not that scholarly).  This is taken from this article: .

On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 8:36 PM, [Eve] wrote:

Maybe in 400 years there's going to be an "NIV-only" movement, with ESVers explaining that, "No, Paul didn't use the NIV."

On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 8:29 AM, [Steve] wrote:

Is this supposed to be a joke?

On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 9:28 AM, [Eve] wrote:


On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 10:15 AM, [Steve] wrote:


I don't appreciate sarcasm in replies especially to articles that I sent with the goal to inform the brethren.  I take Biblical translation seriously and my goal in sending such articles is for us to appreciate the scholarship of translating the Bible.  Although I do favor the ESV over the NIV, I did not send this article to condemn the NIV, rather learning from these scholars was my goal.  I have received numerous response defending the NIV, which is fine, but sarcasm and lack of respect and lack of intelligent discussion is totally inappropriate.  I ask that you consider what you did. And I try to say this will grace and love.  If I sound harsh, please forgive me.



On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 11:42 AM, [Eve] wrote:

Hey, [Steve]
Thanks for letting me know your concerns. 
I also take Bible translation seriously, and what I sent was not intended to mock it.  Instead, it was intended to show how wrong it is to absolutize any translation, and how new translations can help us realize this -- as long as we don't absolutize them either!

When I first read your email, my first thought was, "Oh boy, this really whacks at the NIV!"  I wanted to defend the NIV against the criticisms in the email, and/or show the limitations of the ESV.  In short, I was tempted to take offense.  But I decided not to.  What it showed me was that my knee jerk reaction is to clutch the NIV and try to defend it.  Understanding that helped me understand a mindset I'd struggled to identify with before -- namely, the KJV-only movement.

Are you familiar with the KJV-only movement?  They believe that the KJV is the only translation that is proper for a Christian to use. 

In the past, I couldn't understand why they would get so up-in-arms about a translation.  But now I see: when you have a version you're familiar with, you've memorized verses, you just plain like, you want to hear it praised, not criticized. (I know that for many KJV only folks, their reasoning goes deeper than this, but on these areas where we overlap in our reasoning for being partisan, I can identify with their position).

I wasn't a KJV-onlyist.  But I was on a fast track of becoming an NIV-onlyist.  After all, I was convinced that the NIV was better!  What I forgot was that it wasn't the best.

What I originally sent to you was meant to be a self-spoof.  I took my initial reaction and looked at what it would become if I gave it 400 years.  If people start putting their faith in the NIV (or any translation) in the way that people have been putting their faith in the KJV, then it will cause the same problems that KJV-onlyism has.  If anyone ever starts clinging to the NIV in an unhealthy way, it might just take a new version -- such as the ESV -- to show them the flaws in their version, and recognize that our allegiance lies with Christ, not any specific translation.  The NIV has helped some see the flaws in the KJV, but it should not be accepted as sacrosanct.  In the same way, the ESV will help people see the flaws in the NIV, but it itself should not be viewed as sacrosanct.  It would be ironic if anyone started using the NIV -- which has delivered many from KJV-onlyism - as the basis for a NIV-onlyism movement.

No translation is guaranteed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit -- only the original writings come with that guarantee.  That's why minor textual variations in even the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts aren't horrifying to me.  Since the originals couldn't survive forever, the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts scholars study are copies of copies.  Minor copyist errors are to be expected.  (And if they weren't there, I might wonder if these were forgeries!)  The original writings (Holy Spirit + John + pen + paper) were inspired by God, and our goal is to understand the original meaning and intent of God.  Every attempt to reach back to them is flawed in some way or another, but in varying degrees.  We must continually look for the least flawed way to understand God's original communication.  But the blessed thing is, each of us isn't alone in this: the Holy Spirit is an awesome guide!

So, my ultimate trust is not in the NIV or any other translation.  My ultimate trust is in God, Who knows how to preserve and communicate His Word.  Thanks for your original email.  It was a good reminder of that.


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