Tim gave a well thought-out comment in a previous post ESV can become better. I am posting his comment here, particularly because he felt that he wasn’t heard on another blog mentioned below. It was a response in my post that the work invested into the NRSV was much greater than the work invested into the ESV. I still stand by this, however, I really like Tim’s comment. He said:
I think it’s a little unfair to expect there to be another revision so soon after the last one. Let’s not forget, they brought out the revision relatively quickly after the ESV first came out and that is to be commended. I feel very strongly that they do listen and that another revision will happen. If they didn’t listen then the first revision wouldn’t have taken place would it?
People say that the NRSV is a good version, and I echo that, as I like it. But I couldn’t understand why there were not that many sales. I asked this question on BBB, that if it was the version recommended by scholars and academics why did it consistently do poorly in the sales rankings, to be told that the reason was probably because not many scholars and academics bought it. Bit of a smart**** answer and not the one I was actually looking for, so I did a little rooting around myself…..
It’s clear to me that where a translation is concerned it becomes an attempted balance between style and substance. Such a balance is going to, by its very nature, be almost impossible to strike as many people have their own ideas of what ‘perfect’ English actually means. I tried to demonstrate this on BBB, failed, and instead had people jumping to conclusions and making assumptions about my comments, and getting it wrong […]
I believe Tim’s view is valid and is felt by many other ESV readers whose sentiments do not resonate with those who favor gender-inclusive language. I don’t know what the solution is to this but I think both views are valid. Neither is wrong. For some, gender-inclusivity in the bible translations do speak more clearly and directly to them. For others, gender-inclusivity in translations is unnecessary because they read and interpret the bible with gender-inclusivity in mind but would prefer to leave the technical definition of the masculine in tact. I believe there are many readers out there who would agree with both views too.
The AV (1611) was itself a revision (even then the language was considered a little dated), and went through numerous revisions after it was first released. But for all its faults, it brought millions to Christ. Yet there are many who would make fun of others for still using it. How out of date was the Septuagint when the apostles were quoting from it? To my mind it isn’t the version that matters but whether you read it and use it, that does. As someone else (I cannot remember who) said, use the version that sings to your heart. I use many versions, and although my favourite is the Wycliffe Bible that is purely for stylistic reasons and its historical value. Firstly it can be considered the first shot fired in what led to the Reformation. Secondly, as an Anglo-Saxon buff, it interests me for the language it uses and is a link between Anglo-Saxon and our modern English.
When I think of some translators I am put in mind of the priesthood of old (before the Reformation) which maintained that no-one was allowed to read the bible unless it was one of the ‘approved’ versions. Only the priesthood held the ‘secret knowledge’ that enables others to understand it properly. Well that’s rubbish. And regardless of how perfect the style is, it isn’t going to be much worth if no one wants to read it, is it? The ESV tends to fly off the shelves around here, and that is a big plus. It doesn’t matter what version it is, nor how perfect the English within it. What matters is whether people buy it and use it. And on that score the ESV is doing well. So, if you can’t have both then what’s it to be, style or substance? I know what I’d rather choose.
Personally, I do not agree with Tim on this one. We need both style and substance in bible translations. If a translation lacks one or the other, it needs to be improved. If one loves style, there are many out there who are not Anglo-Saxon buffs and cannot even begin to read the Wycliffe Bible or even the King James Version. The ESV still has room to improve on its style and substance. I am confident that Good News Publishers and future revisions will be working on improvements in the ESV. In the end, there is lots of room for the ESV, and even the NRSV to improve.