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Number one is more or less the inverse of the KJV, where one Greek word was translated by many different English words. This has lead to many curious misunderstandings.

Here is one puzzle which perhaps you could comment on. In the Vulgate, dunamis was translated consistently into Latin as virtus, and this has come into English diversely has `virtue` or `power.`

Exousia was translated consistently into Latin as potestas, and this has come diversely into English as `power` or `authority.

The ESV now uses a concordant method whereby dunamis is power, and exousia is authority.

But, in fact, the creeds were written in Latin. Since Jerome was fairly concordant, potestas was used for authority, and the Latin creeds declared Christ to be equal in potestas (authority) and gloria to God the Father.

The presidents of ETS agree with the doctrinal statement that Christ is equal to God the Father in potestas, now translated into English as `power` but also state that God is sovereign over Christ in authority. Christ is NOT equal to God the Father in authority.

I have never seen anyone comment on this linghistic permutation. Is it possible for Christ to be equal to God in power, and unequal to God in authority?

Is concordance really doing us much good if we don`t know the history of interpretation. My assumption is that concordance has a limited use given the many pitfalls in the history of language.


Hi Sue,

No, I don't think the KJV can be described as less concordant than RSV=ESV. That seems to be what you are suggesting. Is there a study to that effect?

I've spent some time with all three translations over the years: KJV, RSV, and ESV. All three, as one would expect given that they are relatively literal, relatively formal translations, are also relative more concordant than e.g. NRSV, REB, NAB, NJB, and (T)NIV.

ESV is a bit more concordant than RSV. I've never looked at the example you speak of. Does the concordance ESV introduces in this instance result in wooden English? Is it disrespectful of nuances in the source texts? If not, it might very well be considered an improvement.

As far as the theological issue of which you speak, I imagine you are familiar with the remarks of John Stackhouse on the topic. Here's the link:

Surely Stackhouse is right that the classical doctrine of the Trinity - in particular, the Father / Son relationship - is not a particularly helpful analogy on which to "grow" either an egalitarian or a complementarian view of marriage. Egalitarians / complementarians who try to argue on the basis of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity that complementarianism / egalitarianism is unbiblical make, it seems to me, appalling category mistakes along the way.

Ephesians 5 references other relationships and makes use of other analogies and metaphors in order to ground gender-specific advice. It makes sense to make that stock of language as a starting point within a contextual understanding of the entire NT witness. A non-egalitarian, Sarah Sumner, has done excellent exegetical work in this sense.

Back to KJV. KJV *is* less concordant than some people back in the day wanted it to be.

But that doesn't make it less concordant than RSV or ESV, though it undoubtedly is in a percentage of instances. As far as I can see, you are failing to contextualize properly statements in KJV's preface.


There are a few examples that I can think of. The KJV varies between authority and power for exousia, it varies between sons and children for huios, between submit and obey for hupotasso, between propitiation and mercy seat for ilasmos. There are just the ones that come to mind.

It is my impression that the ERV in the 19th century, the RSV and the ESV are all in the direction of becoming more concordant. But I would be quite interested if you can demonstrate otherwise to me. This is my reading of the discussion surrounding each of these translations.

Regarding power and authority, I am willing to leave the gender debate aside and simply ask what you think of affirming the doctrinal statement of ETS and yet denying that Christ has equal authority to God.

Westminster COnfession

"In the unity of the Godhead head there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God Son, and God the Holy Ghost."

"In Deitatis unitate personæ tres sunt unius ejusdemque essentiæ, potential ac æternitatis; Deus Pater, Deus Filius, ac Deus Spiritus Sanctus."


`God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."

Bruce Ware,

`The Father then is the Sovereign Ruler over heaven and earth, controlling even the very names that every creature is given. From this position of sovereign supremacy, it is the Father who has the authority to grant this prayer's fulfillment, and so ultimately all glory and thanksgiving must go to him.`

Ware argues on page 46 of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that the Father has supreme authority over the Son.

What I am wondering is whether Augstine also wrote that Christ was equal in authority, when he wrote,

"For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of power or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father, but in virtue of the Son being from the Father, not the Father being from the Son.”*

non secundum imparem potestatem uel substantiam uel aliquid quod in eo patri non sit aequale missus est, sed secundum id quod filius a patre est, non pater a filio."

What are your thoughts on this? The only way that I have heard complementarians defend this divergent view, is that they claim "power" and "authority" are two different things. But if both are derived from potestas/potentia, and ultimately from exousia, how is this done?


I thought it was common knowledge that the degree of concordance in the classical translations is relatively pronounced. The examples you cite are not typical.

That is the case of KJV, but also, of its sister translations, like that of Zurich and that of Diodati (Luther not so much). It is in fact a commonplace that the classical translations in general, not just the Vulgate, are more concordant than most 20th century translations, the RSV included.

If that is the common understanding, and I think it is, it is up to you to do the hard work of proving it inaccurate, if to do so is important to your line of argument.

I take it from your comments that Mounce's exposition of the translation goals of a formal translation like ESV does not interest you. Why, then, are you commenting here?

You do have a bone to pick with Bruce Ware. He is not an author I have read except cursorily. If you have questions about how best to interpret his line of argument, you would do better to go elsewhere.

I would point you once again to Stackhouse's strictures. It follows from them that egalitarian and complementarian appeals to a distinction, or lack of a distinction, between "power" and "authority" in terms of the Father-Son relationship in the Trinity, for the purposes of showing up opponents, are misguided.

The whole polemical exercise, on both sides, is not worth spending time with. The kind of apologetics one finds among CBMW *and* CBE enthusiasts is instrumental, not substantive. Both sides tend to manipulate the evidence.

If the reason you chose to comment on this thread was for the purpose of taking Ware to task, I suggest you take your polemics elsewhere, on some CBMW or CBE affiliated blog, where you will find polarized debate of the kind you seem to want to provoke.


Actually, I commented here because you at least must know Latin. I find this curious and unexplained.

I don't think Stackhouse has an interest in the Latin creeds but I thought you might. Sorry I missed on that one. You are the one, afterall, who recommended to me Augustine in Latin. I took up your advice. You recommended the Vulgate, and as you know I now have it. Did you not expect me to use it? But now there is no one to talk about the Latin with?

On the KJV, I am certainly not aware of your "common understandings" of Bible translation. I do know that many call the KJV literal or word for word, but I don't recall anyone representing it as an example of concordance. That was really the push of the 19th century, of the ERV, of Rotherham, of Julia Smith, and so on. This came two and half centuries after the KJV. Quite a different approach to translation.

Of course, the Buber Rosenzweig went even further.

I am not trying to disagree with Mounce. I am responding to the question you posted,

"How do the translation procedures of ESV outlined by Mounce differ from those followed elsewhere in the Tyndale – Geneva – KJV – RSV - ESV tradition?"

That's my answer. The ESV gives greater attention to concordance, for better or worse but it is a shift. Of course, the Bibles mentioned are among my favourite - I am not saying that I dislike concordance. I really dislike the diddling of Junia in the ESV the most and that is lack of word for word translating.

You end your posts with truly provocative questions, and then you don't like it when I respond. They seem to invite response. It is an topic that I blogged about. It triggered some thoughts.

The topic about how atheists describe their love of children is so central to my everyday work that it was hard to not respond to that also.


If that is the common understanding, and I think it is, it is up to you to do the hard work of proving it inaccurate, if to do so is important to your line of argument.

It is not important to any line of argument. It is simply of aesthetic interest.


I'm certainly glad you are enjoying your Vulgate. Augustine's Confessions in Latin, of course, are marvelous. I posted on Praying the Psalms with Augustine here:

But you have an unusual concept of the history of translation of the Bible. I appreciate your attempt not to disagree with the NT chair of the ESV translation. But that is what you do nonetheless.

That's because literal word-for-word translations are by definition concordant, even if they do not go to the extremes of the Rotherham Bible, or of Aquila earlier. It is this point, which Mounce makes and I repeat, that you continue to overlook.

In terms of translation technique, ESV belongs together with RSV and the larger Tyndale-KJV tradition. One hour working through one of the gospels or the Psalms proves this immediately. That you would mention Buber-Rosenzweig in this context is particularly misleading.

ESV, RSV, and KJV are three peas in a pod over against Buber-Rosenzweig, a very different beast.

The translation procedures of ESV outlined by Mounce are not substantially different from those that were followed elsewhere in the Tyndale – Geneva – KJV – RSV - ESV tradition. This is a modest statement, not a provocative one.

So much so that is ESV, not NRSV, that more adequately continues the KJV tradition. No wonder the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft is publishing a bilingual edition in which ESV will appear alongside of the 1984 revision of Luther’s classic translation.

The choice is understandable. The ESV, not the NRSV, is the English equivalent of the 1984 revision of the Lutherbibel.

For further thoughts on why ESV, not the NRSV, is a more adequate representative of Tyndale-Geneva-KJV tradition, go here:

ESV is an improvable translation. I have suggested ways in which it might be improved often enough on this blog. An ETS member, Mark Strauss, took the time to offer a host of constructive criticisms. I concur with the bulk of those suggestions.

But your approach is different. You do not note strengths and weaknesses. So far as I can see, you are simply looking for hooks on which to hang anti-ESV arguments.

That's your prerogative, but your method is annoying on a thread like this one, which was meant to have a different focus.


You are familiar with the KJV preface,


Another things we think good to admonish thee of (gentle Reader) that we have not tied ourselves to an uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done, because they observe, that some learned men somewhere, have been as exact as they could that way. Truly, that we might not vary from the sense of that which we had translated before, if the word signified that same in both places (for there be some words that be not the same sense everywhere) we were especially careful, and made a conscience, according to our duty. But, that we should express the same notion in the same particular word; as for example, if we translate the Hebrew or Greek word once by PURPOSE, never to call it INTENT; if one where JOURNEYING, never TRAVELING; if one where THINK, never SUPPOSE; if one where PAIN, never ACHE; if one where JOY, never GLADNESS, etc. Thus to mince the matter, we thought to savour more of curiosity than wisdom, and that rather it would breed scorn in the Atheist, than bring profit to the godly Reader. For is the kingdom of God to become words or syllables? why should we be in bondage to them if we may be free, use one precisely when we may use another no less fit, as commodiously?

It declares a contrasting view from the ESV. And no it is not my purpose to critique concordance, but simply a response to your question. I think the ESV differs from the KJV in this feature, according to the preface of each. Here is the ESV preface,

Every translation is at many points a trade-off between literal precision and readability, between “formal equivalence” in expression and “functional equivalence” in communication, and the ESV is no exception. Within this framework we have sought to be “as literal as possible” while maintaining clarity of expression and literary excellence. Therefore, to the extent that plain English permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original; and, as far as grammar and syntax allow, we have rendered Old Testament passages cited in the New in ways that show their correspondence. Thus in each of these areas, as well as throughout the Bible as a whole, we have sought to capture the echoes and overtones of meaning that are so abundantly present in the original texts.

Of course, you may say that the stated intention of the translators is insignificant, but I thought that this is what your post was addressing.


Well, I can try once more.

It is a mistake of the first order to read the KJV preface as if it "declares a contrasting from the ESV." The KJV preface stakes out a position within a debate of its time period, not within a debate of the 20th century. You are engaging in creative anachronism.

Once the words of the KJV and ESV prefaces are properly contextualized, and once the stated goals of the KJV and ESV translation teams are compared with their results, it becomes clear that the usual understanding of the matter, that ESV belongs together with KJV and RSV on any chart of translation families, not with hyper-concordant translations like the Rotherham Bible, is a modest and unexceptionable statement.

Your claim that it is a provocative one is unfounded.


I don't disagree that they share family characteristics. I simply point out some differences. (I don't disagree with Mounce who says nothing about the KJV.) While the ESV is of the same family as the KJV, is less euphonic in many places, more concordant in some places, and more interpretive in a few places. It is just a comment on the features you present.


Fair enough.

Mounce however says plenty about the KJV, even though he does not mention it by name, because for him KJV is, like ESV, an example of a formal translation, and because, as he takes for granted, since it is not disputed, KJV, RSV, and ESV are part of the same family of translations, indeed, part of the same tradition of translation.

KJV is the result of the application of procedures 1-6, even if, given the terms of the debate at the time, the KJV preface frames things differently.


Its all a matter of degree and whether one wants to be a lumper or a splitter. But since you asked the question, the differences did pop into my mind. Nest time, I shall try to understand the part where you ask a question as a rhetorical flourish.

Funny on the Latin, no one yet will explain to me how Christ is equal in power and unequal in authority to God.

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    a blog written by three Catholic Ph.D.s who are professors of Scripture and Theology: Michael Barber, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma
  • The Talmud Blog
    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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