Saturday, July 21, 2007

Changes in the ESV

In 2007, Crossway started publishing a slightly modified version of the English Standard Version (ESV). This does not seem to be a much publicized event as I have not been able to find anything official from Crossway (not that I have looked that hard). Nevertheless an update has occurred. If you have Bibleworks, the changes have already been incorporated into the software through their regular update process.

So, what are these changes? There is no official list but Rick Mansfield, on his blog, This Lamp, has listed all the modifications in seven separate blog entries, each corresponding to a different section of Scripture:

Genesis - Deuteronomy
Joshua - Esther
Job - Song of Solomon
Isaiah - Malachi
Matthew - Acts
Romans - Philemon
Hebrews - Revelation

Most of these changes are very trivial but some are both interesting and significant. One of the more interesting changes occurs at Micah 5:2. In this famous messianic passage, the ESV had followed the RSV with, “…from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” While it is possible to construct an orthodox interpretation of this wording, I was disappointed that the ESV translation committee did not change the wording found in the RSV, especially since this verse was highlighted in the 1953 BibSac article that originally criticized the RSV’s liberal bias.

The new version of the ESV reads, “…from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” This translation choice is more literal (cf., 2 Kings 10:27 for the only other usage) and preserves a deliberate play on words based on the idea of “bringing forth” (as seen in the KJV below):

"yet out of thee shall he come forth) (5:2)
"whose goings forth have been from of old" (5:2)
"until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth" (5:3)

It’s still not perfect, though, because I believe the Hebrew indicates that the “comings” or “goings” are plural (referring to His repeated Theophanies that have occurred since ancient days), rather than singular as it now stands in the ESV. The singular forces an interpretation along the lines of the Messiah’s earthly descent from the family of David, much like, or exactly like, the use of “origin” did in the original wording. My guess is that they changed "origin” because it was too offensive (indicating to some a non-eternal origin of Christ) but in a way that preserved the orthodox interpretation that they preferred.

I still beleive that the best of rending of the underlying Hebrew word is "goings forth" as translated by the KJV, NKJV, and the NASB.

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At 5:39 PM, Blogger Jason Button said...

Thanks for the post. This is fascinating! I'm looking forward to reading all of the posts.

BTW, I've made a link to your post from my blog. Thanks.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Thanks for the link, Jason. I find this all very interesting as well. I may comment on some of the other changes in a future blog entry.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Jason Button said...

I looked up this passage in the ESV Study Bible and here is the note:

"The Messiah's reign is at God's behest (for me), and his coming forth (or “origins”; plural of Hb. motsa’ah, “coming out”) is from of old, from ancient days. This has been taken to indicate either an ancient (Davidic) lineage or eternal (and therefore divine) origin of the predicted Messiah. The first time-related expression (“from of old”; Hb. miqqedem) generally refers to ancient historical times (e.g., Neh. 12:46; Ps. 77:5, 11; 78:2; 143:5; Isa. 45:21; 46:10) but can also refer to eternity past (e.g., Ps. 74:12; Hab. 1:12). The second time-related expression (“from ancient days”; Hb. mime ‘olam), however, refers to ancient historical times both in Micah (7:14; cf. 7:20) and elsewhere (Deut. 32:7; Isa. 63:9, 11; Amos 9:11; Mal. 3:4); thus this text is referring to the Messiah's ancient Davidic lineage, confirming that the ancient covenantal promises made to David still stand."

This isn't necessarily an explanation from the translation committee. However, the notes admit the plural, but they tie it to the Davidic lineage and allow for a possible reference to eternity past.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

That's a pretty thorough technical note. It may not be from the translators themselves but it surely indicates that they concur with the translation and why. I wonder if any of the notes argue against any of the ESV translation choices?

At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Russ Veldman said...

THANK YOU for publishing this info - I have found nothing else about the update anywhere else.

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They revised it again this year (2011) without letting the public know. Kinda shady.


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