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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

ESV (English Standard Version)

ESV website
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From the ESV website:
"Every translation is at many points a trade-off between literal precision and read-ability, between “formal equivalence” in expression and “functional equivalence” in communication, and the ESV is no exception. Within this framework we have sought to be “as literal as possible” while maintaining clarity of expression and literary excellence."



At Sat Apr 02, 11:42:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

from A User's Guide To Bible Translations: Making The Most Of Different Versions, 2005, by David Dewey:

"some reviewers have found the ESV a little awkward in places such as Mark 8:34, with its jarring word order: And he called to him the crowd.'

At Sat Apr 02, 01:33:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

There are a number of other problem wordings noted in the following scholarly reviews of the ESV:

The English Standard Version: A Review Article, by Allan Chapple
The ESV NT: A Review Article, by Rodney Decker

At Sun Apr 03, 09:38:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Ps. 144:5 Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down!

I do not know what "Bow your heavens" means.

At Sun Apr 03, 10:02:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Is. 49:20 the children of your bereavement will yet say in your ears

I do not know what "children of your bereavement" means. The wording found in the RSV, of which the ESV is a revision, does make sense to me:

RSV: The children born in the time of your bereavement

Also making sense to me are wordings found in versions using a similar translation philosophy to the ESV:

NASB: The children of whom you were bereaved

NIV: The children born during your bereavement

At Sun Apr 10, 05:12:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Is. 50:1 "Where is your mother's divorce certificate with which I sent her away?"

Seems inaccurate to me: "sent her away" is not an accurate English wording to communicate the original Hebrew (figurative) meaning of what is done when divorcing someone.

Suggested revision: "get rid of her" or, simply, "divorce her"

The ESV does accurately translate the non-literal meaning of the Greek word apolusai as 'divorce' in Matt. 1:19, even though this Greek word has the same literal meaning as that of the Hebrew word in Is. 50:1, namely, 'to send (someone) away.

At Mon Apr 11, 05:59:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rom. 1:5 see comment under NRSV

At Mon Apr 11, 08:28:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Gen. 4:1 "Now Adam knew Eve his wife"

Obsolescent: Not many fluent speakers of English today use, or perhaps even understand, that the intended meaning of "knew" here is "had intercourse with."

Other recent versions which also use "knew" here are: NKJV, NRSV, HCSB (adds "intimately")

At Wed Apr 13, 10:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wayne, most of your complaints are the still-current "reversed" negative. It isn't proper third-grade stylebook English, but it is proper literary English. I do agree with you on "knew".

What is particularly jarring in the ESV is the use of the Southernism "Do you?" for the implied rhetorical negative in Greek. Outside of the American South, it sounds very odd and aggressively in-your-face.

One can also often tell when the translators departed from the RSV: the "voice" has changed. They seem to have lacked an English stylist.

At Wed Apr 13, 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Gen. 3:22 "Now lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life ..."

Obsolescing: "lest". Many English speakers today do not actively use this older English word and some do not understand it at all.

There are 203 instances of "lest" in the ESV.

At Wed Apr 13, 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Is. 50:6 I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

This is an example of the out-dated inverted negative form. I don't think this form is used by current speakers and writers of English, although it can still be understood. Good literary Modern English calls for:

"I did not hide my face from ..."

There are many other instances of the inverted negative construction in the ESV, including the following:

Matt. 7:1 Judge not, that you be not judged.

Modern English for a long time has expressed "judge not" as "do not judge." And the Modern English usage is found in the ESV itself in Matt. 5:17 which is worded as:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets"

rather than

"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets"

from the RSV of which the ESV is a revision.

Ps. 146:3 Put not your trust in princes ...

Another old negative inversion. Current English calls for:

"Do not put your trust in princes ..."

At Wed Apr 13, 12:06:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

anonymous said:

"Wayne, most of your complaints are the still-current "reversed" negative. It isn't proper third-grade stylebook English, but it is proper literary English."

Thank you for your comment. I agree that the way my ESV comments came in gave the wrong impression, so I have combined my inverted negative comments into a single comment (which now appears after yours, due to the way the blog software works).

I am interested in your comment that the inverted negatives are "proper literary English." Do you mean in current English? Do you mean that they can be understood by current speakers? Or do you mean that current writers still use the inverted negatives? Do you happen to have any examples of inverted negatives from any current literature? Feel free to post them here on the blog or you can email them to me. There is a way to click on my email address from my "Complete Profile." I am always interested in discovering other ways of speaking and writing from what sounds good to me.

At Thu Apr 14, 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Job 11:6 "he is manifold in understanding"

This wording has two problems:

1. The word "manifold" is largely obsolescent in usage today.

2. It is not good English grammar to speak of someone being "manifold in understanding." English grammar does not naturally have adjectives in a syntactic construction like this with "in understanding." Instead, one good English way to restate the wording of this verse would be: "he is very wise"

There are three other instances of the word "manifold" in the ESV.

At Sat Apr 16, 01:01:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Ps. 119:105 see comment under HCSB

At Sat Apr 16, 03:36:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Matt. 21:5 "the daughter of Zion"

See comment under NASB.

At Sat Apr 16, 03:52:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Luke 20:34 "the sons of this age"

This wording does not accurately communicate the meaning of the original Semitic idiom which refers to 'people who are now living.'

At Sat Apr 16, 03:55:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Luke 21:25 "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, ..."

Proper English requires the definite article "the" to precede the word "sun." I assume this omission was a typo here in the ESV, likely to be corrected in the next published revision.

At Sat Apr 16, 03:58:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

John 17:12 "the son of destruction"

This wording does not accurately communicate to English speakers the meaning of this Semitic idiom, which is that this was a 'person destined for destruction.'

At Sat Apr 16, 04:28:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Luke 24:25 "slow of heart to believe"

See comment under NET.

At Sun Apr 17, 07:23:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Ps. 55:3 "they drop trouble upon me"

I don't think that "drop trouble" is English. This is one of a number of cases where the ESV degrades the English of the RSV which it revises. The RSV uses better English in this verse:

"they bring trouble upon me"

In English we can "bring trouble" on someone, but not "drop trouble" on them.

At Sun Apr 17, 07:43:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Ps. 55:9 "divide their tongues"

I do not know what this wording means; I don't think it is an English expression. It sounds close to the English expression "he speaks with a forked tongue" but I doubt that this prayer would be asking God to help people speak with forked tongues.

If the prayer, instead, is referring to tongues as languages, this is not at all clear from the above wording in its context. There would be more appropriate ways, in English, to ask God to confuse (divide?) the languages of people.

At Sun Apr 17, 08:37:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Ps. 55:23 "But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction ..."

I am unable to determine from the preceding context of this verse what the antecedent of "them" is. Who does it refer to? The closest possible referent (which is what English speakers typically determine to be the antecedent of a pronoun) is "the righteous" in the preceding sentence (end of verse 23), but I don't think verse 23 is referring to casting down the righteous into the pit of destruction.

I suspect that the antecedent was, somehow, implicitly clear in Hebrew. It would, therefore, be part of the meaning of verse 23, since implicit information is an important part of meaning. I note that several other English versions (such as NIV, NLT, CEV) supply the implicit referent by making clear it is the wicked who will be cast down.

Some might minimize the difficulty I have had in trying to figure out the antecedent, and say that I should easily find it in the second half of Ps. 55:23. But it is not good English to have an antecedent follow its pronoun, especially with quite a few words in between as there are in the ESV wording. By the way, I did not see the antecedent in the second half of the verse until I was nearly finished with this post. To me, this shows that I was operating with the standard strategies for locating antecedents in English and that the ESV wording did not make it easy for me to locate the antecedent. The discovery strategy most commonly used by English speakers is to assume that the nearest possible preceding referent is the antecedent of a pronoun.

At Sun Apr 17, 08:42:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Ps. 55:1 "Give ear to my prayer"

"Give ear to" is obsolescent English. I have never heard any fluent English speaker in my lifetime (I qualify for AARP discounts) speak or write "give ear to."

Proper English today would be:
"Listen to my prayer." This is no less accurate, elegant, or sacred English than the current ESV wording and it is understood better by more users of the ESV.

At Mon Apr 18, 09:06:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Prov. 11:8 "The righteous is delivered from trouble"

This is ungrammatical in English (but not Hebrew) as I understand the syntax of adjectival noun phrases. (See explanation under HCSB.)


"The righteous one is delivered from trouble"
"The righteous person is delivered from trouble"

At Mon Apr 18, 03:28:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Eph. 4:15 see under NET

At Mon Apr 18, 07:38:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Ezek. 3:7 "Because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart."

Inaccurate: the wording of "hard forehead" does not accurately communicate in English the figurative meaning of the Hebrew metaphor.

At Mon Apr 18, 07:41:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Amos 4:6 "I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities"

Inaccurate: This wording does not accurately communicate in English the meaning of the Hebrew idiom, that the people became very hungry.

At Tue Apr 19, 10:32:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Ps. 9:17 "Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us"

It is inappropriate English to speak of establishing anything "upon" anyone. Any English Bible translation, no matter how formally equivalent, essentially literal, or dynamically equivalent needs to use only grammatical English wordings.

At Wed Apr 20, 11:03:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

2 Thess. 3:10 "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."

"let him not eat" sounds like out-dated English to my ears. Better English is in the HCSB as:

"he should not eat"

At Thu Apr 21, 05:49:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Gen. 1:6 "And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters"

The word "midst" sounds outdated to my ears, for current English. I think most English speakers today, at least American and Canadian speakers, would say "middle" instead of "midst."

At Fri Apr 22, 07:52:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Gen. 25:8 see under NRSV

At Fri Apr 29, 01:36:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Eph. 6:18 "making supplication for all the saints"

This periphrastic (different from paraphrastic) wording is not contemporary, literary, elegant English. Just think how much more clear, effective, and communicatively accurate the ESV would be if it were written in the heart language of those who read it. I suggest that few ESV users, including those who are fluent in "church English," speak or write like this.

At Fri Apr 29, 03:24:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Phil. 1:3 "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you ..."

This is not contemporary, good literary English.

Better quality English, with exactly the same meaning, would be:

"I thank my God every time I remember you ..."

Using the better English would take nothing away from the accuracy of the ESV and would enhance its literary quality.

At Sat Apr 30, 02:26:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Is. 28:21 "alien is his work"

I do not know what this means.

At Sat Apr 30, 02:29:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Is. 65:1 "I was ready to be sought ..."

Isn't "sought" essentially obsolescent by now? Why not use one of its contemporary replacements since the ESV was intended to be used by English speakers today?

At Sat Apr 30, 02:33:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Is. 65:7 "I will indeed repay into their bosom both your iniquities and your fathers' iniquities together"

Two issues here:

1. "bosom" is largely obsolescent for current speakers, although it is still understand by those who read older literature. Why not use a contemporary synonym?

2. Collocational clash: "repay ... iniquities." Since these words do not go together in English, I'm not sure that they can accurately communicate the original Hebrew meaning to any English speakers. I would welcome being proven wrong by some kind of field testing.

At Sat Apr 30, 02:36:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Is. 65:18 "I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness"

Ouch! This English hurts my ears. No one can be "a gladness" in English.

What is the intended meaning? How would that be said in grammatical, good quality literate English?

At Sat Apr 30, 03:16:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Jer. 2:24 "in her heat" should be "in heat" for English

At Sat Apr 30, 03:20:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Jer. 2:25 "after them I will go"

Ambiguous with this word worder, with these two possible meanings:
1. succeed them
2. chase them

I suspect the intended meaning is to 'chase them' but that meaning is not at all clear from the current wording. Accuracy and clarity would be increased by placing the words in normal English order as:

"I will go after them"

At Sat Apr 30, 09:01:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Dr. John Piper prefers the wording of ESV Rom. 3:20 "ESV By works of the law (ex ergon nomou) no human being will be justified in his sight." to the wording of the NIV. [The Greek was added by Dr. Piper to illustrate how closely the ESV translates the Greek here.]

I really respect Dr. Piper and his ministry, and I respect the ESV translators, but I don't understand what "works of the law" means. Are they works that people do that are about the law? Are they works that people do that are described in the law (if so, then this would be semantically equivalent to the NIV wording "No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law." [boldfacing by Dr. Piper to show the relevant English words being contrasted between the ESV and NIV] Semantically, I don't think the meaning option of "works that the law does" is allowed since a law can't do any works. So, I am left wondering how the ESV wording is an improvement upon the NIV wording. Perhaps it is considered so because it is more literal than the NIV wording, although leaving us not knowing what the ESV wording means. I guess that is OK for some people, but I like to know from a translation what the meaning of the biblical source text was, whenever it is exegetically possible to know it.

At Sun May 01, 10:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Regarding your last comment on "works of the law," I will explain that the meaning of this particular phrase (ex ergon nomou) has become a matter of controversy in churches under the influence of the "new perspective on Paul." See Dunn's exegesis of the phrase in his commentary. The literal rendering in the ESV is desirable because it allows teachers to use the version in reference to this dispute about its interpretation.


At Sun May 01, 02:20:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

"The literal rendering in the ESV is desirable because it allows teachers to use the version in reference to this dispute about its interpretation."

Thank you, Michael. I had not heard of this controversy. I would still think it would be helpful for there to be a footnote in the ESV stating what the possible meanings of the literal translations might be, as the NET Bible uses footnotes to explain its translation decisions and present alternative possibilities. Otherwise, if we have literal translation wordings which do not communicate meaning to readers, we can begin that slipperly slope back to a kind of Latinization of the Bible, where only the clergy have access to the meaning of Scripture, not the laity. I would think that the biblical scholars who work on English translations would surely have at least as much exegetical knowledge of the translation options for a phrase like ex ergon nomou as the clergy would, who, with the current literal translation are expected to explain the meaning of the phrase to the laity. And the exegetes on translation teams would be qualified to place in footnotes the same interpretive options that clergy would give their congregations.

At Thu May 05, 11:51:00 AM, Blogger Justin Jenkins said...

From the Verse of the Day ... the other day ... Isaish 55:10


"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,"


"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth"


Notice that the ESV leaves out the “without” --- this is very important in my mind. Leaving it out makes it seem like there is no water cycle. It makes it seem as if the person writing it is an uneducated, unscientific observer (for which I think the Bible is unfairly criticized.) This wording makes it seem like Isaish observes that the rain comes down but doesn’t cycle back to heaven. I'm not sure what the Hebrew is --- but both the NIV and NASB include the without --- KJV doesn't however.

(I wrote a little more about it here.)

At Fri May 27, 12:36:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Two online ESV comments files:

I have been compiling lists of problem wordings in the ESV. This is work in progress. There are many more examples yet which need to be added to the files. The lists can be downloaded.

One list contrasts extensive use of the outdated ESV English word order with "not", as in Gen. 21:12 "Be not displeased because of the boy ..." with more contemporary word order with "not" in the ESV, as in Gen. 43:23 "Peace to you, do not be afraid." The URL to download this list is:
ESV not file

The other list is a mixture of wordings from the ESV which have other examples of outdated or odd word order (retained from the RSV, which was not worded in contemporary English at the time it was translated), obscure wordings, etc. The URL to download this list is:
ESV comments file

At Wed Jun 01, 07:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Revelation 1:1, in ESV and many other versions, states that God or Jesus Christ "sent his angel". But that is not what the Greek text says, it says "sent through his angel", i.e. sent the revelation by means of his angel, with his angel as the messenger. A better translation would be "He made it known by sending it with his angel to his servant John,"

At Wed Jun 22, 12:36:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Psa 41:1 Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;

Unclear antecedent: Does "him" refer to "the poor" (the nearest possible referent) or "the one who considers the poor"?

At Sat Jul 23, 08:53:00 PM, Blogger Benjamin Pehrson said...

Luke 4:18 "He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind."
The ESV's use of “recovering” sounds very awkward because it is not the best part of speech to use in English in this context. It should be “recovery.” This is not even an example of translating too literally since the Greek word is actually a noun, not a participle.

At Sat Jul 23, 08:57:00 PM, Blogger Benjamin Pehrson said...

Luke 4:26 "Elijah was sent to none of them [the many widows in Israel] but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow."
It sounds like Zarephath is the name of the widow to whom Elijah was sent. It is actually the name of the town she was from near the bigger town of Sidon. Here, Sidon sounds like the name of a region.

At Sun Oct 02, 05:36:00 AM, Blogger jc said...

whoa, wayne. This has got to be the post with the most comments left by the blog-author.

At Sun Nov 20, 08:30:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Jer. 31:22 a woman encircles a man

This does not make sense in English. The RSV, from which the ESV was revised, did make sense:

a woman protects a man

Granted, the Hebrew meaning is unclear here, but it was intended to make sense, even though we do not know for sure what that sense was. It would be better, IMO, for a meaningful translation, such as that of the RSV, to be placed in the text, with a footnote stating that the Hebrew meaning is unclear.

At Thu Jan 05, 11:15:00 PM, Blogger Neonlinux said...

In reference to this comment
Regarding your last comment on "works of the law," I will explain that the meaning of this particular phrase (ex ergon nomou) has become a matter of controversy in churches under the influence of the "new perspective on Paul."
One reason that I prefer to use the archives at b-greek instead of other easily available resources is from my apprehensiveness in connection with the above comment. I have often noted that some Christians attempt to 'use' their version as an aid in their disagreements with others instead of allowing a translation to be a translation and engaging others based on a hermeneutical paradigm rather than just falling back on a particular translated text. I applaud what you are doing at this site even though you do need to make evaluative decisions for the english text itself.

At Mon Mar 06, 08:29:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Job 7:4 When I lie down I say, 'When shall I arise?' But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. "full of tossing" is not natural English; "I toss to and fro" is, "I tossed all night" is, and there are several other ways of saying this in English which are natural.

At Wed Mar 08, 03:31:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Ps. 119:32: "I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!"

In English an enlarged heart is not something to be desired. It is a medical condition. The literal translation of the Hebrew here inaccurately communicates the actual meaning of the Hebrew.

Also "to run in the way" of something in English more often has the meaning of getting run over by it or running in such as way as to obstruct its movement. It would be better for the actual Hebrew meaning to be expressed more clearly in English.

At Wed Aug 09, 11:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ecclesiastes 2:8 "the delight of the children of man" - This should be sons of man - or just man. This gives the impression children delight in concubines, or gives a gender-neutral sense of men and women both delighting in concubines.

At Mon Dec 18, 04:38:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Zec 1:6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?

Improper English: words and statutes cannot "overtake" people.

At Tue Jan 02, 08:34:00 AM, Blogger Jon Bailey said...

Well I read a number of the comments at the top of the page from April and intermittently throughout the list. It would seem that Mr. Leman's complaints come from an ESV literal rendering of many passages. Gen 4:1 Adam knew Eve is a word for word translation of adam yadah heva. Interjecting sexual intercourse in there is intepretive as well as explicit. Since we know what is meant by the term, there is no need to explicitly refer to sexual intercourse at the risk of vulgarizing the text to some. Isaiah 50:1 is translated literally by the ESV - sent her away = shilachtiha. When reading a test written in Greek or Hebrew from an ancient culture, we are expected to seek to understand the terms used by the culture. Tirhiv levi = you enlarge my heart. We need to know what the hebrews meant when they said that in their cultural context.

Mr. Leman should choose as his translation the New Living Translation. It will have the text of the bible converted into his 21st century cultural understanding. The ESV is for people who would like a readable translation that stays as true to the Greek and Hebrew text as possible while being easily comprehensible. It should be almost as accurate as ther NASB and a fair bit more readable. It is these things.

At Tue Jan 02, 08:45:00 AM, Blogger Jon Bailey said...

And for Mr. Leman's commen on Zecharaia 1:6, I can only say that "hishigu" means "overtake" or "reach". In English, in figurative usage, words and phrases can indeed control people, they can overpower people, they can influence people. This is a Hebrew expression that is perfectly comprehensible. Furthermore, the ESV translates hishigu with the exact same word (overtake) as the NRSV, NKJV, and NIV, and the KJV uses a similar expression 'take hold of'. For 400 years Christians have been seeing these words as taking control of people's thoughts and therefore influencing them. This is apparent from the context and from understanding of the Hebrew idiom as well as from a direct equivalent translation of the Hebrew verb. It is in accordance with a figurative English usage of the word 'overtake'. When anyone reads this verse to they not understand it? That would be the only reason to make it less literal. But since we understand it, why paraphrase it?


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