In my personal reading/study, right now I’m working my way through the letters of James, Peter, John, and Jude. I figured it would be a good way to continue to familiarize myself with the “new” NIV. I’ve been trying to spend a lot of time with that lately, in order to evaluate it. I know, I’m not doing a whole lot of Bible translation evaluations lately, but after having been so into that for several years, it’s kind of built into me. In fact, the only way to know how good a translation really is, is to use it a lot over a long period of time.
Well, as so often happens, while I was reading in the NIV, I got to wondering how certain passages were rendered in some other translations. I am fairly familiar with the passages in question, and it seemed to me there may have been something the NIV was missing, so I fell back on my trusty old NASBs, both the ’95 update and the old 1977 version. While the NASBs had what I was looking for, they seemed wordy and stilted. I also checked in the old NKJV, and while that also had the nuances I was looking for, its language is so old, and the manuscripts are not all they should be, so I have a really hard time spending much time with it.
I pulled out my nice Crossway ESV single-column reference Bible and put it in the mix. The language isn’t always the most up-to-date, and it’s obviously in the Tyndale tradition. It’s quite clearly based on the old Revised Standard Version, but without all the archaic Thees and Thous that were so common in the original RSV (I’m not sure if they were still in the last version they made.) You know the original RSV came out a long time ago, and back then they thought that a Bible had to sound like a Bible.
But the RSV has proven to be a solid foundation for the ESV. The RSV was well-respected for its accuracy, and while some scholars enjoy putting down the ESV today, the vast majority of what was there in the RSV is still there in the ESV. I find the ESV to generally be an easier translation to read and understand than the NASB, even the ’95 update. The sentence structure is certainly more proper and correct, because in the RSV they paid much closer attention to the style of the English they used, unlike the NASB, which is more concerned with translating sentence structure more like the original languages did it. I found when I was reading 1 and 2 Peter, the NASB read more like gobbledygook, difficult to read and even more difficult to understand. But when I read the same letters in the ESV, they were much smoother and more natural English. I am actually quite surprised that I am starting to use the ESV more and more these days.
I led a study of the Gospel of John a few years ago, and we had to end our class just as we were reaching John 17. Last week the study group I’m involved in right now decided the time has come to pick up where my class left off, at John 17, and I have agreed to participate in the class and help the class in understanding the last few chapters. I am still undecided what translation I will be bringing to the class; I won’t be leading it so I don’t have to be quite so careful what text and materials I use. I’m not even sure if I will want to be bringing a study Bible instead of a reference Bible, though at this time I think it will probably be a reference Bible. And for now, I’m seriously considering carrying the ESV to class…oddly enough! But that could change!