Ben Witherington’s Problem with the ESV

New Testament Scholar Ben Witherington has posted on his blog a short post on what he sees has a Problem with the ESV. Now I am by no means qualified to go toe to toe with Mr. Witherington. But I would like to point out a few things that he has said in his post.

Now I do not know if Mr. Witherington is a supporter of the TNIV, I myself am not one to bash it being that I have not read it to know what to think of it yet. If what I have heard about the philosophy of translation that the TNIV holds to (i.e. inclusive language where it is warranted, to quote Witherington) then I have no real problem with it. I think that to translate the Greek word anthropoi as people instead of men is fine if the context allows it to be such. To this end I would agree with what Witherington says,

"A good example would be when the Greek term 'anthropoi' ('human beings') is used to refer to a mixed group containing both women and men. To translate the term 'men' in such a case is in fact to misrepresent the meaning of the word in such a case since there were also women present who were not mere ciphers or appendages of the men who were there."


People who react over the TNIV that I know of have not done so in fairness. They have heard that they are changing the name of God the Father into Mother, and they go nuts. But from I can tell the TNIV does not do that at all.

There is one thing that Mr. Witherington said that I want to address. He says the following:



"One of the very good reasons for team translations that include Christian scholars from a 'variety' of positions on the orthodox spectrum is to make sure that some particular ax to grind on some particular issue does not dictate how the translation is done! The translation of any text should be decided on the basis of careful contextual study and a weighing of translation possibilities, not on the basis of one's theological presuppositions and predilections."





First, I agree that a translation should be done by a group of scholars who hold various views and can help keep in check theological presuppositions. But it would seem that to me every translation, be it the TNIV, ESV, NASB, NRSV, whatever it may be, has some kind of presupposition or axe to grind. I know that if I and Mr. Witherington were to sit on the same translation committee and we were to come to passages that deal with the roles of men and woman in the Church, we would both have our theological presuppositions and axes at hand ready to grind. I do not doubt that Mr. Witherington would disagree with this. It would be nice to have one Bible free of presuppositions and the rest for the Church to have. But unfortunately we will never get to that point due to differences of interpretation based on theological presuppositions.

Now on another note, get Prof. Witherington's Commentary on Acts. It is excellent, and I thank Mr. Witherington for his hard work and time he put into writing it.


One thought on “Ben Witherington’s Problem with the ESV

  1. The TNIV is actually well balanced in terms of the male/female “roles” issue. You could easily argue either perspective with the TNIV, mainly because both sides were represented in the translation.

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