Happy Gaudete Sunday! As I continue the weekly comparison series between the ESV-CE and the NRSV, I’ve chosen the second reading from 1 Thessalonians:
Sunday, December 13th, 2020 — Third Sunday of Advent (Year B)
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
4 thoughts on “ESV-CE vs. NRSV: 3rd Sunday of Advent”
I do prefer “He who calls you” (ESV) over “The one who calls you” (NRSV), but that’s pretty minor.
Setting aside inclusive language, most of the passages in this series have been pretty similar, which might explain why there hasn’t been that much commentary on the texts themselves, and why we (myself most definitely included!) get off on tangents.
I did notice that the ESV adds “Now” to verse 23:
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely” (ESV)
“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely” (NRSV)
The “now” is not in the RSV or RSV-2CE. I’m guessing the ESV added it because there’s a similar word in the Greek? Dunno. Anyways I like it – it adds a sense of immediacy to it. Don’t delay, let God sanctify NOW.
The ESV also adds “whole” to “may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless”. Again “whole” is not in the RSV or RSV-2CE.
I like them both, but I do slightly prefer the ESV.
There is literally no need for gender neutral language on this one, the ‘he’ in this passage is clearly Christ, a man, referenced in the previous verse. This is sheer silliness. It is one thing to use gender neutral language when the language is clearly intended generically, but to insist on gender neutral language when referring to a specific individual whose gender is known is just dumb.
But I think that what I am learning from these comparisons is just how little the ESV and NRSV changed the RSV. Without the silly and unnecessary gender neutral language in the NRSV, I might have difficulty telling these passages apart.
I think your sensitivity to gender neutrality regarding “one” versus “he” in verse 24 is misplaced. This is not an attempt to expand the gender being addressed but simply a translation preference. Go to https://classic.biblegateway.com/verse/en/1%20Thessalonians%205:24 to see how many translations approach this verse.
I understand that gender inclusive language does not feel comfortable to the ear of many of us who have read more traditional translations. If this discomfort is a problem we must desensitize our ears otherwise we will exclude excellent translations from our reading list.
I would recommend this exercise. Go to Bible Gateway the classic edition and do a word study (https://classic.biblegateway.com/keyword/). In this study search on the words “brother sister” and search in three Bible Versions (ESV, NRSV and RSV) and limit your search to “Matthew to Revelation” In general, you will see that the RSV rarely uses “brothers” as it uses the archaic plural form for “brothers” which is “brethren.” Further, in the RSV/ESV the only time sister is used is in the context of a familial relationship. In the NRSV sister is also used when the speaker is addressing a group of people. Most importantly, when you see “brothers and sisters” in the NRSV compare the verse in the ESV/RSV and determine if the meaning of the verse was changed in any way. I went through about half of the New Testament and found no detectable change in meaning. I stopped because I got bored. I believe that if anyone does this they will desensitize their dislike of a translation that properly implements gender neutrality. I probably should have jumped to Revelation because of its complexity.
The above exercise may sound facetious but it is not intended to be so. I believe the gender issue in translation, in a properly done translation, is criticized way out of proportion to its true impact. Please do not lump Bibles that use “sisters” with Bibles that call God “she” or remove all gender from “God.” I think that is a totally different discussion.
In practice, I don’t think it is quite as easy to distinguish horizontal (‘brothers and sisters’) inclusive language from vertical ( ‘goddess’) as it is in theory. Often, horizontal inclusive language implies vertical inclusive language, even when the translator doesn’t intend it.
Also, I think even horizontal inclusive language distorts the historical and cultural situation of the world of the Bible, it creates the impression that Jewish and Roman societies were modern, egalitarian. feminist societies much like our own. They were not, they explicitly patriarchal and even (by our standards) misogynistic societies, When it uses masculine language, it probably is, at least some of the time, intended to explicitly exclude women. We should not whitewash this just because we find it uncomfortable. Part of what it means to be an accurate translation is to accurately reflect the cultural situation of the Bible, and it was patriarchal, not egalitarian.
Take, for example, Paul’s epistles. It is common these days to change the address ‘brothers and sisters’, under the assumption that Paul was addressing both men and women. But is this really true? Some of the time, it undoubtedly is true. But when you get to the parts about things like the requirements to be a bishop, is this advice really intended for women? I doubt it. Keep in mind, Paul is the one who said that women should ‘keep silent’ In church. He was not a modern egalitarian by any means, before the 1960s, pretty much nobody was.