Q. What do you think of the new English Standard Version? I bought a copy buy I see a potential problem in 1 Cor. 7:36 with the way they have translated the word “virgin.” Please Mike, look at this and let me know what you think.
The translation of the Greek word “parthenos” (gk. = virgin) as “betrothed” is unjustified, as far as I can see, either in the Greek or in the context of the passage. This apparently is an old “hobby” with the RSV folks as is seen in their old translation.
Here is how the old RSV translates this context:
1 Cor. 7:36-38
36* ¶ If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry–it is no sin.
37* But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.
38* So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.
Here is how the 1995 NASV translates this passage:
1 Cor. 7:36-38
36* ¶ But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.
37* But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well.
38* So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.
To interpret this passage to say that it refers to a man and a woman in some kind of relation by way of a spiritual marriage living together in some kind of a vow of virginity and celibacy is unjustifiable in view of the phraseology used in the context. To redefine the Greek word “parthenos” as “betrothed” rather than “virgin” is also unjustifiable.
It looks to me like the old RSV error in translating the Hebrew word “virgin” (Isaiah 7:14) is being revisited. This error is egregious and therefore will change my view of the entire translation. I will no longer recommend it without qualification.