[Note from Wayne: Reformatting each paragraph, boldfacing, etc. is taking up too much of my time. So for this section I have copied from a pre-conference edition of the paper in Microsoft Word, instead of from Mark’s “final” PDF document. Copying from MS Word retains boldfacing and underlining (which I have not had time to include in previous posts) but confuses paragraphing. There seems to be a conflict over paragraphing between MS Word and WordPress. To save time, let’s live with it for now. We are nearing the end of this series. At the end I will include a link to the latest official PDF version of Mark’s paper. I hope you are benefitting from this series. Obviously, not everyone will agree with Mark’s analysis for each verse, but I hope that there can be agreement that further revision was needed to bring the RSV text up to current standards of good literary English to produce the ESV. Hopefully, input from scholars such as Dr. Strauss will benefit the ESV revision committee, just as similar input benefits the revision committees for TNIV, NET, NLT, HCSB, ISV, and other current English Bible versions.]
Archaisms are also often literal fallacies, but this category also applies to words or phrases that were likely retained because they sounded “biblical,” which normally means “Elizabethan”— entering the language through the King James Version. We must ask whether these expressions would be considered normal English today.
ESV When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together
Comment: Both “betrothed” and “came together” are archaic. Nobody in English today say would say “though betrothed, my wife and I had not yet come together when I started college.”
TNIV His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
NLT His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place…
ESV …she was found to be with child,
Comment: The ESV is not literal here (the Greek idiom is “having in belly”), so this can only be classified as an archaism. Of course I would never say today my wife is “with child” unless I were trying to sound archaic and “biblical.”
TNIV …she was found to be pregnant,
REB …it was discovered… that she was pregnant
ESV Joseph… knew her not until she had given birth to a son.
Comment: The euphemism “knew her not” is both awkward and archaic. Reverse this to normal English word order —“he did not know her”—and I think everyone would agree this is inadequate. The TNIV’s “had no union with her” is not much better. Phrases like “marital relations” or “sexual relations” are much clearer and still euphemistic.
TNIV Joseph…had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.
NET did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son,
NLT Joseph… did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born.
ESV “there were seven brothers…the first one took a wife,”
Comment: No one in contemporary English says “I took a wife.” This archaism is unlikely to be used today even in the context of an arranged marriage.
TNIV “…the first one married,”
NRSV “…the first one married,”
1 Cor. 10:26 (Ps. 24:1)
ESV “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”
Comment: “The fullness thereof” is not contemporary English. The Greek idiom to plērōma autēs means “everything in it” or “the things it produces.” No one speaking English would say, “I own that farm and the fullness thereof.”
TNIV “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
HCSB “the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it.”
ESV it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men…
Comment: “Came to one accord” is not contemporary English. I would never say “the school board came to one accord,” but rather “they reached a unanimous decision” or “they all agreed.”
TNIV So we all agreed to choose some men…
NET we have unanimously decided to choose men…
2 Tim. 2:19
ESV Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.
Comment: “Depart from iniquity” is archaic. “Iniquity” is adikias, meaning unrighteousenss, wickedness or injustice. We would never say of someone who turned away from a sinful life that “he departed from iniquity.”
TNIV …turn away from wickedness.
NLT …turn away from evil.
ESV set apart three cities…so that any manslayer can flee to them.
Comment: “Manslayer” is surely archaic.
TNIV …so that anyone who kills someone else may flee there.
REB ..so that anyone who commits manslaughter can flee to these cities.
ESV says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.
Comment: Whether in poetry or not, “known from of old” is not English. Known “from ages past” or “from long ago” would also be poetic, but not so archaic.
TNIV …known from long ago.
NET …known from long ago.
ESV And he must not drink wine or strong drink
Comment: Sicera refers to fermented beverages other than wine, usually beer (= grain alcohol). Nobody today uses the phrase “strong drink,” which for modern people suggests distilled beverages, which were unknown in the ancient world.
TNIV …wine or other fermented drink, (cf. NLT)
HCSB …wine or beer,
ESV And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them…
TNIV They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire…
NET And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them…
ESV And they…began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
TNIV …as the Spirit enabled them.
NRSV …as the Spirit gave them ability.
ESV Go out from your land and from your kindred
TNIV Leave your country and your people,
NET Go out from your country and from your relatives,
ESV she poured it [the ointment] on his head as he reclined at table.
TNIV …as he was reclining at the table.
NRSV …as he sat at the table.
ESV And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it…
TNIV Seeing a fig tree by the road…
NASU Seeing a lone fig tree by the road… (cf. NRSV; NKJV; HCSB; NET etc.)
ESV “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”
Comment: An archaism. There is no “O” in the Greek, which is one word, oligopistoi.
TNIV …You of little faith,
NASB …you of little faith,
ESV “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Comment: Three awkward English phrases.
TNIV The Lord has done this for me… In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people
ESV “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.”
TNIV “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.”
HCSB “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.”
ESV “And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds;”
TNIV “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.”
ESV And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
TNIV before this they had been enemies.
ESV Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
Comment: In English we would never say “make great lamentations.” The collocation means to “mourn deeply” or to “lament loudly.”
TNIV Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
HCSB But devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply over him.
ESV The city lies foursquare,
TNIV The city was laid out like a square,
NASB The city is laid out as a square,
Genesis 1:29 (1061 times in the ESV)
ESV And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed
Comment: The English word “behold” occurs 1061 times in the ESV, usually rendering the Hebrew hinneh or the Greek idou. This is a difficult one for translators, since virtually no one speaking English uses the word this way. I can’t imagine exclaiming to my wife, “Behold, the beautiful sunset!” We would only use it in idiomatic expressions like “She’s a sight to behold!” So how should the term be translated? Sometimes “Look!” “See!” or “Listen!” works well, but in most cases the sense is much softer than this, and introducing any word creates unnatural English. Here we have tension between reproducing normal English and providing a window onto the Hebrew or Greek. My counsel would be for literal versions to retain “behold” and for standard English versions to either drop it or use “look” or “see” when appropriate.
TNIV Then God said, “I give you every seed–bearing plant
REB God also said, ‘Throughout the earth I give you all plants that bear seed
NRSV God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed
NLT Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant