I think it’s been going on ever since we started having numerous translations of the Bible. Two groups are making new translations, and one camp calls into question the motives of the other.
There were controversies back in the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s. Indeed, it has been said that the old RSV was the most controversial translation that was ever made! Commissioned by the National Council of Churches, it became a great vehicle for the liberal mainline churches to advance their own liberal theology.
Recent controversies are more of what I’m concerned with today, though. The vicious attacks by the ESV camp on the TNIV camp were very hurtful. The very motives of the TNIV translators were questioned. It was said they were trying to change the Word of God! They were trying to advance a liberal agenda! It was a very painful time for the TNIV people, and the ESV advocates were making inroads into the people who knew nothing about translation differences. People who knew no difference were convinced to stay away from the TNIV because it was a “controversial” translation. Well, actually it’s not controversial. It’s an excellent, conservative evangelical translation. It was only controversial because some people who had nothing to do with it made a big stink about it.
The fact is, the translators of the TNIV were only trying to make the very best Bible available. They certainly weren’t trying to advance any liberal agenda; they certainly aren’t trying to lead anybody astray or shipwreck anybody’s faith. And God can and will do His work through the TNIV.
The ESV people as well have been under attack, though perhaps not so visciously. Their translation purports to get rid of the “liberalisms” that were so obvious in the old RSV. They have also promoted the ESV as “essentially literal”. Many of us have seen clearly that it’s only a minor revision of the old RSV, and also are not particularly impressed with some of the clumsy language in the ESV. And the liberals gave attacked the ESV because they see it injecting Christian theology into the Old Testament. Personally, I think their motives in making the ESV are laudable, but they also are traveling a rocky road. It seems any time one is trying to do the work of the Lord, one will meet with opposition.
Both the ESV people and the TNIV people are trying to make an excellent Bible. As far as that goes, most people trying to make any translation of the Bible are trying to bring the Word of God to the people, even the liberals!
I think it’s time we stop questioning the motives of those who want to bring us the Word, and look at the translations for what they are. Otherwise, we’re not just hurting ourselves, but others as well. We who study this sort of thing need to be able to be objective in our recommendations, and not reject certain translations because we question the motives of the fallible people who made them.