Not only am I not on board. I would be happy to see the NIV sail into the sunset if it could be replaced by the ESV as the standard preaching, reading, memorizing Bible of the English-speaking church. I feel so strongly about this that I volunteered to do this tonight before I was asked. There is no coercion here. I feel what I am about to say with a passion built up over 25 years. I have longed that there be something more readable than the NASB and more literal than the NIV. The NIV is a paraphrase with so much unnecessary rewording and so much interpretation that I could not preach from it.
Now let me say again that the NIV is the precious Word of God. Oh, how careful we must be not to belittle the Word of God. And yet we must not put any human translation above criticism. God has used the NIV to bring millions of people to faith in Christ. But at the same time I believe there have been negative effects that could be avoided. My biggest concern has to do with preaching. When a paraphrase becomes the standard preaching, reading, memorizing Bible of the church, preaching is weakened robust expository exultation in the pulpit is made more difficult. Preaching that gives clear explanations and arguments from the wording of specific Biblical texts tends to be undermined when a Bible paraphrases instead of preserving the original wording on good English. And when that kind of preaching is undermined, the whole level of Christian thinking in the church goes down, and a Bible-saturated worldview is weakened, and the ability of the people and even the pastors themselves-to root their thoughts and affections in firm Biblical ground diminishes.
The English Standard Version
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.