The ESV & The Doctrine of the Virgin Birth
In the Greek text, Luke 2:33 reads:
καὶ ἦν ᾿Ιωσὴφ καὶ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ θαυμάζοντες ἐπὶ τοῖς λαλουμένοις περὶ αὐτοῦ·
The transliteration literally reads thusly:
And Joseph was marveling, also His mother, at the things being said concerning Him.
Yet, in the ESV – and I’m quoting the Reformation Study Bible from Ligonier – it reads like this:
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
That’s not what the Greek says! Now, why would the ESV refer to Joseph as Jesus’ father? Clearly, reading the Greek it reads Joseph, not father, and for the simple reason that Joseph was not Jesus father, Jesus being of the seed of the Holy Spirit. So, why translate it this way?
Well, one (unfortunately) influential person to translate the Bible this way was John Nelson Darby, who not only wrote his own version, but removed many texts from the original – most of which put less than favorable light on his heretical premillennial dispensational heresies. Basically, anything that did not support his pretrib-rapture heresy he removed, then added to God’s Word. He made changes in literally hundreds of examples, twisting and rewording verses to support his doctrine of distinction between the Church and natural Israel. All this, of course, became an incredibly important foundation for modern dispensational preachers such as John MacArthur, who still teaches Darby’s heresies today. This kind of tampering with God’s Word has led to all sorts of false teachings, many of which remain popular today in evangelical circles.
To refer to Joseph as Jesus’ father is a great translation error. The doctrine of the virgin birth is not something to tamper with, and such a translation of this passage can only lead to false doctrine and attacks on the virgin birth itself. It is thus surprising that such an illustrious team of scholars put together by editor R.C. Sproul and Ligonier could make such an error. But, there it is, and it’s important to take note of it.
We live in dark times, brethren. Be careful in following the popular trends, both in Bible versions and doctrine.
Which version do you recommend? Thank you.
The issue is a textual one. The Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek NT reads as does the ESV (“And his father…”). The Textus Receptus and Byzantine Majority read “And Joseph.”
Most if not all modern translations with the exception of the NKJV will read as the ESV does.
Then , in light of the whole of scriptural teaching on the virgin birth of Christ, we can only conclude that, as you say “most if not all modern translations” are in error, aren’t they? Because we both know that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. 🙂 And yes, I agree with you….
In light of Scripture, we can certainly agree that Jesus was not Joseph’s biological offspring. The rest of Luke makes this point clear.
He could; however, be considered Christ’s father in the legal sense and this could certainly be Luke’s meaning here. If so, there would be no violence done whatsoever to the doctrine of the Virgin Birth.
What do you make, then, of both the TR and W&H referring to Joseph as “father” in verse 48?
Very interesting and I agree 100% with you. It’s frustrating because these versions do read “smoother” but the whole time you’re like “is this translated right?” I grew up with the KJV and I love it. My grandmother told me before she dies to “stay with the KJV”. So I study and preach out of it. It does make me study a little harder as far word studies go, but I’ve found that always takes me deeper into God’s Word and that can’t be a bad thing. I think in our society we are all about “simplifiying” stuff instead of putting forth the effort to get all we can out the great things right before use. Something I’ve learned over the years is “Laziness always cost you more work latter down the road.” With that being said why not just do it right to start with, not only will you save “work” but you’ll be well equipped.