Comparison of translation choices

I have been reading ESV for a few weeks. I am posting just some random translation choices of ESV and comparing it to other translations. The first two examples have to do with seemingly awkward (oral) translation choices. The last example has to do with the difference between translation approaches: formal equivalent and functional equivalent (other terms have been used to express the differences in approaches)

Formal equivalent: reasonably equivalent words and phrases while following the forms of the source language [Greek in this case] as closely as possible. Sometimes called “word-for-word” translation. Examples include ESV, NAS, NKJV, and MEV.

Functional equivalent: This type of translation reflects the thought of the writer in the source language rather than the words and forms. Sometimes called “meaning based translation.” Examples include: GW, NLT.

Combination: Then there some translations that fall somewhere between these classifications, namely CSB, which leans toward Formal equivalent, and NIV, which shifts between the two approaches (without any signal that such a change is taking place).

Deuteronomy 4:39

ESV know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

NAS Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.

NKJV Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

CSB Today, recognize and keep in mind that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below; there is no other.

NIV Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.

MEV Know therefore today, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.

“Lay it to your heart” just sounds odd, and I am not familiar with any other contemporary use of that phrase in English.

Deuteronomy 5:3

ESV Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.

NAS The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.

NKJV The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive.

CSB He did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with all of us who are alive here today

NIV  It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

MEV The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, we who are living now and here today.

GW He didn’t make this promise to our ancestors, but to all of us who are alive here today.

The translation “but with us, who are all of us here alive today” is awkward English and hence problematic for oral reading. Surprisingly CSB follows ESV closely, only shifting the word “all.”

Interestingly NKJV adjusts the word order to make it more comprehensible but also flowing better for oral reading. MEV goes about it differently to achieve the same result.

Ephesians 1:3-14

This is one section in which the formal equivalent and dynamic equivalent translations show marked differences even in where to put sentence stops (periods).

Ephesians 1:3-14 is one of the more difficult passages, partly because it depends on how sentences are divided in the entire section, 1:3-14. Here are the number of sentences (in parentheses) in each text:

NA28 (Greek text, 4): 1:3-6, 7-10, 11-12, 13-14

ESV (4) 1:3-6, 7-10, 11-12, 13-14

NKJV (4) 1:3-6, 7-10, 11-12, 13-14

MEV (4): 1:3-6, 7-10, 11-12, 13-14

NAS (5) 1:3-6, 7-8a, 8b-10, 11-12, 13-14

==========

CSB (8) 1:3, 4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13, 14

NIV (8) 1:3, 4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13a, 13b-14

==========

GW (14): 3, 4, 5-6, 7, 8, 8-9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 13, 14, 14, 14

NLT (15) 1:3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 13, 14, 14

You can see the division of sentences relative to Formal (ESV, NAS, NKJV, MEV) and Functional (NIV, GW, NLT) translations.  Interestingly CSB and NIV sit in the middle of sentence division choices but for different reasons. CSB (and predecessor HCSB) tend toward Formal equivalence, while NIV sometimes alternates the translation decision between Formal and Functional (without noting which is being followed in a particular text).

ESV 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

NAS  7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.

NKJV 7  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth

CSB 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ 10 as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.

NIV 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

MEV 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished on us in all wisdom and insight, 9 making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ, which are in heaven and on earth.

GW 7 Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of his overflowing kindness. 8 He poured out his kindness by giving us every kind of wisdom and insight 9 when he revealed the mystery of his plan to us. He had decided to do this through Christ. 10 He planned to bring all of history to its goal in Christ. Then Christ would be the head of everything in heaven and on earth.

The challenge in a passage like Ephesians 1:3-14 is to provide a translation that reflects the original Greek, and yet make it understandable in an English context. Very difficult to do. That is why I recommend to those who do not know the original languages to choose one from each type of translations (i.e. NAS and GW, or other combination).

PS: As an experiment, try to orally read each translation of Ephesians 1:3-14. And compare your ability to faithfully read and then understand.

Further Notes:

Keep in mind that there are many factors in translation choices. Those decisions can be much more complex than I have indicated. This only looks at one of two of those choices.

I have carefully avoided the evaluation and comparison terms (“better” “best” “worst”) in this post. I think it more appropriate to evaluate based on understandability of the English used in the translation.

Advertisements

Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian