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The promises ARE Yes in Him

What's with the ESV and RSV translation of 2 Corinthians 1:20?

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

There's no 'find' in the Greek.  There's no verb at all.  It's just an identity: the promises of God = Yes in Christ.  If you're going to supply a verb, supply "are" - the promises are Yes in Jesus.  This is how all the other versions translate it.

So why insert 'find'?  Is there behind this a biblical theology that posits promises which are first directed towards land and progeny and blessing but then, unexpectedly, come to be about Christ?  You know the kind of thing: Along a hard, meandering road where no-one sees the end, eventually and surprisingly they hit Destination Jesus.  "Oh gosh the promises have found fulfilment in Jesus of all things!"

Isn't it a much more straight-forward point that Paul is making: "Every promise has always (cf v19) simply been Yes in Christ."  Of course promises have included land and progeny and blessing etc, but such promises have always had the same Guarantor - the Messiah!


UPDATE: One mission-minded pastor's decision to abandon the ESV.


0 thoughts on “The promises ARE Yes in Him

  1. Rich Owen

    I agree. It is a real shame, cause the ESV is such a fine translation. You win some, you lose some.

    Look at me commenting on translation issues... what have i become :-P

  2. Si Hollett

    Odd how the 'dynamic' NIV gets the words right, but the 'literal' ESV adds words in this verse.

    It's interesting to see spectrums - there's a group of people that have an unspoken ESV-NIV spectrum, but my church has a spoken NIV-NLT spectrum (it still sounds weird to hear the NIV considered at the literal end of things). Bibles are recommended as being NIV if you want literalness, or NLT if you want readability and King James if you want to live in the past and not understand it. I normally use a more literal bible than the NIV, either ESV or HCSB (which, at about halfway between the NIV and ESV has both the literalness of the ESV, the readability of the NIV, but also some of the bad things of both, plus the normal imperfections of any translation. It also is badly formatted, which isn't helpful for reading, but Bible Gateway gets rid of that).

    I agree about the ESV being not very good for church use - it's a bit clunky and the high-level of vocab needed isn't helpful. The posters around London that have quotes from the KJV make me cringe - adding an extra barrier of 400 year old language structure/vocab isn't good.

  3. pgjackson

    I like the ESV but I have very little time for the translation wars. This is a blunder on their part though, I must admit. Not sure how 'find' really helps things, and it is open to the confusion you cite here Glen.

  4. Heather

    My husband got an ESV on recommendation from a friend. He likes it and he doesn't. I don't like it but then I've read from the same Bible for nearly 15 years and don't take to change easily.

    It is sad that with the ready availability of so many good English translations, people (not you all) will fight over which one is superior--or even condemn as evil the ones which have a less than satisfactory reading of a few verses. If a person is hanging his entire theology on one or two selected verses, perhaps there is a greater issue at stake than whether his translation is "the" best one?

    Jesus did reveal the point of all Scripture in John 5:39. And He said it to people who had ready access to the "original texts". And Jesus told Peter he was blessed because the Father, not "flesh and blood", had revealed to him Christ's true identity. It seems as though there is a very fine line between genuine concern about accurately relaying Truth and flat out idolizing of paper, ink and human reason. Again, not thinking of anyone here so much as my own past meanderings into the translation mine field.

    There truly are some terrible "translations" that ought to be burned. Perhaps they were developed as a result of the desire to create a more sin friendly/deity of Christ minimizing product so certain cross-sections of culture can claim to be Bible-believing Christians without actually having to be convicted of being sinners in need of repentance? That doesn't seem to be the case with ESV.

    A Koine studying e-friend passed me an interesting link on translations. Don't know that anyone is interested but I'll plunk it down here just in case.

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