Monday, March 30, 2009

The Luther ESV bilingual Bible

I was suprised to read this blog post on the new German Luther ESV parallel Bible. John writes,

    That’s right. A bilingual English-German edition of the Bible (without Apocrypha) is about to be published by Germany’s premier publisher of Bibles, the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. It is announced here. The ESV will appear alongside of the 1984 revision of Luther’s classic translation.
Oddly, however, he continues,

    The choice is understandable. The ESV, not the NRSV, is the English equivalent of the 1984 revision of the Lutherbibel.
Even more curious, a commenter asks,

    Is it wrong that I was hoping for some kind of challenge to the statement about the inclusion of the ESV vs. the NRSV?

    Not that I disagree, but that I don't know the realities between the differences, and while I neither know much about the NRSV, nor support neutering translations, I do often like to read the argumentation in regards to those things outside my purview(s).
It would be a good thing to review some basic facts in this regard. First, the reference to neutering was made famous by an article Andreas Kostenberger wrote, called The Neutering of "Man" in the NIVI, where the issue was the switch from "man" to "person" or "human" as a translation of the Greek anthropos.

I posted on this article of Dr. Kostenberger's some time ago, and I am happy to report that he now has abandoned this position. In this review he discusses the translation of anthropos in depth and summarizes,

    It may be concluded that Carson and Strauss have established — at least to my own satisfaction — that a gender-inclusive approach to Bible translation stands in no necessary conflict with the effort to preserve Biblical fidelity
I still take issue with some of his discussion of anthropos as including "male human being" in its semantic range. There is more than one reference to anthropos as "female human being exclusive of the male" in the Bible. However, on the whole, Kostenberger has retreated from making this an issue.

The point of all this preamble is that the Luther translation has always distinguished between anthropos, translated as Mensch, and aner, translated as Mann. The KJV translated both with "man" while the NRSV, TNIV, CEV and TNIV provide gender-accurate translation as did Luther. The ESV translates anthropos as "man" sometimes and "person/people" other times without consistancy.

One could maintain, however, that Luther's Bible, is a "neutering" translation in the sense that Kostenberger first intended in his article. Not only does Luther translate anthropos as Mensch (man meaning human) but he also translates Huioi as Kinder - "children" instead of "sons" as the gender inclusive translations do. All in all, Luther stands half way between the ESV and the gender inclusive or gender accurate English translations.

But the Luther translation differs from the ESV in many more ways than in gender inclusivity. It is not as literal, often not reflecting the Greek grammatical structure at all. This was not Luther's intent. TC has supplied to interesting citations which illustrate this,

John continues,
    The NRSV has a lot going for it, but departs from the Tyndale-Geneva-KJV tradition far more than ESV does, with the result that NRSV is less of a counterpart to the 1984 revision of the Lutherbibel than ESV is.
He makes this comment although he knows very well that the Luther and Tyndale translations were not done in the same style in the first place. This is in spite of the fact that Tyndale used Luther's translation as a source text along with the Greek NT and Erasmus' Latin paraphrase.

Here are the citations from TC,
    Ryken on Bible Translation: English Bible Translation stands at a watershed moment. For half a century, dynamic equivalence has been the guiding translation philosophy behind most new translations. Each successive wave of these translations has tended to be increasingly bold in departing from the words of the original text. Stated another way, we can trace an arc of increasingly aggressive changing, adding to, and subtracting from the words that the biblical authors wrote. The issues that are at stake in the current debat about Biblie translation are immense. (Bible Translation Differences, p. 30)

    Luther on Bible Translation: What purpose does it serve unnecessarily to abide by the words so rigidly and strictly that people can get no sense out of them? Whoever would speak German must not see Hebrew idioms; but if he understand the Hebrew writer, he must see to it that he grasps his meaning and must think: Now let me see. How does a German speak in this case? When he has the German words that serve the purpose, then let him dismiss the Hebrew words and freely express the sense in the best German he is capable of using. (What Luther Says, pp. 105-06)
I would expect to see a more nuanced discussion of this but John concludes,
    For some people, a translation that isn't "gender-neutered" is beyond the pale. Among others, the move has not found acceptance and has even brought on a backlash. The official Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic position, shared by many evangelical Protestants, is that NRSV is not traditional enough for the liturgy.
I note that even the patriocentric (in his own terminology) Kostenberger has dropped this characterization of "gender neutered" translation. Since John's blog is a "closed" blog, in that he bans some of those who express dissent with his opinions, I am unable to post this information on his blog. If someone wishes to comment on his post and link back to my discussion of this, I would appreciate it. If this doesn't happen, I am happy to sit by and watch.

Clearly, it could be said that the ESV is a descendant of the KJV in the same way that the Luther 1984 is a descendant of the Lutherbibel. In this way, both translations occupy the same historic space in the national literature of their respective countries linguistic entities (?). In no way is the Luther Bible an equivalent to the ESV in terms of general translation style or gender philosophy.


Suzanne McCarthy said...

Since the ESV is an American translation it does not really occupy the same historic space as the Luther 1984. Frankly, I have not idea why this was done, but I don't have much of an opionion of it except to say the the Luther Bible is not a strict parallel to the ESV, and to pretend that it is gives the ESV much more respectablity than it deserves.

Theophrastus said...

That whole post was strange; John lives in the US, but he recommends that his congregation buy the 64 euro + 14 euro shipping (=$103) European edition rather than $50 + free shipping US edition.

Given the recent revelations on John's blog, I have to wonder if he has actually read either translation in full.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks for this. I went and visited the links and found out supposedly why the ESV was chosen. The German Amazon site says,

"Die Lutherbibel und die English Standard Version zählen zu den meistgelesenen Bibelübersetzungen in ihrem Sprachraum. Diese zweisprachige Ausgabe vereint sie beide in einem Band. Beide Texte sind in zwei Spalten nebeneinander gedruckt und können so direkt verglichen werden."

"The Luther Bible and the English standard version rank among the most widely read Bible translations in their linguistic areas. This bilingual edition unites both in one volume. Both texts are printed next to each other in two columns and so they can be compared directly."

This is not found on the American Amazon site where it states,

"German and English are two of the most-spoken languages in the world. This German-English Parallel Bible is ideal for native speakers, bilingual readers, and those who are learning either language. This Bible positions two columns of Scripture on each page: the widely used Luther 1984 German text on the left, and the ESV English language text alongside it on the right. It also features textual notes for both translations in the back and is contained in a durable hardcover format."

I think this clarifies the situation. It is not that the Luther Bible and the ESV are comparable but simply that someone consdiered them both to be popular. More pop ratings in the Bible domain. Actually these two side by side would not be that great for language learners of the type they seem to be refering to.

I don't know. I learned the German Bible from living with a Pentecostal pastor and his family in Germany.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

"and thus can be compared directly."

Suzanne McCarthy said...

John also writes,

"Furthermore, NRSV departs more radically from the wording and diction of the source text than does ESV. NRSV is more understandable as a result, but once again, this makes it *unlike* Lutherbibel 1984 and Segond 1987, which, like ESV, make fewer concessions to standard vernacular usage."

Yes, I would take issue with this also.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

actually it is "and can thus be"

J. K. Gayle said...

All in all, Luther stands half way between the ESV and the gender inclusive or gender accurate English translations.

Great analysis and post. I wonder what Luther would make of the comparisons of the more-sexist ESV with his translation. Would he accuse the translating team in the same way he accused his contemporary critics, when he said of them:

"I will go further with my boasting. I can expound psalms and prophets; they cannot. I can translate; they cannot. I can read the Holy Scriptures; they cannot. I can pray; they cannot. And to come down to their level, I can use their own dialectics and philosophy; and besides I know for sure that none of them understands their Aristotle."

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks Kurk,

I have responded on your blog.