Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Get A Bible with All the Words in It

The more I preach, the more I passionately agree with Piper in this short video. And I agree with him not because I'm a Greek scholar and can work in the original text. I can't.

But that's why I agree with him; that's why I need and want English translations that give me the words. I want to know the word of God and I don't want the translators and editors making the interpretive decisions for me. Give me all the words!

For all the men who don't have Greek and don't do their work in the original languages, for the integrity of the Scripture itself, for the average joe confounded by the different renderings offered by paraphrase v. word-for-word translations, preacher use a translation with all the awkward, difficult, inconvenient, puzzling, wonderful, transitional, connecting words of Scripture.

I appreciate the readability of the NIV. For now, that's what we use here. But that video captures one of my biggest pet peeves with the NIV--the constant practice of dropping necessary little word like gar (for, because, etc.). So much of the text turns on little two and three-letter words that we need them!

For various reasons, maybe you'll stay with the NIV. Maybe we will, too. But, oh, to have all the words spoken by a Holy God!


Joe said...

Somehow, in all my years of "church going" (nevermind, not being a Christian), I manage to skip the NIV.

For me, it never read well.

Now, working with New International Commentaries, I am finding translation issues left and right. You have to work through the text that much harder.

ajcarter said...

Hey T,
To say "Get a Bible with all the words in it" begs the question. Which Bible is that? This is the argument of the KJV Only crowd. I have heard Piper disagree with the ESV as well. Even the best Greek text have variants and not everyone agrees on which variant to use. If anyone has a Bible with "all" the words in it, I would love to know how they came to own that one.

FellowElder said...

Hey Tony,

If the King James was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me! :-)

Just joshin' man. I guess the better way of saying it would be use the best literal/word-for-word translation you think is available. If one puts something like The Message on one end and the ESV, NASB or something on the other, definitely be on the ESV, NASB side of the spectrum.

And keep in mind, I'm saying this as someone who preaches from the NIV every Sunday. It's what the church was using and accustomed to when I came. It's a good Bible; I'm not dogging it, except to say it adds a layer of work for the expositor because of it's baffling tendency to leave off key words.

Just my two cents...

Anonymous said...

I think the ESV and NASB are very good translations. And I gravitate towards them in my own personal study of God's Word. But I still prefer the NIV for devotional reading and memorization. Why? Various reasons: I like it (pure enjoyment). It's what I've used for 20 years (consistency). And its a faithful, balanced translation. It's not perfect, but neither is the ESV. The bottom line is this: The language of the gospel is not a hill to die on, however the faithful preaching of it certainly is...and if one is preaching the gospel faithfully from the NIV, it is fine by me! And I commend Rev. Thabiti, Mark Dever, John Folmar, David Platt, Andy Davis, and numerous others associated with 9marks who do so!

Alan Stoddard said...

If we are going to use NIV, we might as well use the ESV. It has the same great readability as the NIV, but has the translation superiority over the NIV.

I used the NASB, but have shifted to the ESV for personal reading and public preaching. I've tried to go back, but just can't. The ESV is the best.

Tim Worley said...

Hi Alan,

I agree that the ESV definitely has some strengths: accuracy, consistency in translating key phrases throughout (though I think that is simultaneously a weakness in spots), and continuity with the Tyndale tradition (so anybody familiar with the KJV, RSV, NASB, etc. will find it familiar). It's a good translation, and the second one that I consult in study (after TNIV).

However, having used the ESV for a while and then switched to HCSB and finally TNIV as my primary Bible, I honestly can't agree with the common view that the ESV is as readable as the NIV. The ESV still employs a good bit of needlessly archaic language (mainly non-updated holdovers from the RSV) and things like inverted negatives.

For example
Ps. 37:1 (ESV) "Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!"

Ps. 37:1 (NIV) "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong"

Now, the ESV is basically clear to someone familiar with traditional "Biblical" English, and there's nothing wrong or inaccurate with it. However, nobody talks like that today ("Cook not that dreaful meal again!"; "Think not that I meant to offend you"; "Call me not after the third watch of the night").

On the other hand, the NIV expresses the same idea in the passage with equal accuracy, yet more modern and readable language. This is not to defend every rendering in the NIV, or its accuracy (the TNIV is generally a great improvement in that regard over NIV), but to highlight the differences in readability between the two translations.

Since you mentioned that you switched from the NASB to ESV, I certainly see that you would find the ESV more readable. It generally is more readable than NASB. However, I wouldn't put it in the NIV/TNIV/HCSB range on readability. I know that Piper/Grudem et al. have trumpeted the "Accurate as the NASB, readable as the NIV" view, but based on my usage, I just don't see it.

In sum, the ESV is a good formal equivalent translation with many strengths. But superb readability isn't one of them.

All the best,

FellowElder said...

Hey Tim,
I'm right there with you on the readability issue. It's partly why I'm happy that we're using the NIV as a church.