One Version of the Bible I Lack

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ESV Bible Online: Browse

And, judging from my on-line reading, I need to get. This is one to set alongside my RSV and KJV. Psalm 23 is rendered beautifully and memorably, even though it is not the tremendous KJV. I shall continue to read on-line until my hardcopy gets here. My wife will be so pleased--(this will make Bible # 58--but that includes a good many heirloom, inherited, and "free copies" obtained from any number of sources. Guess it doesn't matter, cause they take up a shelf and more all by themselves. And I'm not even counting the Anchor Bibles and the New Catena Aurea which is still being produced. That's a lot of Bibles! But more is not better and if they just sit on the shelves. . . )

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Dear Steven, I have found the excerpts I've read from the ESV very disappointing. It continues the outdated use of the word "man" to mean both "human, person" and "male adult". That leads to great confusion in modern readers. There is simply no excuse for this in a 21st century translation-- it is certainly not what the original languages say, but rather an imposition of male-dominated culture onto the Holy Scripture.

There's a great deal of discussion on the ESV (and other versions) at Wayne Leman's Better Bibles Blog.

That being said, how WONDERFUL to have 58 Bibles!! You're way ahead of me -- I think I've only got about 15 (which includes just NTs, just Tanakhs, just Torahs, and several NABs because each of my girls wanted her own!).

Dear Talmida,

It took me a while to think of a way to say what I want to without being offensive, and I fear I may fail yet; however, let me give it a try. I disagree with what you say for several reasons, but let me try to place the one that is most relevant to me personally first.

I am not a Bible scholar, but I am a reasonably perceptive reader of the Bible and there is relatively little chance that I am going to confuse the two meanings of the word Man. That is irrelevant, I realize, because your concern is broader than our dialogue. As I perceive it, your legitimate concern is that for those interested in proof-texting such translation opens opportunities for misrepresentation of what Scripture actually says. I must agree that this can certainly be a problem.

However, the reason I disagree has almost nothing to do with legitimate concerns and everything to do with pure selfishness. Every translation I have read that attempts to replace "man" in the generic sense with something else ends up either with a cumbersome, rhythm-breaking multisyllable--"people" or with the vague and ultimately meaningless "all."

As I said, I'm not a scholar, so my concerns are not a scholar's concerns--mine are simply, what will keep me reading and what will break my stride. Sins against the language itself, no matter how laudable the purpose, is one of those things that derails my thoughts into issues of the cumbersome and tortuous nature of the translation. This is one of the chief sins of the NAB--absolutely tone-deaf.

Now, I acquiesce that for you the situation is reversed. You are far more likely to have your reading rhythm broken by a perceived mistranslation or by the exclusion that is felt when one uses the word Man.

Thus, the multiplicity of translations serves a purpose in that each person who would approach the Bible will find a nearer approach by those things that are most in tune with the intellectual pursuit underway. Many people do not object to the substitutes--but many people were not raised with the majestic rhythms and sonorities of the KJV (whatever its failings as a translation, the language can be absolutely gorgeous--and I have yet to read anything that approximates the translation of Psalm 8.

So, while I really do respect what you are saying, I politely and respectfully disagree at least in some point. Then again, I've yet to read enough of the ESV to whole-heartedly endorse it. I will have to spend some time with it.

I hope that I've stated my opinion carefully enough not to give offense. If I have offended, I truly apologize--it is not my intent, because I really do respect what you have written here--enough so that I felt I should give long consideration to my response so that it was appropriate and to the point.



Dear Steven, thank you for taking the time to make such a thoughtful reply.

Dear Talmida,

Two points I didn't make that are germane and points of agreement.

(1) Thank you so much for the link to the Better Bibles Blog--what an interesting place!

(2) Having any number of Bibles is indeed wonderful, having so many has been a blessing. As I read some or all of each one I acquire, I hear the Word in different Words--not all of them particularly pleasing. It is unfortunate that the one chosen by the Catholic Church, which has many good points, is so darned tone deaf to the proper use of English and to what constitutes poetry.

While we are on the topic, outside of your own study aids and original languages, do you have a translation you prefer? And do you have an opinion on Robert Alter's The Five Books of Moses? You needn't answer in this claustrophoic place. Post at home and I'll be by to see the answer--you are a regular stop on my rounds.

Thanks so much for your comments and indeed for all you do for the community.



Dear Steven, you are too kind.

I'll give some thought to your question and blog about it soon.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 13, 2006 12:54 PM.

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