The Parable of the Net

Getting back to Bible translations, why do some translations such as the NKJV speak of the dragnet, whereas the NIV and ESV just speak of the net?

I suspect the reason for this choice is that while “dragnet” is a little more descriptive of its object, in modern English it has a second meaning that refers to “a network of measures for apprehension (as of criminals)” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition).

After doing some exegesis on this text, I discovered that in modern marine terminology “seine” (ˈsān) is probably the most accurate translation of the Greek σαγήνη (sagḗnē). I have to admit, however, that before working on this text that word was foreign to me, as it likely is to most folks these days.

The complexity of this single word gives us a small window into the tough decisions biblical translators and interpreters face when they are attempting to make the ancient text understandable to readers in the present time.

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

“…baptizing them into the name…”

Unfortunately, most modern Bible translations use the English preposition “in” rather than “into” for the ‘Great Commission’ saying of Jesus that has always been used as the formula for Christian baptism (Mt 28:19). The NIV84 and ESV at least mention “into” as an alternative in the footnote, while the NIV2011 leaves it out completely. Too bad. “Into” (Greek eis) is certainly preferable, since it better reflects the baptismal theology of the ecumenical creeds and reformed confessions.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Here, in Matthew 3:2, is at least one instance where the NIV2011 offers a slightly better rendering, in my opinion, than the ESV (“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”), and is certainly an improvement over the NIV84 (“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”). Although the ESV is better than the NIV84, the NIV2011 better captures the perfect tense of the original Greek. In his Grammar of the Greek New Testament, A.T. Robinson categorizes the verb as an extensive present perfect=a completed state, and here it is likely “durative-punctiliar”. Fancy grammar aside, when the definition of the Greek word engizo (“draw near, come near, approach” according to BDAG) is combined with the perfect tense, “has come near” seems a very good translation, which reflects the decisive change that Jesus’ coming has inaugurated.

Published in: on February 15, 2012 at 12:34 pm  Comments (1)  

Bible translations

It’s been too long since I posted here…. First it was Christmas, one of the busiest times of the Church Year for pastors; then it was off to CRTS to speak at and participate in my alma mater’s first Preaching Seminar; then it was getting back into the thick of life in the pastorate.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading, thinking, and interacting with others about Bible translation. The Canadian Reformed Churches in which I pastor are faced with the reality that the NIV84, which is in common use among us, is no longer in paper print. So the question is, do we stick with the NIV and adopt the 2011 version, go with the ESV, or do something else?

The CBT (Committee for Bible Translations) of the CanRCs has prepared an interim report  which presents their conclusions concerning the NIV2011. Rather than rushing to my own personal judgment on the matter, I figured I’d like to do a little comparing of the NIV84, ESV, and NIV2011 for myself. I’ve already been reading from all three translations from the time of their respective releases, and comparing them with the original texts, each other, and other English translations. Since I haven’t come to a settled position at this point, I thought a good way of working towards one would be to do a more careful and detailed comparison of these three translations as I do my exegetical work for sermon preparation.

So, if you’d like to peer over my shoulder, I’ll try to post my thoughts as I go along, depending of course on how much time I can scrounge together to do this.

Published in: on February 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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Two things I like about the ESV

From a doxological and liturgical perspective, two of the many reasons I like the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Holy Bible are as follows:

  1. Selah is retained in the text of the Psalms as was the case in the NIV 84, while the NIV 2011 consigns every occurrence to the footnotes. The ESV choice confirms my conviction that this word should be spoken when the Psalms are read publicly and aloud.  Pronounce: sě∙lā(h) [with accent on the first syllable].
  2. The ESV has what I believe is a more sensible and defensible translation of the original Greek phrase te kardia in Ephesians 5:19: singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, while the NIV 84 has: Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. The NIV 2011 is an improvement over the NIV 84 on this score, translating from your heart. On all scores, however, the ESV more accurately and defensibly translates the grammar, vocabulary, and structure of the original Greek.
Published in: on October 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm  Comments (2)  
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In the preface to NIV 2011, the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) explains the removal of Selah from the main text as follows:

Although Selah, used mainly in the Psalms, is probably a musical term, its meaning is uncertain. Since it may interrupt and distract the reader, this word has not been kept in the English text, but every occurrence has been signaled by a footnote.

Since when does the uncertain meaning of a word become a deciding factor for whether it should be included? Other musical terms in the Bible, even when their meanings are uncertain, are not removed on this basis. It is part of the Biblical text in the original Hebrew and therefore should also be retained in the English text. I hope that in future editions it will be included again so that Selah continues to receive the attention it deserves by readers and scholars of the biblical text. In a recent doctoral study on musical instruments and musicians in worship, I did some research on this word. Some day I hope to share my ideas about the meaning of this term.

Published in: on July 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“the darkest valley”

Recently a parishioner asked me about the rendering of a modern Dutch translation of the Bible at Psalm 23:4. This made me curious about how the NIV 2011 renders it. I discovered that the new version is close to this aforementioned Dutch version. While the old version of the NIV reads “through the valley of the shadow of death” and places “through the darkest valley” in the footnote, the new version reverses the main text and the footnote text. Both translations are defensible. I suspect that the older one is influenced by the Septuagint, which renders it skia thanatou, although it may also have something to do with the etymology of the Hebrew word, which includes the word for death in it.

Published in: on July 21, 2011 at 6:47 pm  Comments (2)  
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