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The ESV translation of the Bible

Recently a 'Christian teen' asked my why I used the ESV translation versus the KJV translation. I appreciate their intention to "...not start a fight or anything...", and since this can be a pretty heated topic I wanted to be thorough in my reply. Let me say up front that this is not a topic that gets me all that 'hot and bothered'. It is a serious one IMO, but not one that gets my feathers ruffled. When I first became a Christian the Bible I used was the NIV. It was easy to read, all of the people I went to church with used the NIV, and more important to me was that the Pastors to whom I was seated under - they used it from the pulpit. I will not get into why they used this version, etc. as I cannot really speak to that. But no matter. What is important was that God spoke to me through these men, and that version of the Bible. Latter in my walk as a Christian I would get challanged about this translation of the Bible, and although I was never convinced that the NIV was not the inspired translation of the Bible I did learn a few things about it. Essentially the NIV is a "phrase for phrase" translation of the Bible. The translation was begun in the early 1960's (if my memory is rememboring this correctly) by a team of scholars that used many resources to include some of the Dead Sea Scrolls to ensure that they were going back to as close to the original sources as possible. This was generally good enough for me until the day the Pastors at my church announced that they would no longer be using the NIV as their point of reference during sermons. They would be using the English Standard Version (or ESV) from the pulpit. Now, they were able to put it a lot more eloquently then than I am here now. :) However, I did not rush right out and purchase an ESV either. I wanted to learn more about Bible translations in general - because I am sure several of my brother and sisters in Christ have also heard - about the Bible just being a bunch of stories and men being falable probably messed it up, blah, blah, blah. So I dug seeper - a little - as to how the ESV was brought about. Before I put down my version of events I want to provide the link to the translators own webpage... http://www.esv.org/about/intro This way others can read it own their own as well. After reading about how the translators came about with the ESV I liked what I saw and was hooked. Since I was saved in 1989 and used a 'modern' language translation in the NIV it made the transition a little easier. And I had a hard time understanding what I read in the KJV. There were a lot of times that I just couldn't quite fully appreciate what I was reading because my mind could not seem to "get it". What I really liked about the ESV was that it was not a "phrase or phrase" type of translation, nor was it an "idea for idea" type of translation as a lot of the other more modern translations use. ESV is a word for word, or literal, translation. During my walk with the Lord I had come to respect several of the men on the translation team through either secondary sources (such as men I did respect speaking highly of team members), or I had actaully read some of their books, or heard some of their sermons. I have learned about the care they took in their translation work, the resource material, their attention to detail that they took. Well, I can see my mind is not staying as focused as I would like so I am going to be just summarizing more here...Essentially I see the ESV as a 'child' of the KJV as opposed to another translation. As my own children have been going to school (sunday and elementary) as they have been forced to memorize scripture in the KJV they were not able to tell me what the verses meant. They could quote the scripture, but they did not comprehend them. When they were given the same verses in a 'modern' translation (either NIV, or NSV) I could ask them questions about what they were learning and they could tell me (as well as a child can) what and why. The ultimate kicker was when the NIV translation team put out their most recent translation with their gender "nuetral" version. To me this became less defensable for a variety of reasons. The gospel is offensive and we should not try and sweeten it up just to try and win over hearts at the cost of not winning over their minds as well. I have seen literally every translation be used by, and of God. I have learned about men being converted by another man who was paraphrasing what he learned while he was intoxicated (let alone KJV, NIV, NSV, ASV, or whatever). I have known men and women who were converted hearing the scriptures in Latin, or in song. Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit that opens our hearts and minds to God's word. To condemn people for a translation that they read from is at it's best a misinformed concept, and at its worst is akin to what the pharasees and seducees were doing with Jesus. The KJV is a wonderful translation. I have learned of the care that was taken in its commision, in its translation, in its wording. I believe it still has a place in todays pulpits and pews. The NIV (not the current version, whos initials escape me now) is also a good phrase translation. It uses a version of english that many minds can grasp easily. And while it is not a litteral translation, it is pretty faithful in expressing the concepts of the scriptures. I have not really gotten into the NKJV so I can not speak to this translation. As I have attempted to learn more about the modern translations of the scriptures (to include the KJV) I have come to my current preferences of - litteral - and at the same time mordern language - translation. In the end the scriptures are a gift to us from God. They are to be reveared and respected. They should be studied and memorized. But at the same time we also need to know that it is God who ultimately does the translating and opening our minds and our hearts. I am sure you all have heard this but I will repeat the idea here. the scriptures are easy enough that a child can understand them, and deep enough for the most learned scholar to never come to the end of learning and study in them. Any attempt to say that God is not in a particular translation (to include the newest NIV version - which I am personally disgusted with) is to try and say that God is somehow limited in His resources. That is a rather long winded attempt on my part to relate why I prefer the ESV over say the KJV. I am confident that it was a rather poor attempt on my part to express how I came to my current preference. I encourage everyone to read about the philosphy and methodology of the ESV translation team. They can, and do, express its merits far better than I ever could. No matter how this fell on my reader's ears I pray that God is speaking to you through some version - any version - of the Bible. Ultimately the best translation of the Bible is the one that is being picked up and read and prayed over by its reader. Verse for today: 2 Timothy 3:12-17 esv Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

4 comments:

a christian teen said...

Thank you!!!!
That was very well said and laid out. I can see your point, and i respect it. Personly I like the KJV becuase that is what i have grown up with and what i believe is the best verson, but i know that you can be lead to the Lord using another verson. That is very true. Well, have a great day, and again thank you for this insite into another verson of the Bible.

Bob said...

Great blog. I grew up with the KJV, so it was pretty natural for me to go to the NKJV. I've been using it for nearly 20 yrs. now.................

Def Jeff said...

I think that the bible shouldn't be changed at all. The original king james version is the closest to the transcripts in english today. I think it's wrong to have diffrent versions of the bible... because we aren't supposed to change the bible. Think of it this way... if God said 1 word differently than what he actually said ( doesn't matter if it was an article, pro, etc) Than God's point in saying it wouldn't be the same. Each WORD HAS A PURPOSE... that's my standpoint... and it should be the same with you guys...

ALP said...

Thank you so much for the post. I use the NIV right now but I think I have just about every version of the Bible they make.

So often I didn't understand what was being said in the KJV so I would then go to NIV or ESV or another version I got. It has helped me in my walk.

God's words should not be changed (def jeff) but if I don't understand what is being said I am not understanding Him. I believe with the studying I have been doing and the different versions and talking and learning from my pastor I have a much better understanding than I would if I just read the KJV and felt stumped day in and day out.

God Bless,
Amy