Monday, July 25, 2011

Dan Wallace compares the NRSV and the ESV

I am not too sure what to make of this. In part 3 of his series on the NIV 2011, Dr. Wallace compares a list of translations with respect to elegance, accuracy and readability. He suggests that elegance and readability exist in tension with each other. He writes,
By choosing clarity and readability above the other objectives (even though accuracy is listed as its first priority), the NIV stumbles over elegance. One can’t have everything in a translation, but it is possible to have two of the three major features. The NIV is strong on readability and somewhat strong on accuracy, while the ESV is strong on elegance and somewhat strong on accuracy and, less so, on readability. The NET is strong on accuracy, somewhat strong on elegance (though this is patchy), and semi-strong on readability. Perhaps a chart of major English translations with these objectives in mind would help the reader.
The following is an excerpt from his chart showing only the rating out of 10 for the NRSV and the ESV. I am surprised to find that the NRSV is considered to be both less elegant and less readable than the ESV, although equally accurate. I will explain the reason for my surprise.












A few years back, the difference between the NIV and TNIV was discussed and researched. Two charts were produced which indicated that the ESV and NRSV are considerably more similar to each other than the NIV and TNIV. Here are the two charts thanks to Mike at ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ.

I am not sure if I am imagining things, but I sometimes get the impression that somewhat unfavourable things are said about the NRSV simply because it is not an "evangelical Bible" or perhaps because it was the trail blazer for gender inclusive translations. What do you think?

These charts only measure similarity to each other. They do not measure any specific features, if I understand correctly. Look at how similar the NRSV and ESV really are.


Eric said...

There's obviously not enough space between the ESV and the NRSV on that graph to get a two point difference on a meaningful ten point scale. However, I'm equally confused by the idea that the ESV, which seems to often pointlessly retain non-English syntax, got such nice scores for elegance and readability.

I have noticed some unusual enthusiasm for the ESV (not that I dislike it - it's the translation I use most) which may also be at work here. If there's a general anti-NRSV sentiment combined with a pro-ESV sentiment then you might get something odd like this.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I don't like it when someone with a reputation as a scholar offers this kind of conjecture as if it meant something. It is the same kind of sloppy work we see in his article on Junia. Women need to be warned to stay away from this stuff.

CD-Host said...

I'd love to know the criteria. The ASV gets a 9 for accuracy and the RSV gets an 8? I think psychologically it gives us an insight that Wallace sees the himself as doing an updated ASV.

Suzanne said...

I really don't know.