Luke 1:53 ESV

This Sunday morning (liturgically Advent 4), the Gospel reading caught my attention. I had mentally read the passage many times in the Greek and in several translations preparing for the Bible study on Luke (in the past two months). But I had not read it aloud. When I heard it read this Sunday, I grabbed the bulletin to see whether the person read it correctly – he did. But the text itself was “wrong”.

The reading, Luke 1:39-56, was from ESV. Note 1:53:

he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.

I think many people read it in their minds (like I had before this Sunday) and make the necessary mental adjustment so that it reads correctly. But when this is read orally, it is clear how awkward the English phrasing is.

The way it is written, “empty” functions as noun/pronoun as the direct object (substitute “them” and see how you would speak it). As it is, I would wonder whether “empty” was lonely when sent away? Was “empty’s” feelings hurt?

In reality, the word “empty” should be an adverb telling “how” the rich were sent away. Thus it should read:

he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

Thus, a typically good liturgical translation (ESV) fails in this specific liturgical text.

Just to clarify my use of the ESV: I use several translations for preparing Bible studies, in addition to the original language texts. ESV is one of them, but I personally prefer the combination of NAS, NKJV, HCSB, and GW. However, the congregation where I teach has now started using the ESV for Sunday readings – because Concordia Publishing House began using ESV on the back of the bulletins beginning with Advent 1 Sunday (four weeks ago). And CPH used the ESV as the base for the liturgical sections of the new hymnal published in August (Lutheran Service Book – LSB)

In the past couple of years I was encouraged by the ESV translation because of its “standardized” liturgical texts (i.e. Ps. 116:12-13, 17-19, Ps. 136:1, Is. 6:3, John 6:68 etc.). However, the more I have read the ESV (about 1/2, so far), the less I like it. I find it not as easy to read as NAS and NKJV, which are usually considered “choppy”. Could I teach using the ESV? Yep, just like I can with other translations. But I would use it with caution.

Given my exposure to the ESV over the past year (through private reading/devotion and some teaching), I would definitely state that the NKJV is a much better liturgical translation.

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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One Response to Luke 1:53 ESV

  1. exegete77 says:

    Given the discussion on Bible Translation concerning this text, it seems that the awkward oral reading noted in this post leads to “better chanting of the text”.

    Thus, we have a dilemma regarding liturgical use of a translation. Is it sufficient for a liturgical translation to be better for singing but much poorer for oral reading? Will this necessarily be true?

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