For Starters…I am a fan of both Translations. I have been using the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for quite sometime now. Then with the introduction of the English Standard Version (ESV), I was very intrigued and began to see a lot of other people begin to make the switch. I think for some good reasons…It tends to be a a little more readable than the NASB, while still being a word for word translation, as opposed to a thought for thought (NIV) or paraphrase (The Message). Now…I’m not one of those guys who says…you are of the devil if you use the NIV or The Message…I think they still have some value. NIV is great for getting the gist of a passage and The Message is almost like a commentary, which is what I use it for sometimes…but yes..we still need to be discerning.
Discernment is of utmost importance when it comes to any area of Christianity. There are teachers who are famous in some circles and have a mass of followers…who would have been burned alive 200 years ago if they were teaching the same thing as they are now…but that is another conversation.
I have had a problem with the ESV lately. Mainly this. Look at your Bible. Whatever translation you have go grab it and I’ll post the verses here for you as well.
Look at Genesis 17. A very important chapter in the book, as this is the beginning of circumcision and some other details for the Abrahamic Covenant, that are mentioned earlier in the book. Look at verses 1 – 2. I’ll put it here first in the NASB, then ESV and a few others for you.
17:1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. 2”I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.”(NASB)
17: 1When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,
2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” (ESV)
17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” (NIV)
17: 1-2 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God showed up and said to him, “I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family.” (THE MESSAGE)
17: 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” (TNIV)
Go back and read those passage and notice what has been put in bold and see the differences between the verses.
I really want to draw your attention to the first two verses that were posted and the difference between the NASB and the ESV rendering of that verse.
The NASB says…that God told Abraham to be blameless. Verse 2 then says “I WILL”. Meaning plainly, that God is going to establish His covenant with Abraham. Not a lot of fancy interpretation is needed.
Now..the ESV says in verse 1 the same, a call for Abraham to be blameless. Verse 2, however picks up with a clausal phrase, “that I may.” Very different from the NASB. This rendering brings a totally different meaning to the passage.
The ESV is saying, that God is telling Abraham to live his life a certain way and He has to do it, so God can establish His covenant with Abraham (The Abrahamic Covenant, which consists of Land (Promised Land), Seed (Isaac, eventually Christ), Blessing (Be a blessing to the Nations by Christ, and he will be blessed). By the ESV putting a clausal phrase on the verse, they allowed for some implications. Specifically for a bent towards a certain Theology.
Reformed Theology has many facets to it. I love reformed Theology, I love the Doctrines of Grace…but, I have some issues with Covenant Theology. If you want to know more about Covenant Theology go to monergism.com and begin a search. I don’t have the time to get into it or Dispensational Theology. Basically, Covenant Theology will say that all of the promises to Israel and all of their blessings have been Transferred over to the Church and they are no longer for Israel but the Church. Dispensational Theology says that is not true. Now why is this important you might be thinking??? Well..
Typically reformed theology folks will have a bent towards covenant theology. And I have heard and seen that most of the guys who helped translate the ESV are…reformed.
So as I read the rendering of Genesis 17 in the ESV, I am a little surprised. Because it is an overwhelming difference than that of the NASB…they (ESV translators) have put their theology/belief system/hermeneutic into their translation of that passage.
Which may not seem like a big deal…but as I sat in a bible study that discussed whether or not the Abrhamic Covenant is conditional (able to be broken) or unconditional (nothing can change it)…a lot of the argument came out of this passage…translated by the ESV. And people will point to this passage saying that since Abraham didn’t walk blamelessly before God, these promises to him and the nation of Israel have been transferred to the bride of Christ, the Church. I believe…that is not true, the Church has been grafted into the promise and has been adopted as sons and brought near to the covenants of the promise by the blood of Chirst, and we are going to make the Jews jealous and they will eventually turn their affections to the one whom they piereced (summary of the end times).
God makes a promise and He doesn’t break it. Ever. The Abrahamic Covenant is of utmost importance in the Bible, it is the main covenant and all of the other covenants are just falling under this one! If the Abrahamic Covenant falls down, they all do. I have heard it be described as the lynch pin for the Old Testament.
I would say that, verse one of Genesis 17 is an exhortation to Abraham to ‘be holy, to live right, to be blameless, to begin to walk as one who is following the one true God..YAHWEH.’ Then verse two follows with God saying, “I am going to keep my promise!” Because back when God made the covenant with Abraham, God put him to sleep and walked through the torn pieces of an animal, a symbol of a covenant of blood. Normally both parties in the agreement would walk through it together, to share the responsibility, but God…walked it by Himself. Declaring that it is He who is upholding this promise/arrangement and now one else. And if the Covenant was up the Abrahams (or our) ability to live a good life that would leave room for bragging or holding hands with God and being able to say, “Look what we did!!” When the reality is…Look what God did.
So all of that to say, that we must always be careful when we are reading and teaching scripture. And to not ever have an agenda. I pray that was not their motive in how they translated this passage, but that they honestly thought that is what the original text looked like. We must never begin to read our beliefs into Scripture, but always let Scripture mold and break what we believe. Even if we don’t like what we see. Let Scripture speak.
I am a little disappointed with the ESV. What do you think????