32 Responses to “Jabberwocky” Proves the ESV Isn’t Too Difficult

  1. Nathan Stuller September 26, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Well done Jake!

    And well done Jim. I have never met anyone who was honestly unable to understand the ESV, only people who were unwilling to put in the mental energy to think about the text.

    • A non-English Image Bearer September 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

      No Dr. Hamilton…

      You said “anyone who knows English can understand what is happening in the poem.” -> Not this sinner.

      I can read the Gospel of Matthew in NA27’s Greek at ease, but sadly not “Jabberwocky”…

      “Jabberwocky” only proves one thing. Your son Jake is smarter than this seminary student :).

      p.s.My counter-proposal to the English-speaking brothers and sisters: (1) Learn your Greek and stop being lazy. (2) Stop fighting and start appreciating the luxury of multiple translations in one language. Man…most of the people in this world don’t have your luxury.

  2. MAthew Sims September 26, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    Great point. It boils down to either laziness (not wanting to get in the word) or just trying to justify another translation that as far more loose. I’m happy we have a variety of translations (some better than others) and am particularly happy w the ESV!!!

  3. Sandy Grant September 26, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    Hi everyone, I am the Australian (one of them).

    I enjoyed being reminded of Jabberwocky.

    I have to say you brothers are being a tad judgmental of those who struggle with the ESV. You are sure they are all lazy. Glad you are so certain.

    One of the issues that may be missed here is that we are not only talking about Bibles for private study but also for public reading of Scripture (1 Tim 4:13).

    In Australia (and I serve a mainly middle class congregation in a university town, with many professionals and university students in attendance), I have heard people stumble over reading the ESV aloud noticeably more often than the NIV.

    This includes in the small group study context, where people do not usually have time to rehearse or practice, but clearly as they are asked to read a reference aloud they
    sometimes do not immediately understand what they are reading.

    However it also includes Scripture readings from conference platforms, where I presume the organisers choose readers of the highest standard. Nevertheless I have heard such
    readers stumble over the ESV, but hardly ever over the NIV.

    In other words, there are some extra factors to take into account when we are talking about a translation for publicly reading aloud rather than just for private study.

    Lastly, I hope, Mathew, that you will note that I am not trying to justify a translation that is “far more loose”. The NIV is not a whole lot further along the spectrum from ESV. It is certainly closer in approach to ESV than to NLT or CEV.

    • Sandy Grant September 26, 2011 at 10:35 am #

      I should add that I have not even begun to take into account the many international students who come to study at the University of Wollongong, for whom English is a second (or third) language. The NIV is certainly more realistic for them than the ESV. And they are not lazy. In fact, they are some of our best evangelistic and discipling opportunities.

    • Craig Forrester October 5, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

      You make some good points, Sandy…

      “I have heard people stumble over reading the ESV aloud noticeably more often than the NIV.”

      As have I, but the reason for that is simple: Because the NIV uses a more idiomatic translation methodology, the verbalization of those idioms are going to inherently match modern speech patterns phonetically, which readers are familiar with speaking — contemporary phrasing, contemporary sound.

      However, the real issue is not whether the reader can easily read the sentences, or even whether he can immediately comprehend what it means. The issue is where that meaning is derived from. And this is where the method of translation plays a major part in what we qualify as understanding.

      The issue that Jim brings up here is that the “Jabberwocky” conveys an intent which is derived from both semantics (meanings of the words) and syntactic structure (grammatical relationships). So does the Bible. The problem with dynamic equivalence translations is that they obscure or strip the text of one form in favor of the other, or in some cases both. In other words, the NIV tends to elevate the “ideas” of the text to supersede its structure and semantics. What is wrong with that approach is the idea that the two forms stand independent of one another. They don’t.

      Imagine that I write an and then ask you to translate it into another language and, within my paper, somewhere I write this:

      1

      0

      Now, if you were from the dynamic equivalence school of thought, you might translate this into the words “one over zero,” in which case you have removed its mathematical syntax, or you may translate it to the colloquial equivalent of “undefined” or “null,” in order to convey the implicit problem of division by zero. The issue with your translation is that you have inferred only one possible meaning from the original literal syntax and have obscured all of the problems that arise from wrestling with the concept of division by zero (not to mention all the positive mathematical discoveries). You are conferring what meaning you think it has and are not leaving it up to the reader to formulate an understanding.

      If I were to translate the Jabberwocky into a dynamically equivalent translation, it might look like this:

      The Monster

      It was cold, and the trees
      Swayed back and forth in the wind
      It was hard to see in that place
      And the creatures hid.

      Watch out for the Monster, my children!
      It has teeth to bite and claws to grab!
      Watch out for the birds, and stay away
      From the other creatures!

      He grabbed a weapon
      And had looked for the Monster so long
      He decided to rest by a tree
      And thought for a while.

      While he was standing, thinking
      The Monster came after him
      With its fierce eyes
      Making frightening noises!

      You get the idea. The text is much easier to read, but even if this is basically what Lewis Carroll intended to convey syntactically (and I don’t think it is, by a long shot), it is most certainly not what he intended to convey holistically, taking the literal verbiage and syntactic structure together. The text loses both its character and its total meaning.

      ‘It seems very pretty,’ she said when she had finished it, ‘but it’s rather hard to understand!’ (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) ‘Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate’

      This was Alice’s response to the poem, and it well may be someone’s response to the ESV or NASB, or any other more literal translation — and that’s OK. Sometimes all you’re going to get out of the reading is that “somebody killed something.” That’s fine. It doesn’t mean you stop reading Jabberwocky, and it doesn’t mean you “translate” into another poem altogether.

      There is a false assumption embedded in the idea of “dynamic” translation that everyone should be able to understand all of the Bible. Not everyone will. Some are going to understand more of the scriptures than others. Some will understand it better from a linguistic standpoint, other from a historical standpoint, still others theologically. Some will struggle to eke out the meaning of the most straightforward passages, while others will have as comprehensive an understanding as Paul’s. Most of us fall in between.

      I would rather those persons that struggle with a more literal translation such as the ESV read it, struggle with it, and have a brother or sister in the faith or trusted teacher work through it with them, rather than efface the text with colloquial expressions. Study Bibles are a simple way to balance out issues of understanding while still maintaining the integrity of the text — as much as is possible given it is still a translation.

      One of the other things Jim said was this:

      “If a man can read, all he needs to do is read, pray, and meditate, and he might understand the Bible better than someone with a PhD in biblical studies.”

      And herein lies the rub. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and it is the Spirit which is ultimate Translator and Teacher of the text.

      Craig

  4. Michael September 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    High schoolers are required to read Beowulf, Shakespeare, and Canterbury Tales, yet the ESV is too hard for most adults??

    I think this has more to do with making the Bible (and the church) more “culturally relevant” than it does making Scripture easier to understand. In the past, if someone came upon a word they didn’t know, they looked it up in the dictionary. Now, with Google at the touch of a mouse, we don’t look it up but call for a more modern translation!

    And last I check, words and names like Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz were still in the NIV.

  5. John September 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I think Sandy makes an excellent point. Even though I enjoy reading the ESV, I rarely use in when witnessing to others, especially those who are readers of English as a second language. We can argue that these people need to be better educated, but shouldn’t we meet them where they’re at? The ESV is fine for deeper word study, but for reading in natural English, the NIV is much better.

  6. Chris Taylor September 26, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Two thoughts:

    1) The ESV is not too hard for English speaker. Some prejudiced scholar may try to make such a claim, but it is simply not true.

    2) On the other hand, Paul does write some things that are hard to understand. But they are hard conceptually. It doesn’t matter how ‘clearly’ one tries to paraphrase what Paul said in these texts, it will not be easy. Ironically, the more ‘clearly’ one tries to translate in these texts, the more likely it is to expand or restrict what St. Paul really said.

    Therefore, I think it’s safest to follow the caption I found on the earliest marketing manuscript from the ESV: “Finally, a translation that does not try to improve upon the original.”

  7. Sue September 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    If we have no difficulty with the jabberwocky, and I memorized it at a similar age, then we should have no difficulty with the KJV. In that case, we can support the term “to usurp authority” and “Junia, notable among the apostles.” In that case, two of the major complaints about the NIV are nullified and we could expect to live in peace.

  8. Don Johnson September 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    Words get their meanings from how they are used. However, in the poem there are many hapax, so while we can guess at intentions, others can make other guesses and no one can be declared right or wrong.

    I can read the ESV and use it, so being able to read it is not my concern.

    My concerns with the philosophy behind an essentially literal translation is the potential for a false confidence in asserting what “God says” because cultural idioms and metaphors were falsely undertranslated.

  9. Sue September 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    I am not concerned about the literalness of a translation. I am concerned about the places where it is not literal and claims to be.

  10. Sandy Grant September 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Friends, a couple more observations from Downunder.

    Firstly I encourage those who dismiss concerns with readability levels as being about “laziness”, or from a “prejudiced scholar”, or about accommodation to cultural relevance, just to consider Matthew 7:2 and be a little more charitable about the motives and attitudes of those commenting here. It’s easy to throw such assertions around. It’s harder to demonstrate with evidence and careful argumentation.

    Secondly, not all schools (at least in Australia) would be studying all of Beowulf, Shakespeare and Canterbury Tales. Typically you might get one out of those three – Shakespeare – and many students struggle to understand it, and even more struggle to read it aloud.

    I notice there has been little engagement with the issue of reading aloud – the public reading of Scripture – as well as in small groups, where rehearsal is not always possible.

    We may wish English reading standards were higher. I certainly do. However many teachers at secondary and tertiary education levels are commenting on the number of students who struggle with reading an English expression.

    Lastly, I have thought a bit further about Jabberwocky. There is a big difference between memorising and reciting (even with expression) such a poem and actually understanding each of its phrases, let alone words. Some we can certainly guess at. But as Jim himself said in his original post, many of the details, e.g. individual words, are a complete mystery.

    So it seems strange to be commending memorising Jabberwocky as a good example, in a blog where we are concerned with plenary inspiration of every word of Scripture (as per Jim’s previous posting of the Grudem article on EL v. DE). On this approach, therefore, we need to understand not just the vibe, or the over all gist, but as much of the details as possible of the individual words and phrases.

    Please keep using the ESV in study and in churches where the pastoral leadership judges it suitable. I have no brief to change that.

    My polite opinion is that we would do well not to demonise those who use the NIV or HCSB (which is another option that’s a bit more readable than the ESV to consider) as somehow being lazy, prejudiced, sell outs! It may be we know our own congregations and their education levels and ethnic backgrounds better than you do.

    So lastly, with others who have made this observation, we are very blessed to have so many high quality, English translations of the Bible. I am grateful to God for this heritage.

    • Sue September 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

      Thanks for these sentiments, Sandy. I have blogged for 5 years out of grief over the dissension surrounding the NIV. I wish to see it laid to rest.

    • JMH September 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

      Thanks for this, Sandy,

      I’m grateful for what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, and that you’re gracing us by saying it here.

      Just to clarify, I don’t want to impugn anyone’s motives or willingness to work.

      I do want to maintain that humans are really capable, that language learning and reading comprehension are intuitive (that we learn from context, that we learn word meanings from usage, and that if we’ll stick with more difficult texts we’ll develop greater facility, etc.), and that it’s possible to understand something like Jabberwocky even if we don’t know every word (and can’t because the words aren’t used in other contexts).

      I appreciate the point about some things being easier to read aloud. In fact, that is one of the reasons I use the ESV rather than the NAS. I think the ESV is easier to read aloud.

      As I’ve noted in other posts here and elsewhere, I think my first complaint about DE translations is going to be the biblical theological one — that the more dynamic a translation is the less intertextuality will be preserved in translation.

      Every blessing,

      Jim

  11. Sandy Grant September 27, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    Jim,

    No worries, mate! (As we say in Oz.)

    I don’t mind vigorous expression like your Hogwash (and it’s ‘rubbish’ in Australia as well as in England), although these days with American English all over, ‘nonsense’ from Arkansas was easy, and we’d even understand ‘baloney’!

    I was objecting to the tone of some of your commenters who presumed the judge the laziness of all Bible readers who struggle with the ESV and the ‘prejudice’ of the ‘scholar’ (was that really me?) who was daring to suggest it. I sense you understand what I am getting at there and did not feel you were impugning my motives or words at all.

    Thank you for encouraging us all to aspire to the highest standards of language learning.

    It is a great thing of the history of Christian missions that (as a generalisation) where the gospel of Jesus has gone, literacy standards have tended to rise, as people have been given the most precious of all reasons to read in the inscripturated words of eternal life!

    • JMH September 27, 2011 at 6:53 am #

      Amen!

  12. Daniel September 27, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    I just realized Jabberwocky is a chiasm.

    A “Twas brillig and the slithy toves…”
    B Speech from the father
    C The “vorpal sword”
    X The Jabberwocky comes!
    C The “vorpal blade”
    B Speech from the father
    A “Twas brillig and the slithy toves…”

    How many nerd points do I get for THAT?

    • JMH September 27, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

      Brilliant!

  13. Chris Taylor September 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Greetings Sandy:

    It could also be said of me, that in the way I used the term ‘prejudice’ that I could also be said to be pre-judging the comprehension level of most English speakers. I am assuming that an English speaker can comprehend much, whereas DE scholars tend to underestimate the comprehension level of English speakers. Since the term has a negative connotation, I thought it appropriate to use it to highlight the fact that DE scholars pre-judge English speakers in a less favorable light.

    As for the oft-raised issue of public reading, I’m not sure what to make of this. It seems to me that this is a very subjective argument. Having grown up reading the Living Bible (and listening to Tyndale’s dramatic reading of the whole Living Bible on tape as I went to bed each night), I had a difficult time transitioning to the NASB when I went to Bible College. However, my difficulty was not that the NASB is intrinsically hard to read publically, but I had deep channels cut into my mind of how the text ‘should read’. I found when reading publically, that my mind wanted to complete the sentence with what I had grown accustomed to reading, hearing and even memorized. So, when I read the NASB aloud, I stumbled over the ‘foreign’ words. Foreign not because they were hard or misplaced so much as unexpected.

    Most congregations that have begun using the ESV, are likely moving from the NIV. In as much, I would expect the readers to get tripped up in a similar fashion. However, given ten years or so of getting acquainted with the newer phraseology, I’m guessing you will hear far fewer faltering readings.

    If I were a betting man, I might even put a wager on the expected results of this study. Go back to the early days of the NIV, when the English speaking world was transitioning away from the hard-to-read KJV. My guess is that you will find similar difficulties with those who had grown up reading the KJV, now asked to read the easy-to-read NIV publicly.

    Warmly, CT

  14. PJ Tibayan September 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Jim,

    Would you consider the (Holman) CSB dynamic equivalent or formal equivalent?

    In Christ,
    PJ

    • JMH September 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

      I haven’t used it enough to be able to tell for myself.

      I’ve heard Ed Blum claim that it’s more accurate than the NAS and easier to read than the NIV!

  15. Sandy Grant September 27, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    Hi Chris, thanks for your last post. I think you have a fair point that moving to a new translation from any translation that people have long been used to will produce some stumbles, as people take time to bed into the new one. Fair enough.

    One of my points is that this means there should be a fair bit of time spent investigating the alternative options, trialling them publicly, over months, and so forth.

    Instead sometimes we see a pastor make a unilateral decision for his congregation, on the basis of a few celebrity endorsements.

    I would also repeat what I have tried to say here, and certainly on the previous thread highlighting Dr Grudem’s essay on dynamic equivalence versus essentially literal; namely that the NIV (and here for the sake of this thread not being de-railed I am not entering into the debate about its various revisions) is far closer to ESV and HCSB than it is to CEV, NLT, let alone the Message.

    Yes there is a spectrum rather than a straight either/or choice. But it is unfair to lump NIV in with straight dynamic equivalence translations. (See my comments on the Jim’s Grudem post for details.)

    I have written an essay to be published in the November edition of Matthias Media’s Briefing magazine (content now freely available online) about how to choose a new translation, addressed mainly to churches which have been using the NIV84 and will be forced to make a change at some stage.

    My main brief is not to advocate for one option over another, so much as to encourage a really thorough process in the decision making.

    I am especially addressing evangelical pastors and churches where the NIV has been the default Bible. There are still lots of us out there – certainly in Australia.

    I guess we may have to agree to disagree, but for many such churches, the ESV has been assessed as a reading level too high. Maybe that’s our mistake, but we also know our own churches better than you do. And we still have to make wise decisions about new options.

    For those interested, I think the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS for short, what I understand from the other side of the world to be conservative, evangelical mainly complementarian Lutherans) are providing a good model for this sort of careful process. Now they are tending in a certain direction you may disagree with, but you will learn from their process, and they also have some helpful review articles, for example, of the new NIV, and also of the HCSB (as well as of ESV).

    WELS have an index page here for their various articles on this issue…
    http://www.wels.net/news-events/forward-in-christ/bible-revision-new-international-version-2010

    For PJ, who asked about HCSB and where it fits on the spectrum, both the review articles I’ve consulted and my own efforts trialling it over several years (intensified in the last year) suggest that it is (generally, not always) a little more literal than NIV, but more readable then ESV. Grudem (in the article Jim linked to in a previous post) groups it along with NRSV and NET as being essentially literal, but a little less so than ESV, NASB, KJV, whereas he calls NIV ‘mixed’ in its philosophy. However it also has some quirks which one should carefully consider. Read the WELS review article on HCSB for more info (or wait for the my November Briefing article if you want.)

  16. David McKay October 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    When I was in crowd control [which some people call High School Music Teaching], I led the Inter School Christian Fellowship group during lunch and found that intelligent high school stuedents stumbled over reading the NIV aloud.

    I bought a box of Good News Bibles and noticed a dramatic improvement in the quality of the reading. Students seemed to understand it more readily. Bear in mind that they had not been given the opportunity to rehearse the passage beforehand.

  17. chris taylor October 4, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I could be totally off here, but I wonder about the ‘easy to read aloud’ line of reasoning for a number of reasons.

    1. Doesn’t the varied types of writing styles used by the Apostles themselves show that they were not necessarily aiming at simplicity?

    2. John may use a more simple style, but Peter sure doesn’t!

    3. Yet even John’s writings are not that simple. He writes in Greek, but uses Hebraic syntactical structures.

    4. Peter claims that Paul has written things difficult to understand.

    5. My attempt at translating and doing some very basic discourse analysis on Peter’s letters has made me think that Peter is one to talk!

    6. I reserve the right to add number six later

    I’m curious to see where this line of argument originated. My guess is that SIL emphasizes this with missionaries who are translating the Bible for people who do not know how to read or write, but if they do, I think that is pretty short-sighted. Doesn’t the history of Bible translation demonstrate that cultures that are brought to life by the word of God begin hungering like new born babes for the word, and thus, in order to satisfy their hunger, become literate? It seems to me that the rate of growth in education in these regions would necessitate translations that could be of use ten years after the translation is made, and therefore necessitate translations that are more true to the original, rather than more paraphrastic.

    • David McKay October 4, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

      What people need most of all is a Bible they can understand now. Bible translators these days help the indigenous speakers to translate. They don’t impose a translation on them. [William Carey painstakingly translated the Bible into Bengali and found that the native speakers couldn’t understand a word of it!]

      You can guarantee that native speakers will produce a colloquial, idiomatic version which they and their fellow speakers will understand. Probably many of those who first receive the newly trans;lated Bible will initially be having it read to them.

      When people become literate, they will benefit from studying it more closely and benefit from also having a version which more closely follows the form of the original.

      English speakers are fortunate that they have so many different styles of translations. Most of these are helpful. People who insist on only an idiomatic or only a formal version miss out on a lot.

      Over the past six years i have read through the NIV (1984 edition), TNIV, ESV, NLT (2nd edition), New Jerusalem Bible, Good News Bible and Contemporary English Version.

      I’ve been enriched by each of these.

      My current project is reading through the Holman Christian Standard Bible, which I am also enjoying.

      One thing I notice is how often the supposed literal versions use some freedom in expressing the original languages. If you read the ESV notes, you will see how often it breaks with the literal Greek and Hebrew.

      To say the ESV is literal seems to be overstating the case to me. Every one of the versions I’ve cited above uses some freedom to express the original some of the time. Probably the NIV does this more frequently than the ESV.

      So I guess the ESV is really only a little bit pregnant!

      • chris taylor October 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

        Dear David,

        I have read three biographies of William Carey over the past ten years, but I have never heard anything about how the translation was not readable. Please point me to a source on that.

        As to the native speakers doing the translation, I’m afraid I just don’t agree with the reports I’ve heard from Wycliffe missionaries that I’ve heard and spoken to. They tell me that they have a good system for doing fast translations these days.

        1) They find speakers who know enough English to translate into their father tongue.

        2) Then they find other speakers who know enough to translate the first man’s work back into English.

        3) They bring in a consultant who looks at the variations to see if there are areas that might need to be improved.

        This is really very sad to me. I’ve even heard some of their missionaries claim that native speakers doing the translation don’t have to be believers, in fact the prefer that they aren’t, so that the chance of a theological bias is negated.

        You are a Greek and Hebrew man. I’m so confused on why you would think that this is a good practice.

        It may take longer and be more resource intensive to do a good translation from Greek into a foreign tongue. But at least train the men doing the translation work in the original languages so that they can do meaningful translation.

        A more personal note: I own a first printing of the NASB, given to me by my grandfather Ken Taylor (of Living Bible fame), which had been given to him as a gift from J. Dewey Lockman (publisher of the NASB).

        It is very interesting to see a few comments in the margin of this NASB, where my grandfather notes, “Paraphase”.

        We all know that there is no pure translation. The goal is to attempt such a thing in a readable fashion.

        Oddly enough, having grown up in Wheaton, IL, I married into the Dennis family (of the ESV publishing fame). So I’m acutely aware of translation theory and the arguments from all sides.

        Is the ESV perfect? No, nor does it claim to be. I for one, don’t like how it has a tendency to translation masculine terms in more gender neutral ways (anthropos as ‘one’, see Rom 3:4, etc). On the other hand, I do find the NASB a little to formal (English really does have rules that guide word order!).

        But I love how these two translations seek to do their best at rendering words (where possible) the same way, so that readers can actually study the text and see the connections.

        Sorry, one last thought. I don’t know of any evangelicals that say paraphrases or dynamic equivalent translations are bad in and of themselves. The more tools for understanding God word the better. But the real issue in all these things is, which Bible should be used from the pulpit, and used by churches as a whole for memorization. Here, I would argue that they should be translations that are more formally equivalent.

        Be well.

  18. David McKay October 5, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    Wow, Chris. You have some great connections in Bible translation.

    In 1965, my mother gave me Living Letters for my 13th birthday. She also threw a great party – the only one of any note until my 21st birthday.

    Living Letters made the Bible come alive for me. It was rather American, but much more in the language I spoke than the King James Version I had grown up with.

    Even though it had its Arminian bias [e g Romans 8:29], it confronted me with what Paul was saying in Romans 9 and I bristled with anger. Who does God think he is?

    Mum told me “He thinks he’s God” and pointed out that you can’t write predestination out of the Bible [despite the Living Letters versions of Rom 8:29].

    Later I learnt that the Living Bible had some deficiencies, and for a while I thought i had outgrown this paraphrase.

    But I love the New Living Translation and especially the second edition, which is an improvement on an improvement, I think.

    A few years back a pastor told me that we don’t want the translation to tell us what the Bible means, only what it says. But I think we need both.

    For example, I never understood what Thomas was saying in John 11 until I read verse 16 in the NLT, where Thomas says “Let’s go, too– and die with Jesus.” (Joh 11:16 NLT)

    Older versions said “die with him” and I ignorantly thought it meant die with Lazarus … but he was aleady dead.

    I note that the new Common English Bible rendering is similar to the NLT, but also that the capitalisation in the NASB and HCSB show you the translator thinks Jesus is meant.

    Concerning Carey’s Bengali Bible, I wasn’t saying that the final version was a failure, but i understand the first version was. I’m sorry I don’t have any documentation. Picked up that story years ago, but I’ll try to check back and see if I can verify its authenticity.

  19. David McKay October 5, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    Concerning Jabberwocky, I enjoyed it as a child, but needed my English teacher to explain portmanteau words before it made any actual sense.

    I don’t think I’d have realised that “chortle” is a combination of “chuckle” and “snort” without having it pointed out.

    Jabberwocky is an argument for studying a text in the original language of the author. Due to its special nature, it isn’t readily translatable.

    As a comparison, check out Micah 1:10-16 in any translation you care to. If you want a better understanding of it, which version do you think will help?

    I’m not a fan of the Message. Forgive this Aussie, but it’s too American and usually too loose.

    But Peterson’s version of the Micah passage is terrific.

    Don’t gossip about this in Telltown.
    Don’t waste your tears.
    In Dustville,
    roll in the dust.
    In Alarmtown,
    the alarm is sounded.
    The citizens of Exitburgh
    will never get out alive.
    Lament, Last-Stand City:
    There’s nothing in you left standing.
    The villagers of Bittertown
    wait in vain for sweet peace.
    Harsh judgment has come from GOD
    and entered Peace City.
    All you who live in Chariotville,
    get in your chariots for flight.
    You led the daughter of Zion
    into trusting not God but chariots.
    Similar sins in Israel
    also got their start in you.
    Go ahead and give your good-bye gifts
    to Good-byeville.
    Miragetown beckoned
    but disappointed Israel’s kings.
    Inheritance City
    has lost its inheritance.
    Glorytown
    has seen its last of glory.
    Shave your heads in mourning
    over the loss of your precious towns.
    Go bald as a goose egg—they’ve gone
    into exile and aren’t coming back.

    Peterson, E. H. (2002). The Message : The Bible in contemporary language (Mic 1:10–16). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.

    Surprisingly, it is one of the few that lets you enjoy the puns in the original.

  20. Joe October 20, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    Well what I never really understood is why the ESV is so much more popular than the NASB. Maybe the NASB from the ’70s was a little awkward but I actually find that the NASB update (1995) is no less awkward than the ESV, and if anything the NASB reads smoother. Just check out A couple of examples:

    Matt 6:34:

    “”So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NASB)

    ““Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (ESV)

    Matthew 14:20:

    “and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets.” (NASB)

    “And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.” (ESV)

    Also the NASB italicizes words added by the translators and capitalizes pronouns referring to deity (personal preference).

    I’m not saying this to say the NASB is better than the ESV, but instead to say that I’m puzzled by why the ESV had become so popular while the NASB didn’t, and is unfortunately dying. I personally use the ESV because the NASB will never be the common Bible, whether there’s a good reason for it or not.

    But I often hear that the ESV retains the accuracy of the NASB but had the readability of the NIV. I think this is simply clever marketing. I have no doubt that the ESV is every bit as accurate as the NASB, but it’s not nearly as readable as the NIV. I prefer it to the NIV, but it just simply isn’t as readable.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Are Formal Equivalence Translations Too Difficult To Understand? | Denny Burk - September 26, 2011

    […] Jim Hamilton refers to a poem from S. Lewis Carroll to argue that formal equivalence translations are not too difficult to understand. He writes: […]

  2. Translations and Understandability « Insomniac memos - October 6, 2011

    […] Hamilton responds to claims that the ESV (and other formal equivalence translations) are too hard to understa…. He has a point…and yet. Four observations from my perspective (I started with two, but it […]

Leave a Reply