Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Analyzing Six Bible Translations: Part 4-Ephesians 2:3


Ephesians 2:3
Ephesians 2:3 in Sinaiticus (ca. 4th century)
ESV among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
NIV84  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
NIV All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.


HCSB  We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.
NASB  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
NET  among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…

Check a: “thoughts” versus “mind”
The text says that previously we were indulging/doing the desires of the flesh and of the dianoi┼Źn. The Greek word refers to “the faculty of thinking, understanding, and comprehending” (BDAG). While many translations go with “mind” (ESV, NASB, NET), the word is actually plural and the translation “thoughts” (NIV, NIV84, HCSB) captures the meaning of the Greek and the plural form of the Greek word better.

Check b: children of wrath
The phrase “children of wrath” probably means people destined for God’s wrath. The reason this understanding is preferred is that the same phrase is used in Eph. 5:6 with the meaning “destined for God’s wrath,” and it is used in combination with “sons of disobedience,” which was used in Eph 2:2. This phrase, a Semitism, is ambiguous, so ideally the translation could supply a footnote to another possible meaning: people characterized by wrath. The ESV, NASB, and NET are ambiguous because they retain the Semitism. The HCSB keeps the Semitism but adds “under,” probably as an attempt to clarify the meaning, but it is still ambiguous. The NIV84 does the best job of clarifying the phrase. The NIV has “deserving of wrath.” It seems that what they are trying to say here is that since we deserve wrath, it was “going to be” our destiny, until the “but God.”

Check c: the structure
These first three verses are awkwardly tied to the following seven. This awkwardness only comes out in the NET. The awkwardness exists because, in the Greek, Paul hasn’t given the subject or main verb yet. Verse 1 was the object (in the accusative case) of a subject (introduced in verse 4) and verb (introduced in verse 5). Verses 2 and 3 were relative clauses, subordinate to the object clause in verse 1. Now, awkward doesn’t mean wrong and incorrect. In fact, the way Paul worded this has great rhetorical impact. But the grammar is awkward. The NET Bible footnote says this: “The syntax in Greek for vv. 1–3 constitutes one incomplete sentence, though it seems to have been done intentionally. The dangling participle leaves the readers in suspense while they wait for the solution (in v. 4) to their spiritual dilemma.” The repetition of the opening phrase in verse 5 confirms this. You don’t get this sense from any of the translations except the NET.

Check d: “flesh”
There has been much controversy over the NIV84’s translation of sarx. Their translation of “sinful nature” was rightly critiqued. Most translations went with “flesh,” including the NIV (the ESV’s “body” is fine). The translators of the NIV corrected this but they also included in a footnote the following: “In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.” Putting that interpretation into the footnote is a great way of suggesting their reading without forcing it upon their readers.


1-2
3a
3b
3c
3d
sub-total
ESV
5
0
0
0
1
6
NIV84
6
1
1
0
-1
7
NIV
6
1
1
0
1
9
HCSB
6
1
0
0
1
8
NASB
6
0
0
0
1
7
NET
3
0
0
1
1
5

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