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Darkness to Light - Vol. IV, No.9

Darkness to Light
Volume IV, Number 9


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

Part Two

By Gary F. Zeolla

Part One of this three-part article looked at background information on the ESV. This second part will evaluate sample passages from the New Testament of the ESV. Comparison will be made of the ESV to my own version, the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament, Second Edition (ALT).

The ESV claims to be literal version based on the "Critical Text (CT)." My version is a literal version based on the "Majority Text" (MT). This comparison will show how literal the ESV really is. It will also show the textual differences.

There is a third Greek text often used in translation, the Textus Receptus (TR). It is very similar to the MT. See my book Differences Between Bible Versions for a full discussion of all of these terms.

Matthew 1:1-11

ESV: 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, [1] 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, [2] 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, [3] and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.


[1] 1:3 Greek Aram; also verse 4

[2] 1:7 Asaph is probably an alternate spelling for Asa; some manuscripts read Asa; also verse 8

[3] 1:10 Amos is probably an alternate spelling for Amon; some manuscripts read Amon; twice in this verse

ALT: Scroll of [the] genealogy of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham:

2Abraham fathered Isaac, and Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah fathered Pharez and Zarah by Tamar, and Pharez fathered Hezron, and Hezron fathered Ram, 4and Ram fathered Amminadab, and Amminadab fathered Nahshon, and Nahshon fathered Salmon, 5and Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, and Obed fathered Jesse, 6and Jesse fathered David the king.

And David the king fathered Solomon by the [wife] of Uriah, 7and Solomon fathered Rehoboam, and Rehoboam fathered Abijah, and Abijah fathered Asa, 8and Asa fathered Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat fathered Joram, and Joram fathered Uzziah, 9and Uzziah fathered Jotham, and Jotham fathered Ahaz, and Ahaz fathered Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, and Manasseh fathered Amon, and Amon fathered Josiah, 11and Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian captivity.

First, some versions do not break up this long genealogy into paragraphs. But both the ESV and my ALT do so in the same manner.

Second, in Part One of this article it was mentioned there is no indication on the ESV Web site that the ESV would offset words added for clarity. This problem can be seen in the first word of the ESV's New Testament. The word "The" is added. I didn't add this article. The rest of "the's" in the ESV in this verse are also added. They are bracketed in my version, but the ESV does not offset these added words in any way.

Now a few "the's" might not be that important. But look at the end of verse seven. The word "wife" is not in the Greek text. The ALT brackets it, but the ESV does not indicate the word is added. It seems likely Matthew is referring to the woman who had been married to Uriah before David had him killed (see 2Samuel 11). But it would be nice if the ESV indicated they had added this information to the text.

Third, at the time Matthew was writing, writing was generally done on papyrus, rolled into scrolls, not folded into books. So "scrolls" is more technically accurate, but "books" expresses the idea and is used in most versions.

Fourth, a more important difference is "was the father of" versus "fathered." A man can be the father of someone without being their biological father (i.e. via adoption). The actual biological fatherhood is important to establish the genealogy of Jesus.

This difference is also important when we come to verse 16: "and Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom [Gr., es, feminine, singular] was born Jesus, the One being called Christ ["the Anointed One"]" (ALT). Note that Joseph is not said to have "fathered" Jesus since he was not Jesus' biological father. But it would be accurate to say he was his father in an adoptive sense.

And finally on this passage, note the ESV's footnotes #2, and #3. These are referring to textual variants. The alternate readings given in the footnotes are the names used in the ALT.

The importance here is that in the Old Testament, the names read as seen in the MT. So to follow the CT at this juncture would set up a contradiction between the names here and in the Old Testament. The ESV tries to evade this potential problem by saying they are just an "alternate spelling." This could be, but more likely a copyist's error introduced the unknown names into the manuscript tradition that is seen in the CT.

Also, the ESV says, "some manuscripts" have these alternate readings. In fact, only a handful of Greek manuscripts and early versions have the CT reading while the vast majority of manuscripts, versions, lectionaries, and Church Fathers have the MT readings (Aland, p.1). So "some" is misleading.

Matthew 2:10

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

10And having seen the star, they rejoiced exceedingly [with] great joy.

This is a good verse to check to see how literally a version is translating the text. First, note that the ESV omits the "And" at the beginning for the verse. This omission occurs despite the ESV saying in its Preface that such words would be translated, as was discussed in Part One of this article.

Second, the first phrase is a participle. The ALT has rendered this verbal adjective in the most basic way possible. But the ESV has made a determination of the usage of the participle, in this case taking it in the temporal sense. This is a legitimate rendering.

The main clause is identical in both versions. Most important here is the rendering of the "cognate accusative." This term means the direct object (joy) is from the same root as the verb (rejoice). This is the Greek language way of emphasizing the action of the verb. In both versions this grammatical form is brought over into English. So both versions are being very literal here, but in many less literal versions this technical point is lost.

But one last difference is seen in the ESV once again not bracketing the added word "with."

John 3:1-7

ESV: 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus [1] by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." 3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [2] he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [3] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.' 8 The wind [4] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."


[1] 3:2 Greek him

[2] 3:3 Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7

[3] 3:6 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit

[4] 3:8 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit

ALT: 1Now there was a man from the Pharisees, Nicodemus [was] his name, a ruler of the Jews. 2This one came to Him by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come [as] a teacher from God, for no one is able to be doing these signs which You are doing unless God is with him." 3Jesus answered and said to him, "Most positively, I say to you, unless someone is born from above [or, born again], he is not able to see the kingdom of God." 4Nicodemus says to Him, "How is a person able to be born, being old? He is not able to enter into the womb of his mother a second time and to be born, is he?"

5Jesus answered, "Most positively, I say to you, unless someone is born from water and Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God. 6The [thing] having been born from the flesh is flesh, and the [thing] having been born from the Spirit is spirit. 7Stop marveling that I said to you, ‘It is necessary [for] you* to be born from above [or, born again].' 8The Spirit breathes where He desires, and you hear His voice, but you do not know from where He comes and where He goes. [or, The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know from where it comes and where it goes.] In this manner [or, Like this] is every[one] having been born from the Spirit."

Overall, both versions render this passage rather similarly. This shows the ESV is mostly a literal version. However, a few points are worth noting.

First, a couple of words in this passage are added for clarity, but again, these are not indicated as such in the ESV.

Second, in verse one, the ESV has changed the noun "name" to the verb "named" since a verb is needed here. Instead of altering word forms, the ALT has added "was," but in brackets to indicate it is added.

Third, in verse 2, the ESV has changed the pronoun "him" to the noun "Jesus." This is probably done to make it clear who Nicodemus is talking to. The ALT does this by capitalizing the pronoun rather than changing the word.

The ESV does not capitalize pronouns referring to deity. So it is forced to change "him" to Jesus" in this passage to make the text clear. One of the reasons I decide to capitalize such pronouns was just for this reason, to make clear the subject of ambiguous passages. I also believe it shows respect for deity. However, the original Hebrew and Greek texts do not distinguish between lower and upper case letters. So it is always a translator's decision when to use capitals. As such, neither practice can be said to be more accurate. But personally, I prefer versions that capitalize such pronouns.

However, on both of the above points, to change words or even the grammatical forms of words is not truly literal. But at least the ESV has indicated the second change in a footnote.

Fourth, the ESV's note for verse 3 is helpful. The Greek word can mean either "born from above" or "born again." The ALT indicates this ambiguity using brackets within the text.

Fifth, the ESV's notes for verses 6 and 8 are also helpful. The word can mean both "spirit" and "wind." It is for this reason that verse 8 is considerably different in the ALT. But the ALT also gives the rendering seen in the ESV.

Sixth, where the ESV has "Truly, truly" the ALT has "Most positively." There is a double word here in the Greek text (amen, amen), so the ESV is actually more literal. But I decided to use "most positively" as that was the meaning given in lexicons that I checked. So either rendering is accurate.

Seventh, the ALT begin verse 7 with "Stop marveling" while the ESV has simply "Do not marvel." The grammar of the Greek text indicates an action already in progress is being commanded to cease. So the ESV missed this finer point of the text. But then, most versions render the phrase as the ESV does, so it cannot be faulted too much in this regard.

So except for a couple of added words and a couple of changed words, overall the ESV does a good job here.

John 3:13

ESV: 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. [5]


[5] 3:13 Some manuscripts add who is in heaven

ALT: 13"And no one has ascended into heaven, except the One having descended from heaven—the Son of Humanity, the One being in heaven.

First, note again the skipped "And" in the ESV at the beginning of the verse.

Second, the difference in the second clause is again a difference in the rendering of a participle. Either method is accurate.

Third, the most important difference is the final clause, or should I say the "missing" final clause in the ESV. The phrase "the One being in heaven" is very important. It tells us that Jesus, during His incarnation on earth, was still in heaven. This shows that even during the incarnation Jesus was omnipresent and hence God.

This phrase appears in the MT (and TR), but not in the CT. The ESV indicates this textual variant in its footnote. But once again, the footnote is misleading.

First, as before, only a handful of Greek manuscripts and Church Fathers do not contain the phrase, while the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts, lectionaries, Church Fathers and early versions contain the phrase, (Aland, p. 329). So again, it is misleading to say "some" manuscripts have the phrase.

Second, the ESV says these manuscripts "add" the phrase. This implies the words really should not be there. Many, such as yours truly, strongly believe these words are original and thus should be there. It would have been better if the ESV simply said some manuscripts "have" or "contain" the phrase.

Of course, it is not possible to present the full textual evidence in a footnote. But an attempt should be made to be as accurate as possible in what is said. For a full discussion on this variant, see my Bible versions book.

Romans 2:1-3

ESV: 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

ALT: 1For this reason, you are without excuse [or, defense], O person, every[one] judging, for in what you judge [or, pass sentence on] the other, you condemn yourself, for the same [things] you, the one judging, are practicing! 2But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth upon the ones practicing such [things]. 3But do you think this, O person (the one judging the ones practicing such things yet doing them), that you will escape the judgment of God?

This passage is being quoted to show the ESV's handling of the "inclusive" language issue. The word translated "man" in verses 1 and 3 in the ESV is anthropos. It was mentioned in Part One that this word can mean "man" but it can also more inclusively mean "person." From what was said in the background pages, it sounded like the ESV would translate this word in an inclusive sense. But here it does not. The ALT, however, does as it is very legitimate to do so. So it would seem the ESV is not as inclusive in its language as possible.

But otherwise, the ESV is accurate in its rendering here. But note the omitted "But" at the beginning of verses 2 and 3.

Romans 4:5-8

ESV: 5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."

ALT: 5But to the one not working, but [who] believes on the One justifying the impious [or, trusts in the One declaring the godless righteous], his faith is accounted for righteousness!

6Just as David also speaks of the happiness [or, blessing] of the person to whom God accounts [or, considers] righteousness apart from works, 7"Fortunate [or, Blessed] [are they] whose lawless deeds were forgiven and whose sins were covered. 8Fortunate [is] a man to whom the Lord shall by no means account [or, impute] sin." [Psalm 32:1,2]

I kept the original formatting here. So it can be seen that the ESV block quotes Old Testament quotations. The ALT does as well, but only when the quote is longer than here. But the ESV does not provide the source for the Old Testament quote in a footnote as might be expected. The ALT does so in brackets.

But the main point in quoting this passage is again the inclusive language issue. The passage begins "to the one" in both versions. But some versions, like the New King James Version, have "to him" here. But this masculine language is unnecessary. The Greek text is actually a participle, and it is very legitimate to render a participle as "to the one."

Next is "his faith" in the second clause of verse 1. The Greek text here is specifically a masculine pronoun in the genitive case. So "his" is accurate. However, compare the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). It has "such faith." To use "such" here is to change the word entirely. But the ESV does not alter the text to make it inclusive when it is not like the NRSV does.

Then in verse 6, the ESV has "of the one" while the ALT has "of the person." The word here is again anthropos. So an inclusive rendering is legitimate. But in verse 8, the word translated "man" in both versions is aner. This is the Greek word that specifically refers to an adult male. So it is good the ESV renders it as "man." Compare this to the NRSV which has "the one" here.

It is good to see the ESV is not altering the text to make it inclusive when it is not. This is a very real problem with some newer versions, like the NRSV. I discuss this problem with the NRSV in my Bible versions book. But the ESV has avoided this trap. If anything, the ESV could even be a little more inclusive than it is.

This evaluation of verses from the ESV will be concluded in Part Three of this article. It will appear in the next issue of Darkness to Light newsletter.


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 ( 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.
Aland, Kurt, et. Al. The Greek New Testament. United Bible Societies: Germany, 1983.

BibleWorks™ 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 King James Version, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Copyrighted 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Differences 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.