Interview with Dr. Leland Ryken
WHEATON, IL — Last Thursday afternoon I walked across the campus of Wheaton College and up the stairs of Blanchard Hall for a rare opportunity to sit down with a favorite contemporary author, Dr. Leland Ryken.
Ryken serves as the Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College. He has written many excellent books, but especially The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation (Crossway: 2002), which carefully critiques contemporary translation philosophies and builds a strong case for literal translations like the ESV. It’s an excellent, pointed book that remains on a short list of my personal favorites. Ryken also served as Literary Stylist on the ESV translation committee (more on this later).
Ryken’s son, Dr. Philip Graham Ryken, is a prolific author, pastor, and preacher. Together with his son, Dr. Ryken edited the soon-to-be-released ESV Literary Study Bible (read our full review here). The LSB was the focus of our interview.
1. Thank you for your time, Dr. Ryken! … Where did the idea for The Literary Study Bible originate? Has this been a long-awaited project?
2. Explain for us the essential features that distinguish a literary study Bible?
3. There are a number of contemporary translations seeking to paraphrase the Bible and make it easier to read. You have confronted the dangers of this methodology in The Word of God in English. Is the LSB, in any way, a response to these contemporary translations in showing that a literal translation can be effectively used by general readers without a paraphrased text?
4. How will the LSB benefit the preacher, especially in expositional preparations?
5. You state in the LSB, “The goal of literature is to prompt a reader to share or relive an experience. The truth that literature imparts is not simply ideas that are true but truthfulness to human experience.” Explain further how the literature of Scripture invites us to experience Scripture.
6. Can you give us some specific, concrete examples of this?
7. What differentiates the LSB from other available study Bibles? And how will general readers benefit?
8. Quite obviously, the Psalmists, prophets, and other authors of Scripture did not write using a literary guide to genres. Much of the literary discussion in the LSB draws from a host of modern literary terms to interpret the ancient literature of Scripture. How do you defend this approach?
9. In the past, Bibles have been effectively used in home schooling education. Can the LSB be used as a textbook of sorts to learn literary genres, styles, and forms?
10. Some readers, I’m sure, are unaware of your role in the translation of the English Standard Version itself. Explain this role for us.
11. Now the ESV LSB is complete, and serves as a culmination of your translation efforts and literary commentary efforts. It must be quite fulfilling to see this Bible together and completed.
Thank you, Dr. Ryken, for your time. Congratulations to you and your son on the completion of such an incredible project. The ESV Literary Study Bible will greatly bless the Church by helping us read Scripture more competently for ourselves. Is there a more precious gift from the career of a literary scholar?
Blessings to you and your future ministry!
Related: Read our full review of the ESV Literary Study Bible here. Also, from our day-long trip to Wheaton, Illinois (Sept. 13, 2007) we photographed our way through Crossway Books and Justin Taylor’s office (see here) and visited two local museums (see here).