Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Some thoughts on Bible versions. Part 5. ESV

More vanishing truths. ESV

The ESV comes highly recommended by almost everyone. It is an evangelical revision of the Revised Standard Version. (Bible-Researcher: ESV It began as a reaction to the 'inclusive NIV' and it is advocated by a galaxy of evangelical academics. Originally it claimed to be adopting a 'literal equivalence' philosophy of translation but now seems to have adopted the phrase 'essentially literal'. It has the easy reading style of its RSV and is gaining acceptance in many circles. I use it frequently in my studies; but I don't trust it.

Several times in the writing of Paul we have reference to a contrast between what he calls 'the old man' and 'the new man'. Rom 6:6; Eph 2:15; 4:22, 24; Col 3:9–10. It is a thrilling image and one that is crucial to a true understanding of Paul's teaching about the effects of regeneration. The references make it clear that there can be no peaceful co-existence between the 'old man' and the 'new man'. In a key passage in Romans Paul details the consequences of the behaviour of 'one man'; Adam, and goes on to expound the consequent effect of our union with Adam being ended and our union with the 'new man' being begun. That foundational understanding is necessary in understanding Paul's teaching about the 'old man' and the 'new man' and their mutual exclusivity. It is key to understanding the nature of the new life into which the Spirit brings us.

The 'old man' is human solidarity under the wrong head and is the direct consequence of Adam's first rebellion. That act created a different kind of 'man' and a different entity to which we are all joined by first birth. Adam is said to be a type/figure of another man; the new man, Christ Jesus. What a tragedy then than all these ideas are cut off at the root by the ESV decision to interpret 'the old man' and the 'new man' as the 'old self' and a 'new self'. In the ESV we slide from direct Biblical revelation into the mists of psycho-babble and non-biblical notions of 'the self'. It is quite impossible to get back to revealed truth from this position. The truth of the end of 'the old man' and the beginning of the 'new man' have disappeared from the ESV.

And not only from the ESV... the NIV takes this same route, as does the NASB. What we have here, in the ESV and in the NASB are versions which claim to hold to 'literal equivalence' but which have chosen to translate these key passages in the light of 'dynamic equivalence'. I know that many of my friends will disagree with me, but I hold that it is impossible to understand what Paul is teaching about the radical nature of regeneration if we confine our studies and thinking to the likes of the ESV, NIV and NASB.

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