1In the beginning, God created the universe. 2When the earth was as yet unformed and desolate, with the surface of the ocean depths shrouded in darkness, and while the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters, 3God said, “Let there be light!” So there was light.
This is the opening of 2011's brand new International Standard Version translation (ISV). The translation was brought to my attention by Derek Ouelette from Covenant of Love; you should surf over to his post as he gives an excellent overview, detailing the key features of the ISV and what might be good or bad.
1In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He existed in the beginning with God. 3Through him all things were made, and apart from him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life brought light to humanity.5And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.
The ISV seems to be a mostly thought for thought translation and is intended to be highly poetic. This is an interesting concept because the standards for translating poetry vary. As an English literature major I prefer translations of poetry that preserve imagistic and aesthetic intentions and accuracy without bending the language to have rhythm and rhyme in both languages. The ISV turns many familiar passages into verse. I find this a bad choice concerning in both accuracy and aesthetics, but as an idiot when it comes to Hebrew and Greek my opinion has a very narrow foundation.
The front matter of the ISV details its unique properties:
With so many English language Bible translations available today, the reader is faced with an important question: “What distinguishes the ISV from other Bible translations?” The ISV offers six features that distinguish it from other recent English language translations:The ISV is a totally new work translated directly from the original languages of Scripture and derived from no other English translation. It was produced by Bible scholars who believe that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 ISV). The ISV takes advantage not only of the most ancient manuscripts available, but also of the most recent archaeological discoveries. The translators of the ISV have selected the English equivalent that most closely reflects the meaning of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.When the ISV project began in October 1994 (actual translation began in the Spring of 1996), the ISV became the first English language Bible translation conceived, designed, translated, and formatted primarily for a computer-literate generation. It has been produced entirely by computer and is the first Bible translation ever published with version numbers after the manner of fine software. (The version number of this edition is Version 2.0, Build No. 0.)The ISV treats subtle nuances of the original texts with special care. For example, several passages of the Bible appear to have been rendered in poetic form when first penned by their authors. The ISV has meticulously crafted these original passages as true poems—thus communicating a sense of their original literary form as well as translating the original intent of the author. As a result, passages that would have been read as poetry by first century readers actually appear in poetic form in the ISV. For example, see Christ’s complaint to the Pharisees recorded in Luke 7:32 (page 1747), the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 (page 1994), the Apostle Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 (page 1945), the Common Confession of 1 Timothy 3:16 (page 2017), Paul’s Hymn to Christ in Titus 3:4-7 (page 2029), Paul’s witty quote of the ancient Greek poet Epimenides in Titus 1:12 (page 2027), and the “trustworthy sayings” of Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 (page 2015), 1 Timothy 3:1 (page 2016), 1 Timothy 4:8 (page 2017), and 2 Timothy 2:11 (page 2023).The ISV treats synoptic parallels with special sensitivity. For example, historical narratives in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were carefully examined in the original Greek text in order to compare each occurrence in the text where the narratives appeared to describe similar instances. Unlike all other English language translations available today, the ISV translates each separate synoptic instance with exact translational parity in each textual occurrence. In those parallel passages where the Greek text occurs with word-for-word synoptic identity, readers will discover that the ISV translates these passages into word-for-word English equivalents. In those parallel passages where the Greek text in the parallel passages approaches, but does not reach, a word-for-word identity, the ISV has adjusted the English language translation to reflect the similar, but not exact, nature of the parallel passages. Similar attention to detail has been adhered to in the synoptic pre-exilic Old Testament history books of Chronicles, Kings, and Samuel.The reader will notice—particularly in the Bible’s historical narratives, in the four Gospels, and in the Book of Acts—that the ISV usually shifts its style of English composition in order to utilize contractions when translating quoted words of a speaker, even though the ISV generally avoids the use of contractions when rendering historical narratives or written correspondence. It was intended that a sense of the informal be communicated when people are speaking and that a sense of the formal be communicated when people are writing.The ISV includes the latest scholarly analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is the first modern English language translation to contain an exhaustive treatment of catalogued Dead Sea Scrolls materials produced courtesy of Dr. Peter Flint and Dr. Eugene Ulrich, two authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Every major variant from the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Scriptures contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint was carefully examined and catalogued for the ISV by a special team of scholars under the direction of Dr. Peter Flint. All significant departures from traditional understandings of various Old Testament readings were carefully analyzed and are presented for the reader’s consideration in footnotes. The present release of the ISV contains these analyses only for the Psalms and Proverbs. A future version release of the ISV will contain an analysis for the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures. The ISV’s book of Isaiah was translated by Dr. Peter W. Flint directly from the text of the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa), which was found among the Qumran Cave 1 collection of Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts.The translation theory behind the ISV differs from theories employed in previous Bible translations. Traditionally, two basic methods of Bible translation have been used. The older method (and for many centuries practically the only method used) has been labeled “literal” or “formal equivalent.” This type of translation allows readers to identify as fully as possible with the source languages of Scripture and to understand as much as they can of the Bible’s customs, manners of thought, and means of expression.The other method is termed “idiomatic” or “functional equivalent.” The goal of an idiomatic translation is to achieve the closest natural equivalent in modern language to match the ideas of the original text. Idiomatic translations have little or no concern for maintaining the grammatical forms, sentence structure, and consistency of word usage of the source languages.All major translations of the Bible fall somewhere on a scale between complete formal equivalence and complete functional equivalence. It is clear that each of these methods of Bible translation has its limitations. Competent Bible translators have always recognized that a strictly literal translation of the words of Scripture can be misleading. For example, “the wicked will not stand in the judgment” might be interpreted as proving that evil people actually would not be judged. Hence literalness is not always equivalent to accuracy.On the other hand, the limitations of idiomatic translations are also obvious. Such translations frequently tend to cast the words of Scripture into new molds that convey the ideas in a significantly different spirit or emphasis. Idiomatic translations have, in a sense, a commentary built into them; they represent a choice made by the translators as to what the translators think a passage means. For that reason, an idiomatic translation is easier to read but less reliable for careful study.A good translation will steer a careful course between word-for-word translation and interpretation under the guise of translating. In other words, a good translation will be both reliable and readable. The best translation, then, is one that is both accurate and idiomatic at the same time. It will make every effort to reproduce the culture and exact meaning of the text without sacrificing readability. The ISV Foundation calls this type of translation “literal-idiomatic.”Of these three basic types of translation—literal, literal-idiomatic, and idiomatic—the translators of the ISV have, without hesitation, opted for the second. This is not because it happens to be the middle option, simply avoiding extremes, but because the literal-idiomatic translation is the only choice that avoids the dangers of over-literalness and of over-interpretation discussed above. Teaching biblical truth demands extreme fidelity to the original text of Scripture. However, a translation of the Bible need not sacrifice English clarity in order to maintain a close correspondence to the source languages. The goal of the ISV, therefore, has been both accuracy and excellence in communication.
These differences are greater than what they might initially seem. It is quite odd (though not bad or even unsettling) to read through the Bible and never find the word "Christ" but constantly find the word "Messiah." It is even more odd to find sections to have an bouncing rhyme scheme. The ISV seems to have made many choices in order to be different or stand out. However, its uniqueness does not promise it a place on the shelf. The publisher does not seem to be doing a thorough job of marketing the translation and with many switching to the ESV and HCSB there may not be room for a new and slightly strange translation. However, Davidson Press has made the ISV available for free download in DOC format (PDFs were available but contained errors) which means that its a prime candidate for a homemade looseleaf Bible and a joy to Bible study aficionados like me who will spend time formatting the perfect text block and writing in custom margins (see the Homemade KJV Looseleaf post). The ISV New Testament is currently available in paperback and the full Bible will be available in 2011. I will leave you with Romans 6 as rendered by the ISV:
Chapter 6No Longer Sin’s Slaves, but God’s Slaves1What should we say, then? Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2Of course not! How can we who died as far as sin is concerned go on living in it?3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into union with the Messiah Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore, through baptism we were buried with him into his death so that, just as the Messiah was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too may live an entirely new life. 5For if we have become united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old natures were crucified with him so that our sin-laden bodies might be rendered powerless and we might no longer be slaves to sin. 7For the person who has died has been freed from sin.8Now if we have died with the Messiah, we believe that we will also live with him, 9for we know that the Messiah, who was raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10For when he died, he died once and for all as far as sin is concerned. But now that he is alive, he lives for God. 11In the same way, you too must continually consider yourselves dead as far as sin is concerned, but living for God through the Messiah Jesus.12Therefore, do not let sin rule your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. 13Stop offering the parts of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have been brought from death to life and the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness to God. 14For sin will not have mastery over you, because you are not under Law but under grace.15What, then, does this mean? Should we go on sinning because we are not under Law but under grace? Of course not! 16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thank God that, though you were once slaves of sin, you became obedient from your hearts to that form of teaching with which you were entrusted! 18And since you have been freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.19I am speaking in simple terms because of the frailty of your human nature. Just as you once offered the parts of your body as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater disobedience, so now, in the same way, you must offer the parts of your body as slaves to righteousness that leads to sanctification. 20For when you were slaves of sin, you were “free” as far as righteousness was concerned. 21What benefit did you get from doing those things you are now ashamed of? For those things resulted in death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and have become God’s slaves, the benefit you reap is sanctification, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in union with the Messiah Jesus our Lord.