ESV #11, by Mark Strauss

Run-on Sentences and Tortured English

Greek loves long complex sentences with many subordinate clauses. English style favors shorter sentences. All English versions, including the ESV, break long Greek sentences into much shorter English ones (see, for example, Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 1:3-10). Yet at times the ESV retains long run-on sentences. Consider these examples:

Titus 2:11 ESV For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Eph. 6:18-20 ESV To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Comment This run-on sentence is awkward enough, but the phrase “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth” is truly tortured.

Col. 1:21-23 ESV And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Comment: Another awkward run-on sentence that completely loses the reader, with many non-standard English phrases. Reading this aloud in church would leave the speaker gasping for air.

Gal. 4:18-19

ESV It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Comment: Run-on sentence with confused logic. The REB captures much more naturally Paul’s sense: “To be the object of sincere attentions is always good, and not just when I am with you. You are my own children, and I am in labour with you all over again until you come to have the form of Christ.”

1 Cor. 15:1-2 ESV Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Comment: ESV creates an awkward run-on sentence, with a hanging phrase at the end.

1 Thess. 4:1 ESV Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.


4 thoughts on “ESV #11, by Mark Strauss

  1. John says:

    “Greek loves long complex sentences with many subordinate clauses. English style favors shorter sentences.”

    Um…SOME. MODERN. English. STYLISTS. prefer shorter sentences; post-Elements of Style people treat short sentences as if it’s a rule from God rather than a preference. Style does not equal grammar. [eyes rolling]

  2. John says:

    Dang…this is the one comment I hoped would feed some kind of discussion; when breaking-up sentences in the Bible through simplified translations it often obscures the (demanding) flow of thought and natural build towards arguments, interrelatedness of what is being said, and so forth!

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