What does Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” have to do with the ESV not being too difficult a translation for people to understand?
Much in every way!
Before I explain, let me invite you to enjoy Carroll’s foray into sniglets (words that don’t appear in the dictionary but should) and logatomes (made-up words that obey phonotactic rules but have no meaning):
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. "Beware the Jabberwock, my son The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!" He took his vorpal sword in hand; Long time the manxome foe he sought— So rested he by the Tumtum tree, And stood awhile in thought. And, as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came! One, two! One, two! And through and through The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back. "And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" He chortled in his joy. 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.
So how does this poem prove people can understand the translation of the Bible known as the ESV?
Proponents of Dynamic Equivalence are constantly telling us that translations that are Literal or Formally Equivalent or Essentially Literal or whatever are too complicated for people to understand. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about Young’s Literal Translation or the KJV or even the NAS. I’ve now heard from Americans, Englishmen, and Australians that the ESV is too difficult for people to understand.
HOGWASH! That’s what we call nonsense in Arkansas. I think my friends in England call it rubbish. You get the idea.
Jabberwocky, with all its nonsense words that no one knows, disproves this meme about an Essentially Literal translation being too difficult.
The poem disproves the claim because while no one can know the meaning of these words that Lewis Carroll invented, anyone who knows English can understand what is happening in the poem. Here’s my favorite recorded recitation of the poem:
That’s my seven year old, and he understands the poem. No doubt he’ll understand more if he returns to it when he’s 37 or 67, but he gets it now.
Human beings are made in the image of God. They can figure out how to work iPhones and those complicated new remote controls.
If you tell me that just because they didn’t finish high school they can’t understand a literal translation of the Bible, I’m going to point you to the previous generations of people who, in many cases, had little or no education but faithfully read the King James, and it gave them everything necessary for life and godliness.
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.
If he can’t read, if he’ll pay close attention to someone else reading it, he can get it.
Human beings are made in the image of God. I don’t buy the argument that the ESV is too complicated for them. In fact, I think the argument comes very close to insulting those who bear God’s image.