Acts 2:23 – Were Gentiles lawless or merely not abiding by Jewish law?

Were Gentiles lawless or merely not abiding by Jewish law?  What difference does this make? A big one, I think.  Translations that render lawless has connotations of being completely lawless.  Those outside the law implies not holding to Jewish laws, but not necessarily without law.  The rendering in the ESV and CSB imply that Gentiles were completely lawless, which can be misleading.

Acts 2:23
ESV: this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (also in CSB, NAB)
NIV: …and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
NRSV: …you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. (also in NJB)
NLT: …“lawless Gentiles”; and NET: …“Gentiles

Translations that render a-nomos (ἀνόμων) as “lawless” or “without law” may still be technically correct, but this might not have been the writer`s original intent.

Were Gentiles completely lawless? No, Roman society was ruled by law, particular by Law of the Twelve Tables;
or less lawful than Jewish society?  Maybe;
or not living by Jewish laws?  I think is this most probable.

I suspect the writer of Acts was simply trying to imply that Gentiles did not live by Jewish law but were not necessarily completely lawless.  I find the NIV rendering is overly interpretive.  The NLT`s is okay. The NET is inaccurate.  Personally, I prefer the rendering of the last two translations NRSV and NJB on this one because it allows the reader to see Gentiles as only being “outside of Jewish law” but not necessarily without law.

The Lutheran Study Bible special pricing deadline is October 31: Get one!

I didn’t get a review copy of  The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) but I know that I will be very impressed with it when I get my own copy.  Yesterday, our bible study group put in an order for a case of these babies before the October 31 special pricing deadline.   The regular hardback is 3½ pounds and large print is a whopping 5½ pounds.  I prefer large print but am I going to lug a 5½ pound bible to bible study? No way. So I ordered the regular font sized hardback edition without the frills, just a basic hardcover that I can use for bible study on Thursday evenings.

Why would a person want to use The Lutheran Study Bible?  There are 12 reasons if you’re Lutheran.  But if you’re not Lutheran, I don’t really know why except to educate yourself in some good old Lutheran theology.  It’s good…really! In the past, I know Lutherans haven’t exactly been high profile bible publishers and translators but I think this edition will be a first for Lutherans putting out a very high quality study bible so I applaud Concordia for taking this initiative.  I was impressed with the sampler so I’m looking forward to finally getting my own copy just for its Lutheran content written by Lutheran contributors.  Note, that I’m not in it for the translation (ESV);  I’m in it for the uniquely Lutheran perspective, and its emphasis on rightly dividing law and gospel, which is lacking in much of our theologies today.

In the past, the small Lutheran voice in the culture of faith have been drowned out in the cacophony of evangelical voices in airwaves and popular Christian media.  And sadly, I think The Lutheran Study Bible will also likely be lost in the plethora of evangelical-based study bibles and translations, but that’s okay.  If you’re Lutheran, don’t let that deter you from investing in one.  I honestly believe that if  TLSB had the opportunity to really display its qualities, I’m sure it would stand out as a bright gem amongst other gems of study bibles. It easily holds its own against the ESV, NLT, and T/NIV study bibles and it might even out-do them. I still need to get a copy in my hands before saying anything more.   I admit–the reality is that if you’re not Lutheran, you probably won’t get one.

But okay, enough bragging up for the Lutheran Study Bible.  Get one for yourself, especially if you’re Lutheran.

Crossway has a way to help you share the good news of Christmas

Is your church beginning to plan a Christmas musical/production? How about delivering gift bags while Christmas carolling? Crossway has creative and cost-effective way to help churches, para-ministries, and individuals engage in missional activity in a pro-active way.  When your friends or neighbors open up these bags, I feel the two most important items they will find are an invitation, and a small outreach edition of the New Testament. The tract and the temporary access to an online bible for 30 days are what I’d consider throw-aways.

What type of events might the invitation be used for? Perhaps the annual Christmas production or musical, the Christmas Eve service, a home-group meeting, or even for coffee in your own home?  I can also see how churches engaging in missional outreach might want to deliver these little gift bags by hand within their surrounding community, or if they’re not home, visitors may even hang them onto the doors at friends’ homes during a home visitation or during Christmas carolling.  But it’s the personal invitation that will bring them out to a Christmas event at church.  That is where the real personal outreach ministry happens.

These kits by Crossway contain:

  • 50 Christmasy door-hanger bags
  • 50 New Testaments (ESV) Christmas outreach editions
  • 50 customizable invitations to attend a Christmas service at your church/ministry
  • 50 copies of The Good News of Christmas tract by Max Lucado
  • 50 cards giving 30-day access to the ESV Online Study Bible
  • 1 instruction card
  • 1 reproducible church bulletin insert

In Canada, these kits sell Cdn$59.99 (or Cdn$1.20 per home).  In the US, it’s US$50.00 per kit (US$1.00 per home).

Exodus 22:8-9 “God” or “Judges”?

I think this will really bug some people as it bugs me.  It seems that Exodus 22:8-9 is clearly referring to judges but some translations like the NLT,  ESV, NRSV rendered elohim as “God“; but TNIV and CSB rendered elohim as “judges“.  Yes, technically, “God” is correct; but it seems clear to me that elohim (in the sense of a small “g” gods) which can be translated as judges, was what the writers/scribes intended.

Should we go with what we know as technically correct? Or should we go with what we know the writer/scribe/editor intended?

_________________________  Exodus 22:8-9 _________________________

NLT But if the thief is not caught, the neighbor must appear before God, who will determine if he stole the property. 9 “Suppose there is a dispute between two people who both claim to own a particular ox, donkey, sheep, article of clothing, or any lost property. Both parties must come before God, and the person whom God declares guilty must pay double compensation to the other.

ESV If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.

TNIV But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. 9 In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other.

CSB If the thief is not caught, the owner of the house must present himself to the judges to determine whether or not he has taken his neighbor’s property. 9 In any case of wrongdoing involving an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or anything else lost, and someone claims: That’s mine, the case between the two parties is to come before the judges. The one the judges condemn must repay double to his neighbor.

The Lutheran Study Bible to release on Reformation Day

October 31 seems too far away.  I just got the promotional kit in the mail today from Concordia Publishing House (CPH). It says that this new upcoming release of The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) in the ESV translation is to be released on Reformation Day, October 31.   I can’t wait.  This really is something I am really looking forward to as a Lutheran.

I know some of you out there are not too keen on the ESV but I still like it, despite some of the rough spots.  But the study notes in this study bible are going to be amazing. I’ve only seen a sampler and it looks very good from what I can see so far. I guess the old NIV Lutheran Self-Study Bible is on the way out.

Some of the features will include:

• 26,500-plus uniquely Lutheran study notes.
• Over 2,000 application notes and prayers for every part of the Bible.
• 80,000 center column cross-references.
• Over 900 cross-references to 120 full or half-page maps, charts, and diagrams.
• 220-plus articles and introductions to biblical books and topics.
• Insights from early church, medieval and Reformation era church fathers.
• Uses the English Standard Version translation, one of the most precise English translations available.
• Durable Smyth-sewn binding.

The promotional DVD is slick…I mean totally slick.  They have two young post-moderns in their twenties talking up the new TLSB.  This campaign is really geared for the younger generations.  Take a look at this video. I have to hand it to Concordia. They’re really doing a top-notch marketing campaign–one of the best I’ve seen, at least in the Lutheran world.

ESV Study Bible: a Reformed study bible?

This Sunday, I plan to preach on the text of Ephesians 1:3-14. I noticed that, in particular, vv. 3, 4 and 11 are verses about predestination. I compared this passage in the ESV translation with other translations and did not find that the ESV had any bent toward predestination. Then I looked further and could not find any passage where the ESV was biased toward Reformed teaching of predestination. If the ESV bible could be accused of having a bent toward Reformed theology, it would have to be some of the notes in the ESV Study Bible.

I looked up some of the verses most commonly used by Arminians to challenge the doctrine of predestination. In it, the study notes in the ESV Study Bible, to a large extent, does defend the doctrine of predestination. But the study notes do not only defend Reformed theology since its contributors come from various denominations including some from non-Reformed backgrounds (e.g., pentecostal, evangelical, Southern Baptist, Lutherans). No, I’m not saying that the ESV Study Bible is a Reformed study bible. It is clearly not. But if the ESV Study Bible were to be labelled as a Reformed study bible, I don’t think many in the Reformed camp would object this label? But if it were labelled as such, it definitely wouldn’t be able to sell as well as it has.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 “who desires all people to be saved”
“This statement figures prominently in theological disagreements over the extent of the atonement. It cannot be read as suggesting that everyone will be saved (universalism) because the rest of the letter makes it clear that some will not be saved”

2 Peter 3:9not wishing that any should perish
“see note in 1 Tim 2:4”

Romans 14:15 “do not destroy the one for whom Christ died”
“beware lest they destroy the faith of a brother or sister”

1 Corinthians 8:11 “by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died”
“Others see this as a reference to the moral harm done to the weaker brother (his conscience “is defiled,””

Hebrews 10:26-27 “a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries”
“…if there is no evidence of fruit in one’s life, to challenge such people to give fearful consideration as to whether they are in fact genuine believers.”

2 Peter 2:1 “even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction”
“they claimed to be “redeemed” and “saved” because they were part of the church, but their apostasy showed that they were not truly believers.”

John 4:42 “so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men
“the first “all men” refers to all who are in Adam (every human being), while the second “all men” refers to all believers, to all who are “in Christ.””

Romans 5:18
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
1 John 2:2

The new ESV Bible with Apocrypha by Oxford: let’s take a look

Timothy over at Catholic Bibles has recently been blogging about the new ESV Bible with Apocrypha published by Oxford. I’ve enjoyed his recent posts on how he is finding the new ESV/Apocrypha edition here:

There’s still room for the ESV to improve

Tim gave a well thought-out comment in a previous post ESV can become better. I am posting his comment here, particularly because he felt that he wasn’t heard on another blog mentioned below. It was a response in my post that the work invested into the NRSV was much greater than the work invested into the ESV. I still stand by this, however, I really like Tim’s comment. He said:

I think it’s a little unfair to expect there to be another revision so soon after the last one. Let’s not forget, they brought out the revision relatively quickly after the ESV first came out and that is to be commended. I feel very strongly that they do listen and that another revision will happen. If they didn’t listen then the first revision wouldn’t have taken place would it?

People say that the NRSV is a good version, and I echo that, as I like it. But I couldn’t understand why there were not that many sales. I asked this question on BBB, that if it was the version recommended by scholars and academics why did it consistently do poorly in the sales rankings, to be told that the reason was probably because not many scholars and academics bought it. Bit of a smart**** answer and not the one I was actually looking for, so I did a little rooting around myself…..

It’s clear to me that where a translation is concerned it becomes an attempted balance between style and substance. Such a balance is going to, by its very nature, be almost impossible to strike as many people have their own ideas of what ‘perfect’ English actually means. I tried to demonstrate this on BBB, failed, and instead had people jumping to conclusions and making assumptions about my comments, and getting it wrong […]

I believe Tim’s view is valid and is felt by many other ESV readers whose sentiments do not resonate with those who favor gender-inclusive language. I don’t know what the solution is to this but I think both views are valid. Neither is wrong. For some, gender-inclusivity in the bible translations do speak more clearly and directly to them. For others, gender-inclusivity in translations is unnecessary because they read and interpret the bible with gender-inclusivity in mind but would prefer to leave the technical definition of the masculine in tact. I believe there are many readers out there who would agree with both views too.

The AV (1611) was itself a revision (even then the language was considered a little dated), and went through numerous revisions after it was first released. But for all its faults, it brought millions to Christ. Yet there are many who would make fun of others for still using it. How out of date was the Septuagint when the apostles were quoting from it? To my mind it isn’t the version that matters but whether you read it and use it, that does. As someone else (I cannot remember who) said, use the version that sings to your heart. I use many versions, and although my favourite is the Wycliffe Bible that is purely for stylistic reasons and its historical value. Firstly it can be considered the first shot fired in what led to the Reformation. Secondly, as an Anglo-Saxon buff, it interests me for the language it uses and is a link between Anglo-Saxon and our modern English.

When I think of some translators I am put in mind of the priesthood of old (before the Reformation) which maintained that no-one was allowed to read the bible unless it was one of the ‘approved’ versions. Only the priesthood held the ‘secret knowledge’ that enables others to understand it properly. Well that’s rubbish. And regardless of how perfect the style is, it isn’t going to be much worth if no one wants to read it, is it? The ESV tends to fly off the shelves around here, and that is a big plus. It doesn’t matter what version it is, nor how perfect the English within it. What matters is whether people buy it and use it. And on that score the ESV is doing well. So, if you can’t have both then what’s it to be, style or substance? I know what I’d rather choose.

Personally, I do not agree with Tim on this one. We need both style and substance in bible translations. If a translation lacks one or the other, it needs to be improved. If one loves style, there are many out there who are not Anglo-Saxon buffs and cannot even begin to read the Wycliffe Bible or even the King James Version. The ESV still has room to improve on its style and substance. I am confident that Good News Publishers and future revisions will be working on improvements in the ESV. In the end, there is lots of room for the ESV, and even the NRSV to improve.

ESV can become better

I haven’t been around the blogosphere for a while but I’ve been catching up on what’s going on at Better Bibles: Wayne Leman finished posting a series of posts on a paper by Mark Strauss: Why the English Standard Version (ESV) should not become the standard English version: How to make a good translation much better. It’s also available in PDF. I don’t think this should be seen as being critical against the ESV but rather, I think this is the type of constructive criticism that can make our bibles better.

The ESV can do so much better so Crossway should pay attention. I think Crossway has great opportunity to improve this great translation and make it so much better. If the translation team takes advice such as this, the ESV will surely become even more popular than it is now. It was be known as one of the great modern translations for a long long time. The enormous work done by the NRSV was a huge improvement and can be called a genuine translation. But the ESV has not done nearly as much work on it as the NRSV translators. So the ESV, there’s still room to improve.

ESV Study Bible and the ESV translation

Thank you Michele Bennett of Crossway Publishing for sending me a review copy.

In this rather lengthy post, I will speak about what I have found to be the main features of the ESV Study Bible, and then in the second half of this post, I will give my opinion about the ESV translation itself. I know there have already been numerous other bibliobloggers in the blogosphere blogging about the ESV Study Bible (ESVSB). I will finally add mine opinion of the it here today.

1. The features of the ESV Study Bible:

The more I read the ESV Study Bible, the more I like it. If you’re looking for a good study bible, the ESV Study Bible is definitely one of the best available. The study notes and the overall feel of it will make it one of the all-time great study bibles. With over 20,000 study notes and 50 articles, it is a heavy-duty study bible, and it also looks and feels like one too. With 2,750 pages, it is one of the thickest study bibles out there, if not the thickest. The ESV Study Bible is the biggest of them all. It is also the most comprehensive I’ve seen. The quantity and quality of study notes is comparable to its two major rivals, the T/NIV and NLT study bibles. The introductions for each book are excellent. They are scholarly and are based on up-to-date scholarship. The contributing scholars for the ESV Study Bible are top-notch evangelical scholars. The wide variety of scholars from many denominations makes this study bible ecumenical. The scholars who have contributed the study notes, articles, and the ESV translation itself, are from a variety of denominational seminaries, theological schools, and universities. They come from a variety of denominational backgrounds: Baptist, Reformed, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican, Pentecostal, and many and various evangelical seminaries (their names can be seen here).

In my opinion, the big name on the editorial oversight committee is J.I. Packer, the Theological Editor. The other names on this committee are C. John Collins, the Old Testament Editor, and Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Editor. The editorial committee is covenantal in theology. It is not surprise me that this committee leans more toward covenantal in theology. Well, the majority of the readership of the ESV translation is covenantal or reformed; so why not? Will dispensationalists find this study bible overly covenantal? I don’t think so. There are some dispensationalists on the list of study note contributors but they are the minority. In recent years, I have found that my own theology moving from an Arminian dispensational outlook to more of a covenantal one. So now, I can appreciate both theological views. I can say that it is not as covenantal or reformed as the ESV Reformation Study Bible. So if you’re a dispensationalist, you’ll still like this study bible and appreciate its value.

In the ESV panel discussion, Dr. J.I. Packer, the theological editor, spoke about the ESV Study Bible being a useful tool for catechesis (or oral instruction). I have wondered what makes it a good tool for catechesis. If someone could enlighten me on this one, I would appreciate it.

One thing that separates the ESV Study Bible from the rest of the other study bibles is the physical quality of the bible itself. It has a very good quality binding because it is Smyth-sewn rather than glued. This makes it much longer-lasting, and it allows the bible to lay flat when you’re at the beginning of Genesis or at the end of Revelation. Most study bibles out there only use the cheap glue binding, including the NTL Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, New Oxford Annotated Bible, and HarperCollins SB. The ESV Study Bible, however, is Smyth-sewn and reinforced with some glue to make it more durable. So kudos to Crossway for providing a good quality binding. I think Crossway has really improved on the quality of some of its bibles. One pet-peeve I have about bibles is that when you open up the bible, and the pages at the seam crinkle-up. The pages near the seam in this bible seem to crinkle, and I don’t know why. Open one up and you’ll see for yourself. Maybe someone can explain to me why this happens?

The layout is very attractive. It is easy on the eyes. Personally, I like the lines that separate the header, the study notes, and the side columns. I find this easier on the eyes and it gives the appearance of a clean-cut layout. Crossway has also provided quality high-opacity French bible paper and a very nice print job. I like the dark arial font for the study notes and the dark serif font for the biblical text. It provides a good contrast and it makes it easier to read. The font size is also a good size. I don’t have to use a magnifying glass to read it. I also like the single column format. I was accustomed to double columns but I have slowly become accustomed to reading wide single columns. Moreover, the abundance of white space around the text makes it easier and quicker to read, especially if you’re a speed reader (which I’m not).

This is one of the only bibles I’ve seen with so many full-color maps and illustrations within the pages of the bible texts. No other bible has come close to what the ESV Study Bible has done in providing relevant maps that are in such magnificent colors and detail. It has certainly set the bar in this area. Not only are these color maps placed in each of the book introductions, but they are also placed within the pages of the main texts to provide the readers with an historical place where the story was situated. The regions, nations and cities are concurrent to the period of time when the characters and stories took place. It’s really well done.

I have to say that I’m a cross reference user and prefer bibles that have cross references. I don’t know about most people, but when I do indepth study into the text, I actually use cross references to find relevant and comparable scripture verses. I have found that the cross references are in the ESVSB is sufficient and comparable to other bibles; plus there is a concordance in the back.

The numerous theological articles in the back of the bible reflect an evangelical perspective. They are quite readable, even for beginner Christians. It’s a nice addition. Perhaps these theological-biblical articles were what J.I. Packer was referring to when he spoke about the ESV Study Bible being a useful tool for catechesis? Also, in the past, I’ve wondered what it was like during the time period in between the OT and NT. Some historical and scholarly articles are appropriately placed in between the Old Testament and the New Testament to explain in a compact fashion: the time between the testaments; the Roman Empire and the Greco-Roman world; Jewish groups at the time of the NT.

2. The ESV translation:

As far as the translation itself goes, I see the ESV translation becoming ever more popular in the future. It is popular in covenantal Baptist and Reformed churches, but it is also becoming more widely used in Lutheran congregations. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) has switched their new hymnal from the NIV to the ESV translation. For some Lutherans, the previous switch from the RSV to the NIV, and now to the ESV, is sort of a return to the Tyndale RSV-style language. For those who are used to the old RSV, they will find the ESV an easy transition. I don’t think Crossway wants to market the ESV as an ‘updated RSV’ but it really is kind of like an ‘updated RSV’ since much of the text is identical to the old RSV. In fact, maybe Crossway could have renamed it the RSV2? The difference between the two is in its updated and conservative biblical scholarship, and easier to read punctuations and some modernized grammar. Overall, it still reads very much like the RSV. When I was reading from the ESV aloud, many thought I was reading from the RSV. In certain passages, the difference between the ESV and RSV is only slight. There is even less of a difference between the KJV and NKJV.

Even though some have debated the accuracy of between the ESV and the TNIV, there is really not much to debate about because the ESV is still a very accurate and scholarly translation. If we want to debate the accuracy of the ESV, we will also have to debate the accuracy of the RSV. Some may accuse the ESV being a step back from the RSV, but I don’t think so. I acknowledge that the RSV is one of the best translations ever translated into the English language and in many ways, the ESV has improved over its predecessor. Personally, I really like the NRSV, TNIV and NLT translations because they are gender-inclusive and highly accurate. The ESV is also gender-inclusive, but to only to an extent. That’s the criticism. The level of gender-inclusivity in the ESV is somewhere in-between the TNIV/NRSV (which fully use gender-inclusive language) and NIV/RSV (which mainly use masculine language). We can come to two possible conclusions concerning this issue of moderate use of gender-inclusive language:

1/ It is inconsistent; or
2/ It is ‘playing it safe’ and not ‘going over-board’.

Personally, I think both points of view are legitimate. Personally, I do prefer gender-inclusive language because it fits the context of the audience to whom the writers were originally writing to. However, technically speaking, the gender of the pronouns (i.e., he, him, his) are mostly masculine because that’s how gender was used in Greek writing.

The ESV translation is already a very successful translation but I believe it will become even more popular. In the near future, it will become head-to-head rivals with the NIV and NLT. I predict that the ESV will become one of the great modern translations of all time. I am not just saying that but I really believe it. Crossway has put together great study bible with a great translation to go along with it. Good job Crossway!

Romans 6:17 – TNIV vs HCSB vs ESV vs NRSV

Here’s a comparison of Romans 6:17 between four major translations. I was studying this for my sermon preparation and found this interesting difference.

Romans 6:17

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.

But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to,

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,

v. 17: the rendering in the HCSB and NRSV seems to most accurately render the definition of παρεδοθητε (paredothēte, entrusted). The word paredothēte conveys the idea that this teaching has been entrusted to the receiver, or given over or delivered to someone else’s hands. Both HCSB and NRSV rendering of “entrusted” accurately expresses this idea that something is handed over or delivered to another’s hands. The idea expressed in the ESV is still accurate but might be misinterpreted as to whom, and from whom, this pattern of teaching has been committed to. TNIV’s rendering of “claimed your allegiance” can also be misinterpreted to mean that the receiver of this teaching is the one who has actively committed oneself over to Paul’s teaching. This may be true but it is not what the text is necessarily saying. I prefer the NIV’s rendering of “entrusted.”

Also, ESV’s rendering of “standard of teaching” is a little different from the others. The Greek word τυπον (tupon, pattern or model) expresses the idea of the use of an example or a model that has a mark or impression and can be used as an exemplar. I prefer HCSB and TNIV’s use of “pattern”, and NRSV’s use of “form” is also good.

Search for a formal translation: NASB vs ESV vs NRSV — a conclusion

After blogging on this series on the three formal equivalent translations, I cannot say there is a clear #1 winner because it all depends on what a person wants in a translation. This may be a post-modern approach but I do respect each person’s preference. All three translations are very good but I do not want to minimize any of their strengths so I cannot prescribe a “best translation”. I believe it is a subjective and personal decision because each person wants something different in a translation.

The NASB is definitely the most literal, the NRSV is the least literal of the three literal translations, and the ESV is somewhere in-between. If one wants the most literal word-for-word precision (in alignment with the Greek) and do not mind the choppiness in reading, plus a conservative theological outlook, then the NASB is best. If you want a fairly high degree of literalness but without the awkward choppiness of the NASB, and a conservative evangelical theological outlook, then the ESV is the best. If you want a fairly literal translation and even greater readability than the ESV, plus gender-neutral language, then the NRSV is best. So here is my individual conclusion to each of the three excellent translations.

What surprised me is that there have been several times when the NASB has superfluously added a word or two to the text where it does not exist in the original language. But then, the NRSV does this too. The amount of meticulous translation work done on the NASB is incredible. From a detailed perspective, it is definitely the most literal in the majority of cases; and overall, from a broader perspective, it is still the most literal of the three. It is excellent for careful exegetical bible studies. The NASB has a stellar reputation for very good reasons. It is literal yet accurate. The literalness in the NASB is in itself, its own strength, and at the same time, it is also its own weakness. Literalness makes it less readable, but nevertheless, it is still readable to the average person. This is why it has been the formal equivalent translation of choice for conservatives/evangelicals who have a high view of scripture and who do a lot of exegetical bible studies. It has been underestimated by mainline and secular academic settings in the past, and this is too bad. In my opinion, it deserves greater respect than what it has received. In conservative-evangelical seminaries, the NASB is still highly regarded.

The ESV seems to be the leanest in terms of wordiness—that is, it seems to use fewer words than the NASB and NRSV to say the same thing. Even though it is less wordy, it amazes me that it is also more readable than the NASB. In future revisions, if they could get rid of its inverted negatives, the ESV would be even more readable. The ESV is second in literalness after the NASB. This makes it excellent for indepth exegetical bible studies. Another strength of the ESV is that it is the most up-to-date in scholarship. Like the NRSV when it first came out, ESV translators also made distinctly unique decisions regarding the rendering of certain passages. This is why it is useful to consult different translations (however, it may be difficult to know why the translators rendered certain words the way they did). The ESV is a scholarly translation and will become known as such. I predict that it will gain a greater respectability from mainline/secular academia than the NASB ever did. Since its translators are conservative/evangelical, like the NASB, it will inevitably become the pride of evangelicals.

The NRSV is not as literal as the NASB and is slightly less literal than the ESV; but yet, it is very accurate. Accuracy and literalness should not be equated as the same thing. The language of the NRSV is also a strength because it makes it more readable than the NASB, and even the ESV. The NRSV translators made choices to go with slightly different rendering from the traditional ones and that may be due to a more liberal Christian worldview or just a different way of handling the original text. I think the difference in worldview is less of a factor than the way the text is handled. The translators of the NRSV did a lot of work in making improvements over the RSV, even more so than what the ESV translators have done with the RSV, in my opinion. The NRSV is greatly enhanced in its readability over the RSV, and has increased in accuracy too.

In my past, the two translations I usually consult the most are the NASB and NRSV but this should not be seen as a slight to the ESV. I have only done so because I became accustomed to pulling the NASB and NRSV off the shelf first but this should not reflect my opinion of any of the three. I have recently started to consult the ESV much more often because I have discovered its excellence. All three translations are very good, and they are each unique in their own ways. So my search for a formal equivalent translation will continue on sometime into the future.

Formal equivalence comparison #4: NASB vs ESV vs NRSV – Acts 2

The comparison between formal translations of the Tyndale tradition continues with Acts chapter 2. This is the last of this comparison series between the NASB, ESV and NRSV.

Acts 2:22-23

v.22: Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
v.23: this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

v.22: “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—
v.23: this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.

v.22: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—
v.23: this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

v.22: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know –
v.23: this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles.

v.22: the NRSV’s gender-inclusive rendering of ἀνήρ (anhr) has curiously become “You that are Israelites.” This is a rather loose handling of gender-inclusive language. This is not literal, nor accurate. I prefer the rendering of “people of Israel” of the TNIV and NLT.

v.23: it is interesting to see the contrast between the NASB’s use of “predetermined plan” and the ESV and NRSV’s use of “definite plan.” Is there a difference between “predetermined” and “definite”? I think so. Merriam-Webster defines the word “definite” as: “having distinct or certain limits” or “clearly expressed as to leave no doubt about the meaning.” In today’s modern English, “definite” does not accurately express the intent of the writer. The rendering here should express the idea of a pre-determined plan. The word “destined” would be better than “definite.” “Predestined” may cause readers to presume the doctrine of double predestination. The TNIV uses “deliberate” and the NLT “prearranged.” I prefer the NASB’s rendering of “predetermined.”

Acts 2:25

For David says concerning him, I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;

For David says concerning him, “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;

“For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence; for he is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.’

‘I saw the Lord always in front of me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken.

v.25: the NASB’s rendering of “in my presence” is overly interpretive and is not characteristic of its hallmark of literalness. “Before me” (ESV, NRSV) or “in front of me” (NET) is more accurate.

Acts 2:29

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David…

Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David…

“Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David…

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David…

v.29: The NRSV’s rendering of “fellow Israelites” is inaccurate. This is a case where the NRSV has mishandled its gender-inclusive language in its rendering of ανδρες αδελφοι (andros adelphoi). The NASB’s “brethren” is also more acceptable than “fellow Israelites.” But for gender-inclusivity, TNIV’s “brothers and sisters” is better. It is interesting to note that the NKJV used “men and brethren.” The NKJV can sometimes be gender-inclusive in some places and perhaps this may be an attempt to translate ανδρες αδελφοι (andros adelphoi, men brothers) to include men and women in its rendering of brethren. Many will say that Peter is referring to male brethren, as opposed to female brethren because the Greek word andros traditionally means male. In our gender-inclusive bible-reading community, we have accepted ἀνήρ to mean both men and women. It is interesting to note that the NLT used “brothers and sisters” in v.22 but used “brothers” in v.29. I’m not sure why this is so.

Acts 2:40-41

v.40: And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation.

v.41: So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

v.40: And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

v.41: So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

v.40: And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”

v.41: So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

v.40: With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!”

v.41: So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.

v.40: The NRSV’s rendering of “arguments” is supposed to add clarification but it has a different meaning from “words” (ESV, NASB). But do we know for certain that it was with arguments that Peter was speaking, or could it have been just plain speech? Can one testify with just words or plain speech without making an argument? It seems to me that “argument” might be overly interpretive. The gospel does not necessarily have to present a rationalistic argument in order to testify or bring witness to the living Christ. The gospel is powerful because it is Holy Spirit who brings witness to Christ—not necessarily a rationalistic argument as our philosophical humanistic culture would suggest. This might be difficult concept for us today since it is popular to believe in a rationalistic Christian worldview.

v.41: The NRSV uses “welcomed his message” rather than “received his word” (ESV, NASB), or “accepted his message (T/NIV, NET). The original intent was to express a welcoming response to the word of God. “Received his word” does not necessarily express a willingness to receive the word or message. “Accepted his message” might be slightly better; and “gladly received his word” (NKJV) is interpretive but better still. “Believed what Peter said” (NLT) is overly interpretive because it connotes that it was a matter of receiving by believing. I prefer the NRSV’s rendering of “welcomed his message” may be closer to the original intent but even the use of “message” is interpretive because the Greek uses λογον (logon). We can safely assume that the word is inclusive of a message. I would prefer “welcomed his word” because this is literal yet accurately expresses the intent of the writer.

This concludes this comparison series on a search for a formal equivalent translation (NASB, ESV and NRSV). I will provide a conclusion in my next post.

Formal equivalence comparison #3: NASB vs ESV vs NRSV–John 19

The comparison between formal translations of the Tyndale tradition continues with the Gospel of John, chapter 18. However, I’ve included the NET bible in the table.

John 19:3


They came up to him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! and struck him with their hands.


They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.

and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face.

They came up to him again and again and said, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly in the face.

v.3: The rendering of “slaps in the face” (NASB) or “striking him on the face” (NRSV) is may unnecessarily be assuming that Jesus was struck or slapped on the face. The ESV/RSV might be more accurate because it simply states that he was only struck with the hand. The ESV does not assume that Jesus was slapped or struck on the face. The underlying Greek in this verse uses ραπισματα (rhapisma, struck, given blows, or slapped). The definition of rhapisma means that one is given a blow, struck with the hand, or struck with the palm or flat part of one’s hand. It may also imply that one is struck with a rod or staff or a scourge. If Jesus was struck with the flat part of the hand, then one may more accurately assume that Jesus was slapped in the face. The NLT1 rendered this as “hit him with their fists.” The NET bible’s rendering used “struck him repeatedly in the face.” In this verse, I prefer the ESV’s rendering.

John 19:6

When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, Crucify him, crucify him! Pilate said to them, Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.

When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.”

So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.”

When the chief priests and their officers saw him, they shouted out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said, “You take him and crucify him! Certainly I find no reason for an accusation against him!”

John 19:6

v.6a: The NRSV, RSV, ESV revise it to “crucify him” to add clarification that they referred to Jesus. The NASB is most literal with the Greek in rendering “crucify, crucify” without the “him”, as this is not in the Greek. The T/NIV and HCSB also use “crucify, crucify.”

The ESV, NASB and RSV use the word “officers” but the NRSV is more interpretive in stating that it was the (temple) police were present with the chief priests. The HCSB also render it as “temple police.” The Greek word υπηρεται (huperetes, servant) can mean servant, officers, attendants, or an aid or assistant to the minister or king. The wording of “temple police” unnecessarily conjures an image that there were temple authorities (as in jail wardens or bar bouncers) rather than servants or assistants. I cannot imagine the temple calling for the rough and tumble type of temple police. (The only time I’ve seen temple police is with televangelists with undercover guards with earpieces attached). I feel the NASB and ESV’s usage of “officers” is more correct.

John 19:7

he has made himself the Son of God.

he has claimed to be the Son of God.

He made Himself out to be the Son of God

he claimed to be the Son of God!

v.7: The ESV (and HCSB) used: “He made Himself the Son of God.” This seems to be a little tricky. The ESV is most literal. The word “claimed” is not in the Greek but was added by the NRSV and the NET (and T/NIV) to add clarity. To make oneself the Son of God may not make sense. Would someone who is already the Son of God need to make oneself into the Son of God? It seems clear that the Jews meant to say that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. This is why the most literal rendering may not always make sense. The NASB took the happy medium by maintaining the word “made/make” but added “made himself out to be the Son of God.” I prefer the NASB’s rendering of this verse because it maintains the word “make.”

John 19:12

If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.

“If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor.

“If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar.

“If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar!

v. 12: Why did the NRSV change the word to “emperor”? Most translations use Caesar, as this is in the Greek.

Overall, the NASB is still the most literal. The ESV places second in this but is still clear. Although all three have used additional wording to add clarification, it seems that the NRSV has taken the less literal approach in this verse, which surprised me a bit.

Formal equivalence comparison #2: NASB vs ESV vs NRSV – John 18

The comparison between formal translations of the Tyndale tradition continues with the Gospel of John, chapter 18.

John 18:4

Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, Whom do you seek?

Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?”

So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”

Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”

v. 4: The NRSV’s contemporary usage of “looking for” instead of “seek” is better. The NASB sounds more awkward in its rendering of: “all the things that were coming upon Him.” The ESV’s “all that would happen to him” or the NRSV’s “all that was to happen to him” flows better. Moreover, I would prefer using “who” instead of the outdated “whom.”

John 18:28

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.

Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.

Then they led Jesus from the house of Ca’iaphas to the praetorium. It was early. They themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover.

In v.28a, the NASB is the most literal because the Greek uses . The ESV adds “house of Caiaphas” from simply “Caiaphas.” The NRSV makes it sound contemporary by revising it to “Pilate’s headquarters.” The NASB’s literalness forfeits some of the clarity used in: “governor’s headquarters” or “Pilate’s headquater’s.” These headquarters would include the governor’s residence, military barracks, and outdoor court of judgment.

v. 28b: Entering the house of a gentile, where the law was never kept, would make a Jewish person ritually unclean, and therefore, unable to eat the passover meal. The NRSV also added “ritual defilement” instead of simply “defiled”. This understanding helps the reader to differentiate it from being physically dirtied. The T/NIV also chose to clarify this in using “ceremonial uncleanness.” But if one likes more clarity with the additional words, one must give up some literalness. In this passage, the NASB is most literal, and the NRSV is more dynamic, and the ESV is in-between.

John 18:36

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.”

In v.36, I prefer the NASB and ESV usage of “of this world.” The usage of “from this world” in the NRSV conjures the image that Jesus’ kingdom was completely from another entity world, as if it was from outer space or another planet. I do not believe that the kingdom of God is so completely separate from our immediate world because the kingdom of God is here on this earth today, but it is not of the same essence or form. The rendering of “of this world” still implies that the kingdom of God is here on earth but leaves room for an understanding that it is not in the world’s physical realm or form, or under our political governance and control. The T/NIV and HCSB also uses “of this world.” In v.36b, when Jesus repeats where his kingdom is from, he actually says in the Greek “My kingdom is not from here.” The NASB came closest to word-for-word literalness saying: “is not of this realm.” The HCSB comes closer in saying: “My kingdom does not have its origin here.”

John 18:37

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”

v. 37: For the sake of interpretive clarity, all three translations—NASB, ESV and NRSV—inserted a word or two into the passage that is not in the Greek. The ESV added “purpose”. The NRSV added “belongs to.” The NASB added “correctly.” The NET bible follows the ESV and NRSV in adding a few words for clarity:

“…For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world – to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

How does one define accuracy? Accuracy should never be used to describe a bible translation. If one defines accuracy by factoring in clarity, then the NRSV or ESV is most accurate. However, if one defines accuracy by the factor of word-for-word literalness, then the NASB is most accurate. Accuracy is subjective and determined by how you define it so we should not speak of accuracy when describing certain bible translations.

For my purpose of selecting the most formal equivalent (literal) translation based on this passage, the NASB wins this round.