It is easier to compare the versions if they are laid side by side.
“[Love] is not irritable or resentful” ESV
“[Love[ doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.” MSG
“[Love] keeps no record of wrongs.” NIV84
“[Love] is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].” AB
The Greek phrase which corresponds to the bold text in each translation is ou logizomai ho kakos.
As you can see, some translators found a single English word, resentful, to be a legitimate rendering of the Greek phrase ou logizomai ho kakos. Other translators found English phrases which, in their view, gave the Bible reader a better understanding of the Greek phrase; they chose to match phrases rather than finding a single word.
If we dissect the English phrases to correspond to the elements of the Greek phrase, we see several phrases that attempt to communicate the concept of ou logizomai:
Doesn’t keep score
Keeps no record
Takes no account
Pays no attention
When I read those phrases, I immediately notice that one of the phrases is very different from the others: “pays no attention.” It is not hard for me to imagine that record-keeping, as suggested in the first three phrases is a very different thing from paying attention. I wonder if that particular rendering could possibly have value in this translation.
The other half of the Greek phrase is ho kakos, which is rendered variously as:
Here again, I observe that one of the possible renderings is much stronger than the others and might be out of character with the message Paul wanted to send.
In order to sort through these options, I must actually read Strong’s entry for the significant words. I determine the significance by looking up all the words. The Greek word ou has negative force on any phrase where it is used, so I take account of that fact. The Greek word ho has significance comparable to the English word the. The important words are logizomai and kakos.
Strong gives a long list of words and phrases for expressing the usage of the Greek word logizomai, but the part of that entry that spoke to me most powerfully is this: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.” This comment tells me that Paul is talking about keeping a record of things that actually happened. Be they words, deeds, or some combination, Paul is discussing bad things that happen to people and the way love deals with those things. Paul is talking about real life. By using the word logizomai he took the conversation off some spiritual platform and set it in the middle of the street, where we are all at risk of suffering in our interactions with other people. Paul was not writing about love in any abstract way. He was writing about what Jesus meant when he told his disciples that their love for each other would be their testimony to the world.
When Strong writes about the word kakos, he lists synonyms such as evil, wicked, pernicious, injurious, and even troublesome and baneful. One might say that kakos ranges from the worst extreme, evil, to the merely annoying, which might be troublesome.
The short sentence analyzed here is rendered in the King James Version as “[Love] thinketh no evil.” (The King James Version uses the word charity for love in this famous chapter, but for contemporary discussion of the phrase at the center of my comments, I chose to use the word love for the sake of consistency.) Many are the people who learned to love other people in keeping with Christ’s teaching and Paul’s additional admonitions on the subject by simply reading the King James Version of the Bible. Many, many people read Scripture in only one translation and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they understand what God wants to say to them in the Scripture. Yet it is obvious that some of us are not as sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as others, and we can become sensitive to nuances we might otherwise miss if we use good helps for our study of the Bible.
By using an interlinear Greek New Testament, I am able to see what Greek words correspond to specific words in my English translation. By using a number of good translations that have good reputations in the Christian community, I obtain the perspective of many scholarly translators. When I read from a lexicon such as Strong’s, I add depth and breadth to my own perspective.
Now I can say with confidence that Paul was writing to encourage people not to create “rap sheets” for family and friends. He was saying that when we keep detailed records of the wrongs that befall us, we are likely to become better at record-keeping than at loving our neighbors. This teaching is likely the origin of the aphorism about “forgive and forget.”