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Nelson Study Bible Note Problems

Nelson Study Bible Note Problems

I’m not going to link to a specific edition on this, because there is no ISBN in the edition from which I’m working. It appears to be a match for this item on Amazon.com, and to be essentially the same notes as this item, though I cannot be absolutely certain. If you have a similar version, you can simply check your notes to see if they say the same thing as mine.

First, of course, I’m a bit prejudiced because I think the NKJV is one of the less useful translations. It is literal, but less readable than the ESV or the HCSB. I don’t call any of the major modern versions bad Bibles, but the NKJV is fairly low on my list.

What I want to comment on today, however, is the notes, part of Nelson’s Complete Study System. I used this Bible today for my lectionary reading. Each morning I read both the current week’s lectionary passages and the next week’s, thus giving me 14 opportunities to meditate on them. I use different Bible versions and also read the notes if I’m using an edition that has notes.

In my reading on Isaiah 42:1-9 today, I noticed this note in a “wordfocus” block:

. . .While ‘ebed can mean slave (Gen. 43:18), slavery in Israel was different than in most places in the ancient Middle East. Slavery was regulated by the Law of Moses, which prohibited indefinite slavery and required that slaves be freed on the Sabbath (seventh) year (Ex. 21:2)–and the Year of Jubilee–the fiftieth year (Lev. 25:25-28). . . .

Now there is certainly value in pointing out the slavery laws in Israel, and comparing them to those in the ancient near east. Notice, however, that if one reads on in Leviticus 25, there is something that is not mentioned in this little note, and it is significant.

44But as for your male slave or your female slave who are yours, from among the nations who are around you you may acquire both male slave and female slave. 45And also from among those who are [foreigners] living in your land and from those who are sojourning among you you may acquire them and from their clan that is with them which they bring forth in your land, and they will be your possession, 46and you may leave them to your sons after you to possess; they may enslave them permanently. Only with your brethren, the children of Israel, each person must not make his brother labor harshly.

The problem here is that the note implies that somehow Israel’s form of slavery was entirely benign, without mentioning the exception to the rule. Anyone from the nations around or from foreigners who were in their land could be bought and possessed permanently.

This is important because there are two ways of handling slavery passages in the Bible. The first is to try to deny the similarity between the slavery practices in the Bible and that in other countries or in more recent times, such as slavery in the United States. The second is to view the rules of slavery as a cultural accommodation, i.e. slavery was not good, but was not yet forbidden.

I take the second approach. My point about this note is that that the editors of these notes presumably take the opposite one, but that they gloss over a substantial element of the Israelite rules for slavery. This is one of the ways in which study notes can be deceptive, even unintentionally.

The second note comes on Psalm 40:1, in which it discusses the words translated “waited patiently” in the NKJV:

The Hebrew translated I waited patiently is literally “waiting I waited.” The emphasis of this phrase is not really on patience but on the fact that David waited solely on the Lord. . . .

I have to wonder where they got this interpretation. The phrase “waiting I waited” is simply not good English. It is formally equivalent to the Hebrew, but this is one of those cases where the literal translation does not suggest the right set of options to English ears. It is a Hebrew idiom of intensification. I WAITED! Now you may think of a few options, such as the intensity of the expectation, or the length of the wait, but the verbal structure itself does not specify who is waited on, or anything about how this person is the sole person on whom the Psalmist waits.

The context suggests that YHWH was the sole one in whom the Psalmist placed his hope, but the verb form suggests only the intensity of the experience. For modern American English, I don’t even like the word “waited” here, though the REB and the NRSV both use “waited patiently.” I would prefer the JPS Tanakh’s “I put my hope in the LORD.” They lose the intensification, but I think they catch the essence of the verb more clearly.

What I would hope to show from these examples is the danger of depending on notes, along with the value of looking at more than one translation. Looking at more than one set of notes is also a valuable hedge against incomplete or misleading notes.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible

I have my stable of study Bibles that I regularly consult and recommend to students. Three key ones are The Learning Bible (CEV) [TLB], the Oxford Study Bible (REB), and the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV). Though I don’t use it regularly (there have to be some books I don’t read!), the HarperCollins Study Bible (NRSV) is also excellent.

Recently, however, I used a Christmas gift card at Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy of the New Interpreter’s Study Bible [NISB]. It has been around for some time (2003 copyright), but I’ve only glanced briefly at it in libraries. Now that I have a copy of my own, I’d like to comment on it.

It is 2298 pages, not including maps. The majority of that is a combined Bible text with notes. The notes are more extensive than either the Oxford Study Bible or the New Oxford Annotated Bible. In general they are a little bit more readable, so this Bible will be useful for people with less Biblical background. It is still not a “simple” study Bible, and doesn’t encroach on the audience of TLB. That is due both to the notes themselves, in which the NISB uses a heavier vocabulary and style, and the translation on which it is based (NRSV for the NISB). It does not take space with illustrations as does TLB either. The information is much more densely packed on the page.

There are some major positive points, however. If you find something like TLB a bit basic for you, these notes dig deeper into scholarly and critical issues. I am extremely impressed with the introductions to Biblical books, which seem balanced and complete. The notes themselves are extensive and clear, and yet manage to avoid simply telling you what the text means. They give an overview of why as well. The excurses are also excellent and provide valuable information. For example, one excursus in Isaiah 42 provides an introduction to the servant passages.

In terms of total size, I think the fairest comparison would be to the Oxford Study Bible [OSB], which is 1597 pages, also excluding maps. Its print also appears slightly larger. It has a total of 199 pages of general articles, compared to NISB’s 36 pages. The OSB also spends a greater amount of time on critical theories in the passages I have studied thus far. That point should not be overemphasized. Both discuss the issue, and I have not read all of the book introductions.

Another advantage of NISB is incorporating fairly recent scholarship. That is, of course, the hazard of aging books–new research is done, new commentaries are published, and theories fade and are replaced by new ones. On that, the NISB is nice just because it’s newer.

This is not a devotional study Bible. I think that many preacher’s will find it valuable. It will provide you with background and with suggestions for understanding and interpretation. In fact, much of that 36 page section of general articles deals not with technical stuff (Hebrew poetry, literary forms, ancient near eastern cultures), but rather with inspiration and authority, and the ways in which we interpret. This all suggests a practical intention for the book.

For me, NISB is not going to replace my trusty and severely word OSB, but I have added it to my primary shelf where I keep those materials I consult regularly in Bible study.

Translation, Exposition, and Communication

Translation, Exposition, and Communication

Yes! I have found another pretentious title for a relatively simple post!

I’ve been following the discussion around the blogosphere about literary translation, which has involved any number of blogs. I’ve been too busy to write about it. I was about to start last night, and then Doug at Metacatholic said part of what I wanted to say, and I waited until this morning to put it all together a bit more.

In working with secular literature, and even with much religious or spiritual literature, there are many ways in which a work can be transformed to reach a particular audience. One of the methods I’ve been playing around with is simply writing a very short fictional piece that tries to teach the same lesson (example here). The point here is not to produce professional fiction or for the teacher to produce a “better” story, but rather for students to study the story by changing its form. I would ask students to tell a story from their own lives or to create a fictional one to teach the lesson. In studying Bible stories I also use the technique of having students tell the story from someone else’s point of view (see the section toward the end on Ahab’s Viewpoint).

In secular literature we can have a book re-presented as a condensed book, a movie, a play, a children’s edition, illustrated edition, modernized (for an older work), and so forth. In each presentation, there are many choices made in terms of what of the original work will be presented again and what will be left out. Any time one changes the presentation, one loses something, and one may also gain something. The person who alters the form may well instill some additional meaning into the work that was not there before.

But in Bible translation it seems to me that we tend to operate in fear of doing it the wrong way. Now don’t get me wrong here. I have very strong preferences in terms of Bible translation. I’m an advocate of dynamic equivalence, and of using ordinary, natural expressions in the target language. That is what I want most in a translation. If you think about it, and then realize that the most common thing I’m doing with a Bible translation is using it in a teaching context, you will realize that my preference of translation and my purpose tend to line up. One must add that I do not pretend to teach my classes Greek or Hebrew (unless that’s the subject!) and thus I am uninterested in a presentation of the forms of the source language.

Nonetheless, as I talk about translations, I tend very strongly to speak in terms of lines of division. There are formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence, and never shall the twain meet. Now I actually believe there is a continuum (illustrated here), but that continuum easily gets lost in discussion.

Let’s take [tag]The Message[/tag] for example. The key question people ask me, and the one I’m likely to bring up if they don’t, is whether this version is really a translation or not, and whether it is “good to use.” I can then analyze the language, and how close it is to the source, and in general I must admit that The Message doesn’t seem to me to reflect the original very accurately in many cases.

But let’s shift context. Would I say the same thing about [tag]Eugene Peterson[/tag]’s teaching or his exposition in other material that he has written? There’s a bright line there that we may not always acknowledge. If he’s expounding, it’s OK. If he’s translating, well, not so much. What we are generally looking for is a solid line that divides working with the original languages from translation, and then working with a translation from someone’s exposition.

But is such a line realistic? Let’s compare my reading of Hebrew, for example, to that of a Rabbi who has spent his entire life working strictly with the Hebrew text. Alternatively we could compare my reading to someone who has spent his entire life studying comparative ancient near eastern languages, which is closer to my own study. Since I went from that study at the MA level to teaching Bible at the popular level, I have spent a great deal less time in the details. I would expect there to be points that either of those experts would see in the text that I would easily miss. When I read their expositions, I see this in action.

Let me belabor the point a bit before I build on it. I had read Leviticus through in Hebrew several times on my own, and done so in connection with Nahum Sarna’s JPS commentary, for example, but then I picked up Leviticus with Jacob Milgrom’s three volume Anchor Bible set. I claim to study from the original languages, and I do–in a sense. But not like that!

On the other hand I regularly encounter preachers who say that they prepare their sermons from the original languages, and yet can barely work through the material word by word. Now don’t take this as criticism. I congratulate them for using all the tools at their disposal, but their specialty and their calling doesn’t allow them to become experts in everything.

Hopefully that portrayal will do to show three levels of reading of the source texts–the expert in the texts, the person with facility in the language yet who does not professionally research on linguistic issues, and the pastor/teacher who knows some of the language. Anyone with experience could fill in the blanks either direction.

We could similarly work our way through a continuum of levels of study with various English translations, based on how accurately the text conveys the maximum possible content of the source text. Somewhere in there we should fit someone who studies from multiple English versions.

Finally, if we keep looking, we’ll find those persons who really don’t learn directly from the text or a translation at all, but rather learn the Bible in their community through exposition. There is a contempt in conservative Christianity for such people, but there are many who do know their Bibles quite well simply because they are regularly in the church when the scriptures are read and expounded, or they get similar knowledge from reading. This kind of thing makes folks like me nervous, because there are plenty of written materials that I believe distort the meaning.

Now note that the continuum I have presented is based solely on comprehending the intended message of the text. If I were to abandon that particular question, I might ask instead what methods of study and exposition result in the greater absorption of the spirit of the text by the students. That would result in quite a different list.

I could again shift views and try to build a continuum based on what produces a community sense of worship in reading scripture. This is a tremendously neglected area in many protestant churches. The information content is the sole criterion. The notion of the scripture reading as a vehicle for community worship is rarely considered. I can evoke cries of dismay when I suggest that respect for the scriptures might well be enhanced by reading all four lectionary texts on a Sunday. There seems to be a sense that if we don’t talk about it, if there is no sermon that builds directly on all those texts, there is no point in reading them. That comes from the idea that only knowledge is important.

When reading scripture for worship, the literary quality of the text becomes more important, and especially the sound of the text when read aloud. Out of modern versions I like the sound of the [tag]New Jerusalem Bible[/tag] or the [tag]Revised English Bible[/tag] in public reading, but I know a number of people who would still go for the [tag]KJV[/tag] solely for its literary beauty. Now I don’t happen to like the KJV all that well myself, but I believe that literary taste has only a small objective portion and a very large subjective portion (a few notes on this here).

If I were to work solely from my own tastes, I would suggest trying to match the literary quality of the original in translation. If so, [tag]Hebrews[/tag] should be harder to read, even when you know all the vocabulary words, than is [tag]1 John[/tag]. But of course it should not merely be harder to read; that’s just a product of someone not steeped in the language and rhetorical techniques reading a rather sophisticated text. The translation would need to be a literary masterpiece in English. My question would be this: Can you do that without reorganizing the material? In order to present the message of Hebrews as perhaps a masterful short theological essay, would we not need to take liberties with the structure of the book? After all, few English readers even notice the various literary features.

What I’m suggesting here is that none of these issues are binary issues, and that there are very few absolutely right and wrong answers. I use the slogan “the best Bible version is one your read.” My point is that different people will be comfortable reading, and will understand different Bible versions. There will always be a compromise on what is conveyed and what is filtered out by the translation choices. That is simply a feature of translating, transforming, or expounding a message.

One last note for those working on single translations into languages that are likely to have only one. There I can think of no better goal than “clear, accurate, and natural.” It’s very easy to set goals that are out of range of human thinking. In English, where so much effort is expended, we have the luxury of using multiple version and thousands of books of exposition to get the message across. In languages much less privileged–or abused–that doesn’t exist. There I would have to say that having something clear, accurate, and natural would come before anything else.

I sense that understanding in Peter Kirk’s post “Literary Translation” and Obfuscation, which I think brings up a number of points. Look at that post from the perspective of a Bible translator who is not adding yet another English translation to the literature.

Let me note the following from John Hobbins: Is Literary Translation Possible and If a text is literary, its dynamic equivalent in translation must also be literary From the second I take the following:

But that means that dynamic equivalent translations like the Good News Bible and the Contemporary English Version are improperly done. For vast swathes of the Old Testament, the translation they offer is not literary enough.

My point would simply be that I don’t accept the phrase “improperly done.” They are done according to the goals of their translators. The proposed “literary” translation would not accomplish that goal. Let me belabor the point some more. I love reading the [tag]REB[/tag]. It sits open on the reading stand by my computer because I love to consult it. I love to read it aloud. But I cannot use it in teaching, because I end up with too little understanding of the text. What to me is literary beauty obscures the meaning for them.

For my goals in teaching, the REB is “improperly done.” But for my goals in reading and study, it is quite “properly done.”

Personality and Bible Translation Preference

Personality and Bible Translation Preference

My post yesterday, titled must personality, is in response to a two part series by Wayne Leman over at Better Bibles. You can check out part 1 and part 2 there, along with a quite substantial number of comments.

Wayne says that his initial thesis, which he presents even though he feels it was disconfirmed, was this:

Those with whom I disagreed with about Bible translation were so set (whoops, sorry, deeply principled!) in their ways. And those with whom I have had some of the most difficult interactions in the past often have scored with a “T” (Thinking) on the Myers-Briggs profile. So I assumed that those who believed so strongly in the value of literal Bible translations and lack of value of idiomatic Bible versions must also be a Myers-Briggs “T”.

I’m wondering, however, if there isn’t still some point to his hypothesis. I’m one of those Ts, though I generally agree with Wayne on Bible translations. But I have an almost compulsive need to read things in their original languages. Even in such languages as Akkadian which I read only with the most tedious effort, I still like to at least check key points of any translation I’m using. Now my limited ability indicates I should probably give more credence to the translation, but I still go look.

Now perhaps many T personalities don’t have the same experience I have had with discovering translations that are literal but misleading. If they don’t have the time, energy, talent, or whatever else it takes to study the original languages, perhaps they would be driven, unlike me, to go to the translation that feels closest from their point of view. I rarely use the NASB, for example, because I can produce that for a passage in a few minutes, and do so regularly as my “working translation.”

On the other hand, even having produced an essentially literal translation, I am often at a loss for English words that express well the thought that I’m sensing in the text. I can go to the [tag]NRSV[/tag] to check my work, so to speak, but to get effective wordings in English I’m more likely to check the [tag]CEV[/tag], [tag]REB[/tag], [tag]NJB[/tag], or [tag]TNIV[/tag], along with a number of others.

It’s just a thought.

PS: For those in the comment thread over at Better Bibles, I haven’t commented because one is required to have a blogger account, and I can’t even remember my ID. Hopefully I’ll find it at some point. I’ve never had a “blogger” blog, but I did at one point have an account.

TNIV and REB

TNIV and REB

I was interested in this post on This Lamp because of the reference in the last paragraph:

As an aside… Last Christmas, I went back to my home church for a worship service. I came across the same individual mentioned above who had been one of my mentors in college. He had just come from teaching a Bible study and was carrying two Bibles. He told me that he likes them both and gave up trying to choose one over the other. He carries them both to any study he leads or participates in. What were they? He was holding a TNIV Study Bible and a Cambridge text edition of the REB.

That wasn’t the main point of Rick’s post, but it caught my attention because I keep my Oxford Study Bible (REB) on the stand by my computer, and I carry the TNIV these days, along with my Greek and Hebrew. I really like to consult both these days whenever possible.

On the larger question of the post, the meaning of “pisteuw/pisteuw” in John 3:16, I don’t think we quite have the word. I can accept “have faith” as the REB reads, but I would like something that includes “trust.” Yet a phrase like “believes in and trusts him” is clumsy at best. Perhaps there is no perfect answer here.

Galatians 3:2: AKOE PISTEOS

Galatians 3:2: AKOE PISTEOS

Or should I make that AKOH PISTEWS? Note that a similar question can be asked in Galatians 3:5, but I will assume due to theme that one will give the same answer in both places.

Writing an exegetical article on this verse could be quite lengthy, but I agree with J. Louis Martyn in his commentary on Galatians when he says:

. . . Paul is not asking the Galatians which of two human acts served as the generative locus in which they received the Spirit, a decision on their part to keep the Law or a decision on their part to hear with faith. On the contrary, he is asking rhetorically whether that generative locus was

  • their act in becoming observant of the Law or
  • God’s message (akoh).

— page 288 [some punctuation/formatting including Greek rather than transliterated text is mine-HN]

The specific translation of akoh pistewj depends on two factors. First, should the word “hearing” be active or passive, in other words is the thing that generates the reception of the Spirit the act of hearing, or the content of what is heard, the message? The second is how does faith relate to the message. Is it a message that is faith, or is it a message that elicits faith? Martyn (op. cit.) Romans 10:16-17, where the message is much more clearly established as that which elicits faith, and the word akoh is also pretty clearly established as passive in intent.

So how do translations compare on this. Here are some examples, showing the variety on these two points:

  • TNIV – Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard. [This agrees with the NIV, which is surprising considering the accusations of Calvinist bias in the NIV translation.]
  • REB – did you receive the Spirit by keeping the law or by believing the gospel message?
  • NLT – Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ.
  • ESV – Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
  • CEV – How were you given God’s Spirit? Was it by obeying the Law of Moses or by hearing about Christ and having faith in him?
  • TEV – did you receive God’s Spirit by doing what the Law requires or by hearing the gospel and believing it?

I don’t see any translation that gets quite the nuance that I see in this passage, though perhaps I’m being a bit too tense. In this case, I think the NLT actually has the best translation with the CEV and TEV following very close after.

Of course, it’s hard for translations to get everything right. In this case, however, I think that formal equivalent translations, such as the ESV really leave the English reader hanging, because “hearing of faith” cannot possibly elicit the same semantic ranger as akoh pistews, with unfortunate results.

Why I Like the REB

Why I Like the REB

A friend recently e-mailed with the following request: Tell me why you like the REB.

First let me qualify what I mean by liking a translation. There are many factors that go into making a translation suitable for a particular purpose or person. Without knowing that context, it’s impossible to give a meaningful answer to the question, “What is the best translation?” In this case, however, we’re talking about what I like, and so I can speak freely. I just want readers to know that I’m talking about personal preferences here, and not about some kind of public standards.

I use the REB as a serious reading Bible. That means that in my study it comes at the top of the list of those Bibles I use when I am not studying the Bible from Greek or Hebrew, but I want to do serious reading. To put this in context, I would use the NRSV when I want a translation that follows the form of the source languages rather closely, and the CEV when I want to read rapidly to get an overview with less concern for details.

The REB fits that purpose for me because it:

  • Has language that is easily readable for me, but nonetheless doesn’t sound like it has been simplified. It holds my attention and doesn’t jar me with excessively short sentences, abrupt breaks, or long phrases expressing relatively simple thoughts.
  • Has a faintly British flavor. I spent my teen years in Guyana, formerly a British colony, and I find some British English attractive in reading.
  • I am almost always comfortable with the textual choices. That means I can be comfortable that I’m getting a reliable text.
  • The translation included interfaith cooperation which improves its value for reading.
  • I regard its presentation of Hebrew poetry is one of the best. (The The New Jerusalem Bible provides some good competition.
  • I enjoy the sound of the REB read aloud. It has a literary feel and a good flow. My selfish view is that it’s too bad more American audiences are not attuned to it. I’d love to hear it for scripture readings!
  • Despite the fact that I support efforts to use gender neutral phrasing where possible, as the NRSV does, my ears are a generation older than that, and I’m more comfortable with the less aggressive uses of gender language in the REB.

I can’t call it the best translation for everyone, but it has become a constant part of my own program of Bible study and my own devotional life.

(For more information on various translations, see my Bible Translation Selection Tool.)

Revision and Translation

Revision and Translation

In my book What’s in a Version? and in my Bible Translation Selection Tool I do not deal much with the question of whether a translation is a revision or not, except when the translation is not taken from the original languages. In this entry, I’m going to look at a couple of revision histories, and discuss what terms like “revision” and “derivative” mean in the context of translation.

Let me deal with “derivative” first. As a literary term, it is of very limited usefulness, simply because a translation is derivative to some extent by nature. The translator is not attempting a composition. Originality is not all that desireable for the most part; occasionally one may need serious originality to come up with a way to accurately convey what is said in the source language. Thus all translations are derivative to some extent. To apply this to a translation revision is a bit misleading, unless that translation is rewritten without reference to the source languages. It might, for example, be accurate of the Living Bible, though not of its successor the New Living Translation.

Before I look at the process of revising a translation let’s look at the historical connections between some modern versions. The KJV has been the root for many English translations, as the following chart will show:

Some genetic links between Bible translations

Note: I make no attempt in this chart to show precise chronology. Note also that any translation owes something to those that have gone before. The NIV, for example, was a new, original translation, but nonetheless it does owe something the the KJV and RSV before it.

Now let’s look at the whole process of revision.

In some ways this issue is similar to the one commonly found in apologetics books. How can one trust the Bible when it has been translated so many times? In response, one might ask what damage is done to the source text when it is translated. The difficulty here is that each new translation can, and most commonly does, go back to the source texts, and thus there is no deterioration due to successive revision; rather, there is likely to be improvement.

What process does a person undertake to produce a new translation? One goes deals with issues of target audience, source texts, translation philosophy, target language style and so forth, and one translates. How does this differ from a revision? In a revision one deals with all of the same questions. There are two differences. The translation philosophy and method is to one extent or another derived from the earlier translation, and second, phrases in the older translation that do not need to be changed are not changed. Variations in how much a revision will change a translation depend on what the translators find as they translate.

In the chart above, for example, when the ASV was produced from the RV, it was largely a matter of employing the American editors preferences in wording and style. This was not a new translation at all; simply the selection of one set of editing results over another. Because of the time gap, there were a few additional points, but these were largely minor. In the case of the Living Bible, the ASV was paraphrased from the English of the ASV to a more modern, colloquial English, and this was done without reference to the original languages. This is the closest thing I see in Bible translation to the normal understanding of a derivative work in terms of literature. The New American Standard Bible, on the other hand, while flowing from the tradition of the ASV, was a new translation starting from the original languages. The only importance that the fact that the NASB is a revision has for the user is that a certain style is maintained. Every word of the text has been reworked using original language texts by the new translators.

The NIV and the NEB each introduced some new elements into Bible translation philosophy at the time. The NIV manages a sort of balance in terms of functional and formal equivalence. If you check my data page on that translation (link above), you will see that it rates quite high in both my formal and functional tests. The NEB leans much more to the functional side of the scale. These are not directly revised from any other version.

Nonetheless translators will consult other versions. I normally make a working translation of my own when I prepare to preach or teach, even if I use one of the major versions when I’m actually in front of people. I will first create a translation of my own, then I revise it, and then I will compare it to several major versions. I recheck differences between these versions and my own work to make sure that I understand why they translated as they did. Sometimes the result is that I again modify my own work. This is also normally a part of the process of translation for anyone who wants to be accurate.

I think that the ESV is particularly clear on this issue in their preface. They have separate headings, “Translation Legacy” and “Translations Philosophy.” Under the first heading, they note that ” . . . each word and phrase in the ESV has been carefully weighted against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek . . .” A little later they note: “The words and phrases themselves grow out of the Tyndale-King James legacy, and most recently out of the RSV . . .”

In effect, the revisers thoroughly check everything against the original languages, and are willing to change what needs to be changed for accuracy and for current language, in effect giving you the same quality of translation as you get from a brand-new translation. There is no ongoing loss of meaning that results from this process. There would be no necessary improvement were the translation not a revision at all.

Now if a new translation introduces a new translation philosophy or some new efforts in terms of style, then there is a reason to look at a translation that is not a revision. But those are the precise things we look for in a translation in any case. So supposing you are looking for a literal, or formal-equivalent translation. The fact that the NASB and the NRSV are both revsions tracing their history back to the KJV really has no bearing on which you should choose. You would have to look at their philosophy of translation, their style, their translation committee and from there make your decision. And in this case, I chose the NRSV because, though a revision, it has introduced a substantial new twist in translation style–gender neutral (or gender accurate, depending on your viewpoint) language, and it made this innovation while revising another version. Which just goes to show how little the term “revision” will tell you about a particular translation.

One last point I like to emphasize is this: The proper way to test a translation is to check it against the documents from which it was translated. I have seen huge numbers of arguments discussing what might have happened, or what certain terms mean, when simply looking at the translation itself would answer the questions.

(Note: I will get back to talking about inspiration, though I suspect some were hoping I’d find another subject!)