- Dr. James I. Packer of Regent College in Vancouver served as general editor and chair of the 12-member Translation Oversight Committee. He told BCCN the translation grew out of discontent with other modern translations – which, he asserted, tend to “deviate from what was said in several thousand places,” in the interests of lucidity or easy readability.
In particular, there was discontent with translations such as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and Today’s New International Version (TNIV) which make such deviations to achieve gender-neutral renderings.
Packer said these translations may have presented “what was meant but not what was said. The reader should know what Paul or Isaiah said.”
Packer said some other translations are particularly frustrating for expositors who, in explaining what the text means, have to pause and first explain that what was translated is not actually what the text originally said.
In contrast, the ESV attempts to be what he termed a “transparent” translation – in that the reader can see through it to what was originally written. Another word Packer used repeatedly was “precision.” He said: “We think we have produced a version more precise than any of the alternatives.”
The ESV is a word-for-word rather than a ‘thought-for-thought’ translation. The ESV website states that the latter translations are “of necessity more inclined to reflect the interpretive opinions of the translator and the influences of contemporary culture.”
But later in the interview we can read,
- Packer said the producers were very careful to not make extravagant claims or get into a competition with other translations. He said the ESV was not launched with the “trumpets and drums” of certain other translations.
Rather, the ESV was released quietly and soberly and allowed to “find its own level.” ESV’s natural audience is “serious evangelicals who want a translation they can trust to be transparent to the original.”
When I interviewed Dr. Packer in 2006, he denied that the TNIV was untrustworthy, although he did not offer to withdraw his signature from the statement of concern. My interview with Dr. Packer is no longer posted on the internet, although pieces are represented in the archives of the BBB.
However, as I left the room, after interviewing Dr. Packer for an hour, he added,
- "The scholars of the TNIV are extremely learned men. They are my colleagues here, you know."
It is a very sad thing, and revealed to me that much of what esteemed theologians have to say, is not particularly worthy of our trust. I feel sorry for them all.