Thursday, April 21, 2011

Another example of dynamic equivalence in the ESV

If your interest was piqued by the recent dialogue on this blog relating to the ESV translation, you might also be interested in the discussion on a recent thread at the Puritan Board titled “The ESV and Calvinists.” One of the posts caught my interest in that it offers a further example of the ESV’s shortcomings as an “essentially literal” translation (see post #60 by austinww 4/16/11 to the Puritan Board thread “The ESV and Calvinists”). The post points out that the RSV/ESV consistently offers a dynamic equivalent rendering of the Hebrew ha-shuh-caym (literally, “to rise up early”). Here’s the post:

The other day I met my friend for dinner and we were discussing Jeremiah, which he is currently reading. I pointed out that last year when I read Jeremiah (in the KJV -- my friend reads the ESV), I noticed a recurring theme where many, many times, God says he rose up early to call the people to repentance. I loved that imagery and thought it was a very interesting recurring theme in Jeremiah. My friend had no idea what I was talking about. So I just looked up all the instances where this imagery occurs in Jeremiah and sent them to him: Jer. 7:13; 7:25; 11:7; 25:3-4; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 35:14-15; 44:4....

Out of curiosity, I checked the ESV for the references. Consistently, the ESV says "persistently" instead of "rising up early." I checked the Hebrew. It says "rising up early." This is yet another example of where the ESV makes a pointless interpretation instead of translating what the verse actually says. I have noticed lots of these over my use of both translations. The ESV doesn't seem to be nearly as literal as it claims to be. I can name dozens of other examples if anyone wants them.

I still think it's a good translation, but I don't use it regularly anymore because I find the translation method extremely annoying. I like reading what was actually written (as much as reasonably possible in English), not replacements of whole phrases with interpretations, when the phrase would have made perfect sense if it were simply translated directly. In fact, the more I discover these, the more I wonder if the ESV is even significantly more accurate than the NIV.

Added: The NASB and the NKJV translate it correctly, by the way.


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