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Mounce Archive 12 — Can Translations Co-Exist in the Same Universe?

Categories Mondays with Mounce

Everyone needs a break once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from his weekly column on biblical Greek until September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some classic, popular posts from the "Mondays with Mounce" archive for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.

Today's "classic" asks a question Mounce asked almost six years ago during a paper presentation at ETS: "Can the ESV and TNIV Co-Exist in the Same Universe?"

While his original post and paper focused on the ESV and the now-retired-TNIV, the major premise is as relevant today as it was six years ago. He shares seven principles to help pastors and teachers "play fair" when it comes to translations:

  1. Ephesians 4:29
  2. We must never question motive
  3. Never question competency
  4. Respect translation philosophies
  5. Keep separate things separate
  6. Separate fact from preference
  7. Don't simplify the debate

Consider the excerpt below and read the original in the link to learn how various translations can co-exist in the same universe.

This is a bit off-topic, but thought I would share about my paper at ETS on the ESV/TNIV. Basically I think it went well, and hopefully set the tone for further debate.

My paper was entitled, “Can the ESV and TNIV Co-Exist in the Same Universe?” (It was a response paper to Mark Strauss.) I jokingly answered, “In light of current developments, evidently not” and opened the floor for questions.

My real answer was, “Yes, in fact, they must co-exist” (thinking of the NIV2011). I do not believe that one size fits all. Children no longer learn to read by reading the Bible, and we live in a post-Christian culture that is attempting to expunge any hint of biblical language/metaphor.

When I was a full-time pastor, I preached from the ESV, but for VBS we used the TNIV. We had hundreds of unchurched kids from the neighborhood, and I had no idea of their church background and how their mom felt about “man” and “he.” After all, the goal of translation is communication, so I used the translation that helped me communicate the best in both contexts.

So if they must exist together, the question becomes how. My suggestion was that we all learn to “Play Fair,” and I suggested seven principles of how to play fair.

(Continue reading the entire post, here)


William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill's Greek resources at and visit his blog on spiritual growth at

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