ESV 2011 revision update

November 4, 2011

Not long ago I posted a note regarding a possible update to the ESV. Turns out that is has already been done “silently.” Now, somewhat after the fact, Crossway has finally announced what’s involved.

As the publisher of the ESV, I want to let you know that a small number of word changes are being incorporated into the ESV Bible text, as we reprint and publish new editions of the ESV in 2011.

This list of 2011 changes was reviewed and discussed over the last five years by the thirteen-member ESV Translation Oversight Committee (TOC). The TOC then met in the Summer of 2010, and finalized the list in the Spring of 2011. The changes were then approved by the Crossway Board of Directors in April 2011. Editions of the ESV with the 2011 text changes include the following notice on the copyright page: “ESV Text Edition: 2011.”

Most changes to the ESV text were made to correct grammar, improve consistency, or increase precision in meaning.

They provide a few examples of the changes:

from “yourself” to “you”; from “servant” to “worker”; from “has not” to “does not have”; from “young man” to “boy”; from “capital” to “citadel”; from “bondage” to “slavery”; from “nor” to “or”; from “trustworthy” to “faithful”; from “competent” to “sufficient”; from “everyone” to “each one”

There is a link to a complete list of changes. Unfortunately it is in a protected Flash container of some sort so that it cannot be copied and can only be printed in a very low/poor/fuzzy resolution, one-page-at-a-time ordeal. 27 pgs altogether.

As a sample, there are 6 changes in Mark, ranging from the pedantic to very helpful.

I would judge the change in Mark 4:3 to be pedantic, resulting in clumsy English. The previous (2d) edition read:

“Listen! A sower went out to sow.”

This is the same as, e.g., NIV, NET, HCSB, and NRSV. But since “Listen!” represents two words in Greek (Ἀκούετε. ἰδού…), we now have a more formal, but awkward:

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.”

Other than keeping some ESVO advocates happy by “not omitting any words” from the text (!), it accomplishes little other than lessening the naturalness of the English a bit further.

On the other hand Mark 16:1 has been improved considerably, though the change is only punctuation; it avoids a misunderstanding of the text:

2d ed.:

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

3d ed.:

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

Mark 7:3 adds a word to the text—one that is very much a functional equivalent:

2d ed.:

For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders…

3d ed.:

For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders…

“Properly” is presumably an attempt to represent πυγμῇ—a word omitted in earlier editions, though with a f.n., “Greek unless they wash with a fist, probably indicating a kind of ceremonial washing.” The former note was, indeed, a formal equivalent (an “essentially literal” translation, if you will ;) ), but to translate πυγμῇ as “properly,” while not a bad choice, is certainly a very functional equivalent.

In 8:24 we have an increase in gender neutral language:

2d ed.:

And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.”

3d ed.:

And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

A good change since the man’s blindness would not have enabled him to distinguish men from women before his healing.

The remaining two changes are unremarkable: 3:18; 5:13.