Further Thoughts on ESV

No translation is perfect. However, ESV does an admirable job of presenting the intent of the underlying (original) languages (Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek). For the most part I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage people to use it. From a liturgical perspective, ESV has much to commend itself.

Having said that, though, there are some problem areas, some in English as the following illustrate, and some in changing the meaning (John 20:23).

Overall, NAS tends to be choppy, although not unreadable. But in these specific passages (and others I have found), the ESV is not only choppy, it presents awkward English.

Isaiah 22:17
ESV “… He will seize firm hold on you”
NAS95 “And He is about to grasp you firmly”

The NAS correctly uses the adverb. I realize that the ESV is following the KJV/RSV tradition and so continues that use in this verse. But the adverb is expected according to current English usage.

Isaiah 63:10
ESV “therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them”
NAS95 “Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.”

It seems that the ESV is missing the word “he” before “himself” (read it aloud to catch the incongruence).

Jeremiah 10:25
ESV “Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name.”
NAS95 “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You and on the families that do not call Your name.”

The ESV is inconsistent in placing the negative. In this case, it is awkward, yet in other places the negative is placed with the helping verb (“do”) as in the NAS.

Jeremiah 12:6
ESV “… they are in full cry after you”
NAS95 “…even they have cried aloud after you.”

One has to ask what does “full cry” mean to the average speaker/reader of English in this sentence? I think of a hunting dog spotting the prey. Again, the ESV is following the KJV/RSV tradition and so continues that use in this verse, but the phrase does not reflect current English usage.

Jeremiah 12:11
ESV “… but no man lays it to heart.”
NAS95 “… because no man lays it to heart”
NKJV “… because no one takes it to heart”

I would say that both ESV and NAS95 present unnatural English; NKJV does better.

Jeremiah 31:8
ESV “Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and her who is in labor, together…”

NAS95 “Behold, I am bringing them from the north country and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together…”

NKJV “Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together…”

The ESV misses on two counts: The use of “her” is awkward and yields very unnatural English. Also, the other elements in parallel all have the definite article in English, which would suggest that the NKJV has rendered the parallelism best.

Isaiah 10:7 ESV
But he does not so intend,
and his heart does not so think;
but it is in his heart to destroy,
and to cut off nations not a few;

Try to read it orally and see whether it is clear, natural English?

————————

The following is a passage in which the ESV translators abandon their guidelines and present an inaccurate translation.

John 20:23
ESV: If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.
NKJV: If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

In the Greek the word κρατῆτε has the sense of “hold fast, or retain” (BAGD, 448). The ESV misuses the word “withhold” in this context. Notice that it appears as if the ESV is claiming that disciples are controlling the forgiveness – “they are lording it over someone by withholding forgiveness.”

However, in the Greek, it is clear that what the disciples retain or hold against the person are the sins (plural), not forgiveness.

ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς

if ever of whom you forgive the sins, they are forgiven to/for them

ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται

if ever of whom …. you retain, they have been (and are still) retained …

Note, the parallel construction of the sentence. The direct object in the first part is “the sins” (τὰς ἁμαρτίας); the indirect object is “to them” (αὐτοῖς) . In the Greek of the second part of the sentence, the direct object and the indirect object are not supplied. But normal Greek structure means that the direct object and indirect object previously mentioned would carry over. Thus, the second line would translate:

if ever of whom [the sins] you retain, they are retained [to them]

Note that ESV changes this, so that it takes the verb of the first part of the sentence and makes it into a noun to be used as the direct object in the second phrase. I don’t know of any other case in which such a practice is followed, especially by a translation that favors an “essentially literal” approach.

Some have noted that the Greek word κρατῆτε also means “to restrain” or “to hold back”. So the question arises: Can this mean that they to retain the sin or the forgiveness of sin?

The answer is: neither. That is, the direct object in the sentence is τὰς ἁμαρτίας (“sins”) – plural. Note, that “forgiveness” is not in the noun form in the sentence, rather it is the verb parallel to “retain”. Thus, the parallel of the verbs is: “forgive” / “retain”. Now the question is what is forgiven and what is retained? In the first phrase, the direct object of “forgive” is τὰς ἁμαρτίας (“sins”) – plural. So they are to “forgive sins”. In the second part of the sentence there is no direct object associated with “retain”, and so the normal Greek sequence is to repeat the direct object of the earlier verb: “retain the sins”? The question then arises whether “retains” is appropriate translation in this context.

If a person claims that the direct object of “retain” is “forgiveness”, then the only way to get that is to ignore the first direct object, change the the first verb into a noun and make it the direct object of the second verb (none of which the Greek does).

So, no matter how you slice it, in this text, the ESV is inaccurate, and reflects a poor choice.


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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.

Doctrines of Church and Ministry

I think it important to lay out the critical doctrines and ask questions related to each, so that doctrine becomes the basis for our practice. My goal is to stimulate doctrinal and theological reflection, examination, and purpose in determining who we are and where we as Lutherans stand on this issues.

Background reading:

Matthew 16:13-20; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Peter 2:8-9; Ephesians 4:11-32; Matthew 28:16-20; Matthew 18:15-20; Matthew 24:4-5, 10-11, 24; Acts 20:27-32; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 6:10-17; Galatians 1:6-10; 3:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 13:17


Augsburg V (Ministry of the Church/Office of the Ministry), Augsburg VII (The Church), Augsburg VIII (What the Church is); Apology VII and VIII (The Church); Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.

1. Priesthood of All Believers

What is the Church?

What is the doctrine of the Priesthood of all believers?

How does that relate to the authority/privileges of Baptism, Lord’s Supper, Absolution?

What congregational responsibilities are included in Priesthood of all believers?

What about avoiding false teaching?

What responsibilities do congregational members have relative to their pastors?

Luke 1 Some Thoughts

I begin teaching the Gospel According to Luke next month. Although I have taught this class before in other congregations and once as a Concordia University class, I still like to approach the text fresh. As I began re-translating the text in my preparation, I investigated a few interesting tidbits.

For instance, in Luke 1, there is the Greek noun ἀγαλλίασις (“intense joy, gladness”). My first thought was to look at where in the NT this word occurs. Luke 1:14, 1:44, Acts 2:46, Hebrews 1:9, and Jude 24. In the LXX it occurs 22 times, 18 in the Psalms.

Then I looked for the verb form: αγαλλιαω, Matthew 5:12; Luke 1:47; 10:21; John 5:35; 8:56; Acts 2:36; 16:34; 1 Peter 1:6; 1:8; 4:13; and Revelation 19:7. In the LXX, it occurs 70 times, 50 in the Psalms and 10 in Isaiah.

I also briefly reviewed another prominent word group connected with joy: χαρα. It occurs 46 times in the LXX (3 times in Psalms, and 4 times in Isaiah). I’ll pursue this more in the future.

Initial reading and context of these occurrences in LXX suggest a worship and/or liturgical orientation. Such a connection fits well with a similar connection in Revelation.

Now the questions arise: Are both elements important in Luke’s two volume work? Are Luke 1-2 both liturgical and eschatological? If so, what is significance of both in the development of his two writings? Obviously Arthu Just, Concordia Commentary: Luke 1:1-9:50, provides a liturgical view of the text, and David Pao stresses the eschatological element in his examination of Isaiah as the framework for Acts (and Luke), particularly ISaiah 49:6.

So, these two angles will provide further food for thought in my study and preparation for Luke.

Leon Morris (03/15/1914 – 7/24/2006) Gentleman Scholar

Just read about the death of Leon Morris

Obviously I had never met him, but I am very familiar with his writings, from his doctoral dissertation (Aplostolic Preaching of the Cross in 1951) to his later works on the New Testament. In fact, I have many of his writings especially on John. He was a fine scholar and an excellent writer. While we mourn his passing, we rejoice in his victory over sin, death, and the devil.

“… After God’s Heart”

Mission Focus


Grow Up!

The Great Commission of “making disciples” is a lifelong adventure. Sadly, many have equated confirmation instruction with “graduation,” and then assume that they “learned it all in confirmation.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The end of formal catechism is really the beginning of a lifelong study of God’s Word. Peter wrote: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

So the goal of every Christian is to “grow up”! That means we study God’s Word — publicly in Bible classes and privately by ourselves. For us as Christians we can never grow tired or bored with God’s Word. He is revealing himself and his salvation. Nothing is more important than that!

The challenge lays before each of us: Am I studying God’s Word? If not, why not? Perhaps we feel inadequate — I have often heard this statement: “I don’t know enough to go to Bible class.” Then Bible class is the very place to be! How else can we learn? Take advantage of the Pastor’s background and education and others who have spent years studying God’s Word. Listen and learn. When you go home from Bible class, follow the example of the Berean Christians (“… they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true,” Acts 17:11).
Only as we are growing as Christians can we then be actively involved in Biblical evangelism/mission. Our message is Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). We need to get the message straight — and we do that as we grow up (in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ)!

Grow Out!

Evangelism/Mission cannot be done in a spiritual vacuum. Thus, as we grow up, we also grow out. Our increasing knowledge of God and his grace means that we develop a heart after God’s heart. God is very clear in his Word about what he desires (“…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” 1 Timothy 2:4).

As we explore God’s Word we discover that God uses people and events to achieve his saving purpose (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 7-14; Isaiah 45:1; Luke 1:26-38;1 Timothy 1:15; etc.). The Old Testament is filled with references to God’s desire to reach the farthest ends of the earth with love and mercy (i.e., Isaiah 49:6; Acts 1:6-8). Disciples of Jesus Christ will desire to reach the same.

So where is the “mission field”? For many of us , we imagine that “mission work” involves language study and traveling to far away lands. So “mission” became synonymous with that narrow view. However, are you aware that the countries in Africa send more Christian missionaries to the United States, than the U.S. sends to Africa? That’s right, the U.S. is a mission field!

Should this surprise us? After all, mission work in the Bible always started at home (Acts 1:8). Thus, mission work is an essential part of congregational life. Even without the immigration of millions to the U.S., we have had a great mission field here; many of our neighbors and co-workers do not know Jesus Christ. With immigration increasing, the (home) mission fields are ripe for harvest (Luke 10:2). In greater Kansas City, we face this new reality. In fact, more than 100 native languages are represented in just one school district! And we don’t have to live in a metropolitan area to have contact with this new mission field.

I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 NAS)

My focus for the coming years will be to equip pastors and congregations in three ways: 1) find ways to grow spiritually in Bible study (grow up) 2) explore congregational outreach and growth opportunities (grow out), and 3) equip those congregations that are prepared to start new mission congregations (grow out).

Regaining time

I have not posted much on many boards in the last few months because of a major project. I took my mother’s hand-written 300 page manuscript and transferred it to the computer, then scanned 100+ photos, re-touched them, edited the document (many times), laid it out in a page layout program. I finished making the last PDF yesterday – after spending an additional 15 hours over the weekend to meet my own deadline. Now for a final proof and I can send to the printers for printing/binding. I should have the proof of the whole book in 2-3 weeks, then hope to have all copies printed/bound by late May.

Doesn’t sound like much, but I have a 9 hours/day analyst position plus 2 hour commute; during this same time period I helped start a Bible College and taught half the courses, and I preach/teach 1-2 times per week in addition to that. It took 5 years – sending each section of each chapter to my mother to edit, re-edit, add more material. She has a diary entry for every day back to 1934.

I ended up using Papyrus XI (for Mac OS X, but also available for Windows), purchasing it in December. Originally I was going to use Word, but with auto numbering of photos, chapters, parts, etc. Word can become unstable. And I didn’t need that. It worked very well. And I made the PDFs directly in OS X – and the proof prints of some of the photos are almost as good as the originals.

So, I am relieved, excited, and just trying to regain a sense of time, sleep, etc. Now I begin preparations to teach several Biblical sessions at TAALC Convention in June.

Oh, and this week I am interviewing for a manager of analytics position…

Good thing I haven’t had too much to distract me. 😉