Wayne Grudem Discusses Commentaries (Ask the Translators #1 Answer 11)

There seems to be a conscious effort to incorporate the views of modern evangelical scholars in the ESV--often a commentator's alternate reading correcting one of the previous translations proves itself to be reproduced almost exactly in the ESV. Were modern evangelical commentaries consulted in the production of the ESV, and is it fair to say that the need to use a commentary to check the actual meaning of a passage is reduced by using a translation such as the ESV? Would it worry you if the ESV led to fewer people reading commentaries?

Watch Wayne Grudem respond (Windows Media format).

One question people have asked is whether we consulted commentaries of modern scholars in preparing the English Standard Version. Well, we did more than that. We sent each of the books of the Bible out to a contemporary biblical expert, an Old Testament or a New Testament scholar in the individual books. And in each case these experts sent us back suggested changes and improvements in the translation. So we consulted the authors of the commentaries themselves, is another way of saying that. And then, in addition to that, as we did our work in preparing for the meetings, and then even sometimes in the middle of the meetings we would look at commentaries on a difficult verse to see what the reasons and arguments were for taking a passage or a word one way or another. I don’t want to say that we just went with the majority of commentaries in every case because many on the committee were themselves experts in Greek and Hebrew, and we were, in a sense, ultimately listening to the arguments of various commentators but making our own decisions in the end on what was the best reading of a verse. A related question to this is whether the accuracy of the English Standard Version will mean that people will trust it so much that they won’t read commentaries anymore, or will read them less. In one sense, I think that’s true. I think that in our philosophy of an essentially literal translation, we have tried to produce a translation where people can trust every word, where it is reliable and faithful to the original in all the details, insofar as the English language allows. So in one sense we hope that often people will find that even when they consult commentaries we have said what is accurate to the meaning of the original text. On the other hand, we’re hopeful that the widespread use of essentially literal translations like the English Standard Version will simply increase the frequency with which people do detailed study of the Bible. And of course there are always questions that people will have when they want to go deeper into the meaning of a verse to see its connection with other themes and other verses in the Bible, and for those things, commentaries are always useful.

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