Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Text and Translation Note: Malachi 2:16a
recent post on the Reformed Baptist officers’ Yahoo list asked about the translation
of Malachi 2:16a in the ESV.
ESV reads:“For the man who does not
love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel….”The online text of the ESV includes a footnote
for the verse reading:“Hebrew who hates and divorces,”
acknowledging that the ESV departs from the Hebrew text to follow a conjectural
The vast majority of English translations,
however, follow some variation of translating the traditional Hebrew Masoretic
Text which reads:ki saneh shalach amar Yahweh eloheh yisrael.The verb saneh
is qal perfect 3rd person singular.This is reflected in the KJV and NKJV translation which offer the most
literal rendering of the Hebrew MT:
KJV:Malachi 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel,
saith that he hateth putting away….
NKJ Malachi 2:16 "For the
LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce…”
Other modern translations also
follow the Hebrew text, but they choose to change the verb from third person to
NIV Malachi 2:16 "I hate
divorce," says the LORD God of Israel….”
NASB Malachi 2:16 "For I
hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel….”
This change apparently reflects
the suggestions of the critical text of the OT in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia where a footnote at senah suggests the reading should probably
be in the first person (p. 1084).
Even the RSV (the base for the
ESV translation) and the NRSV (like the ESV, a revision of the RSV) follow the
RSV and NRSV Malachi 2:16For I hate divorce says the LORD, the God of
are several interesting things about the ESV rendering of this verse, but I'll break it down into
two categories: text and translation philosophy:
First:Regarding text, the
ESV follows the LXX which reads:alla misesas [aorist participle from miseo,
to hate] exaposteiles [aorist active subjunctive verb, second person singular,
from exapostello, to send away] legei kurios ho theos tou Israel.A literal rendering of the LXX would be:“But hating you might send away, says the
Lord God of Israel.”This is also the
reading of the Latin Vulgate.
footnote in the print edition of the ESV reads:“Probable meaning (compare Septuagint and Deuteronomy 24:1-4); or For the LORD, the God of Israel, says that
he hates divorce, and him who covers”.
ESV Study Bible provides an extended
commentary on the translation of Malachi 2:16, beginning, “The Hebrew text of
this verse is one of the most difficult passages in the OT to translate, with the
result that the two main alternatives proposed for this verse are strongly
disputed….” (see pp. 1776-1777).
enough the Geneva Bible follows the LXX as well and, thus, is closer
to the ESV than to the KJV (a rarity). Calvin’s commentary on Malachi also
takes the Latin Vulgate reading as its base.
translation, I find it interesting that the ESV of Malachi 2:16a apparently reflects
a dynamic equivalent rendering of the LXX which it follows.It makes the participle from miseo a third person finite verb and the
second person verb from exapostello
into a third person verb.It also adds
the noun “wife” as the object of the verb exapostello
though no such noun appears in the LXX.
is also interesting to note that the ESV was apparently revised at some point.
The original (2001) ESV of Malachi 2:16a reads, "For the man who hates and
divorces...." while, again, the current ESV reading is, "For the man
who does not love his wife, but divorces her...."Thus, the current ESV changed its predecessor’s
more literal rendering of the verb “to hate” (miseo) to the negative (and softer?) “not love.”
raises the issue of the ESV translation philosophy which has more dynamic
equivalent renderings than one might expect in a version so heavily promoted as
"essentially literal” (though this example is admittedly odd given that we
are talking about the ESV’s rendering of a Greek translation of the OT and not
the Hebrew original).For another example of dynamic equivalence in
the ESV of Jeremiah look here.
is the significance of the textual and translation philosophy choices of the
for a long time, most of the battles over text seem to have been in
the field of the NT with even most modern translations accepting the Hebrew MT for the
OT, but now it seems that the translators are increasingly choosing to
follow a reconstructed modern critical text of the Hebrew Bible.The ESV (even more boldly than the RSV or
NRSV) seems to be leading the way in preferring readings that have little or no
Hebrew textual basis but are based on conjectural emendations like this one
from the LXX. Here are comments on a few other examples of this which I
ran across when preaching through 1-2 Samuel: 1 Samuel 6:19; 1 Samuel 13:5; 1 Samuel 13:15; 1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 6:3; 21:8. Another example would be Psalm
145:13 where the ESV includes a half verse found only in one Hebrew
manuscript but supported by the LXX and the Syriac.
one might ask how these decisions relate to the confessional perspective on
Scripture reflected in the Westminster Confession and Second London Confession which
stress the immediate inspiration of the OT in Hebrew and the NT in
Greek (which would, of course, exclude the Greek of the LXX as
authoritative). Admittedly, this could also prove troublesome for
supporters of the TR (like me) if it could be proven that some TR readings
(like "book of life" in Rev 22:19) did not rest on some preserved
Hebrew or Greek witness.
it is also interesting that the ESV is so willing to offer such conjectures in
the OT without any Hebrew textual basis given the disdain of most evangelical
modern critical advocates for the Comma Johanneum of 1 John 5:7-8 which
is, at least, supported by a handful of Greek witnesses (up to 9 now, I think).
though the ESV Study Bible notes on
the passage assure its readers that translations based on either the LXX or
Hebrew MT of Malachi 2:16a equally affirm divine displeasure regarding divorce
one wonders if there are not potential divergences in interpretation and
application based on the translation one reads.Is the point of Malachi 2:16a that the one who does not love (hates) his
wife and divorces her covers himself in destruction (as in the ESV) or is it
that the Lord hates divorce (as in the other English translations)?Might this have some impact on one’s
understanding of the Scriptural teaching on divorce?