Did the Translators Slightly Alter the ESV?

May 23, 2014 at 6:22 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 1 Comment

I was asked this question in the past, and didn’t know the answer at the time.  I’ve since discovered the answer.  Here’s the note I sent to the original questioner:

You asked me once if the original ESV had been slightly altered at some point in time, and though I wasn’t sure, I thought I’d seen something different in my first edition from what I read in a later edition.
Last week I was preaching through Jesus’ baptism in Mark 1.  My first edition ESV, which I keep on my desk said, “he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending . . .”  As I did a word study on “opened” I was surprised that the ESV translated it the way they did, since it is a stronger word than what Stephen saw in Acts 7 and what John saw in Revelation.  The NIV says “he saw heaven being torn open . . .”  (HCSB is the same; NET says “splitting apart”)  But when I switched to my ESV preaching Bible and was reviewing my sermon, I noticed it said, “the heavens being torn open.”  So yes, they have made a few changes from the first edition.  This was definitely a good one.
Just for curiosity sake, I looked it up a little history:
The ASV (1901) translated it “rent asunder.”
The NASB (1995) which came from the ASV surprisingly softened it to “opening.”
The RSV (1946) which also came from the ASV softened it even more to “opened.”
The NRSV (1989), which came from the RSV returned to “torn apart.”
The ESV also came from the RSV, and though they kept the RSV wording in the first edition, they changed it for later versions.
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  1. Also, see Mark 5:5. The demoniac was “crying out and bruising himself with stones.” So says the first edition ESV, but the later editions say “crying out and cutting himself with stones.” The first edition is in line with the RSV from which the ESV came, though the ASV before it used “cutting.” This change is more in line with other modern major translations which use the words “gashing” (NASB), “cut” (NIV, NET, NEB), and “cutting” (HCSB)


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