Why the ESV?

The reason for this article is to address questions and comments some have offered and asked as to why I use the ESV. In November of 2003 I began to use the English Standard Version for my personal study and for teaching and preaching. Prior to that I had used the New American Standard Version since 1985.

         Almost since first becoming a Christian in 1980 I had impressed upon me the importance of using the most accurate translation of the Bible I could get my hands on. So for a few years I used the American Standard Version of 1901. It is regarded by many biblical scholars as the most accurate English translation of the Bible in history. After a while I began to see the importance of clear communication being high on the list as well. For some reason the translators of the ASV chose to retain much of the archaic verbiage of the KJV of 1611. The sentence construction, though mostly following closely the original languages, was, in my opinion, stiff and not as readable as it could have been. The New American Standard, though using more of a modern vocabulary, had the inexplicable policy of using “Thee” and “Thou” when addressing deity. At least in the days when the KJV was translated that was the vernacular. Though not the vernacular of the ASV they were at least consistent in that they used the old English personal pronouns more consistently, regardless of who was being addressed. Apparently the NAS translators believed that one showed God more reverence by using “Thee” and “Thou” instead of “You” and “Your”. Finally in their 1995 update they updated their pronouns. But still the sentence structure didn’t flow well. And it never had, in my opinion, the classic and majestic beauty of the KJV or even of the ASV. Then in 2003 I was introduced to the English Standard Version. After reading samples and critiques of it I ordered one for myself. I was hooked and have been using it ever since.

         The ESV, in my opinion is the best English version of the Bible in print. It has the proper combination of accuracy, classical beauty of phraseology and readability that a Bible should have. It avoids the approach of many modern versions to attempt to interpret the passage instead of translating the words. Its translation is based on the best manuscript evidence available, an approach that should be the standard of any translation at any time.

         You may have noticed in this article that I often mentioned “my opinion”. Well that’s what this is. Contrary to the fact that many write and talk about what version to use with a lot of bluster and dogmatism, their conclusions are still a matter of opinion and preference. There is no perfect translation of the Bible because translations are the products of men. That doesn’t mean there are not reliable translations of the Bible. The ESV, NAS, ASV, KJV and some others are reliable translations. None of them are the gold standard by which all others must be measured. Only the best manuscripts of the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic can give us that. So unless you have a working knowledge of those languages, you like most people, are dependent upon those who do. But that’s nothing to fret over. Take any one of the above translations, learn it and live it and you’ll be fine with God.

 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)

Brad Fry

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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