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Saturday, August 05, 2006

ESV-RSV comparison

In a comment on my preceding post, Singing Owl wished to be able to compare some passages from the RSV and ESV. Well, here are some, in a birds-eye (ahem!) view, just for you, Singing Owl!

Overall, the ESV team made very little literary revision of the RSV. Most passages read identically.The ESV team did, however, make significant theological revisions, especially in passages which many consider to refer to the deity of Christ. Michael Marlowe writes about the ESV:
This is an evangelical revision of the Revised Standard Version that corrects the non-Christian interpretations of the RSV in the Old Testament and improves the accuracy throughout with more literal renderings. It also updates the language somewhat.
In Isaiah 7:14 the RSV translated Hebrew almah as "young woman". Those words, rather than "virgin," largely doomed that version to be condemned by theologically conservative Christians until quite a few years after its publication when some younger conservatives who had not been part of the original conservative opposition of the RSV used it extensively. Dr. Wayne Grudem and Dr. Vern Poythress are two such younger theological conservatives. In his account of the origin of the ESV, Dr. Grudem states:
1967: I was beginning my sophomore year at Harvard. Vern Poythress, then a Ph.D. student at Harvard, encouraged me to switch from the King James Version to the RSV as my personal Bible, and I soon begin memorizing Scripture in the RSV. (In 1998 both Vern and I became members of the Translation Oversight Committee for the ESV.)

1967-1997: During these 30 years many of the scholars who would be involved in the ESV continued to use the RSV frequently, with several of them (such as myself) using it as their main study and teaching Bible. (I used the old Harper Study Bible-RSV for most of those 30 years, and even had my copy rebound.) But everyone who used the RSV realized it had some deficiencies (such as the use of “thee” and “thou” to address God) and needed some correction.
The ESV translated almah in Isaiah 7:14 as "virgin":
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (RSV)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (ESV)
The ESV team revised Psalm 45:6 so that its wording would be clearly messianic:

Your divine throne endures for ever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity; (RSV)

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; (ESV)
In the ESV it is the addressee himself who is divine, not his throne.

Another psalm which is now clearly messianic in the ESV is Psalm 2:
Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (RSV)

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (ESV)
Michael Marlowe comments on the ESV revision of these verses:
The meaning of this verse in the ESV (which gives a literal rendering of the Hebrew text) ought to be clear to any Christian. The RSV translators gave instead a conjectural emendation of the text, with the footnote, "Cn [correction]: The Hebrew of 11b and 12a is uncertain."
The ESV team updated "thee" and "thou" to "you" throughout the ESV, as in Psalm 23:

1. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;
2. he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters;
3. he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (RSV)

1. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (ESV)
JETS (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society) ESV reviewers Michael A. Lyons and William A. Tooman noted problems with negative word orders retained in the ESV:

The RSV'S penchant for placing the negative after the verb ("Prophesy not to us," Isa 30:10; "Fear not," Gen 35:17) was changed in some places ("Do not prophesy to us"; "Do not fear"), but not in others ("Be not wise in your own eyes," Prov 3:7; "deny them not to me," Prov 30:7).
John 3:16 is identical in both versions except for an added comma in the ESV:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (RSV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

Genesis begins with nearly identical wordings in both versions:

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Gen 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
Gen 1:3 And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
Gen 1:4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
Gen 1:5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
Gen 1:6 And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."
Gen 1:7 And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.
Gen 1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
Gen 1:9 And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so.
Gen 1:10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (RSV)

Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Gen 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Gen 1:3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
Gen 1:4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.
Gen 1:5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Gen 1:6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."
Gen 1:7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.
Gen 1:8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
Gen 1:9 And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so.
Gen 1:10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (ESV)

Eph. 1, one of the most difficult passages to translate to natural English, reads nearly the same in the RSV and ESV:

Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus:
Eph 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Eph 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
Eph 1:5 He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
Eph 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace
Eph 1:8 which he lavished upon us.
Eph 1:9 For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ
Eph 1:10 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Eph 1:11 In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will,
Eph 1:12 we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory.
Eph 1:13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
Eph 1:14 which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Eph 1:15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
Eph 1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
Eph 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
Eph 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Eph 1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might
Eph 1:20 which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,
Eph 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come;
Eph 1:22 and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,
Eph 1:23 which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. (RSV)

Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Eph 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Eph 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
Eph 1:5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
Eph 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
Eph 1:8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
Eph 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
Eph 1:10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Eph 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
Eph 1:12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
Eph 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
Eph 1:14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Eph 1:15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
Eph 1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
Eph 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
Eph 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Eph 1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
Eph 1:20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
Eph 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
Eph 1:22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
Eph 1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (ESV)
Reviews of the ESV, with some other comparisons to the RSV, can be accessed from the ESV links webpage (links which I have compiled, I should note, in the interests of full disclosure!).

6 Comments:

At Sun Aug 06, 04:25:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Sun Aug 06, 09:10:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

In a comment on the previous posting I wrote:

Wezlo, can you point us to any passage which sounds good read aloud from ESV but not from RSV? It seems surprising that the small amount of difference between these two versions is enough to change it from "almost painful to my ears" to "put together well for public reading".

I should modify this by saying that removing the thee's and thou's significantly reduces the pain to my ears, and so in this way RSV is more acceptable than ESV to me as well. But NRSV has also removed the thee's and thou's, and is in fact a lot more different from RSV than ESV is. And Wezlo also called NRSV "almost painful to my ears". So perhaps I should ask, what is it that RSV and NRSV both have but ESV does not have which make them painful to Wezlo's ears? The only thing I can think of which RSV and NRSV have in common but ESV does not is that their publishers and a few of their readings are somewhat liberal. But do Wezlo's ears discern theology in this way? I would have rather hoped that he would use his brain rather than his ears to make such theological judgments.

 
At Sun Aug 06, 09:48:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The link to significant theological revisions is broken, which is a shame. Michael Marlowe has listed "Some Corrected Prophecies". And then we know of the complementarian revisions (or, perhaps, failures to revise RSV even though English has changed since the 1950s) which are theologically motivated at least in a broad sense. Wayne, have you found other theological revisions?

 
At Sun Aug 06, 02:20:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter noted:

The link to significant theological revisions is broken, which is a shame.

No more shame, Peter! I must have messed up that link a bit when I was editing the post. The link now works. Unfortunately, the original pdf file from which Google cached its html conversion is no longer available, although Google still lists it. It is available for a fee. Google on the filename, BibleComp.pdf.

Wayne, have you found other theological revisions?

I haven't been keeping a list of those. I'll keep checking on the Internet to see if others have such a list. And maybe BBB visitors can help us compile this list also.

 
At Sun Aug 06, 04:36:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Mon Aug 07, 03:52:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Wayne, for correcting the link.

Yes, ESV has made theologically significant changes to RSV in most of the places listed as "examples 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32": Romans 9:5; Genesis 12:3 and 22:18; Genesis 28:14; Psalm 2:7,12; Psalm 8:4-6; (not in fact Psalm 22:16); Psalm 45:6; Isaiah 7:14; and Joel 2:13. All but the first and last of these relate to Messianic prophecies, and the ESV reading in each case can be criticised as dependent on a New Testament understanding of the passage rather than on the actual meaning of the Hebrew text as intended by its author. Joel 2:13 is really a matter of which English word is most appropriate in the context; RSV has kept KJV's "repent" but in a sense which is now archaic and misleading. As for Romans 9:5, the issue is not as clear cut as the authors of this paper make it sound; the RSV translation is exegetically defensible, but I agree that the ESV is probably better.

Anon makes a good point in complaining that ESV does not even give alternative understandings in footnotes, although RSV and NRSV do. So I agree with him that I too "find it hard to believe the ESV will ever be taken seriously outside of partisan circles ... the ESV reeks of mediocrity". In fact I don't think it will be accepted outside a small subset of the evangelical world. Sadly, the impact of this translation is likely to be further division within evangelicalism.

 

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