I personally like and use the English Standard Version (ESV) as my chosen text for devotional Bible reading and preaching. It is a fine translation very similar to the NASB in terms of its commitment to word-for-word correspondence, yet with a much better visual presentation. So I hope no one will take this post as a criticism of the ESV as a whole. I trust we can agree that no translation is perfect and that even in our favorite translation we will always find verses that we wish were translated differently.
So in the spirit of constructive criticism and the desire to make a good translation even better, it must be said that the ESV reproduces some of the errors of the RSV, even though the ESV translation committee made every effort to comb through the RSV base and introduce thousands of fixes. One area that the ESV committee appears to have overlooked is in the RSV's acceptance of the relational theory of "righteousness" in some verses. In the vast majority of the 276 instances of the words for "righteousness" (tsedeq - 119x; tsedaqah - 157x) the ESV does a fine job and translates them correctly as "righteousness," "righteously," "righteous," "what is right," "what is just," etc. There are, however, five instances that I have found where the ESV retains the RSV reading in its departure from the traditional understanding of "righteousness" in favor of the iustitia salutifera interpretation in the tradition of Hermann Cremer, Gerhard von Rad, and many other scholars:
Psalm 40:9-10 (2x)
"I have told the glad news of deliverance [lit. righteousness]
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
I have not hidden your deliverance [RSV saving help; lit. righteousness] within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation."
"Who stirred up one from the east
whom victory meets at every step?"
[lit. whom righteousness calls to its foot]
"Thus says the LORD:
'Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance [lit. righteousness] be revealed.'"
"O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised,
and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,
and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the saving acts [lit. righteous acts] of the LORD."
In each case, the ESV seems to have reproduced the RSV reading. Whether the ESV committee retained the RSV reading at these points intentionally or unintentionally, I cannot say. However, it should be noted that the committee did make one minor change at Ps 40:10: where the RSV has "thy saving help," the ESV reads "your deliverance." Presumably this minor change was made for the sake of consistency with v. 9 which speaks of "the glad news of deliverance" (NASB: "glad tidings of righteousness"). This would seem to suggest intentionality.
On the other hand, the ESV changed the RSV at 1 Sam 12:7. Where the RSV reads, "the saving deeds of the LORD," the ESV has "the righteous deeds of the LORD." Also, in Judges 5:11, where the RSV reads, "the triumphs of the LORD," the ESV clarifies by adding "the righteous triumphs of the LORD." Along with Micah 6:5, these are instances of the phrase tsidqot YHWH. (Cp. Dan 9:16, but there the RSV already had "thy righteous acts.") So the ESV's correcting of the RSV in these other passages would seem to suggest that the RSV's erroneous reading in the above five instances slipped past the committee without their full awareness.
In any event, Crossway quietly released a new text edition in 2007 with hundreds of changes. Perhaps they will consider these in a future revision.