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Concordance in 2 Cor 3:5-6 (Monday with Mounce 47)

Categories Mondays with Mounce

Monday With Mounce buttonHaving touched on the topic of concordance last week, it is interesting to be asked about the ESV’s lack of concordance in 2 Cor 3:5-6.

Not that we are sufficient (ικανοι) in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency (ικανοτης) is from God, who has made us competent (ικανωσεν) to be ministers of a new covenant,

The TNIV maintains the concordance of the three cognates using “competent, competence.”


This is a great example of why concordance is so important in the same context. We may not be able to translate the same Greek word with the same English word wherever it occurs in the Bible, but certainly in the same immediate context concordance is a good idea, again, as long as the same English word carries the meaning and nuances necessary in that context.

At first glance it looks like an oversight to me, but then I checked the RSV and saw that we changed its consistent use of “competent, competence” in v 5 to “sufficient, sufficiency.” That generally means there was a reason. And the footnote on v 6 says, “Or sufficient” (cf. similar footnote on 2 Cor 2:16), so the change was intentional.


Having said that, I cannot figure out what that reason was. I assume that for the committee, the idea of not being “competent in ourselves” struck a difficult cord. It is always amazing how different people can hear the same words with different meanings and connections of ideas. We all have different semantic registers formed by experience; we simply do not hear the same words the same way.


I know some of the ESV members read this blog, and if you can remember, please comment on it. Last week I talked about how any one passage can have a mixture of translation policies at play, and it is sometimes a balancing act to make a decision. My guess is this is the case here, but the lack of concordance seems to be a problem here and hopefully the ESV will reconsider its decision here.


This is why all Bible translations have ongoing translation committee meetings. Even the King James has been changed thousands of times since 1611. The ESV, NIV, TNIV, NLT, and NASB (among others) are no exception.


If you want to suggest changes for the NIV 2011 edition, see I am sure you can contact Crossway with your suggestions as well, at



MounceWilliam D. [Bill] Mounce posts every Monday about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek (third edition coming in 2009!), and general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation. Learn more and visit Bill's blog (co-authored with scholar and his father Bob Mounce) at  

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