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Darkness to Light - Vol. IV, No.10
Darkness to Light
Volume IV, Number 10
Presented by Darkness to
Light Web site
Director: Gary F. Zeolla
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Scripture Workbook: For Personal Bible Study and Teaching the Bible - This book contains twenty-two individual "Scripture Studies." Each study focuses on one general area of study. These studies enable individuals to do in-depth, topical studies of the Bible. They are also invaluable to the Bible study teacher preparing lessons for Sunday school or a home Bible study and can be used for group studies.
Review of the English Standard Version
By Gary F. Zeolla
Part One of this three-part article reviewed the background pages for the English Standard Version (ESV). Part Two began an evaluation of verses from the New Testament of the ESV. This third and final part will conclude this discussion.
Comparison will be made of the ESV to my own version, the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament, Second Edition (ALT).
ESV 10 I appeal to you, brothers,  by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
 1:10 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated "brothers") refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God's family, the church; also verses 11, 26
ALT: 10Now I am calling on [or, pleading with] you*, brothers [and sisters], through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you* all shall be speaking the same [thing] [fig., shall be in agreement], and [there] shall not be divisions among you*, but you* shall have been perfected in the same mind and in the same judgment [or, purpose].
This passage is mainly be quoted to show the ESVís handling of the word "brothers." It uses the literal translation in the text, but then has a very good explanatory note. In fact, I say just about the same thing in the Glossary for the ALT, contained in my eBook *Companion Volume to the ALT.
Brothers [and sisters]: Greek, adelphoi. The question here is, in using the plural word "brothers," is the writer only referring to men, or is he referring to both the men and women?
The word "brothers" is a masculine noun, so the former seems most likely. However, in the Greek language of the time, a plural masculine term was used when referring to a group of all men and when referring to a mixed group of men and women. The only time the feminine was used was if the group was only composed of women.
Looking at the meaning of the word, the most basic translation Baur gives for it is "brother." However, Baur adds later, "The plural can also mean brothers and sisters" (p.16). What this means is, the writer could only be referring to men, or he could be referring to both men and women. It is simply impossible to determine based on the gender or the meaning of the word.
So what is the best way to translate it? A rendering of just "brother" would eliminate the possibility of women being included, and a rendering of "men and women" would eliminate the possibility of only men being addressed. It was decided that the best solution was to use "brothers [and sisters]." This rendering would indicate that the term definitely includes men but might also include women. The rendering of "brothers" by itself is used when the context clearly indicates only men are being referred.
Since the ALT does not have footnotes, I used "brothers [and sisters]" as explained above. But the ESVís practice of using the literal "brothers" then adding the explanatory footnote is a very good way of handing the situation as well.
ESV: 1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.  7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
 7:6 Or I say this:
ALT: 1Now concerning [the things] of which you* wrote to me: [it is] good for a man not to be touching a woman [sexually]. 2But because of such sexual sins, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3Let the husband be rendering the affection being owed to the wife, and likewise also the wife to the husband. 4The wife does not have control [or, authority] over her own body, but the husband; and, likewise also the husband does not have control over his own body, but the wife. 5Stop depriving one another, except by mutual consent for a time, so that you* shall be devoting yourselves to [or, having free time for] fasting and prayer; and again to the same be coming together, lest Satan be tempting you* because of your* lack of self-control. 6But this I say as a concession, not as a command. 7For I desire all people to be even as myself. But each has his own gracious gift from God, one indeed in this manner, but another in that.
First, a minor point on this passage is the different paragraphing breaking. This is a point that most probably wouldnít even notice. But I really struggled with over where to put paragraph breaks. So I notice when a version differs from mine in this regard.
Second, and much more importantly, in a couple of places the ESV deviates from a literal translation and basically paraphrases the text.
This can first been seen in the second clause in verse 1. The ESV has "not to have sexual relations" while the ALT has "not to be touching a woman [sexually]." There is a big difference between touching someone and having sexual relations with someone.
However, the ESV, as with many versions, is taking "to touch a woman" as an idiom for having sex. And this is possible. The phrase could have been used at the time much as our idiom "do it" today. The phrase "do it" can refer to a lot of things. An athletic shoe company even uses the phrase "Just do it" as their slogan. And when hearing their ads, no one thinks of sex.
But in the context of male/ female relationships, "do it" clearly is referring to sex. And in the context of this passage, "to touch a woman" also seems to be referring to sex. So the ESVís interpretation is probably correct. But it is just that, an interpretation, not a translation. For the ALT, I decided the best approach would be to translate the passage literally, but then to add "sexually" in brackets to indicate the probable intended meaning.
If the ESV had at least put the literal translation in a footnote, then readers would know the text was being interpreted for them. But as it is, they have no clue this has happened.
Also interesting (or disturbing) is the interpretation the ESV inserts into the text by putting quotes around this phrase. This is to indicate Paul was quoting something the Corinthians wrote to him, meaning the words are not original with Paul. But this interpretation is very debatable. Most versions do not put this phrase in quotes.
Verse 2 then begins in the ESV, "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality" while the ALT has, "But because of such sexual sins." The words "the temptation to" in the ESV are added, but once again, without indicating they are added.
Now, this is one possible interpretation of what Paul is saying, but not the only one. Another possibility would be "because of such widespread sexual sins." In other words, Paul could be saying that because the Corinthian culture was so saturated with sexual immorality, it would be best to be married so as to better able to avoid sexual sin. The idea of "temptation" is still here, but the emphasis would be on the temptation to the single Christian by the sex-saturated surrounding culture.
But the main point here is that the ESVís added words are interpreting the text. If they were offset this would be okay, but they are not. So readers again have no idea the text is being interpreted for them.
Similar is when the ESV says in verse 3, "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights." The Greek word rendered "conjugal" simply means "good will, affection, favor" (BibleWorks). The idea of sex really is not implied by the word. The wider context gives the word this meaning, but the word itself does not.
Second on this phrase is the ESV has introduced the idea of "rights" into the text. The Greek text simply talks about being "owed." The ideas are similar, but not identical. The word "rights" includes connotations that go beyond someone being "owed" something. Moreover, "owed" is a participle, while the ESV has changed it into a noun.
So in the first three verses of this passage, the ESV has significantly deviated from a literal translation. It has instead paraphrased the text.
By way of comparison, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) is also a literal version based on the Critical Text. The NASB has the following for the first three verses:
1Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
So it can be seen the NASB sticks with a literal translation in this passage. So there simply was no reason for the ESV to deviate so much. As a side note, the NASB italicizes words added for clarity. So it would have been nice if the ESV followed the NASB in this regard as well.
One final point on this passage, the difference in the rendering of commands is again seen in verse 5. The ESV has "Do not deprive" while the ALT has "Stop depriving." The more accurate rendering of the ALT tells us that there were some married couples in Corinth who had stopped having sex, apparently believing it was "unchristian" to do so. But Paul tells them in no uncertain terms that it is not wrong for married couples to engage in sex.
ESV: 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
ALT: 1In many parts [or, Bit by bit] and in various ways in time past, God having spoken to the fathers by the prophets, in these last days He spoke to us by [His] Son, 2whom He appointed heir of all [things], through whom also He made the ages [fig., universe]; 3who being [the] outshining of His glory and [the] exact expression of His essence, and sustaining all the [things] by the word of His power, having Himself made by Himself a purification [or, purgation] of our sins, sat down at [the] right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become so much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
First, the ESV has moved the words "long ago" ("in time past" in the ALT) from the end of the first clause to the beginning. It is common for Greek word order to be different than the standard English word order. So it is often necessary to rearrange words. But for the ALT, I tried to follow the Greek word order as much as possible. But it would seem the ESV alters the word order more often than is absolutely necessary.
Second, it will be noted that verse 2 starts at a different location in each version. It begins after "prophets" in the ESV but not until after "Son" in the ALT. This is due to the verses being numbered differently in the CT versus the MT. But the verse divisions were added long after the text was written, so neither could be said to be "wrong."
Third, but more important, the "his" before "Son" in the ESV is added, but once again, this is not indicated. By contrast, the ALT brackets and capitalizes the "His."
Fourth, the last word in verse 2 is the plural word aionas. This word is usually translated as "age" or "forever." It occurs frequently in The Revelation as part of the phrase "forever and ever" (literally, "to the ages of the ages"). But for some reason, most versions render it as the singular "world" here, although some version have "universe." The ESV in fact translates the same word as "universe" in Hebrews 11:3, but then as "forever" in Hebrews 13:8.
For consistency sake, the ALT translates the word literally as "ages" all three times it appears in Hebrews. But here and in 11:3, the "figurative" meaning of "the universe" is bracketed, and in 13:8, the figurative meaning of "forever."
Remember from Part One, the ESV background pages said the ESV would render the same Greek word with the same English word as much as possible. But the ESV does not appear to be real consistent in this regard.
Fifth, all four verses of this passage are most logically one long sentence in the Greek. But the ESV has broken up the text into three sentences. This has required it to change the indefinite pronoun "who" at the beginning of verse 3 to personal pronoun "He."
The ESV has also started a new sentence in the middle of verse 3. The rendering here is possible. So this is not necessarily a change of the text on the ESVís part. But it seemed more likely to me when rendering this passage that one long sentence was meant here.
Sixth, the first half of verse 3 is very important. This verse is a strong proof-text of the deity of Christ. But, unfortunately, some versions weaken this through poor translation.
The phrase the "radiance of the glory of God" is very important. The question here is, does the word "radiance" mean Christ "shines out " the glory of God from His own inner being, like the sun shine out its own light, or does the Son just "reflect" the glory of God, like the moon reflects the light of the sun?
Needless to say, the New World Translation, the "Bible" of Jehovahís Witnesses, has "reflection" here. But the more accurate rendering is to make it clear that Christ is like the sun, shining out His own glory. To make this clear, I used "outshining" here. The ESVís "radiance" is good, but not quite as clear.
Also in this phrase, the ESV has "the glory of God." The words "of God" are not in the text. For my version, I took the article as functioning as a pronoun (a legitimate usage of the article), hence "His glory." But there is no legitimacy in adding words without indicating it as such.
Next is "exact imprint" or "exact expression." The important point here is that the text is saying everything God has, the Son has. They are identical. Both of these renderings bring this idea across.
Finally, on this passage, note that the words "by Himself" appear in the ALT but not in the ESV. This is due to a textual variant. The MT and TR have these words but the ESV does not. These words are important. They emphasize that Jesus alone, with no help from anyone else, fully secured our redemption. But despite this importance of these words, the ESV does not provide a footnote indicating the textual variant. This variant, however, is indicated in the "Important Textual Variants" appendix to the ALT.
To further emphasis that Jesus alone secured our redemption, the participle is in the middle voice, hence why the ALT has "having Himself made by Himself." But the ESV renders the middle voice as if it is in the much more common active voice. Thus both by following the CT and by not being as exact as possible in its rendering of Greek voices, the ESV has lost a very important emphasis of this passage.
The ESV is very readable version that is mostly a literal translation. Its handling of the inclusive language issue is done in an accurate manner. Its explanatory footnotes are mostly helpful and accurate. However, there are a few problems with this translation.
First, the ESV does not offset words added for clarity. As a result, readers do not know if a particular word is a translation of an original God-inspired word or if it is a word added by the translators.
Second, the ESV deviates from a literal translation at times. And when it does, this deviation is not indicated in a footnote. So readers have no idea when they are reading a literal translation or when they are reading a paraphrase.
Third is the use of the Critical Text. I detail in my Bible versions book why I strongly believe the MT is to be preferred. Moreover, the textual variant footnotes in the ESV are misleading. And at times, important variants are not even indicated.
But that all said, overall the ESV is a very good version, at least for a version based on the CT. It is far better than most other versions out there. So I would say, if the reader wants a version based on the CT, the ESV would be a good choice. But personally, if I had to pick a CT-based version, I would still prefer the New American Standard Bible. It is somewhat more literal than the ESV, and it offsets words added for clarity. I review the NASB in my book Differences Between Bible Versions.
ALT verses taken from the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible: Second Edition. Copyright © 2005 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian). Previously copyrighted © 1999, 2001 by Gary F. Zeolla.
ESV verses taken for the official ESV Web site. ©2005 The Standard Bible Society. English Standard Version. Copyright © July 2001 by Crossway Books/Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL.
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, New World Bible Translation Committee, 1985.
BibleWorksô Copyright © 1992-2003 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. BibleWorks was programmed by Michael S. Bushell and Michael D. Tan. Verses from the following taken from BibleWorks.
The New American Standard Bible (NAS and NAU), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995, and La Biblia de Las Americas, Copyright © 1986, both by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.
Between Bible Versions
Discusses translation principles, Greek text-types, and KJV Onlyism.
Advocates a literal or formal equivalence translation method.
Advocates the use of the Textus Receptus or Majority Greek Text for translating the New Testament.
Over thirty Bible versions are compared and evaluated.
Also by Gary F. Zeolla:
Fitness for One and All Web site and FitTips for One and All newsletter.
Helping people to attain their health, fitness, and performance goals.
All material in this newsletter is copyrighted © 2006 by Gary F. Zeolla or as indicated otherwise.