Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The World's Favorite Bible Verse (ESV)

Trinity IV is nigh upon us and with it the world's favorite Bible verse: Judge not, and you will not be judged.

Of course, Jesus has more to say - the log should come out and the sawdust, too. The "judge not" business is a statement of how the world works: judge and condemn not, and forgive, and men will do likewise for you. There is, after all, honor among thieves and an agreement between pot and kettle not to mention the word "black." But there's more: can the blind lead the blind. . .

All that is a commonplace in our preaching on this text - I bring it up only because those using the ESV will encounter a most puzzling mistranslation this week. To wit:

Luke 6:38 (ESV) give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."

Luke 6:38 (KJV) Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Luke 6:38 δίδοτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: μέτρον καλὸν πεπιεσμένον σεσαλευμένον ὑπερεκχυννόμενον δώσουσιν εἰς τὸν κόλπον ὑμῶν: ᾧ γὰρ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε ἀντιμετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν.

Usually I find the ESV a very faithful and straightforward translation - I'm excited to get the Lutheran Study Bible (will it be called LSB II: Son of LSB?) which will use this translation. But every translation drops the ball now and again - and the ESV certainly does here. The KJV's addition of "men" in v. 38 is a very good way to make things explicit.



  1. The ESV has it right, as do all other modern English verions which I have checked. The KJV uses an inferior Greek text for Luke 6:38. Other modern versions, including the NKJV, leave out "man" because there is no word for "man" in the original Greek.

  2. Wayne,

    As you can see in the original post, NA26 and NA27 both have dwsousin (they will give) not "it shall be given" in the second part of the verse. I looked at NA27 before I posted and I didn't see any significant variant here either(I don't have a copy of NA28. . .) so this is not an issue of the Majority text used by the KJV having a different reading.

    That's the key point I was making. As I noted, the KJV added the word "man" to make clear that the implied antecedent of "they will give" is men, unlike the ESV's impersonal, singular passive construction which sounds like the Divine passive.

    Among modern versions, the NASB, BWE, and AB get it correct.


  3. In other words, ". . . shall men give into your bosom," notwithstanding the fact that "men" does not appear in the original, is the best translation. It makes it clear that Jesus did not intend to say that the return for giving to others will come to you from God, as is (improperly) implied by the ESV with its passive voice.

    Chalk one up for the good guys . . .

    (although I admit that ESV is normally quite good as well)

  4. I doubt that this is the "world's favorite" Bible verse. I think John 3:16 still holds sway. This is certainly a favorite among the stewardship crowd, however.

    Your text and translation observation appears to be quite correct. The ESV follows the RSV along with the NIV. The NASB gets it literally correct; the KJV adds "men" to clarify the ambiguity. It is an awkward construction in Greek, though there are no apparent text variants.

    Good eye and great observation!

  5. If you are still commenting on this post could you help me out here. I'd like to agree that "the 'judge not' business is a statement of how the world works." Therefore, the line about the measure is the world's way of doing things not God's. However, to me that's a bit of a jump from our Lord's words in verses 32-36.

    Besides the implied antecedent of "they will" is there any other clues that would lead us to understand that Jesus has the world in mind here?

    I found this line from Luther's sermon to be helpful. "But it so happens that you will not discover the beam in your own eye, if you behold continually the sins of others, and thus fall under the judment of God." Could we understand, "For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" along the same lines?

    Also in the NIGTC Marshall, claims that "the third person plural δώσουσιν is a rabbinic perphrasis for the name of God." That seems a bit of a jump, too. What do you think?

    Rev. Micah Gaunt


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