“People who love the ESV Bible can have full confidence in the ESV, knowing that it will continue to be published as is, without being changed, for the rest of their lives, and for generations to come.”
I realize it is very difficult to update a translation. Most of us probably don’t realize the amount of time and energy it takes to translate and update an entire Bible. The ESV teams are to be commended for the hard and excellent Christian work they’ve done in the past 15+ years. They’ve given Christ’s church a solid translation for which we should be thankful. I seriously mean that.
I do have to admit, however, that I’m quite disappointed the ESV translation is now frozen. I realize one reason to freeze the text was (probably) to prevent it from being “liberalized” in the years ahead. But I don’t believe that making a translation “permanent” is a great idea for these reasons (in no particular order):
1) What if future archaeological finds include new manuscripts and/or other artifacts that shed new light on Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek? I’m not an expert at these things, but I know that archaeologists and scholars are hard at work in these areas, so it won’t be surprising if their findings impact Bible translation (either in manuscript evidence or new language insights). Making a Bible translation permanent means it will not change even if there are helpful archaeological and scholarly contributions to the field.
The language [in the ESV] is not archaic in the sense of preserving vocabulary items no longer understood, or obsolete forms like thee and thou. But in its syntax it is certainly not modern either, and the long sentences in for instance Luke 1:68–79 are not at all easy to read aloud well.
The Preface claims that ‘the ESV is equally suited for public reading and preaching, for private reading and reflection, for both academic and devotional study, and for Scripture memorization’. Such an (over-) ambitious claim on the one hand inevitably limits the potential readership to those who are already committed and well educated Christian believers, and on the other hand virtually excludes ESV from use by the less educated and by unbelievers—that is to say by the large majority of the population.
If this was true – or even partially true – in 2002, wouldn’t these issues be even worse in 2034 or 2044? (As a related side note, I’m disappointed that Numbers 11:17 – where the Holy Spirit seems to be called “it”- is forever sealed in the ESV translation.)
3) The language of “Permanent Text” sounds a bit too lofty. I realize the publisher and committee probably didn’t mean to convey this idea, but to me it sounds slightly “KJV-Only-ish.” No translation of the Bible is perfect; even those of us who are conservative Christians should be wiling to tweak a translation if there are compelling reasons to do so. It’s not necessarily a liberal move to revisit a translation. Freezing the text makes it sound like “We’ve arrived.” I hope and pray people who use the Permanent Text of the ESV won’t implicitly or explicitly adopt an “ESV Only” mindset.