As previously discussed, the ESV Translation Committee has recently introduced 27 pages worth of updates to the English Standard Version translation of the Bible. Since then, a full list of changes has been made available online. Now, just last week, someone over at the ESVBible page on Facebook mentioned a rumor that a 2013 revision was coming down the pipe. The page administrators said that the rumor was unfounded. I might be in the minority, but I was actually disappointed to read that. See, I think that it could be a brilliant move for the ESV to continue to make revisions intermittently, and I’d like to make my case.
In today’s post, I’ll start by pointing to a few places where the 2011 text update is right on the money. In days to come, I’ll try to make the case that there is more work yet to be done.
Updating Archaic/Outmoded Word Order and Vocabulary in the ESV
The ESV is, in my opinion, the best essentially literal translation available on the mass market, and it is the English translation that I use most frequently. Nevertheless, the language is still outdated where it doesn’t need to be. Sometimes this is simply a result of outmoded vocabulary, but it usually is because the ESV has left in archaic syntax dating back to the KJV. That is to say, while the ESV has done a good job of bringing the vocabulary up to date, sometimes the words are out-of-order from the point of view of a 21st Century English speaker. While the changes made in the 2011 edition are few in number, this latest edition has taken steps to update both the words and the word order. Here are a few examples:
|2007 ESV||2011 ESV|
|Gen 46:2; Isa 6:8; etc.||Here am I||Here I am|
|I Sam 4:10||there fell of Israel forty thousand foot soldiers||forty thousand foot soldiers fell of Israel|
|I Sam 26:8||Then said Abishai||Then Abishai said|
|II Sam 6:21||make merry||celebrate|
|Eccl 7:9; Job 31:33; etc.||bosom||heart (or arms; or lap)|
|John 1:9||enlightens||gives light to|
|Matt 18:22||seventy times seven||seventy-seven times|
|Matt 23:37||you would not||you were not willing|
Now, to be clear, this list is only representative of one of several types of changes made in the 2011 update; namely, places where outmoded language has been brought up to date. Many (probably most) of the changes have no effect whatsoever on the currency of the language (e.g. Matt 23:35, where Abel is now said to be “righteous” rather than “innocent”). In others the phrasing or word choice might become somewhat more difficult for most readers, and therefore it might look more like “old-fashioned Biblese;” but the changes in those cases are due to a more literal and consistent rendering of the Hebrew or Greek (e.g. I Sam 2:1, 10, where “strength” and “power” are replaced by the more literal “horn”). In such cases, I think the ESV 2011 update has made the right decision by taking a more literal path.
Even so, I still think that much work needs to be done, and I hope to show why in posts to come. For now, I ask what other readers of the ESV think. Should the ESV continue to update their text? Or perhaps you think they’ve done too much already, and wish they had never tinkered with a good thing?