Singular "they" in ESV!! 1 John 3:24
Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.What does "them" refer back to? Readers, especially those who don't use singular "they" or don't expect to find it in a Bible whose translators have rejected this construction, may try to understand "them" as referring to "his commandments". But the Greek cannot possibly mean that, for the Greek pronoun rendered "them" is unambiguously singular!
A literal translation of the Greek (there are no textual issues here) would be (my emphasis):
And the one keeping his commands remains in him, and he in him. ...Now this literal translation is rather confusing, as to which "him" refers to the person and which to God. And so it is not surprising that RSV changed to a plural for the person:
All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. ...NIV and TNIV similarly use a plural form (and not a singular "they"):
Those who keep his commands live in him, and he in them. ...(This is TNIV; NIV has "obey" rather than "keep".)
The ESV translators, or revisers of RSV, obviously tried to follow their principles of not changing singulars to plurals. But they failed to do so consistently. As a result they have ended up with the word "them" which can only refer back to "Whoever", which must be singular as it is used with the singular verb form "abides". Therefore this is an unambiguous example of singular "they", not in study notes but in the actual text of ESV!
PS: I didn't find this by reading ESV. I was looking at this passage in the Greek and in RSV, and wondered what ESV might have made of this. Only then did I look it up.
Categories: ESV, singular they