Ephesians 6:8 in ESV

This is not a huge translation problem but illustrates an awkward expression.

Eph. 6:8 “… knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.”

So what is the problem? The last phrase, “whether he is a slave or free.” Notice that the first major word after the verb is a noun “slave,” reinforced with the indefinite article (“a”), but combined with the next word it comes across as an adjective. The parallel word, after “or,” is “free,” normally used as an adjective. But it doesn’t seem to fit that role here. In other words, in English the two words should be parallel, which can be done in two ways:

whether he is a slave or free person (NJB)

whether (he is) slave or free (NAS95, HCSB, NAB, REB, NET)

Some translations follow the second option, but change from 3rd person singular  to 2nd person plural:

whether (you are) slave or free (NIV, TNIV)

Further, some translations keep the noun/adjective combination but switches to 1st person plural:

whether (we are) slaves or free (NRSV, NLT-se)

GW brings out the parallel structure (of nouns) but also changes the referent to 1st person plural

whether we’re slaves or free people.

I found this awkward translation while reading in family devotions. So, in the final analysis, not a major issue, but it does illustrate the critical function of orally reading the translation.


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