English Standard Version Bible (Crossway Bibles) is an interesting translation- for starters it is sold by a not for profit organisation- arguably this is how the bible ought to be sold rather than for profit- after all its God’s copywright ultimately isnt it?
But perhaps more importantly than that as John Piper explained that his New Years resolution for 2004 is that his church would use the ESV from now on.
My aim tonight is to help you be persuaded that exposing millions of people (pastors, teachers, students, laypeople) to the ESV would undo the dominance of the NIV and put in its place a more literal, and yet a beautifully readable, memorizable Bible — the English Standard Version. And this would be a good thing.
In the following examples of NIV paraphrasing compared to the more literal ESV there are four convictions at stake.
1. A more literal translation respects the original author’s way of writing. It is a way of honoring the inspired writers.
2. Translators are fallible and they may mislead the English reader if they use unnecessary paraphrases to bring out one possible meaning and conceal others.
3. A more literal translation gives preachers more confidence that they can preach what the English text says with authority that it reflects what the original Greek or Hebrew text says.
4. A more literal translation which preserves ambiguities that are really there in the original keeps open the possibility of new insight by future Bible readers.
I do not claim that the ESV is without its own level of ‘paraphrasing.’ Some will always be necessary. And there will always be disagreements about how much is necessary. I am simply arguing that the ESV is the best balance available of readability and literalness. I hope that it becomes the standard for the church.
Appendix 1: Examples of NIV Paraphrasing Compared to the More Literal ESV (Compiled April 11, 2003)
ESV Through [Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith (hupakoen pisteos) for the sake of his name among all the nations.
NIV Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
ESV By works of the law (ex ergon nomou) no human being will be justified in his sight.
NIV No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.
ESV Did they stumble in order that they might fall (hina pesosin)? By no means!
NIV Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!
ESV Owe no one anything (Medeni meden opheilete), except to love each other.
NIV Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.
ESV . . . not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works (nekron ergon)
NIV . . . not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.James 2:12
ESV So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty (nomou eleutherias).
NIV Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.
1 Peter 1:20
ESV He was foreknown (proegnosmenou) before the foundation of the world.
NIV He was chosen before the creation of the world.
Appendix 2: Two Examples of the Effect on Preaching
ESV Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, (oun) when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
NIV Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
NOTE: It is impossible to make the point from the NIV that Jesus’ delay is an expression of love for Mary and Martha and Lazarus, and thus draw out the point that love sometimes does hard things because seeing the glory of God is a more precious gift than being sick or even dead.
ESV Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) )As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed (thanatoumetha) all the day long.”
NIV Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long.”
NOTE: From the NIV translation one could argue from a health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel” that “famine and nakedness” will not happen to God’s children (as they seem to in verse 35) because the Old Testament support that Paul quotes in verse 36 only says “we face death,” but not that we really “are being killed.” So the paraphrase “face death” removes an utterly crucial argument that Paul gave and that the preacher needs to make the true point that true Christians really do get killed and really do face famine and nakedness.