Monday, November 27, 2023

Details Matter

Recently I was reading a blog post in which the author took the ESV to task. He argued that the ESV is both excellent and terrible. In my opinion, the word "terrible" is a bit uncharitable. Does the ESV occasionally mistranslate something? Yes, but so do all translations. This morning I was memorizing the passage my Greek students are translating for today's class. It's 1 John 2:1-6. They'll have a quiz over this passage today and I know that many of them will be consulting the ESV during their preparation. 

Notice that there are two different constructions at the beginning of verse 4 and verse 5. 

Verse 4 starts out with "The one who says ...." But verse 5 begins with the words "But whoever...." Interestingly -- and for reasons I can't explain  -- the ESV renders verse 4 as "Whoever says ...." It's anyone's guess as to why they did this. They do the same thing in verse 6: "Whoever says ...." Here, too, the Greek has "The one who says ...." Here I'd much rather have my students follow the CSB than the ESV:

Verse 4: "The one who says ...."

Verse 5: "But whoever ...."

Verse 6: "The one who says ...." 

Is this a huge deal? No. But details matter. And this is yet another reason to compare as many English translations as you can when translating a passage from the Bible.