57 Comments


  1. These quotes from the ESV in comparison to the KJV, show clearly that the ESV is indeed gender neutral somewhat, but as the translators say, he and man/men is used also when it is best for the literal sense.  As far as I can see, it is a sound translation!
    Fr. R.

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  2. Joel,
    As a so-called literal translation (ESV), I would agree it is better overall than “dynamic equivalence”, but then this is my favor. However, the NRSV is of course so-called literal, and outside the gender issue, it is very good.
    This ESV superior idea seems to be an American issue? I have not found it in the UK. And I would consider myself something of a neo-Calvinist, now at least (by today’s standard). However, I like the term Augustinian much better, for it was here also that Calvin got some of his theological thought. Also as I have shared with you, I am what is called Infalapsarian (sublapsarian or postlapsarian, etc.) But we should note, that until Augustine the issue was not theologically developed. But certainly the truth of it is in St. Paul, as also the NT itself. And from this, it is mostly a Western doctrine. The East just does not go here.
    Fr. R.

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  3. PS..On a side note, I myself do not see how any of us can escape the whole reality of the development of doctrine!  But that is another discussion, and no doubt a long one!
    Fr. R.

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  4. All kinds of terms for the modern (so-called) Reformed. I remember neo-Orthodox also, well before your time. I am just a Catholic & Evangelical Reformed Anglican I guess?  Who knows?  lol  As to the development of at least the doctrine of God’s decrees, predestination, etc. The East at least sees it as “development”. Though of course not theirs.
    Fr. R.

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  5. Well, I for one, LOVE the ESV! I think the KJ translators had MUCH male bias.

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  6. Gender bias in the Church is what I call the “last frontier” of freedom. Paul’s writings have been misunderstood for centuries and have been used to deminish the role of women in God’s work, justifying it all by scripture. Jesus was the great liberator of both men and women. Study the history of the woman’s movement in the United States and you can see that in the 1800’s men used the Bible to completely repress the rights of women. Women had no right to property if their husband died. They had laws regulating the physical abuse of women (the rule of thumb), and if a woman left her abusive husband she would lose her children. The woman’s movement was a reaction to all of this (or an OVER REACTION). Women have had to fight for the right to equal pay in the job place, which they still don’t have.

    Black men gained the right to vote in 1870…. women fought until 1919. Many of the women who were the founders of the woman’s movement were involved in abolition prior to their work in the women’s rights movement. Black men after the Civil war refused to join with the women for suffrage.

    Sooooo are there ministers who still oppose women in ministry? YES. Do they oppose revisions to the Bible regarding women? YES. Am I surprised? NO.

    (Check out the video “Not for ourselves alone” about Eliz. Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony….. it’s very informative on this issue)
    GBY,
    Joanne

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  7. Wayne Grudem did a good job answering the charge that the ESV somehow capitulates on its stated translation approach, i.e., to retain the masculine when it follows the original intent of the author and/or has theological significance to retain the masculine. Grudem (author of an excellent systematic theology) is a good friend of John Piper and shares Piper’s view on the ESV. [long quotation follows]:

    Therefore it just confuses the discussion, and completely misunderstands what several of us have been saying since at least 1997, when Mark Strauss, for example, publishes an article, “The Gender-Neutral Language of the English Standard Version (ESV),[8] in which he compiles a long list of verses in Matthew and Romans where the words “men” and “man” are changed to “people” or “person” in the English Standard Version (ESV, a revision of the 1971 Revised Standard Version ).[9] Strauss says,

    “Below is a very small sampling of the gender-inclusive language of the ESV…. This list could be multiplied many times over … in this way, the ESV is very much like the recently published Today’s New International Version (TNIV), which revises the New International Version (NIV) in a similar manner.”

    What Strauss fails to mention in his paper is that the ESV makes such changes where there is no male meaning in the original text. These are cases that use anthropos (which everyone has known for centuries can mean either “man” or “person” depending on the context), or use pronouns like tis (which means “someone”) or oudeis (which means “no one”), and so forth. These translations of words that have no male meaning in the original Greek are not under dispute, and they have never been under dispute in this entire controversy. Therefore it is misleading for Strauss to criticize “attacks against the gender language of the TNIV” as “coming from those who produced similar gender changes in the ESV.”[11] The changes are not similar at all. The issue is whether there is a male meaning in the original Greek text or not.

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  8. Sam, I myself have never used the HCSB as a resource – I’ve seen some passages. I’ve read some of Ryken’s work there, when it was a free pdf, I believe. It’s not that I have a disdain for the ESV – for some reason, while I like the RSV, the ESV and I have never fit. Now, I take that as a sign that all ESV’s should be burned…

    Grand contribution? Grand? Tyndale…Grand…!!!!!! Sam!!!! St. Tyndale the Blessed created the English language!

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  9. I’m sorry for yet another long-ish quote, but it expresses the English-speaking world’s debt to Tyndale much better than I could. It’s from John Piper’s biographical talk on the life of Tyndale:

    Before he was martyred in 1536 Tyndale had translated into clear, common English not only the New Testament but also the Pentateuch, Joshua to 2 Chronicles, and Jonah. All this material became the basis of the Great Bible issued by Miles Coverdale in England in 1539 and the basis for the Geneva Bible published in 1557—“the Bible of the nation,” which sold over a million copies between 1560 and 1640.

    We do not get a clear sense of Tyndale’s achievement without some comparisons. We think of the dominant King James Version as giving us the pervasive language of the English Bible. But Daniell [Tyndale’s biographer] clarifies the situation:

    “William Tyndale gave us our English Bible. The sages assembled by King James to prepare the Authorized Version of 1611, so often praised for unlikely corporate inspiration, took over Tyndale’s work. Nine-tenths of the Authorized Version’s New Testament is Tyndale’s. The same is true of the first half of the Old Testament, which was as far as he was able to get before he was executed outside Brussels in 1536. ”

    Here is a sampling of the English phrases we owe to Tyndale:

    “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).

    “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

    “The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be merciful unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

    “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

    “There were shepherds abiding in the field” (Luke 2:8).

    “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

    “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9).

    “The signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3)

    “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

    “He went out . . . and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75). Those two words are still used by almost all modern translations (NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJV). It has not been improved on for five hundred years in spite of weak efforts like one recent translation: “cried hard.” Unlike that phrase, “the rhythm of his two words carries the experience.”

    “A law unto themselves” (Romans 2:14)

    “In him we live, move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

    “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

    “Fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12).

    According to Daniell, “The list of such near-proverbial phrases is endless.” Five hundred years after his great work “newspaper headlines still quote Tyndale, though unknowingly, and he has reached more people than even Shakespeare.”

    Luther’s translation of 1522 is often praised for “having given a language to the emerging German nation.” Daniell claims the same for Tyndale in English:

    In his Bible translations, Tyndale’s conscious use of everyday words, without inversions, in a neutral word-order, and his wonderful ear for rhythmic patterns, gave to English not only a Bible language, but a new prose. England was blessed as a nation in that the language of its principal book, as the Bible in English rapidly became, was the fountain from which flowed the lucidity, suppleness and expressive range of the greatest prose thereafter.

    His craftsmanship with the English language amounted to genius.

    He translated two-thirds of the Bible so well that his translations endured until today.

    This was not merely a literary phenomenon; it was a spiritual explosion. Tyndale’s Bible and writings were the kindling that set the Reformation on fire in England.

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  10. Post script: It just occurred to me that I ran across a Tynadale-ism reading in 2 Samuel this morning. As David mourns the death of Saul and Jonathan, he says, “How the mighty have fallen.” You see that phrase in non-biblical contexts all the time.

    ssr

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  11. Sam,
    Thanks for the good posts and Tyndale history and information! I like the ESV myself also, and I have just been given the ESV Study Bible…so far I simply love it. Lots of sound information, and simply good historic evangelical theology!
    Fr. R.

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  12. Sam,
    Joel does a very good job! And indeed there are for the most part solid biblical readers here. Your blogs have helped too, thanks again. Burn your youth for the Word of God! I can only thank God that His grace and providence has caused my last 40 years or so to chase this desire! I only wish I could do better! Thanks again for your insight on the ESV Study Bible. With my ESV SB, I have gotten a free code to access for the ESV Online Study Bible! Simply grand!
    Fr. R.

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  13. Here’s a blog post from Scott McKnight on “translation tribalism.” He makes some good points.

    ssr

    Translations are now officially and unofficially connected to tribes, and it is not a little bit humorous and also at times quite sad. 

    Sometimes it sounds like culture wars, and that is sad. Today I want to make one point, draw a sweeping conclusion, and then offer a good illustration.

    Here’s my point: the authority is the original text, not the translation. The original texts are in Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). The authoritative text is not in English, regardless of how accurate the translation. No matter which translation you prefer, it is not the authoritative text for determining which translation is best. Yes, we need more to devote more time to study of the original languages. 

    The sweeping conclusion is this: unless you can read the original languages, you should avoid making public pronouncements about which translation is best. Instead, here’s my suggestion: if you don’t know the languages and can’t read them well enough to translate accurately on your own but you want to tell your congregation or your listeners which translate is best, you need to admit it by saying something like this: “On the basis of people I trust to make this decision, the ESV or the TNIV or the NRSV or the NLT is a reliable translation.”  

    Here’s an example, and it’s a good one. The translations of James 3:1 translate in two ways:

    NIV: “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers…”

    NASB: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren…”

    ESV: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers…”

    NLT: “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church…”

    TNIV (same NRSV): “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters…”

    Pretty obvious, isn’t it? NIV and NASB and ESV translate with “brothers” while the NLT and TNIV have “added” or “clarified” or “included” [women in the audience] by adding “and sisters.” This is not a debate about which of them has a better theology or about which one is more inclusive but about which one is more accurate to the original Greek. The fact is this: the Greek word behind this, adelphos or “brother,” sometimes refers to a congregation of Christians, including men and women, and sometimes refers only to males (but there is a Greek word for male and James did not use that; gender is not the most important thing in his mind; spiritual kinship is).

    Sure, the NLT and the TNIV are more inclusive, but that’s not quite the point. The point is which one best represents the intent of the original Greek, which has the Greek word adelphos? Unless you know what adelphos means in Greek, in the broad swath of the New Testament’s use of adelphos and how it is used in the Greek-speaking (not to mention Hebrew-reading world) and about how James uses the word adelphos, any judgment is rooted in theology or theory but not in evidence. If you don’t know the Greek, avoid standing in judgment. I’m not trying to be a hard-guy or an elitist, but let’s be honest: only those who know Latin should be talking about which is the “best” translation of Virgil or only those who know Middle High German should be weighing in on the “best” translation of The Nibelungenlied. This isn’t elitist; it’s common sense.

    We could get into the “intent” of translation, but that’s another post. Our intent today is simple: to press upon everyone that there is a distinction between the text and a translation of the text. The authority is with the former; those who know that text are informed enough to decide about translations.

    I’ll tell you what I think here: there is no evidence in James that there were women teachers and that would favor the NIV and NASB and ESV; it is also likely that by “brothers” James is looking at the whole congregation (common enough usage of adelphos in James), favoring the NLT and TNIV. The Greek text has adelphos and the debate should revolve around what that word, in that world and in this context in James, means. [Other things can be discussed too, but my point is not to resolve the issue.] There is insufficient evidence to be dogmatic in this instance. If a translation wants to be “inclusive,” then a little note at the bottom of the text could give readers a tip that “brothers” is another translation. 

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  14. zach

    I know i may sound dumb here, but the use of the word “man” in the context of those verses speak about man as in mankind, not males. in none of those cases were they (in my humble opinion) meant to be masculine. Therefore i would not conclude those verses to be “gender inclusive” on the ESV’s part. I love the ESV…. i was KJV only and God has used it to help me transition to the more modern translations.

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  15. Fr. Robert, while it is not my translation of choice, I have no doubt that it is a good one – however, the issue is that the neo-Calvinists (some, not all) declare the ESV superior to the TNIV, the NLT, the NRSV, etc… because it does not use gender inclusive language.

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  16. From what I understand, ‘neo-Calvinist’ is a term which represents a certain party in the U.S., such as Piper, MacArthur.

    I would not view Augustine/Calvinism as a developed doctrine, Fr. Robert. It is a matter of interpretation of the NT texts which Augustine gave. In my opinion, of course.

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  17. Joanne, I believe that the KJV had a lot of bias nearly everywhere. What do you make of the fact that John Piper, among others, constantly deride other translations because of their gender inclusive language?

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  18. Talk about “over reaction”! As if all of us male pastors, men, etc. Have no possible objectivity, if we are not open to the feminist positions. Again, this is both broad ad hoc, and no doubt will become ad hom also. Very poor!
    Fr. R.

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  19. My previous post in which I quoted Wayne Grudem addresses most of the examples in the blog you’ve referenced.

    Look, I don’t think “translation wars” are edifying for the Body. I’m delighted when someone has enough passion for God’s Word to care to read the Bible. My own taste runs more toward the “essentially literal” school, simply because I can’t read the original languages.

    One question for general discussion. The HCSB is, IMHO, an excellent “essentially literal” translation. I haven’t seen much discussion about it. Is it off the radar here?

    Full disclosure: I love the ESV because I’m an English major and love how it retains much of Tyndale’s grand contribution to the English language. But that’s an aesthetic choice, not a contribution to scholarly discussion.

    If you’d like to get inside the head of one of the many who contributed to the initial version of the ESV, see Leland Ryken’s “The Word of God in English”:

    http://bit.ly/4aojU

    Not only does Ryken provide an excellent blow-by-blow on the development of the ESV, he also provides sound guidelines for picking out other English translations of the Bible.

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  20. Fr. Robert,

    The encouraging aspect of this blog is the fact that most contributers seem to be avid readers of the Word. That’s a good thing, especially since most of the translations being touted are theologically sound.

    My ESV Study Bible is loaded on my Kindle. Crossway has done a good job linking all the articles, footnotes, charts, and maps with the main text. Grayscale maps and charts are clear, but they really look much better in the “paper” version. World Magazine named the ESVSB the “book of the year.”

    ssr

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  21. Joel,
    I have an Ignatius Press RSV / Second Catholic Edition Bible – Brown Bonded leather, 2006. (The Original Catholic Edition Of the RSV Translation Was Prepared By The Catholic Biblical Association Of Great Britain). It also has the Apocrypha Revised, 1957). It has no Catholic theology notes, but does have textual notes. If you like the RSV, with textual notes? This is it!
    Fr. R.

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  22. Sam, can you provide a link?

    There is insufficient evidence to be dogmatic in this instance.

    I would have to agree with him here. I do not believe that James was talking specifically about the office of a teacher (although we know that women did teach), but that whether male or female, not everyone needs to be a leader.

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