Why be reasonable, when you can be gentle?
So yesterday I got in line with a host of other Christian bloggers and bought myself an ESV (English Standard Version) Bible
(ESV Home Page). Last night I sat down and looked up a bunch of familiar passages and was very pleased. I'm really excited about reading the Word in this translation. The first thing you notice is its flow. I trust also that it is a quite accurate translation, but I did run into one little glitch. Now, I'm in no position to kvetch over translation accuracy, but the ESV rendering of Philippians 4:5 seemed to strike a slightly discordant note. Let me explain.
Here are a few other versions of the same passage.
NIV: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
NASB: Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
NKJV: Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
The word translated "gentleness" (or "gentle spirit") here is epieikace. It occurs all of 5 times in the New Testament (the others are 1 Tim 3:3, Titus 3:2, James 3:17, and 1 Peter 2:18). In all of these other instances, the ESV chooses to translate the word as "gentle." In fact, it is the stated policy of the ESV translators to translate the same Greek or Hebrew word into the same English word, unless the context requires an alternative. Maybe such was the case with Philippians 4:5, for in this instance they chose an alternate rendering:
ESV: Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. . .
Huh? Reasonableness? Now, this is not a big deal to me. I really think I'm going to enjoy the ESV, but it's just that this is an important verse to me, and, well, I want it to say "gentleness." By the way, the translators say that the 1971 RSV (which happens to be "the beloved version" in the eyes of my quite finicky wife) was the starting point for their work. So I wonder what contextual analysis caused them to diverge at this point from the RSV, and indeed most other translations, in favor of a word that brings a quite different sense to the verse? Just wondering.