Wayne Leman’s Better Bibles Blog is dedicated to “improving English Bible translations” not so much in terms of accurately rendering the sense of the original (though of course that’s important to him) but in terms of rendering it into good, effective English, a goal he finds many current translations fall short of. When I ran across his blog, I was afraid Wayne was concerned about the sort of thing people often mean when they say “good English” (sentences ending with prepositions, split infinitives, that sort of nonsense), but I’m happy to report that’s not the case:
I am not a prescriptive linguist (that is, someone who tells people how they should speak and write). Rather, I am a descriptive linguist, someone who observes how people actually speak and write. I observe, as do many others, that the majority of English speakers continue to use subject-verb agreement, so in a published book, especially one as important as the Bible, I feel it is important to point out when there is lack of subject-verb agreement. Similarly, there are a number of other language “rules” (or “principles”) that fluent English speakers and writers follow that I believe should be followed in a book intended to be in quality literary English—at least they should be followed until there is a sufficient consensus (a large majority) among English speakers that those rules need to be changed…
I believe people have and should have linguistic choices. I do not think that “language police” should tell us how to speak, regardless of how well intentioned they are. I do think it is appropriate for English teachers to explain to their students what the current consensus is for usage of various linguistic forms. A teacher can explain that “If you want to be hired for some jobs, you need to be able to speak and write in a dialect that is approved of by the administrators of that company.” But no one should ever tell people that they are “dumb” or “social rejects” if they speak a certain way.
Amen to that! (I’m a King James man myself, but that’s because I read the Bible as a literary masterpiece, not as the urgent communication it must be to a believing Christian.)