It seems from a number of biblioblogs I follow that there is a general criticism of translations that are “merely” revisions of a previous translation. Curiously, this charge does not seem to be leveled against the TNIV. However, I think it is simply near-sighted to out of hand declare a translation to be nearly useless simply because it is a revision. Is the NASB useless or a “warmed up leftover” of the ASV since it is not an original translation? I have not read anyone make such a charge against the NASB.
But those who are trying to destroyed the ESV frequently lay the charge that the ESV is merely a slight revision of the RSV. I would like to make a few comments about that charge.
First, no one charges the NRSV as being terrible because it is just a revision of the RSV. I think it can reasonably be argued that a revision is MORE valuable because it takes a good translation and improves upon it through its revisions (at least hopes to be an improvement).
Second, the RSV was a good translation. Most may not realize that the real reason for the lack of acceptance of the RSV was because of its handling of Isaiah 7:14. Not translating “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 sealed the fate of the RSV, though the translation did a very good job revising the ASV. Therefore, any translation that uses the RSV as a beginning point should not be immediately discounted. The NRSV is esteemed highly in academic arenas, though it “merely” revises the RSV. The RSV was good. It was never broadly accepted because of Isaiah 7:14, not because it was a bad translation.
Third, if you don’t like the ESV, that is fine. But be sure the reason is more than just the fact that a translation is a revision. If you are against revisions, then you can only use the KJV (which could be called a revision in a way), NIV, HCSB, NET, or NLT. That is it. All other major translations are revisions. The ESV takes a good translation and makes it better. The NASB took a good translation and made it better. The NRSV took a good translation and made it better. The TNIV took a good translation and made it better.
Even translations that I do not think too highly of has been of value in my studies. Own every major translation. Read them. Compare them. Study from them. You will not be hurt by this. What is there to be gained by avoiding a translation? The argument is not different than the KJV-only people. Should we have a TNIV-never group? Or a ESV-never group? Ridiculous. Appreciate the differences. While you may not be fond of a particular translation, I guarantee that there will be a rendering that will be superior in occasional places. I am going to preach from the NET next week because I thought its rendering of Hebrews 12:1-2 was excellent. The variety of translations should be seen as a help and not a threat to deeper Bible study.