Thursday, August 25, 2011

Analyzing Six Bible Translations: Part 5-Ephesians 2:4

Ephesians 2:4
Ephesians 2:4 in Vaticanus (ca. 4th century)
ESV  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
NIV84  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
NIV But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
HCSB  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us,
NASB  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
NET  But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us,

Check a: “his great love”
The Greek text says “his great love,” not “the” great love. The semi-redundant reference to “his” great love with which “he” loved us is intended to place the emphasis on God’s activity in loving, just like the use of the noun for love and verb for love is intended to prop up God’s love as high as the author can. All other translations besides the ESV include the personal pronoun in their translations. This doesn’t lead to an incorrect reading of the text, but a de-emphasizing of an element.

Check b: “love with which he loved”
The author uses the Greek noun for love (agape) and the Greek verb (agapaō) for the purpose of emphasis. Apparently, Paul didn’t think calling God’s love “great” (polus) was enough, so he used repetition. The ESV, NASB, and NET retain the verb. The NIV and NIV84 both leave it out. The HCSB retains a verb (“He had”) but not the verb “love.” They do this for the purpose of emphasis, by which it is fairly successful.


1-3
4a
4b
sub-total
ESV
6
0
1
7
NIV84
7
1
-1
7
NIV
9
1
-1
9
HCSB
8
1
0
9
NASB
7
1
1
9
NET
5
1
1
7

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Analyzing Six Bible Translations: Part 4-Ephesians 2:3


Ephesians 2:3
Ephesians 2:3 in Sinaiticus (ca. 4th century)
ESV among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
NIV84  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
NIV All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.


HCSB  We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.
NASB  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
NET  among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…

Check a: “thoughts” versus “mind”
The text says that previously we were indulging/doing the desires of the flesh and of the dianoiōn. The Greek word refers to “the faculty of thinking, understanding, and comprehending” (BDAG). While many translations go with “mind” (ESV, NASB, NET), the word is actually plural and the translation “thoughts” (NIV, NIV84, HCSB) captures the meaning of the Greek and the plural form of the Greek word better.

Check b: children of wrath
The phrase “children of wrath” probably means people destined for God’s wrath. The reason this understanding is preferred is that the same phrase is used in Eph. 5:6 with the meaning “destined for God’s wrath,” and it is used in combination with “sons of disobedience,” which was used in Eph 2:2. This phrase, a Semitism, is ambiguous, so ideally the translation could supply a footnote to another possible meaning: people characterized by wrath. The ESV, NASB, and NET are ambiguous because they retain the Semitism. The HCSB keeps the Semitism but adds “under,” probably as an attempt to clarify the meaning, but it is still ambiguous. The NIV84 does the best job of clarifying the phrase. The NIV has “deserving of wrath.” It seems that what they are trying to say here is that since we deserve wrath, it was “going to be” our destiny, until the “but God.”

Check c: the structure
These first three verses are awkwardly tied to the following seven. This awkwardness only comes out in the NET. The awkwardness exists because, in the Greek, Paul hasn’t given the subject or main verb yet. Verse 1 was the object (in the accusative case) of a subject (introduced in verse 4) and verb (introduced in verse 5). Verses 2 and 3 were relative clauses, subordinate to the object clause in verse 1. Now, awkward doesn’t mean wrong and incorrect. In fact, the way Paul worded this has great rhetorical impact. But the grammar is awkward. The NET Bible footnote says this: “The syntax in Greek for vv. 1–3 constitutes one incomplete sentence, though it seems to have been done intentionally. The dangling participle leaves the readers in suspense while they wait for the solution (in v. 4) to their spiritual dilemma.” The repetition of the opening phrase in verse 5 confirms this. You don’t get this sense from any of the translations except the NET.

Check d: “flesh”
There has been much controversy over the NIV84’s translation of sarx. Their translation of “sinful nature” was rightly critiqued. Most translations went with “flesh,” including the NIV (the ESV’s “body” is fine). The translators of the NIV corrected this but they also included in a footnote the following: “In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.” Putting that interpretation into the footnote is a great way of suggesting their reading without forcing it upon their readers.


1-2
3a
3b
3c
3d
sub-total
ESV
5
0
0
0
1
6
NIV84
6
1
1
0
-1
7
NIV
6
1
1
0
1
9
HCSB
6
1
0
0
1
8
NASB
6
0
0
0
1
7
NET
3
0
0
1
1
5

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Analyzing Six Bible Translations: Part 3-Ephesians 2:2

Ephesians 2:2
Ephesians 2:2 in Codex Sinaiticus (ca. 4th century)
ESV  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--
NIV84  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
NIV in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now
 at work in those who are disobedient.



HCSB  in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.
NASB  in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
NET  in which you formerly lived according to this world's present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience,

Check a: communication that the description that follows was part of their past life
Whether using “once,” “used to,” “previously,” or “formerly,” all translations communicate it clearly.

Check b: translation of peripateō and consistency with verse 10
The Greek verb peripateō literally means “I walk.” However, in contexts like this it refers to the conduct of one’s life. Therefore, translating it “lived” is totally acceptable and possibly preferable. The problem is that the author is specifically making a contrast between the “former” way of walking/living in verse 2 with the “new” way of walking/living in verse 10. Whichever word is used in verse 2 should also be used in verse 10 to make this connection clearer. Furthermore, the verb used in verse 3, anestrafēmen, means to “live.” Translating both of these words as “lived” could muddy the waters from what Paul was trying to communicate by using peripateō again in verse 10. Therefore, the NIV84 and NIV (“live”) and the NET (“lived”) are both problematic because neither translate peripateō that way in verse 10. The other three are fine.

Check c: “prince” versus “ruler”
While the difference between these two is minimal, I believe that the translation “ruler” more clearly communicates the meaning of the Greek: “one who has eminence in a ruling capacity” (BDAG). It’s not that “prince” doesn’t communicate this, but to an American audience, the word “ruler” is probably clearer. The ESV and NASB get zero for “prince,” but the others get 1 for “ruler”.

Check d: the reference to “power”
This is a notoriously difficult phrase and is an interesting test for a functional equivalent translation, a formal equivalent translation (like the ESV and NASB), and an optimal equivalent translation (like the HCSB). The word translated “power” (not dunamis but exousia) can refer to authority or the domain of one’s authority. Translating it “power” is probably the least helpful, but not misleading (like the ESV and NASB). Going with “exercising authority” (HCSB) is probably an improvement, but only minimally. The best way to translate it is to reference the domain (“kingdom,” like the NIV, NIV84, and NET).

Check e: the reference to “air”
Only the HCSB departs on this one. “Air” seems to be the plain reading. The HCSB says “the lower heavens.” This seems to be just another way of referring to a place above the earth but not in heaven. If so, then this is fine. However, its’ ambiguity is not helpful and it could be misleading.

Check f: the relationship of the third clause in verse 2 to the second clause
Only the NET departs here. The translators were very confident that the third clause is not epexegetical (explaining) the second clause. I have researched this (apparently the view of Daniel Wallace) and I remained unconvinced. Larkin agrees that it is epexegetical. So their translation adds “the ruler” to distance thoughts of it being epexegetical. The other five are fine.

Check g: the phrase “sons of disobedience”
This phrase is a Semitism. Like “son of perdition,” it is not referring to a literal “son.” It means “those characterized by disobedience.” This idiom is not common today and could be confusing to modern readers. The NIV, NIV84, and HCSB simply refer to the “disobedient.” The other three retain “sons of.”

Check h: the phrase “at work” or “working”
This is a pretty easy word to translate, from the Greek word energeō. In this verse it means “to bring something about through the use of capability” (BDAG). While it is possible that it contains the connotation of emphasizing the “energy or force involved” (Louw and Nida), the NET translation of “energizing” seems to be an over-translation of the word.


1
2a
2b
2c
2d
2e
2f
2g
2h
sub-total
ESV
0
1
1
0
0
1
1
0
1
5
NIV84
0
1
-1
1
1
1
1
1
1
6
NIV
0
1
-1
1
1
1
1
1
1
6
HCSB
1
1
1
1
0
-1
1
1
1
6
NASB
1
1
1
0
0
1
1
0
1
6
NET
2
1
-1
1
1
1
-1
0
-1
3

Monday, August 22, 2011

Analyzing Six Bible Translations: Part 2

NOTE: NIV84 will be used to designate the old NIV, while NIV will be used for the recent update. The NASB refers to the 1995 update. The ESV refers to the 2011 edition. The HCSB refers to the 2009 edition.

Ephesians 2:1
Ephesians 2:1 in Sinaiticus (ca. 4th century)

ESV  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
NIV84  As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
NIV As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
HCSB  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins
NASB  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
NET  And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins,

Check a: inclusion of personal pronoun
The ESV leaves out the personal pronoun “your” which occurs at the end of verse 1 in the Greek.

Check b: translation of the participle
The HCSB and NASB are identical and fine. The NET Bible understands the participle concessively, which is probably the most likely interpretation. The main issue with the ESV, NIV84, NIV, HCSB, and NASB is that they translate verse 1 as if it had a main verb and could stand on its own. The Greek case for the participle and the word translated “you” at the beginning of the verse is the accusative, which functions as the direct object. Therefore, the NET Bible’s translation is the most accurate.

Check c: puzzling addition to the text
The NIV84 and NIV’s “as for you” is an addition that is quite puzzling, as it seems somewhat redundant.


1a
1b
1c
sub-total
ESV
0
0
0
0
NIV84
1
0
-1
0
NIV
1
0
-1
0
HCSB
1
0
0
1
NASB
1
0
0
1
NET
1
1
0
2

In case you want your own chart to keep score according to your Bible translation philosophy, see this file on google docs.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Analyzing Six Bible Translations: Part 1

Introduction: Explanation of the Study and My Bible Translation Philosophy


Ephesians 1:1 in Sinaiticus (ca. 4th century)

This study will analyze six Bible translations in two parts. Part 1 will look in detail at one specific pericope. This has the advantage of not “spot checking” a translation, but seeing how it works with an extended text. Ephesians 2:1-10 will be the text analyzed. The particular interpretations that impact the criticisms of the translations will be made explicit in each example. Each word, clause, and sentence will be examined. Only where the translations differ will they be analyzed. Part 2 will look at various texts that have been used to analyze the way different translations have rendered the text.

A point system will be used. When a translation renders the text in the most preferable way, it will receive one point. When a translation renders the text in a way that lines up with the traditional way the text has been translated, and/or in a way that may be less than helpful but is not technically incorrect, then zero points will be received. When a translation renders a text in a misleading or drastically unhelpful way, it will receive minus one point.

The reader should keep in mind the translation principles used for this analysis. If one disagrees with these principles, it could significantly alter the outcome of the study. 1) Idioms/Semitisms should be translated functionally, not formally, if they will be misunderstood or confusing to modern readers. For example, I have asked over 100 college students what the idiom “gall of bitterness” (Acts 8:23; cf. ESV, NASB) means. Not one knew that it referred to being “bitterly envious” (cf. NET). The expression “the son of perdition” means next to nothing to most modern readers (John 17:12; cf. NASB). The translation “the one destined for destruction” is much more helpful (cf. NET). 2) The structure of the translated sentence should conform to contemporary English grammar, not Koine Greek grammar or Hebrew grammar. Greek and Hebrew sentence structure sometimes begins with the object or indirect object; English sentence structure begins with the subject. Also, negative particles sometimes are phrased in very awkward ways in some translations: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1 in ESV). Unless the structure of the sentence is extremely important for determining meaning (for example, in a chiasm), English structure should dictate the translation. 3) What should translators do when faced with the option of translating a sentence into awkward English or smooth out the English and lose something in the translation? These have to be taken on a case by case basis. If what is lost is an emphasis, that could be acceptable. However, if a main theological point gets clouded, then it is unacceptable. 4) There are times when a translation has to make a decision, but the ambiguity is high. Therefore, use of footnotes is preferable at these times. I’m not suggesting that every translation move toward the NET Bible’s 60,000 plus footnotes, but there are times when it does appear to be the best solution. 5) Finally, the contentious issue of gender-neutral (or, gender-accurate, or gender-specific, etc.) translations must be discussed. I do believe that the original languages were much less specific in terms of gender than translations have indicated. For example, anthrōpos in the plural could refer to “men” or “people.” Context will dictate which is best. Certain participles in Greek might be masculine in gender (for example, ho pisteuōn-“he who believes”), but they are not necessarily excluding women (so the previous example might more accurately be translated as “the one who believes”). The gender issues will be discussed as they come up.

So the philosophy I bring to Bible translations might differ from yours. If so, this study would still be useful since you could track along with the discussion and just change the point totals as you see fit. Regardless, the decisions about translation philosophy shouldn’t be decided based upon the translation you use, but the translation you use should be based upon the one that fits your translation philosophy best.