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TNIV, NRSV, and Hebrews 4:1

I am continuing my studies in Hebrews (while under a dizzying cold) today and was considering Hebrews 4:1. The TNIV, NIV, and NRSV stray away here, it seems to me. Notice the difference:

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seemto have failed to reach it. (ESV)

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. (NRSV)

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (TNIV)

Most translations read “let us fear” like the ESV. However, the TNIV, NIV, and NRSV chose “take care” or “be careful.” The Greek word is phobeo which Mounce says in reference to Hebrews 4:1 means “to be fearfully anxious” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words). Dr. Daniel Doriani, a professor and scholar at Covenant Theological Seminary who teaches from the NIV, called the NIV translation here “shameful.”

In light of the context, it does not seem that the writer of Hebrews is talking about having reverence or being careful. Rather, because God did not allow Israel to enter the rest because of their disobedience and because God swore in his wrath that they would never enter into his rest, we need to be fearful that we do not miss the promised rest also. I am disappointed that the TNIV, which seems to be more literally than the NIV, did not go with “fear” but kept the phrase “be careful.” I am very surprised that the NRSV decided to go with “take care.” It seems out of place for the NRSV to move away from a literal rendering.

However, I think the NLT really captures the text here:

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. (Hebrews 4:1; NLT)