ESV (English Standard Version)

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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.”


94 thoughts on “ESV (English Standard Version)

  1. Wayne Leman says:

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

    I do not know what “Bow your heavens” means.

  2. Wayne Leman says:

    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

  3. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  4. Wayne Leman says:

    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”)

  5. Anonymous says:

    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.

  6. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  7. Wayne Leman says:

    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 …”

  8. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  9. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  10. Wayne Leman says:

    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.’

  11. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  12. Wayne Leman says:

    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.’

  13. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  14. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  15. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  16. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  17. Wayne Leman says:

    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”

  18. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  19. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  20. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  21. Wayne Leman says:

    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”

  22. Wayne Leman says:

    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.”

  23. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  24. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  25. Wayne Leman says:

    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?

  26. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  27. Wayne Leman says:

    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?

  28. Wayne Leman says:

    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”

  29. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  30. Michael Marlowe says:


    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.


  31. Wayne Leman says:

    “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.

  32. Justin Jenkins says:

    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.)

  33. Wayne Leman says:

    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

  34. Peter Kirk says:

    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,”

  35. Wayne Leman says:

    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”?

  36. Benjamin Pehrson says:

    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.

  37. Benjamin Pehrson says:

    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.

  38. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  39. Neonlinux says:

    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.

  40. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  41. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  42. G. D. Grubbs says:

    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.

  43. Wayne Leman says:

    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.

  44. Jon Bailey says:

    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.

  45. Jon Bailey says:

    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?

  46. Wayne Leman says:

    Mal. 1:6 “And if I am a master, where is my fear?”

    This sounds like he is asking where his own fear is, but I think he intends to ask, “where is the fear of me”.

  47. M. L. Dixon says:

    I must say I agree completely with Mr. Baily’s conclusion in his first posting. I was thinking this same thing as I read through this post, and unfortunately other blog entires of good translations. I believe many of his complaints are justified, however in some, mostly when dealing with Hebrew, Mr. Leman criticizes on unfounded assumptions, sometimes to the point of being silly.

    The Gen. 4:1 “knew” complaint is a good example. I found myself asking why change “knew” to “had sex”, when “knew” is not only the literal rendering, but implies something much, much more than the modern act of purely physical sexual intercourse; of which the original language so eloquently shows us?

    For example, Amos 3:2 states: “You only have I ‘known’ among all the families of the earth”. This “known” again is yadah. Would “you only have I had sex with” make sense here using the modern idea of sex? It implies to know intimately, to have a relationship with.

    Most of Mr. Lemans comments sound to me to be general complaints of a literal translations, implying it is a fault that they are not NLT type translations.

    My opinion may not count for much, and certainly not as much as Mr. Leman’s, but I have to agree with Mr. Baily.

    To restate the introduction above from ESV’s site:
    “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.”

  48. Dan Vacco says:

    Hebrews 12:10 “that we may share his holiness.”

    NASB “That we may share his holiness.”

    NLT “That we may share in his holiness.”

    This may be interpretation, but it seems to me the passage is telling us God chastises us so that we can, “partake in his holiness.” The word is used elsewhere of those who are being partakers, participants or sharing in something. Heb 6:4, “and have shared in the Holy Spirit.” ESV

    The wording to me in the ESV and NASB seems to be telling me the reason God chastises me is that I could share his holiness to others, not so I can share or participate in his holiness myself.

    What is the meaning of this phrase in the greek? Can it mean both, or is one of the renderings of this verse better than another?


  49. Mike Sangrey says:

    The NLT communicates more accurately. You might consider looking at these other verses where METALAMBANW (μεταλαμβάνω) occurs:

    Acts 2:46
    Acts 24:25
    Acts 27:33
    Acts 27:34
    2 Tim. 2:6
    Heb. 6:7

  50. Peter Kirk says:

    This issue with Hebrews 12:10 seems somewhat ironic to me given ESV’s (alleged) propensity to use Christian language not understood by outsiders or new believers, but it seems to me that the problem with ESV’s wording is that Christians are likely to misunderstand its intended meaning. In normal English “share X” almost always means “take a share of X for oneself”. It is largely Christian jargon to use it (at least without an explicit “with” phrase) in the sense “offer a share of X to others”. Normal secular readers will have no problem understanding this ESV and NASB reading in the sense intended by the biblical author. It is only Christians like Dan (I presume) who would ever misunderstand this wording as anything like “that I could share his holiness to others”.

  51. Dan Vacco says:

    Interesting point but I wonder if I’m still missing it.

    Maybe this is improper English, but I guess I’m used to hearing people say things like;

    “Now Son, make sure you share your toys.”
    “Are you gonna share your food?”
    “Do you have enough to share?”

    Now certainly implied in these statements is, “with others,” but it is not stated. So in these cases, share X, means with others. This may just be in my case, but I guess I’m not used to the phrase, “share X,” being used of my sharing, “in,’ something as much as sharing, “with,’ someone.

    My point is, I’m not sure this is only christian jargon. It may be just English jargon in general.

    But point taken

  52. Dan Vacco says:

    another question though… I could ask this in any translation posting, but since we are here:

    Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love,”

    I have heard different pastors try to make the point in Gal 5:22; that the fruit of the spirit is love. They go on to make their point by saying that the passage doesn’t say, “The fruits of the spirit,” plural, but, “The fruit of the spirit,” singular. They try to point to a predominant fruit of love, sequentially followed by the rest of the things listed in this verse. So they are separating love from the rest of the, “fruit,” listed

    I have not ever agreed with this interpretation but I was curious. Is that even valid in the original language? Can love be separated from the rest of the, “fruit,”? Or are they all linked, liked seems to be in simple reading?

  53. Dan Vacco says:

    last one and I will leave you guys alone:

    Ephesians 5:13-14a “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.”

    The meaning in the NASB and ESV seem to differ from the NLT, NIV and NKJV.
    NIV, “For it is light that makes everything visible.”

    In the former it is saying, anything exposed becomes visible and anything that becomes visible is light.

    In the latter, it is saying, whatever makes things visible is light. Not whatever becomes visible is light.

    The meanings are completely different. One is saying that the thing exposed becomes light. One is saying that the thing doing the exposing is light. Which one is correct or closer to the meaning of the greek? Or are they both.

    To me, the ESV, NASB meaning do not seem to make much sense. (I know this is now opinion and interpretation). But, according to the ESV and NASB, if I expose an evil work of darkness it becomes light? So if I expose someones sin, that sin becomes light? This does not seem right. Biblically, works of darkness are always works of darkness. They can be exposed, but works of darkness can never be transformed into light. People can be, but not the works themselves. The ESV and NASB seem to say that the works themselves become light. I don’t get it.

  54. Peter Kirk says:

    Dan, you may be right. Perhaps “share” implying “with others” is more an Americanism than Christian jargon. But I would think the difference in Hebrews 12:10 has something to do with the “his”. If we share God’s holiness, it is between ourselves and God who owns it. By contrast, if a boy shares his toys, he shares them with someone else. However, if you say to your (hypothetical) daughter “Share your brother’s toys”, surely that doesn’t mean give them to a third party, but share them with her brother.

    As for the fruit of the Spirit, I think this is a collective noun in Greek as in English. If I say “the fruit in my fruit bowl is an apple, an orange, two bananas …” that doesn’t imply that the apple has priority or that these are different descriptions or aspects of one item.

    In Ephesians 5:14a (or 5:13b in some translations), ESV and NASB are literally correct but, as you realise, hard to understand. The NIV translators have tried to make sense of this with a less literal rendering. But I notice that its translation committee have changed their mind in TNIV and gone back to “everything that is illuminated becomes a light”, which is literal and also makes sense.

  55. KD says:

    Can anyone make sense of this verse for me:

    6:26 proverbs ESV
    for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, [7]
    but a married woman [8] hunts down a precious life.

    “hunts down a precious life”?
    I can’t understand that and I’ve been reading and studying the Bible for decades.

  56. Sue says:

    I think the TNIV has the best translation for this verse,

    “For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread,
    but another man’s wife preys on your very life.”

  57. Wayne Leman says:

    It doesn’t make any sense to me either, KD. I suspect it’s a literal translation of a Hebrew idiom. I suppose you’ve looked in other Bible versions, as I have since reading your question, to see what other scholars believe that the idiom means?

  58. Peter Kirk says:

    KD, I suppose it means that a prostitute is cheap but getting involved with a married woman, of the kind who hunts men, will cost you your life. But I understand that from the Hebrew idiom, not from the unhelpful ESV text.

  59. CD-Host says:

    Another good one for the NRSV over the ESV:. They do a nice job.

    6:23-6 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the wife of another, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for a prostitute’s fee is only a loaf of bread, but the wife of another stalks a man’s very life.

    Which basically is a lot like the American expression “You pay for sex either way, and the girlfriend costs much more than the whore”.

    The NLT incidentally gets a strong boo here for reversing the prostitute comment, “For a prostitute will bring you to poverty, and sleeping with another man’s wife may cost you your very life.”

  60. Joel says:

    Can anyone make sense of this verse for me:

    6:26 proverbs ESV for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life.

    This is a great example of a “translation” taking a simple point and making it all but incomprehensible. The line claims that sleeping with a prositite may cost up to a loaf of bread, while sleeping with another man’s wife will cost more. Prosititutes only cost money; adultery is worse.

    The verse is part of the anti-adultery passage that begins with Proverbs 6:20.

    This part of Proverbs is typical of Biblical poetry, using the the rhetoric of parallelisms, mostly doublets.

    For example, 6:20 juxtaposes: “Keep your father’s commandment” with “do not reject your mother’s teaching.” It’s not that “keep” and “do not reject” mean the same thing, or that “father” and “mother” are the same, but the lines are parallel in structure.

    Verse 6:26 is similar. isha zona (“prostitute”) is parallel to eshet ish (“[another] man’s wife”). Kikar lechem (“loaf of bread”) is parallel to nefesh y’kara (wrongly translated “precious life”). And b’ad (“in exchange for,” or “the price of is…” or “will cost”) is parallel to “tatzud (“[she] will hunt”). By focusing too closely on the words for “hunt,” “precious” and “life,” the translation misses the essential point.

  61. KD says:

    Thanks everyone!
    The ESV translators need to fix that verse. I can understand the meaning of the verse better in the old KJV than the ESV, and that ought not to be for a modern Bible version.

  62. Joel says:

    The ESV translators need to fix that verse. I can understand the meaning of the verse better in the old KJV than the ESV, and that ought not to be for a modern Bible version.

    I think the KJV got it wrong, too: “For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread.” I read that as “prostitutes reduce a man to almost nothing,” while I think the original point was “prostitutes are cheap [compared to other men’s wives].”

  63. KD says:

    I’m thinking that those of us who grew up on the KJV will understand this verse, but probably no one else will:

    Romans 6:13 ESV
    13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

    Members of what? Your church or civic group? This language is way outdated. The NIV does a better job:

    13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. NIV

  64. KD says:

    The ESV does the same thing in verse 19 of the 6th chapter of Romans:
    19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

    Did a stylist actually work on this version? If so, how did he/she miss this stuff?

  65. KD says:

    Here is another difficult verse for the average reader:

    1 John 4:10 ESV In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

    I can easily imagine most people scratching their heads over that word: propitiation.
    Why simply use the word “sacrifice” so most people could understand it?

  66. KD says:

    I’m not a stylist, but even I recognize this sounds wrong:

    1 John 5:18 ESV
    We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

    What? The one born of God protects God?

    The NLT is clear:

    18 We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them.

  67. CD-Host says:

    KD —

    On Romans 6:13 it gets worse in how I use member. I agree as phrased that would refer to a member of an organization. When however “member” is used as a body part it exclusively refers to the penis.

    In terms of propitiation that is in the preface. They believe it is a technical term in the Greek and that the technical meaning should be retained in English. I don’t have a problem with that reasoning in a formal churchy translation.

    1 John 5:18 is a great example of where the ESV obsession with pronouns works out badly. If the “protects him” became “protects them” it would be clearer. Of course what the NLT does by shifting “A of B” to “B’s A” is a no brainer for anything other than a literal translation.

  68. Joel says:

    Romans 6:13 ESV
    13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

    This is a great example. At best, “member” for melos belongs to a dialect that no one I know speaks. At worst, it sounds like the pornographic spam I keep getting.


  69. J. K. Gayle says:

    The word Paul uses (i.e., mel*) is the same one Chariton uses at around the same time –>


    μηδὲ παριστάνετε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν ὅπλα ἀδικίας τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ· … καὶ τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν ὅπλα δικαιοσύνης τῷ θεῷ. (Romans 6:13 )

    ἔπειτα κινεῖν ἤρξατο κατὰ μέλη τὸ σῶμα (Callirhoe 1.8:1.4)

    G.P. Goold translates the latter, “Then she began to stir, limb by limb.” And of course, “she” is Callirhoe who has no male-only member.

  70. Joel says:

    J.K. Gayle,

    I don’t think anyone is doubting what the Greek means. The question is how best to render it in English. “Member” doesn’t seem to do the trick.

  71. J. K. Gayle says:


    Do you think that Paul means “limbs”? Ann Nyland likes “body parts” for the word in Romans. I think her English works for Callirhoe as well (as in “Then, stretching her body parts, she began to stir”). What best English would you propose?

  72. Joel says:

    I think it just means “parts,” maybe specifically “organs,” but I’m not even sure of that. I don’t like “body parts” because that doesn’t mean what it seems like it should — it generally excludes internal organs, and I think that the Greek word included organs.

    Either way, I think Romans 12:4-5 locks us into “parts” for a translation. I can’t think of any other word that will make it possible to translate the imagery well: For just as in one body [soma] we have many [polus] parts [melos] and not all parts [melos] do the same thing, so we, though many [polus], are one body [soma] through Christ, and each part [melos] of the other.

    I think the Greek order:

    soma … polus … melos … melos … polus … soma … melos

    is part of the poetry. It’s classic antimetabole (ABC//CBA) with the middle word repeated at the end for poetic force. And with “parts” we can capture this in English (“body … many … parts … parts … many … body … parts”).

  73. Peter Kirk says:

    Consider also 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 which explicitly lists body parts which are described as mele: feet, hands, ears, eyes, also implicitly male members. At least here a word is needed which can refer to all of these, and “body part” is probably the only one.

  74. Joel says:

    I’m not sure.

    In (the particularly gruesome) Judges 19:29, the word is used very generally for “part.” The concubine is cut up into 12 mele, surely just “parts.” In Leviticus, animals are cut into mele.

    But even if the word came to mean specifically “body parts,” I think that as a matter of translation we still need “parts” in English. I don’t see how “body parts” will work.

    (There’s also a word meros, whose meaning intersects significantly with melos. I wonder if they are variants of the same thing, or (as happens sometimes) if melos came to mean what it did partly because it sounded like meros.)

  75. J. K. Gayle says:

    Joel notes: There’s also a word meros, whose meaning intersects significantly with melos.

    Plato used these two words interchangeably, it seems, or at least collocatively for playful emphasis:

    [τὰ] μέλη [τε] καὶ [ἅμα] μέρη

    (Philebus 14e, Timaeus 77a, Laws 795e, Phaedrus 238a, Ion 14a)

    parts and pieces also”?

    “the members and likewise the parts” is how commentator Robert Gregg Bury and then translator Benjamin Jowett render the phrase in the Philebus.

    I really like how Seth Benardete puts the whole clause in the Philebus:

    “…whenever someone divides up in speech the limbs and different parts of each thing… “

  76. Gerry Teigrob says:

    I have used my ESV on and off since November of last year, and to me nothing gets lost in this translation. If anyone wants to question meanings like Wayne or others do, I guess my two years of Bible School training and ability to interpret help me to pick up any Bible version such as the ESV and make it a pleasurable experience. I tend to catch more typos in the church bulletin than the Bible versions…so if you can’t understand it I suggest you consider the TNIV, NLT, or The Message – the gospel message is simple enough so that children can understand it.

  77. John says:

    Hebrews 13:2: “… some have entertained angels unawares.” Unawares? Is that grammatically correct? I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “unawares.”

  78. Mike Sangrey says:

    Your question about ‘unawares’ highlights what I’ve often thought–that readability versus accuracy is a false dichotomy. Nothing thrills a translator more than when he/she can render the meaning in a way that is both accurate and readable. If a translator can do that, then why is it we hear so often people pitting accuracy against readability like translators have to somehow compromise both to find something that works. And, don’t misunderstand me to say that the thrill comes easily, just that it’s possible.

    ‘Unawares’ is an English word. And is used today; not often, but it is used. I think the strangeness in the word comes from how it is formed. The ‘s’ ending is actually the genitive suffix of Old English. We don’t form words today with a genitive suffix, though we use a few of them. Very few. So, when we stumble across such odd ducks, they “feel” like, well, odd ducks. ‘Always’ is another adverb with the same form. However, in this case, ‘always’ is so familiar that we intuitively misunderstand its morphology. With ‘always’ the ending isn’t even thought of as an ending anymore–the ‘s’ morpheme has lost it’s meaning. We even think of ‘always’ as a shortened form of “all ways” (the ‘s’ making it plural). But, that’s actually not true. Semantically, it works; but, morphologically, it’s wrong. It derives from the genitive of the middle English ‘alwei’ and so becomes ‘alweis’. It came to be ‘always’ phonemically.

    Anyway, my point is translations, IMO, should not make use of the words just because they can be found in the dictionary. They should exhibit a profound understanding of how the fabric of the language feels. Odd ducks should be left lie along with the old dogs and dead horses.

    We shouldn’t have cases where someone asks, “What does this sentence mean?” And when answered, replies, “Well, why didn’t it just say that?”

  79. CD-Host says:

    alexander284 —

    It wasn’t unduly harsh you were right. The ESV was a revision not a translation effort. And conservative ideology drove most of the translation choices.

  80. alexander284 says:

    thank you. it just seems that the ESV’s popularity is due, not to its “excellence,” but because it’s seen as the primary alternatiive to the NIV 2011.

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