Changes in Translation of Galatians

I was just perusing the list of changes between the 2004 and 2007 editions of the New Living Translation that Tyndale has provided.There is only one change in Galatians.

Galatians 3:27
NLT 2004 edition: And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes.

NLT 2007 edition: And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.

They have removed “the character” of Christ and thus left it up to us to determine what he means by putting on Christ. I think this is probably a good change.

I should also note a couple of changes that were made in the ESV translation between the 2001 and 2007 editions. Unfortunately, Crossway has not provided a list but an investigative blogger has done the work for us using Accordance.

Galatians 2:21
ESV 2001 edition: I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
ESV 2007 edition: I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Your reaction to this change will depend on how you understand justification/righteousness in Paul. The majority of readers are probably helped by this change as they would be more familiar with righteousness than justification.

Galatians 3:28
ESV 2001 edition: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
ESV 2007 edition: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is an interesting change to what has become a crucial verse in the debate over the role of women in ministry. There is a slight change in the Greek construction between the first two contrasts and the last which this change reflects. How crucial it is to understand this for our reading of the verse is debatable but I don’t think it will change most people’s perception of what Paul is saying.

5 responses to “Changes in Translation of Galatians

  1. One man’s ‘slight change’ in Greek is another rather significant distinction. The 2001 rendering was ‘inaccurate’. The 2007 better reflects the sources.

    CSI Theology Comment: In this verse, Paul says that ‘in Christ’, the most significant man-made distinctions [Jew/Gentile, slave/free] are done away with. Also, even the distinction that God made [male and female] is restored to the Genesis 1:27 condition of equality ‘before God’.

    Comment from a Galatians class that I teach.

  2. Hi Tom…wow…it’s neat stuff. Most of the updated translations (particularly the first two you mention…I’m still pondering the third) do seem more right than the old ones, though I’m sure there’s better authority than my own perception for establishing them! Galations is a book I’ve sadly neglected in the past…I’ll have to check back to see what you have to say.

  3. Thanks for your comments. There is so much literature on Galatians 3:28 that I haven’t yet written a comprehensive paper on this verse. My point in this post was that most readers of English translations will not change their perspective on this verse given this subtle change in the ESV. I say subtle because although it better reflects the Greek I don’t think most English readers will see a big difference. I have begun a study of 20 English translations of this verse and hope to post the results soon. There is a large number of translations on both sides – whether to make the third statement parallel to the first.

  4. The untaught and unstable twist some of the hard things to understand but even the easy things are in their sights.

  5. Perhaps you could elaborate a little Joe as to what you mean. Brent on ‘your’ website recommends both of these translations so it can’t be them that you are referring to.

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