Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why be an ESV hater?

This is a reply to John Hobbins of Ancient Hebrew Poetry (article link). We are were discussing my one verse challenge to ESV supporters that has been running for over a year now, "Find one verse in the that the ESV translates more accurately than the NRSV". The idea being that for people who claim that the reason they choose the ESV is formal translation the NRSV offers a far far superior formal translation. There are hundreds upon hundreds of instances of terrible translations in the ESV, comparatively. What I had unable to find was one place the ESV did better. It is looking like John found a verse, Isaiah 1:6, there is no mention of "bleeding" in the Hebrew. The real point of course was that people choose the ESV not because it is a superior translation but rather because they supported the cause.

And obviously I'm on the other side of this cause. I see the ESV as a flag ship for a political cause I despise, an attempt to degrade and demean women as a way to "fight back" against feminism. The ESV translation was born out of a political struggle and from its first days has identified itself with this cause. The ESV is where it is today due to a brutal campaign of lies and hatred (example). Yes, this translation gets looked at from a political perspective. What fully justifies it is the fact that the ESV continues to politicize bible translation. All over the web you hear insinuations that the ESV is the "real word of God". I helped create the phrase ESV-onlyism as a reference to this attitude in comparison with the well known KJV-onlyism that exists in niches of fundamentalists. If the ESV had come out as what it is, a conservative redaction of the RSV designed to read some Calvinism back into the bible text it wouldn't have been controversial. But this bible from its start has sought to become an acceptable alternative unifying bible, not a niche translation. And the controversy helps to remind people that endorsing the ESV is endorsing the cause for which it stands and the effects of its policies: higher teen suicide, higher teen pregnancy, unwanted and abused children, increased rates of spousal abuse, poverty, depression.... And yes I hate those things and make no apology for it. The ESV isn't just a bible anymore than the Jungle is really a book about a family of immigrants. Both books exist as part of a political movement.

But even if one doesn't look at the ESV politically, it is a pretty poor translation. Reading Calvinism into the bible text is frankly dishonest. And reading the New Testament into the old, when claiming to translate "from the Hebrew" is dishonest. Given the choices out there: NET, REB, TNIV, HCSB, NLT, NRSV, AMP... the message of the "ESV haters" has been there is no good reason for a church or an individual to pick the ESV. The negatives far outweigh the positives. And you are absolutely correct that the passion for ESV bashing comes from the political context in which it lives and thrives.

In my article on accuracy I noted that using independent accuracy criteria (that is non ideological) simply choosing based on nothing more than the handling of Isaiah 7:14 would explain 71% of all accuracy differences between mainstream bibles. Bibles that read words having nothing to do with "virgin" as "virgin" pretty freely alter the text in hundreds of other places as well.

In short the ESV by itself is a mediocre bible with nothing particularly creative or important about it passing itself off as a huge innovation. It is part of a political campaign and it is this political campaign which provides the motivation to engage in this debate frequently.


Theophrastus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CD-Host said...

Theo --

Glad you liked the post, welcome to the blog!

In terms of the John comment, I agree with your evidence and make a good point. However, I want to keep this open to all the bible bloggers. I don't allow personal attacks unless it is directly relevant. You can feel free to attack the argument, i.e. present your evidence against his interpretation of Psalm 23 but I'd prefer you not make comments about his level of knowledge.

Theophrastus said...

Thank you for your excellent post.

I think an additional point is that ESV represents shoddy scholarship. Membership in the Translation Oversight Committee was primarily held by theologians, not language specialists. ESV mostly cribbed from RSV, but injected KJV language when the RSV was too liberal (e.g., not on a linguistic criteria, but an ideological one.)

John writes:

The wording of ESV Psalm 23 on the other hand specifically reflects the use of the psalm in both Judaism and Christianity at funerals and other occasions commemorating the dead.

This is not correct. First, Psalm 23, like all the Tehillim is recited in Hebrew, not English. Second, while it is sometimes used at funerals, it used every Sabbath as part of the liturgy (in most siddurim at ma'ariv [evening prayers] and also at the kabbalistic "third meal" [called by many Sholosh Seudos and by some others Seudah Shlishis].)

[I am reposting this because independently of your comment, and for the reasons you cite, I decided to rephrase the tone of my post. Thank you for your excellent and useful feedback.]

John Hobbins said...


Though we disagree strenuously on this one, I applaud your willingness to engage in debate.

I know many people whose favorite Bible is the ESV. I also know many in those branches of the Christian family that have embraced ESV ("young and restless" Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Baptists first of all, with a predilection for the cognitive focus of Calvinism). Your character-assassination of these faith-communities saddens me. Perhaps you don't sense it, but I think your hardball rhetoric boomerangs back into your face.


As the New Jewish Study Bible remarks on Psalm 23:6: “for length of days.” This refers to one’s natural life, but it has traditionally been understood as referring to the next life (after death), and hence this psalm is customarily recited at funerals or on occasions commemorating the dead.”

With all due respect, you are splitting hairs.

For the rest, your charges of ESV high crimes and misdemeanors remain unsubstantiated. Indeed, I have already given examples, in the link CD provided and beyond, that prove the contrary.

Now, if you remained unconvinced by the examples I have given, just say the word, and I will provide more. My traffic has skyrocketed since I have taken up this topic in your honor. I am particularly pleased to see referrals from the United Methodist blogging world.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

For the rest, your charges of ESV high crimes and misdemeanors remain unsubstantiated.

This is just plain silly. The ESV translators have published their agenda of removing women from office. They have accused the TNIV of thousands of errors, and insulted their own colleagues, organizing a boycott and so on.

The facts are that the editors of the TNIV have done no such thing, and I personally have no association or connection to the TNIV beyond witnessing the treatment given to Fee, Waltke, Richard Longenecker et al. It has a serious effect on me when Christian leaders act this way in my own community.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I would also like to point out that the ESV translators do not pass the John Hobbins test of true Christianity - 1 Cor. 13. They are a "priority of the male", "masculinity over femininity" woman as "submissive assistant" bunch of guys. They would like everyone to believe that every masculine pronoun in the English Bible is inspired by God to defend the truth of male priority when half of the pronouns reflect no underlying Greek at all.

CD-Host said...

John --

Lets move away from simple rhetoric then.

1) Can you give an explanation for why you believe divorce rates are higher among evangelicals than among the secular particularly per year. That is given a support structure strongly geared towards "working it out" why do they end failing more often than people who no such support structures?

2) I'm assuming you disagree with Gothardism, if not just indicate you agree and we'll move on. Why do you suppose that Gothardism, the idea that there exists an "umbrella of covering" that sin is defined by submission to authority (including earthly authorities like father, church, state) not the intrinsic good or evil of the acts is popular. That is the divine command theory or "Euthyphro Dilemma" has made a come back, and has even passed to a stronger form which gives these attributes to fathers and churches. What do you attribute this to?

3) What is the upside for women of a broad acceptance of complementarianism / patriarchy?

John Hobbins said...


As I've mentioned before, for the usual reasons, I don't trust the description the ex-member of a group makes of her rejected mentors. Your take on the ESV team says far more about you than it does them. BTW, it is your right to be as strident an opponent of ESV as you wish, though I have the same right to note my perception that you lack objectivity on the matter.

I encourage everyone who reads this thread to form an opinion about ESV and, if it is of interest, the particular sins and particular blessings one might rightly or wrongly with each of the persons on the ESV translation team, based on due diligence and integral reading of the writings of those in question with due consideration made for context. And of course, if you have no sympathies for conservative Protestant thinking in the first place, you are not likely catch particular nuances. All your due diligence will do is confirm that the ESV team is made up of, wonder of wonders, conservative Protestants.

But for comparison's sake, you might want to get a feel for the intense spats, power plays, and resignations that characterized the NRSV translation process.

As is always the case with human endeavors, the end result has to stand on its own, and not be judged according to your preferred categories. Your preferred categories, to use lit-crit terminology, are deceiving IMHO because they are shot through with the intentional fallacy and the affective fallacy.

John Hobbins said...


You ask interesting questions, though the way you formulate them is obviously polemical. You might try to be a tad more subtle.

(1) The reasons are complex. What if we were ask why the suicide rate among psychotherapists is extraordinarily high? If you were to answer that that just goes to show what a bunch of fakes they are, I would take issue with you.

More interesting questions, to my way of thinking: why are abuse rates and divorce rates high among *some* conservative religious formations (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, without distinction), and low among *other* conservative religious formations, of the same Abrahamic religions?

What are the common denominators that lead to abuse across the board, irrespective of race, religion, and class?

Why are gay-on-gay and lesbian-on-lesbian abuse rates so high? (I have gay friends; the question is existential, not a means to foment disrespect).

Lots of questions here. My guess: if we get the answer right to one or two of them, we will be on our way to getting the answer right about them all.

(2) I am out of my depth with Gothardism. Based on the word of of soft-complementarian friends, I assume Gothardism is bad stuff.

(3) Try reading soft complementarians like Gary Thomas (Sacred Marriage is excellent) and Steve and Celestia Taylor. Afterwards, I'm happy to talk more.

You seem to be unaware that many complementarian marriages are vibrant and healthy, just as many marriages in the "love-obey" framework were and are vibrant and healthy. You also seem to neglect the fact that some egalitarian marriages are profoundly unhealthy.

It's not hard, I think, to point out the common denominators that characterize the unhealthy marriages irrespective of framework.

In classical Christian terms, it's all about sin and sickness, including original sin.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


Everything I have said can be substantiated. If this is conservative protestantism - so be it.

J. K. Gayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Hobbins said...

Suzanne, I respectfully disagree.

For the rest, I note that your stance is consistent with your life choice to leave conservative Protestantism. Given your approach to many things, I'm convinced your choice is a matter of personal integrity. I do not criticize it in the least.

The question is: are you able to conceive of the possibility that there are many conservative Protestants whose personal integrity is equal or even greater than yours? I ask because your penchant for unqualified generalizations raises doubts.

J. K. Gayle said...

"Membership in the Translation Oversight Committee was primarily held by theologians, not language specialists" says Theophrastus - which is nothing the ostensibly rhetoric-avoiding John can deny.

And it is telling the Membership includes, as Suzanne puts it, only "a bunch of guys" - which makes us all very surprised that John would call her an ex-"member" in any sense much less the sense that must acknowledge an exclusionary hierarchy to disqualify certain members.

The fact is that the TNIV translation committee has opened membership up to a woman. The fact is that the NRSV translation committee (- despite their "bleeding" vs the ESV "raw" vs the TNIV "open" -) includes not only men but also women (plural), not only Christians of various denominations but also a Jewish scholar.

John proudly declares the following in the post CD-Host links to:

"There are no translations I love to hate. I learn from every translation I use."

This declaration is not, however, the clear declaration of the ESV team. Nor was it the declaration of translator John Murphy, who he worked worked in Joseph Goebbels's Ministry of propaganda from 1934 to 1938, translating the racist works of Adolf Hitler.

Sometimes the hierarchical and exclusionary, sexist and racist rhetoric of translators doesn't boomerang back on themselves right away. Perhaps it doesn't when such rhetoric goes unnoticed. Murphy's racist translations were actually pretty good in some places - all of which is why there is something to be learned from the ESV translation.

As for John's comment about certain ones choosing to leave "conservative Protestantism," it's interesting to note that all of the Bible translations he so loves, excepting ESV, seem to do the same.

John Hobbins said...


It's great to hear from you. Nice comparison with Adolf Hitler. You really set the tone there.

I know you mean well when you dichotomize the world into two compartments: people who treasure ESV, and are, to judge from your rhetoric, members of a fascist axis of evil, and all others, who are on the side of the angels.

Since I have many friends in both compartments of your binary world, I cannot follow you there.

The people I know in the ESV compartment are normal people by and large. Husbands who love their wives; wives who love their husbands. Conservative, yes, but in a healthy way. That sort of thing. Not the monsters you make them out to be.

The people I know in the non-ESV are also normal people. If they have serious flaws, they are pretty much the same ones those in the ESV camp occasionally have. If sin and sickness are strong in their lives, they abuse and sometimes seem to want to be abused.

As you always do me, I wish you peace. I don't think you are going to find it on these threads, but I could be wrong.

J. K. Gayle said...


The analogy between the ESV team's sexism and John Murphy's racism is not, I know, completely solid. But what analogy doesn't eventually break down?

Since you've brought up the diversity among ESV readers, I do think it's fair to note that Murphy's readers were just as diverse. There were lots of Americans of all sorts, for example - and still are. What went largely unnoticed, nonetheless, and still goes unnoticed were the politics, the agenda, the rhetoric, and the propaganda behind Murphy's translation of his ever popular Mein Kampf.

Fortunately, Murphy's translation didn't turn the tide in the world war. But I think, perhaps in subtle ways even, American readers in particular were less threatened by the political agenda when reading lines like this:

“He is always the same Jew. That so obvious a fact is not recognized by the average head-clerk in a German government department, or by an officer in the police administration, is also a self-evident and natural fact.”

I mean, look, Hitler is being even-handed to both Jews and Germans here. And he's using liberating Jeffersonian language, like "self-evident" and "natural," in the same breath. (A fairly creative and not bad translation of the following: Es ist immer der gleiche Jude. Daß diese Selbstverständlichkeit von einem normalen heutigen Ministerialrat oder höheren Polizeibeamten nicht begriffen wird, ist freilich auch selbstverständlich.)

But perhaps Murphy wasn't intending to be so sinister. Even so, I'm not saying we can know anything of the hearts of a translator that God knows. And yet, don't we do well to know where they say they're coming from? Especially when so many are buying how they translate?

John, I appreciate your humor with me in your direct comment! I much appreciate that. Laughed out loud at your "nice" and "really set the tone." And, yes, I say with you, as always, peace.

John Hobbins said...


You remind me of the time I was in Germany and was staying with parents of a friend of mine, in Goettingen. Der Vater of the household was a poet, and we talked literature, but also politics and religion. He was a Stalingrad veteran, and I went out and bought him a German translation of Grossman's fabulous novel on that event.

But my father's friend floored me when I asked him his opinion of Hitler. All he had to say was that he was a crazy tactician who should have listened to his own generals. I was waiting for something else to come out of his mouth. It never did.

I expect you want me to say something about J. I. Packer in about the same way as I wanted my friend's father to say something about Hitler.

But I won't. I know way too many people who have benefited and continue to benefit from Packer's works. He is in fact, though he certainly not without faults, an excellent theologian. I was impressed in particular with the way he has handled himself in the Catholic-Evangelical rapprochement. I met him personally in that context, in delightful debate with Catholic theologians.

On the other hand, I know of no one who has benefited from reading Hitler. That's the difference.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

"The question is: are you able to conceive of the possibility that there are many conservative Protestants whose personal integrity is equal or even greater than yours? I ask because your penchant for unqualified generalizations raises doubts."

Of course, but I have been talking about the translators here, about specific people.

By now, however, I have both been lied to, and lied about, so many times by those who claim to be Christians that there is little enough for you to appeal to.

If I thought that those who claimed to be Christians were capable of demonstrating remorse, I might be more open to dialogue.

Bryon said...

I blogged about this here.

Ryken, who was asked to join the Translation Oversight Committee of the
English Standard Version, at the time had no idea what an “essentially
literal translation” meant. If you don’t understand the larger scope of
translating, how do you do oversight on a Translation Oversight

CD-Host said...

Bryon --

Good point. It is remarkable in that book how often Rykan attacks other translations for doing things the ESV itself does; or for not doing things the ESV itself doesn't do. The translation theory argued for in that book would lead to something like a good interlinear not the ESV.

John Hobbins said...


Have you left Christianity behind? The way you speak of Christians in the third person suggests that. I hope I am mistaken. Even if you haven't, the way you write, in generalizations without qualifications, is damaging to the Christian faith.

But you're right, if our commitment to the Christian faith is contingent upon other self-identifying Christians living up to our expectations, our commitment will not last a day.

Your attitude reminds me of some liberals right now who are calling for Obama's resignation because he didn't live up to their expectations. All I can say is, welcome to the real world.

Byron and CD,

Your criticisms of Ryken's polemics carry some weight. But what would you say, CD, if I remarked that you do the same thing (single out ESV for criticism for things virtually all translations do, including the ones you prefer)?

I think you guys and Ryken have a similar polemical style.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

"Have you left Christianity behind? The way you speak of Christians in the third person suggests that. I hope I am mistaken. Even if you haven't, the way you write, in generalizations without qualifications, is damaging to the Christian faith."

You have generalized and extrapolated my words beyond all intended meaning. You personally have given me a sense of distaste and utter revulsion for open discussion of faith commitments.

When I use the word "Christian" now, in conversation with you, I mean "you, a Christian, have lied to me and about me, as have the clergy and theologians of my former church."

That is what I mean.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Perhaps you are trolling to pick up more anecdotes for your family reunion. Is that it? Do you want me to be the personal laughing stalk of some midwest clambake?

You have no idea what I think of you, a person who asks others for good faith and you are incapable of offering any such thing.

John Hobbins said...


You say:

"You have generalized and extrapolated my words beyond all intended meaning."

I'm glad to hear that.

You won't believe it, but the error on my part was an honest one.

For the record, I've noticed that you make similar errors in your interpretation of others.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

When I wrote,

"By now, however, I have both been lied to, and lied about, so many times by those who claim to be Christians that there is little enough for you to appeal to."

I was making a direct reference to the way you appealed to those of a pietist heritage, those missionaries who took meals to women in prison, as exemplary conservative Christians.

You made an appeal to those people and I am responding that,

- given the number of Christians of opposite character to those missionaries, Christians who are not truthful or helpful


- given the number of non-conservative Christians also engaged in serving ministries,


"there is little enough left for you to appeal to."

But you, John, leapt on part of my words as grounds for a personal attack on my character.


For the record, I don't recall entertaining anyone with your internet antics at my father's funeral. I am filled with disgust at your words about my parents.

You are incapable of remorse.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


You are the one who has made this a personal battle. You made it cross over from a discussion about Greek and Hebrew to an attack on my person and my character.

If you had restricted yourself to citing me it would be acceptable.

But you opened the battle by calling me a pro abortion feminist. I have no idea what the provocation was. And you have not stopped since.

You have lied and insulted and labeled and have done everything possible to denigrate and jeer and call me down.

That is what I have received from you.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I could accept one "honest error." But you have created a trail of them, one after another.

John Hobbins said...

I would have thought that such personal attacks were not allowed on this site. My bad.

If anyone desires to hear my side of the story regarding the accusations made against me, my email address is available on my blog in the "About Me" page.

CD-Host said...

As a note for lurkers I responded to

Your criticisms of Ryken's polemics carry some weight. But what would you say, CD, if I remarked that you do the same thing (single out ESV for criticism for things virtually all translations do, including the ones you prefer)?

I think you guys and Ryken have a similar polemical style.

John's site. Essentially arguing that what the ESV is doing is not the same thing that other translations are doing. It is entirely unique.

CD-Host said...

John and Suzanne --

In terms of the personal attacks I'm mixed. On the one hand I think it would be good for you two to work it out. This is safe ground, in the sense that I don't have to delete. On the other hand, I don't normally allow any personal attacks.

So if you want to keep working on it, that's good and I'd expect some fireworks. Otherwise all the following are over the line:

1) Using "this is plain silly" in reply to someone else's comments.

2) Claim that someone can't be trusted because he/she is an X-member of a group, that is questioning their integrity. Also related would be any discussion of a person's life circumstance as related to their ideas and theories: you believe X because you are a Y.

3) Claims that a whole class of people are incapable of remorse, especially when directed at an individual towards whom one has a grudge.

John stop insinuating that Sue is irrational and Sue stop insinuating that John is evil.

So what do you all want me to do. Delete the entire back and forth,, start enforcing from here on out or let you two go. I'm willing to do any of the 3.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


"You have lied and insulted and labeled and have done everything possible to denigrate and jeer and call me down."

These are my feelings. And, of course, what happened can be checked.

Perhaps this is a better edit. I have read, in your words and comments, what I perceived to be attacks and untruths about my character and my family.

John Hobbins said...


We've been over this ground before, many times in fact, but it's nice to have it once again on public record.

You say:

"I have read, in your words and comments, what I perceived to be attacks and untruths about my character and my family."

I acknowledge that, and I regret the pain it has caused you.

Since I have every reason to believe to that I will cause you pain in the future, should you interact with me, since we have sharp disagreements on a number of questions, you might be advised to look elsewhere on the internet for conversation partners.

But you keep on coming over to my place for more. You keep on following me around wherever I comment, so as to attack me. You keep on choosing to disagree with me on your own blog.

As far as I can see, all you really care about is finding tinder for your particular fire.

I just want to point out that I am tired of being your tinder. If you don't want to be hurt by me, stop picking fights with me.

What could be simpler?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

"Since I have every reason to believe to that I will cause you pain in the future, should you interact with me, since we have sharp disagreements on a number of questions, you might be advised to look elsewhere on the internet for conversation partners."

It could have been simpler.

Let's look at this.

First, -----

I was on compegal as a poster before you had ever visited there. I was one of the first to be a part of the blog, when it was set up.

For my own reasons, I left as poster, but considered those who posted there as friends, including some of the complementarians who were there before you came.

Then you came and labeled me as a feminist of the De Beauvoir sort, you insulted me and denigrated my family.

After that, I wanted to post anonymously so my family would not be publicly insulted. However, I was not trying to deceive the forum.

So you outed me from my pseudonym and insulted me further. YOu were so pleased with yourself for revealing my identity to a forum full of women shocked by your behaviour.

That had been a place for me to wring out my grief.

I feel that you posted every single putdown you could think of about how it is the fault of women themselves for what happens to them, and not the fault of the church that preaches that women who don't submit go to hell.

I feel that you insulted every law that gives women basic human rights and personal dignity, and blamed every evil in society today on equality for women.

You said that women who obeyed 1 Peter and stayed with violent husbands show more grace and are more obedient to God than those who leave, with the implication that you blamed me for what I had done.

Second -----

I left compegal. I then received an email that you had commented that Eph. 5:21 meant that "some in the aggregate are to submit to others in the aggregate." I was asked to return to compegal and sort this out.

I did that and you admitted privately that you were unfamiliar with the interpretation history of that verse. But publicly you insulted me for this and that.

In the aftermath of the argument between the two of us, you posted on your own blog that in compegal you were not allowed to practice exegesis as you were trained to do.

It was as if you insulted every single egalitarian in compegal on your own blog, as well as every single person who had ever been hurt by fundamentalist Christianity.

Third --------

In a comment on the BBB some time ago, you stated your desire to support the ESV and show how good the ESV truly was. When I responded and things went downhill between you and every other commenter on that blog, I was told that you and I would be moderated.

However, the truth is that YOU were not moderated and only I was. You were always free to comment there and I was not.

The truth is that the BBB and Compegal were originally my blogs and my home. You drove me out of my own blogs. You did not stay away from my blogs ever.

You are now the triumphant internet winner over a woman who has seen one particular type of Christianity be the unwitting supporter of a crime against her own body.

I hope you like the badge you can pin on your chest for this one.

You drove me out of my own blogs. Congratulations!

Remember the day I wrote to you and asked permission to take your Hebrew poetry out of pdf and put it into html to make it more available and visible and to advertise you and make you more known and recognised.

And how have you thanked me?

Do you want the Greek lexicon back? Do you want me to return the Vulgate to our mutual friend?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I would like to add that the BBB did not ask me to leave. I left on my own because I could not see how I could continue to post there unless you were blocked entirely. I did not ask the BBB to make this decision, but simply left because of you.

That we were both supposed to be moderated was a later development.

It was apparently accidental but I don't know for sure, that you were allowed to post freely and I was not.

The effect is that, because of how I was made to feel by your words against my character, I left two blogs.

I have to wonder why you have felt free to post against my character in the first place?

John Hobbins said...


Thanks for sharing your perception of events most of which I did not realize, and still do not consider, connected in the way you suggest.

Three points only. Personally, I am not offended when I am moderated by administrators of another blog. Since I am sometimes a hothead in my comments, the work of a moderator has consistently worked to my advantage.

If only you were a little bit more self-aware, you might realize that your comments are not always the coolest and the calmest either. Thus you might be thankful, rather than resentful, if you are moderated.

Since you are a hothead yourself, you might cut other hotheads a little slack. I don't see you doing that.

Furthermore, hotheads in my experience need to be ready to forgive and forget. I think you are forgiving, in principle, but for some reason you rescind your declarations of forgiveness after a day or two.

Perhaps you take offense that I am so honest in the above, but, whether you like it or not, I still can't help thinking of you as an old friend to whom I owe some common if painful courtesies.

Secondly, I am very impressed by this formulation of your past:

"a woman who has seen one particular type of Christianity be the unwitting supporter of a crime against her own body."

My problem has always been that I've heard you saying the opposite, that your former religious environment of choice was (and still is) a *witting* accomplice of great evils of the kind you have suffered.

Furthermore, I don't think I am the only one who "hears" you attributing dishonesty and malice to those with whom you disagree, especially those of your former religious environment of choice.

Those attributions are simply out of bounds in civil discourse. As I understand it, this a rule of all decent civil conversation.

On this point, it is clear, we have a fundamental disagreement. Furthermore, I do not in any way plan to back down from my stance.

You will always encounter my implacable opposition whenever you attribute dishonesty and/or malice.

I am particularly disturbed - this is my problem, not yours, but it might help for you to be aware of it - when you attribute dishonesty and malice to others about whom I might be tempted to think the same.

In these instances, you come across to me as the Devil's helper. Once again, my problem, but you might as well be aware of it.

Finally, no matter what you say about me, I'm not rescinding my sense of friendship with you, no matter how estranged we might be in a given moment.

I'm sorry if that hurts all the more. But that's how I tick, and I don't think I could change even if I wanted to.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

It does not surprise me or anything else.

I am telling you how I felt and why I left those two blogs. This is not speculation. This is a factual statement about why I did that.

You say,

"You will always encounter my implacable opposition whenever you attribute dishonesty and/or malice."

You admit that you are implaclable in your pursuit of me. Thank you for admitting this.

Can you not understand then, that I too am implacable in my pursuit of those who signed the statement against the TNIV.

They have caused harm. I want to be implacable against them. I don't smack down their character, but report true things that I have verified by interview.

Yes, I do attribute dishonesty if I can prove it. If I have verified dishonesty then I feel that I can disclose it, if no one intends to remedy the dishonesty.

Do you have any idea who - men both comp and egal - have asked me if I could get Dr. Packer to remove his signature from the statement of intent against the TNIV?

Why do you proclaim your own right to pursue me implacably, by making statements about my character and my family, but you don't allow me the right to post facts, to cite books, to reveal what was told to me in an interview which was agreed on to be public in nature.

I have not revealed one word of what has been told to me in confidence, but only what I have been told as public information.

John Hobbins said...


There are many things you regard as objective facts which I regard as your subjective interpretation.

I do not accept in any way your reconstruction of events. I only accept that they are *your* reconstruction of events.

I have clearly made known that I feel that you misinterpret me, systematically as far as I can see.

My request: stop following me around. Stop attacking me. I certainly do not follow you around.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

It is a fact that Dr. Packer and Dr. Grudem signed a statement that the TNIV was not trustworthy.

It is a fact that he endorsed a book against the TNIV.

It is a fact that he told me he did not have time to read the book.

It is a fact that Dr. Packer told a journalist of a Canadian paper that there was no rivalry between him and any other bible translators.

It is a fact that he told me that some of his fellow NT translators did not know Greek as a language.

It is a fact that Bruce Ware and others teach that masculinity is over femininity, that the female was created to be the submissive assistant of the male, that women are abused because they are rebellious, that divorce happens because women are rebellious, that human relationships, in particular marriage must reflect the authority of the male, and the submission of the female, that women work out their salvation in headship relationships.

CD-Host said...

I've added a link in the main article by Tim Bayly where he forceful argues that the ESV was a political bible translation. Bayly is a leader in the Christian Patriarchy movement which is slightly to the right of complementarianism. That is why complementarianism holds that woman should be submissive in church and home it takes no position in broader society, patriarchy conversely argues this submission should be general. So for example Bayly has come out strongly against female police officers.

Eric Rasmusen said...

CD, I commend you for your policy of contacting those you link to even when you think they will dislike the link (your link here is not hostile, just using the link for an adverse purpose, but I know sometimes you must attract vehement counter-criticism). You didn't give your link, though, which is:


I encourage you to post your name, too. And I am impressed that someone so doctrinally wrong as you is willing to think seriously about the topic of Church Discipline. Your procedural advice page at http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2007/09/rules-for-due-process.html is sensible. I hope you do make liberals think about how a church should use discipline, and how members should respond.

Actually, I just remembered you said you weren't going to follow this thread, so I'll post at your blog too.

John Hobbins said...


You say:

"the ESV was a political bible translation."

This is very true. All the greatest Bible translations were political in nature. Luther and Tyndale, for example. Geneva. Stuff you could lose your head over, literally.

I think that what you are saying boils down to this: you don't agree with the politics of the people who translated ESV. Absolutely fine. Your politics are just as (in)defensible as theirs.

If a translation is really good, it outlasts its particular political purpose. This is the case of Luther, KJV, and all the great classical translations.

In my view, ESV is destined to outlive its original political purpose, mostly because it situates itself so well in the KJV tradition, better than NRSV, its main competitor in that sense.

(NKJV no one discusses from this point of view, I hope for obvious reasons.)

CD-Host said...

Eric thank you for complement. I'm glad you found that useful. I replied on the Bayly blog as well since so far there isn't an argument. Have a very nice evening.

CD-Host said...

John --

I have many arguments against the ESV as a main bible:

1) It is a bad translation objectively. In virtually every area where it disagrees with the NRSV the NRSV handles the situation better, that is more consistent with the Greek and scholarship.

2) The ESV reads poorly.

3) Formal translations are in general a poor choice for primary bibles quite often they are too far away from the Greek to capture the literal meaning and to close to capture the intended meaning and the reader ends up with neither.

4) The ESV is deliberately deceptive about issues of gender and calvinism.

5) The ESV is far less elegant and dignified than the REB or the KJV.

But those are all reasons that is is a bad bible. The reason it is worthy of rejection as a legitimate bible:

6) It has allied itself with a movement that not only seeks to degrade and demean women but to argue that this degradation is a requirement of the bible.

If a white supremacist bible were the third best selling bible in the country it would be worthy of attack even if it otherwise a good bible. In this particular case the male supremacist bible happens to be rather mediocre.

And I don't think it will last. Bibles that represented subsects rarely become mainstream. Luther, Tyndale ... were widely adopted quickly conversely during the 1950s when the NTW was one of the better dynamic translations out there it didn't spread. The same way the RSV became the "Revised Standard Perversion" the ESV has attracted the same level of antagonism. It is married at the hip to Grudem et al. That's the point Bayly is making. His team are the the ones that popularized that translation. And I agree 100% they did. Crossway is not going to able to shake that association, people on both sides won't let them.

It looks like after the shooting the NLT will end up winning for the next generation of evangelicals. The guys at Tyndale are nice people who are interested in spreading the word of God not the words of the CBMW. I've given them a bunch of positive reviews and they have put together an excellent package for lay evangelical education.

John Hobbins said...


It will be fun to see who is the better prophet. You predict a short shelf-life for ESV. I predict it will be revised and improved again and be the main successor in the glorious KJV tradition.

Your laundry list of ESV defects does not stand up to critical scrutiny.

(1) I picked up my Hebrew Bible completely at random, looked at two psalms and Isaiah 1, and demonstrated the opposite. Here are the links:



CD, you encourage me to do more posts of this kind.

(2) Since ESV and NRSV are relatively light revisions of RSV, a statement like this must logically apply to RSV and NRSV with almost equal force. You have just cut the branch on which you are sitting out from under you.

(3) Once again, your criticism of translations on the literal end of the continuum, which almost no one agrees with in the stark terms you suggest, applies to the entire KJV translation stream; indeed, it applies more to KJV and NKJV than it does to RSV and ESV. On the other hand, if your personal preference is for oddities like the Concordant New Testament, be my guest. Your boutique preferences, of course, have zero chance of catching on, either for study or worship.

(4) The charge of deliberate deception is a serious one. You offer no proof for it, nor could you. A charge of this kind calls into question the objectivity of the entire list.

Calvinism, of course, and its Catholic equivalent, Jansenism, have always been preferred options among the brightest and most intellectually inclined among Christians. For an unbeliever like you, CD, Calvinism is and should be your preferred target, your most dangerous competition. Thanks for the compliment.

(5) The KJV was more elegant in its day, but is no longer intelligible to most people. REB is more elegant, but takes all kinds of liberties with the source text such that it is unacceptable to those who are looking for a translation that is more accurate in the plain sense of that term.

(6) The best selling marriage improvement resources among Christians on the market are complementarian of a soft kind. The main purchasers of books by Eggerichs, Thomas, Cloud and Townsend, Smalley, and Dobson (just examples) are women. I trust these women's judgment more than I trust yours, CD.

Your feminist rhetoric in any case leaves them cold. I work with teenagers all the time. I assure you, your rhetoric means nothing to them. They are looking for more structure (positive hierarchy) than feminism as currently conceived offers.

In any case, NRSV supports what you refer to as patriarchy at least as well if not better than ESV. Just take a look at NRSV 1 Peter 2:18; 3:1. The discussion here should not be about translations, or if it is, it's NRSV that is the real stinker.

In fact, among CBE style egalitarians bereft of a canonical hermeneutic, NRSV 1 Peter is labeled as heretical.

The discussion needs to be about hermeneutics. Here it is non-egalitarians like Sarah and Jim Sumner who lead the way.

For every woman who flees traditional faith communities with a strong emphasis on gender complementation, there is another who finds that model to her liking. This is very well-known, and I can't imagine you deny it.

You are simply advocating for your particular feminist point of view: nothing wrong about that. I just think it would have to be fundamentally recast before it would appeal to most believing women.

In short, you will have to make women into unbelievers before you can free them from the attractions of a gender complementation model.

CD, I see that you are trying to beat the more vitriolic polemicists in the evangelical camp at their own game. Ever seen the movie "V for Vendetta?" It's a hard road you have chosen, fraught with danger and violence.

John Hobbins said...


On the other hand, it is kind of you to support NLT.

NLT Gen 3:16, of course, besides being IMHO a totally indefensible mis-translation, is just what the doctor ordered from the point of view of the anti-feminist crowd. Some people on the ESV translation team would have loved to revise RSV to read the same way, but commitment to accuracy in translate forbade it.

Have you spent any time with the NLTSB? It is complementarian in approach rather often and rather clearly, with softer edges here and there, but the template is the same.

For the rest, I find it a hoot that ex-evangelicals and ex-believers like you want to influence the debate among evangelicals in this sense.

Surely you realize how poorly positioned you are to have any influence at all.

CD-Host said...

John --

2) I think the NRSV better slightly than the ESV but yes they both read poorly. I don't disagree.

3) I think the success of the dynamic movement and the gradual movement from KJV (formal) to the NLT, NIV, message being the primary translations proves that my criticisms of formal are not rejected overwhelmingly. Of the recent trio of major evangelical translations NLT/TNIV/HCSB (and possibly the NET) the least formal appears to be winning.

4) Suzanne has both dealt with deliberate deception at length within the translation. I've dealt with it frequently in terms of the broader patriarchy / complementarian movement.

5) Absolutely so for the people who think elegance is a primary criteria, believe the ESV is elegant, can't read the KJV or NKJV, object to high quality translations in the REB, don't like the TNIV and have no concern for accuracy you have a niche which is a fit for the ESV. I'll grant that for the purpose of argument.

6) The argument that feminist attitudes among Christian women broadly are declining is simply not supported by any evidence that I know of. Even the Wayne Grudems agree they are losing ground. We just came off an election where the Republican party ran a female for VP and the democrats came very close to nominating a woman for president. On what issue do you think the women's movement is losing ground? Support for birth control, support for female leadership, support for women's education? Which issue?

For every woman who flees traditional faith communities with a strong emphasis on gender complementation, there is another who finds that model to her liking. This is very well-known, and I can't imagine you deny it.

Yeah I deny it. Since we are talking about the Bayly blog lets use his hobby horses female ministers. The PCA was setup in opposition to female preachers. More and more congregations within the PCA are pushing a "women should do everything a non ordained man can do" line which of course is exactly how the movement for female ministers picked up steam in the mainstream congregations. In other words on the core reason for the PCA to exist it is losing ground from within.

If you just mean complementarianism in the home. I'd say the percentages of working and educated women support a shift in the other direction.

John Hobbins said...


IMHO your observations are shot through with wishful thinking.

For example, I know a lot of people who have purchased an NLT and use it alongside of more formal translations. A very good thing. But I don't know of many evangelical congregations or preachers who have adopted NLT as their worship Bible. In that sense, NIV, ESV, and now HCSB are more prevalent, alongside of still more literal translations like KJV and NKJV.

For an open-minded take on translations from a prominent evangelical scholar, see Craig Blomberg's take as reported by Rick Mansfield on his blog "This Lamp." Note the preference for a more literal translation for study purposes. Blomberg is mainstream on this. In effect, you suggest the contrary. But there is no evidence for this.

Grudem's hard-line complementarianism may be on the wane (I hope it is), but this is not the case with soft complementarianism. It is surely the most viable and marketable option out there. Since you are not a Christian, you probably have difficulty getting a pulse on the situation. If you wish, this is Sarah Palin-style feminism, but those who hold to it, of course, are not self-identifying feminists. If anything, they are self-identifying anti-feminists.

I note you stand by the deliberate deception charge, once again without the kind of ironclad evidence such a charge requires if it is going to be made in civil discourse.

For this reason, CD, and I regret it, I will be cutting off further conversation with you. On this matter, I will always be your implacable opponent. So long as you practice smear tactics, you will be treated accordingly.

It's too bad. You are otherwise a very enjoyable sparring partner.

David Brainerd said...

The ESV is really not different enough from the NRSV to matter overall to someone looking for more literal translation or accuracy. I mean, if I want accuracy and don't care about modern English syntax (as the ESV translators clearly don't) then I'll just read the KJV. All the ESV is, as far as I can tell, is the NRSV modified in many places to reclaim some of the KJV's literalism, and as a result it makes for some awkward English syntax. See Philippians 1:3 where the KJV's "upon every remembrance of you" has been turned by the ESV into "in every remembrance of you" (not even grammatically correct for Elizabathan English, and certainly not modern English like the NRSV's reading).

Neither the ESV nor the NRSV use the same textual basis as the KJV, and thus neither of them stands inthe tradition of Tyndale/KJV although they both claim it. But the ESV dishonestly pretends to do so moreso than the NRSV, since the ESV mimicks KJV syntax quite often. This just makes it more dishonest.

Not only this, but the ESV actually does use quite a bit of gender neutral language itself, when you actually get to reading it. So if someone is flying to the ESV for a refuse from gender neutral language, they'll be sorely disappointed (assuming they remember the KJV well enough to realize where the ESV has replaced "men" with "others" and similar changes).

By and large, the ESV is just the NRSV with some KJVism slapped onto it, so there is no real reason to prefer the ESV over the NRSV. If you like the KJV, use the KJV, or NKJV, not the ESV.

And the final deciding point is that the NRSV includes the Apocrypha, not like the ESV in just one hard to find edition that can only be ordered online; the NRSV with Apocrypha can be readily found at your local Barnes and Nobles. Of course, Lifeway, the Calvinist bookstore won't sell the NRSV, but you shouldn't shop there anyway.