Ask C3

Session #12: Bible Translations

Posted by James Reimer on

AC3 Question:
Pastor Jason,  Crosspointe uses the English Standard Version (ESV) translation of the Bible for its teaching and preaching ministries. Why and how did that come about? What guidance can you give when considering various translations? 

AC3 Response:
Well, Crosspointe moved to the ESV from the NIV (New International Version) a number of years ago. We did that for a number of reasons. Our main concern, however, was to use, as closely as possible, a word-for-word translation versus a thought-for-thought version when translating from the original languages into English.

 There are a number of translations that do that. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is a word-for-word translation but it’s very wooden in how it feels—kinda clunky at times—because it is so concerned about even the word-order.

 The ESV is better, I think, because it is word-for-word but also uses something called “optimal equivalence”. That ensures the thought in the original language is the thought that is translated into English.

 So, we wanted a version that was readable—and the ESV is readable, even if challenging at times. It is more readable than the King James version, for example, at this point because the King James has some old-English words that we don't use any more. It is also more readable than the NASB.

 We also were confident in the ESV translation process. A lot of times you can read at the beginning of your Bible an explanation of how that particular version was translated. What we are holding and reading is not the original languages in which the Bible was written. Because of that, moving from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic into English, you have some translation questions.

 We wanted a good translation process and felt the ESV had one. It was not just one person, it was a committee of over 50 people bringing the Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic into English. That helps. When you have more people involved it can give you more confidence.

 Some people will read The Message, which is a paraphrase. That is the work of one person, Eugene Peterson. A good man, a good author, but he put it together on his own. So, he didn't have a lot of people saying “Well, Eugene, that might not be the best word there.”. He just went with what he wanted.

 The ESV uses a variety of people. It also takes it directly from the original languages into English. So, the ESV differs from a modernized King James or modernized NASB, which would be two steps away from the original.

 I think of the book, Don Quixote, which is a great book and written in Spanish. When we read it in English it has been translated from Spanish. But if we were Russian, we would want it translated from Spanish directly into Russian. That would reduce the chance for error or confusion.

 When using a paraphrase, like The Message, I will use that when reading a passage and it confuses me. There might be phrases like “recline at table” or a word like “bier” that I might not know exactly what they mean. So, I’ll go from the ESV to The Message or the New Living Translation and that will give me a better understanding. But I try not to read The Message by itself. I will use the more literal translations to inform what Eugene Peterson was attempting to help us understand.

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