KJV, ASV, NIV vs. ESV - Which is the Better Translation of Leviticus 19:17-18

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Greetings friends and smarter people than I,

I'm trying to get some feedback regarding "rebuke" [KJV & ASV] your neighbor vs. "reason frankly" [ESV] with your neighbor. Which is the better translation?

My question has to do with the reason you approach your neighbor and thus avoid hating him in your heart. The King James (and ASV) seems to say that to fail to rebuke your neighbor is to hate him. Then verse 18 sums up and enforces the teaching by saying you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

But the ESV has the milder "reason frankly."

The Bible often uses an extreme case to teach that the less extreme is also required because much easier to obey. I've included several examples at the end of this post

Leviticus 19:17‭,18 KJV
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt (KJV "in any wise") [ASV "surely"] rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:17‭,‬18 ESV
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

The NIV agrees with the KJV.

Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.
Leviticus 19:17 NIV

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Deuteronomy 13:6‭-‬11 ESV
If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.

The Lord uses the same tactic in the stoning of your drunken and gluttonous son. If you would do this to your own flesh and blood, which would be one of the hardest things you could have to do, how much more should this sentence be carried out on the career criminal who is not related to you.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
I'll just take whatever Dr Duguid ends up saying, but I do note that the KJV apparently translates the Hebrew word as reprove (23x), rebuke (12x), correct (3x), plead (3x), reason (2x) chasten (2x). Also that according to OED, there seems to be a considerable number of subtly different meanings to "rebuke", historically, so it's not immediately obvious to me what strength the translators were intending when they used the word.

It does seem to me that pleading, reasoning, arguing, convincing, are all legitimately wrapped up in the use of "rebuke" historically, but that today we typically think of it with a more negative connotation.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I must say I like the ESV translation since it is more understandable to me in total than the KJV. This may say more about my level of comprehension than it does about any deficiency in the KJV, but 'rebuke thy neighbor and not suffer sin upon him,' doesn't convey to me that it is 'I' who am sinning by not rebuking.
Reasoning frankly seems to me to include the idea of a rebuke possibly, though I'm not sure that is what I'd gather reading the translation without the comparisons from other translations.

Meanwhile I asked my friend google for a definition of 'rebuke' and found this Christian site that seems comprehensive. Annoying pop-up ads but the article seems to me to be informative.
https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/rebuke-bible-definition-and-how-to-rebuke.html
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
Ellicott's Commentary:

Thou shalt in any wise rebuke.—Better, thou shalt by all means, or thou shalt freely rebuke him. If he has done wrong he is to be reproved, and the wrong is to be brought home to him by expostulation. In illustration of this precept the Jewish canonists remark, “when any man sinneth against another he must not inwardly hate him and keep silence, as it is said of the wicked, ‘And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon’ (2 Sam. 13:22); but he is commanded to make it known unto him, and to say, ‘Why hast thou done thus unto me?’” Similar is the admonition of Christ, “If thy brother sin against thee rebuke him, and if he repent forgive him” (Luke 17:3).​
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I would guess that the Hebrew word has a range of meaning, as most words do (and my quick survey of the word's usage elsewhere in the Bible suggests its range may be quite broad). This makes context the key to understanding its meaning, and it makes a good grasp of English usage important in translating it. In this case, the context is that you should avoid hating or nursing a grudge against your brother by ______ing him when he's done something wrong or something that offended you. Either "rebuke" or "reason frankly" might work in today's English usage. But the way I and most of my friends speak, the word we most often use in that context is "confront."

"Confront" is also how the NLT translates it. With a translation philosophy less beholden to tradition or to consistently translating a word the same way, this might be a case where that translation best gets at the sense of the verse for today's readers. That's my starting-place guess, anyway, at the outset of this conversation.

And practically, the tone one takes when confronting a brother in this situation can depend a lot on the person and the offense. Sometimes, a more "rebuking" tone is appropriate and at other times a "reasoning frankly" tone is right. The Bible's use of a broad word with a range of meaning might be designed to give us maneuvering room to wisely apply the right kind of confronting that fits the situation. So perhaps we should not completely settle the question of whether to "rebuke" or "reason frankly," but are meant to be open to both, as wisdom dictates.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Greetings friends and smarter people than I,

I'm trying to get some feedback regarding "rebuke" [KJV & ASV] your neighbor vs. "reason frankly" [ESV] with your neighbor. Which is the better translation?

My question has to do with the reason you approach your neighbor and thus avoid hating him in your heart. The King James (and ASV) seems to say that to fail to rebuke your neighbor is to hate him. Then verse 18 sums up and enforces the teaching by saying you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

But the ESV has the milder "reason frankly."

The Bible often uses an extreme case to teach that the less extreme is also required because much easier to obey. I've included several examples at the end of this post

Leviticus 19:17‭,18 KJV
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt (KJV "in any wise") [ASV "surely"] rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:17‭,‬18 ESV
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

The NIV agrees with the KJV.

Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.
Leviticus 19:17 NIV

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Deuteronomy 13:6‭-‬11 ESV
If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.

The Lord uses the same tactic in the stoning of your drunken and gluttonous son. If you would do this to your own flesh and blood, which would be one of the hardest things you could have to do, how much more should this sentence be carried out on the career criminal who is not related to you.
Here's my 2c.

The Hebrew has the combination of the infinitive absolute + cognate verb, which usually has the force of intensifying the force of the verb (e.g. Gen 2:17 "You shall surely die"). The Hiphil of yakach has a fairly wide semantic range, including decide, judge, justify, appoint and reprove. Context must determine which meaning fits best here. Incidentally the same combination of infinitive abs + cognate also occurs in Job 13:10 with God as subject, where both ESV and KJV render "He will surely rebuke you".

I'm actually not quite sure what the ESV means by "reason frankly". It sounds like a passive-aggressive British way of saying "rebuke" as in "the politicians had a free and frank exchange of ideas". RSV has "reason", but something stronger seems indicated by the context. The point seems to be that the prohibition of hating your neighbor does not rule out a "free and frank exchange of ideas," or as most of us would say, a rebuke. So I would go with "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you may certainly rebuke him so as not to bear guilt along with him". (The last part is how most commentators take it, though it could be translated "you may certainly rebuke him and not bear guilt on his account").
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
So I would go with "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you may certainly rebuke him so as not to bear guilt along with him".

That is pretty much exactly how I took it. But in my case, it was dumb luck. Thanks.

I hope you are well. I often think of you.

Ed
 
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