Dated Language In The ESV?

  I’ve been using the ESV for around thirteen years.  I generally like it because there are many strengths in this translation; it often makes good sense of the original languages behind the English.  However, there are also a few weaknesses.  One weakness I’ve noticed is the fact that some of the language in the ESV is dated or somewhat uncommon.   I found a few instances of this while preaching through Luke’s Gospel.  Here are some examples (note the underlined words):

Luke 11:8 – “because of his impudence
Luke 19: 3 – “he was small in stature
Luke 20:9 – “a man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants”
Luke 20:47 – “for a pretense make long prayers”
Luke 21:11 – “famines and pestilences
Luke 21:34 – “weighed down with dissipation
Luke 22:14 – “he reclined at table

These words/phrases aren’t impossible for everyone to understand.  But they do contain dated language, words and phrases that regular American English-speaking people rarely use.  I have lived in four very different areas of the United States, and I have almost never heard people using these words or phrases in conversation or common writing.  In fact, sometimes when reading Scripture in a group setting we’ve had to stop to explain the meaning of words and phrases like this in the ESV.

In case you’re wondering, many of the words/phrases in the ESV that I’ve listed above are found in slightly older translations like the RSV (and to some extent the ASV).  Also in case you’re wondering, impudence means rude or harsh, small in stature means short (in height or years), let it out means loan or lend, pretense means the act of pretending, pestilences means plague-like diseases, dissipation means careless living (possibly because of drunkenness), and recline at table simply means sit down to eat.

I’m not saying we should throw out our ESVs.  But I am saying that it’s helpful to use several translations when reading and studying the Word.  Other translations I’ve come to appreciate include the NASB, the NIV, the HCSB, and the NET Bible.  The NLT has also come in handy; we use it at home to read Scripture’s stories to our kids, and I’ve given it to a few Christians who don’t have a deep grasp of the English language.  I have also use the NLT when preaching/teaching in a nursing home or jail setting where people aren’t familiar with Scripture and/or the English language.

For those interested, here are the words some other translations used for the verses I’ve listed above:

Luke 11:8 – “because of his shameless persistence” (NLT); “because of his friend’s persistence” (HCSB)
Luke 19:3 – “being a short man” (NET); “because he was short” (NIV)
Luke 20:9 – “[he] leased it to tenant farmers” (NLT); “rented it out to vine-growers” (NASB)
Luke 20:47 – “for appearance’s sake” (NASB); “for a show” (NIV)
Luke 21:11 – “plagues” (HCSB, NLT, NET)
Luke 21:34 – “carousing” (NIV, HCSB, NLT)
Luke 22:14 – “sat down together at the table” (NLT); “reclined at the table” (NASB)

If you run into a tough word or phrase in the ESV (or whatever translation you use), go to a few different translations to help make sense of it.  There is no perfect translation, but there are enough good ones out there to help us better study and know God’s Word, which is what we want to do as Christ’s disciples.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

The HCSB: A Quick Review

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I appreciate several different Bible translations.  From the old NIV to the NLT to the NASB, I enjoy looking at various translations when working through a text.  I like the ESV, but I don’t use it exclusively since other translations are also good for study, reading, and teaching.

I recently began using the HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible – since I purchased a copy last year.  The HSCB actually pre-dates the ESV by a year or two and is published by Holman Bible Publishers, which is affiliated with B&H Publishing Group (please correct me if I’m wrong on that).

The HCSB is based on the Nestle-Aland 27th edition and the UBS 4th edition for the NT and the BHS 5th edition for the OT.  The publishers note in the introduction that though there are two main translation philosophies (formal equivalence [word-for-word] and dynamic equivalence [thought-for-thought]), the philosophy of the HCSB is somewhere between the two.  They call this philosophy “optimal equivalence.”  That is, it realizes the strengths and weaknesses of formal and dynamic equivalence and seeks to implement the strengths of both while avoiding the weaknesses of both.

One way the translators try attain “optimal equivalence” is by providing footnotes for clarification where other translations do not.  For example, sometimes there is a footnote that gives a more literal reading, which helps the reader understand both the thought of the text and the actual wording.  I’ve not been using it long enough to see if this translation meets the goal of “optimal equivalence,” but so far I do appreciate the wording and the footnotes.  The font is also very readable and the layout is handsome in my compact ultra-thin copy.  Here is how the HCSB translates the following popular verses:

Joshua 1:9: “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous?  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.”

John 5:46-47: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me.  But if you don’t believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Some of our readers might recognize several scholars who worked on this translation: Clinton Arnold, Iain Duguid, Craig Blomberg, Alan Groves, Walter Kaiser, George W. Knight, Andreas Kostenberger, and Tom Schreiner, among others.

If you’re not familiar with this translation and want to check it out, there is a free app via the Amazon appstore that has many excellent ratings (HERE).  The Bible pictured above is here on Amazon.  Alternatively, visit the website for more info:

shane lems
hammond, wi