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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Luke 20:34: ESV inaccuracy, "sons" must be generic

In Luke 20:34 ESV and RSV both read "And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, ..." The two verbs used here, gameo and gamisko, are used respectively with only men and only women as subject. So it is impossible to argue here that the subject of the sentence, huioi, rendered "sons" in ESV and RSV, is intended to be male only. And as far as I know there is no dialect of English in which "sons" can have a gender generic meaning. So this must be a translation inaccuracy in ESV; the translators may have copied it from RSV, and in fact originally from the extremely concordant English Revised Version, but this is no excuse for the ESV team. This is of course a clear example of why concordant translation does not work. It is also an example of how the Colorado Springs Guidelines attempt to impose inaccurate translation, for they state:
"Son" (huios, ben) should not be changed to "child," or "sons" (huioi) to "children" or "sons and daughters."
The KJV translators showed more sense than those of RSV and ESV in rendering huioi as "children" here, as in Matthew 5:9 and elsewhere. NIV, TNIV and NRSV render more correctly according to the meaning in context, "people" in NIV and TNIV and "those who belong to" in NRSV.


At Thu Apr 05, 03:09:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Great post, Peter.

Even an excellent translation like RSV contains bloopers. Its translation of Luke 20:34 is an example. ESV relied on RSV when it should not have.

Most modern translations get the gender aspect of the verse right: NRSV (‘those who belong to this age’); ISV (‘those who belong to this age’); REB (‘the men and women of this world’); NAB (‘the children of this age’); NJB (‘the children of this world’); NIV (‘the children of this age’); NLT (‘people here on earth’); NCV (on earth, people); and CEV (‘the people in this world’).

It is all the more disappointing, therefore, that NASB (‘the sons of this age’) and NKJV (‘the sons of this age’), despite KJV (‘the children of this world’), do not.

Accurate translation requires a clear-headed recognition of differences between source and target language. A commitment to concordance and literalism easily leads to errors of the kind you note. I’m not against a translation that is as concordant and literal as possible. The opposite is true. But a translation must also be as free as necessary.

Italian is a language I love, and the Nuovissima versione della Bibbia is able to be quite literal here: ‘I figli di questo mondo prendono moglie e prendono marito.’ ‘Figli’ means ‘sons’ but also has a generic sense of ‘children,’ just like the Greek it translates. English is different. Please take note, Dr. Grudem.

John Hobbins

At Thu Apr 05, 03:10:00 PM, Blogger John said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Thu Apr 05, 03:16:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I really appreciate concordance too, but sometimes it just doesn't work. It is an interesting dynamic.


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