Changes compiled August 3, 2016
Originally posted August 8, 2016
Updated August 13, 2016 based on Crossway’s official list of changes (see the two paragraphs added/changed below and the attached PDF)
The English Standard Version (ESV) has been one of my primary translations since about 2003. But like every translation, after being on the market for a few years Crossway (its publisher) incorporated some additional revisions, first in 2007, then again in 2011. But a few weeks ago, while looking around our local Family Christian Store, I came across a new Classic Reference Edition of the ESV with a note on the copyright page: “ESV Permanent Text Edition 2016.”
I was excited by this for several reasons. First, I hadn’t heard a thing about it, and as a translation nerd there’s always a sense of discovery surrounding a new find. Secondly, though some past revisions had seemed unnecessary, others tended to move the text further from the textual blunders of the 1972 Revised Standard Version (its original textual basis), and a few steps closer to the NKJV.
And finally, the revisions were claimed to be done. When the ESV first came out, I remember reading about how people were so excited about the NASB fifty years ago. Until, among other things, the text simply kept changing, making people wonder when enough was enough. Besides, who really wants to cite this business (thanks Lockman…):
New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition. Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.
But for awhile, at least (contrary to the said ESV endorsement), the ESV seemed to be heading down this same path. Perhaps a bit more concerning, however, were claims that the Translation Oversight Committee was considering additional changes to make the translation more gender neutral. Since the ESV was intended in part to counter these tendencies, I found the claim surprising, but not entirely outside the realm of possibility. So if the changes hadn’t been made in this 2016 update, they would almost certainly not be made, except in a possible reboot 25 to 50 years down the road.
Unfortunately, when I contacted Crossway two weeks ago about what exactly had changed in the 2016 update, they said they wouldn’t be putting out a list of the changes. Thankfully, Accordance Bible Software has a neat (but completely unintentional) work-around. Here’s how it works: when Accordance released the 2016 updates for the ESV text a week later (one with Strong’s numbers, one without), I updated my Strong’s text to the 2016 edition, but didn’t update my basic ESV 2011. This allowed me to open the two versions side by side, select “Compare Text,” and then “List Text Differences.” Doing so identified 41 passages affected by the changes.
This paragraph added August 13, 2016: Fortunately, you don’t just have to take my word for it. Since writing this initial post, Crossway has released a public statement on the Permanent Text Edition, with a complete list of changes (and have also updated their About page on the ESV). The only difference between my list and theirs, is that when I initially ran Compare Texts in Accordance, my Ignore Upper Case feature was checked, which means I didn’t pick up the shift in Numbers 14:42 from “Lord” (which usually translates the Hebrew Adonai) to LORD (Hebrew YHWH, or Yahweh/Jehovah). So both my Accordance settings and the attached PDF below have been updated!
As with previous editions, most of the changes were simply matters of punctuation and a few in versification (especially in the Old Testament), prepositions (especially in the New Testament), as well as a handful of substantial changes. What follows, then, is a quick look at the passages with more substantial changes (which have been underlined), along with a complete list of the changes with sparser comments.
1) Genesis 3:16; 4:7
Genesis 3:16: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
Genesis 4:7: “Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
The traditional rendering of Genesis 3:16 has always thrown me for a loop: “Your desire shall be for your husband” (NKJV). I’ve often wondered, “How is this a punishment? Isn’t part of marriage wanting to be with the other person?” And again, “Why would the wife’s desire merit the draconian response: ‘And he shall rule over you’ (NKJV)? Why would a husband respond to his wife’s affection with an overbearing dominance?” And further, “Does this mean male leadership in the home and the church is a consequence of the Fall, rather than the created ideal which other biblical writers make of it (1Co 11:3, 7-9; 1Ti 2:13-14)?”
The ESV aids our understanding by highlighting the similar construction in Genesis 4:7 and how the usage in chapter 4 affects our reading in chapter 3. Starting with verse 6 the passage reads, “The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.’” Here Sin’s personified desire is clearly not a good thing. She (the Hebrew for sin, chatta’t, is a feminine noun) wants Cain as a conquest, not out of any desire for him personally. Cain’s charge, then, is simple: “but you must rule over it.”
The passages thus form a grammatical parallel: Just as sin doesn’t love Cain, but instead seeks to exploit his desires to gain the mastery, Eve would struggle with submitting to Adam and instead (if left unchecked) seek to subvert her husband’s leadership. And even worse, Adam would overcompensate, demanding respect while doing little to earn it. The ESV’s update therefore corrects the false connotation of the traditional rendering, while also showing us that problems of the home were never part of God’s original and “very good” creation (Gen 1:31).
2) 2 Kings 20:18
“And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
The RSV was the first in this translation stream (KJV > ASV > RSV) to omit “who will come from you,” and the NRSV and the ESV followed this precedent. This update, however, restores the phrase while also correctly shifting from “born” to “father” (or beget) in the second phrase.
3) Psalm 18
Heading: “To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. …”
Psalm 18:46-48: “The LORD lives … who rescued me from my enemies; yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from the man of violence.”
As with any other good translation, the ESV at times struggles with consistently translating synonyms, and Psalm 18 serves as a good case study. In this psalm, the ESV consistently renders the various forms of the Hebrew words natzal (“to deliver”; heading, vv. 17, 48c) and yesha (“to save”; vv. 2b, 3, 27, 35, 41 [“there was no one to save them,” NRSV], 46, 50), but also shows some difficulty in translating palat (“to rescue”; v. 2a, 43, 48a) and chalatz (“to free by force”?; v. 19). The changes in the heading and verse 48 were therefore made to improve accuracy and consistency.
4) Hosea 13:14
“I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol;
I shall redeem them from Death.
O Death, where are your plagues?
O Sheol, where is your sting?
Compassion is hidden from my eyes.”
The NKJV closely corresponds to the Hebrew here:
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
O Death, I will be your plagues!
O Grave, I will be your destruction!
Pity is hidden from My eyes.” (emphasis added)
The RSV and NASB, however—probably influenced by Paul’s usage in 1 Corinthians 15:55 and the Greek Septuagint (LXX)—adopted an emendation in lines 3 and 4 and rendered the first four statements as questions:
“Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?
Shall I redeem them from Death?
O Death, where are your plagues?
O Sheol, where is your destruction?
Compassion is hid from my eyes.” (emphasis added)
The ESV has thus restored the Hebrew of the first two lines (with the NKJV), but rightly follows the LXX in the next two. You can see this same trend in the attached comments on Ezekiel 40:14.
5) Luke 24:47 (this section revised on August 13, 2016)
Luke 24:46-47: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
This is a relatively simple change to improve the ESV’s correspondence to the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text. For those who prefer the Byzantine or Majority Text (like myself) the text actually reads “and” here, as rendered in both the old ESV and the NKJV.
But notice what the translators did not do: they rendered the Greek word here (eis, usually pronounced “ace” or “ice”) as “for” (that is, “unto, toward, leading to”) not “because of” or “as the result of.” In context, then, repentance of one’s sins precedes and leads to the forgiveness of one’s sins in Christ. Most would not find this at all confusing, but some have claimed that eis also at times means “because of” or “as the result of,” and should therefore be translated that way, usually in passages about baptism, such as Acts 2:38.
So for more information on why “for” makes more sense here and elsewhere, as well as a response to at least one objection to this view, you may also want to check out Wayne Jackson’s article, “The Use of the Preposition ‘Eis’ in Matthew 12:41.”
So, these are my top five. What are your thoughts on these? Which would you rather they had not changed? Which other passages do you wish they had?
For further information on the how we got the Bible and how to study it, check out some of my previous Bible class material on Knowing Your Bible.
Please click below for the complete comparison of the ESV 2011 to the ESV 2016.