Monday, May 23, 2011

Condescension for Readers

1. I am presently doing Bible study on Ephesians.

The Protestant Bible is composed of 66 books and is divided into two parts: the  Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament is consisted of 39 books and the New Testament is consisted of 27 books.

Ephesians is a book in the New Testament of the Bible.

Besides using Gordon H. Clark's Ephesians as a study aid, I am also using the following three versions of the Bible as my primary study Bibles:

  •    LEB - Lexham English Bible (2010)
  •    ESV - English Standard Version (2007)
  •    HCSB - Holman Christian Standard Bible (2009)

2. All three versions are word-for-word translation of the Bible.

In terms of literalness of translation:the LEB is very literal, the ESV is more  idiomatic, and the HCSB is the most idiomatic of the three.

Except for a few words of Aramaic, the New Testament was written in Greek.

Since I don't know Greek, I relied on a literal translation such as the LEB to  function as a control to gauge how idiomatic are the other translations.

I use more than one version for Bible study so that, hopefully, any translation bias in one version will be compensated by the other versions.

3. The Greek New Testament does not have any punctuations.

Ephesians is a book in the New Testament written by Paul the Apostle and is  divided into six chapters.

Each chapter is further divided into a number of verses.

Chapter 3 of Ephesians has 21 verses.

The division of each book of the Bible into chapters and verses facilitates the  location of information.

4. Regarding the sentence structure of Chapter 3, Gordon H. Clark has this to say (Clark 1985, 95):

This is a horrible sentence to punctuate. Though some versions put periods at  the ends of verses seven and twelve, the first place where a period can be put  down with certainty is at the end of verse nineteen. The New American Standard breaks it up at verse three, as well as seven, ten, twelve, and  thirteen; but this is only a condescension for American readers. The thoughts run on from verse two to thirteen, and Paul then resumes verse one in verse fourteen. Too bad: That is just the way Paul's style was.

5. As an experiment, I have juxtaposed how the three versions of the Bible I  studied with have divided Ephesians Chapter 3 into sentences.

It turns out that:

  •    LEB divides Ephesians 3 into 6 sentences.
  •    ESV divides Ephesians 3 into 9 sentences.
  •    HCSB divides Ephesians 3 into 14 sentences.

Judging by the number of sentences Ephesians 3 is divided into, it is no surprise  that the HCSB is the most readable of the three versions.

Breaking a long complex sentence into a few shorter simple sentences will  increase readability.

What might surprise some is that although the HCSB divides Ephesians 3 into  more sentences, it is still a very accurate translation.

I use LEB, ESV and HCSB as my primary study Bibles.

But by virtue of its accuracy and readability, I use the HCSB as my reading Bible.

As Gordon H. Clark has observed, breaking a long and complex sentence in  Greek into short and simple sentences in English may well be condescension to the English readers.

But I would not mind being condescended to if the result is a readable but still  accurate translation of the Bible! 

6. A pdf file showing how the three versions divide Ephesians 3 into sentences is  available: here.

The New Testament portion of the Lexham English Bible is available online: here.

(The translation of the Old Testament is still in progress.)

The entire English Standard Version of the Bible is available online: here.

The entire Holman Christian Standard Bible is available online: here.


Clark, Gordon H. 1985. Ephesians. Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation.