The English Standard Version on Daniel 7.27
Posted by John Meade on May 18, 2009
The English Standard Version or the ESV is a very popular English translation and on the whole it is a very faithful translation of the original text. However, they simply blundered on Daniel 7.27 and here is why.
The ESV: And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’
The Aramaic Text: וּמַלְכוּתָה וְשָלְטָנָא וּרְבוּתָא דִּי מַלְכְוָת תְּחוֹת כָּל־שְמַיָּא יְהִיבַת לְעַם קַדִּישֵי עֶלְיוֹנִין מַלְכוּתֵהּ מַלְכוּת עָלַם וְכֹל שָלְטָנַיָּא לֵהּ יִפְלְחוּן וְיִשְתַּמְּעוּן׃
The basic problem with the ESV is that they translated a third person masculine singular pronoun as a third person plural pronoun on the basis of no manuscript evidence as a survey of the Versions will demonstrate:
Peshitta: ܫܘ̈ܠܛܢܝܢ ܠܗ ܢܦܠܚܘܢ ܘܢܫܬܡܥܘܢ܀
Vulgate: et omnes reges servient ei et oboedient
LXX [Th]: πασαι αι αρχαι αυτω δουλευσουσιν και υπακουσονται.
LXX: πασαι εξουσιαι αυτω υποταγησονται και πειθαρχησουσιν αυτω.
All of these versions and the MT testify to the singular pronoun not the plural. The question is why does the ESV translate against the whole tradition and create a reading?
Well, there is a major debate over the meaning of this text, and the ESV seems to have offered their interpretation at the expense of fidelity to the form of the text. The debate is over the identity of the Son of Man in Dan. 7:13-14. Is the S of M an individual as the vision in 7:13-14 seems to communicate or the saints of the Most High (7:18) as the interpretation of the vision seems to say? Well, one of the major pieces of evidence that would help answer this question, is who is being worshiped and obeyed at the end of the interpretation section? Is it an individual or a corporation? The masculine singular pronoun would seem to indicate that an individual is in view. Of course the whole debate cannot be settled by this decision of translation but it stands to reason that an English translation should remain faithful to the original, especially when the text is debated, and let the reader/interpreter come to his/her own conclusions on the matter. Indeed the ESV itself offers this italic note at the bottom of the page: Or his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. But my question is why would one make the actual written text look like the scholar’s opinion at the bottom of the page and the scholar’s opinion appear as the written Word of God? This is surely backwards.
The ESV is generally a very faithful translation of the biblical text, and it is a mystery why they translated this text the way they did. Perhaps a later revision of this translation will redact this verse according to the original text for subsequent generations of careful bible readers.
What do you think? How should we translate this debated text? Do you have other examples of this type of translational faux pas?