October 31, 2020

Open Mic at the iMonk Cafe: Anyone Willing To Complain About the ESV?

openmic1UPDATE II: McKnight on Translation Tribalism.

UPDATE: Why the LCMS choose the ESV. I doubt that it was the Piper endorsement.

I have this nagging feeling that the English Standard Version isn’t as good a translation as I’ve previously thought.

My experience with the NLT has me in major regrets that I’ve got my students using the ESV, that there isn’t a cheap textbook version of the NLT, etc.

I’m using the NLT in preaching most of the time, but when I read the ESV for personal study, sermon preps, classes, etc…..something just isn’t right. I’m wondering if I’ve been “marketed.” That is, I’ve bought the impressive ESV marketing version of itself, but the translation isn’t living up to its own press.

Is it really clunky….and awkward? Do people really have problems reading it? Is it stylistically difficult? Does it do all of the things it accuses other translations of NOT doing? Is it just not up to its own press clippings?

Scott Mcknight recently came right out and said it: We do translations by tribes:

“NRSV for liberals and Shane Claiborne lovers;
ESV for Reformed complementarian Baptists;
HCSB for LifeWay store buying Southern Baptists;
NIV for complementarian evangelicals;
TNIV for egalitarians;
NASB for those who want straight Bible, forget the English;
NLT for generic brand evangelicals;
Amplified for folks who have no idea what translation is but know that if you try enough words one of them will hit pay dirt;
NKJV and KJV for Byzantine manuscript-tree huggers;
The Message for evangelicals looking for a breath of fresh air and seeker sensitive, never-read-a-commentary evangelists who find Peterson’s prose so catchy.”

By that list, I’m an NLT guy. (I’ll complain about the NLT some other day. Basically- we need MORE EDITIONS GUYS. Way too few choices.) I don’t want to just play this game. I am honestly wondering if the ESV is more C+/B- than I’ve suspected.

So, this ISN’T a ” tell your favorite translation” discussion. Please, please don’t give your “translation testimony.” This is a “What’s your experience using the ESV?” discussion, with a special invite to the long unheard from critics- who have used it.

What’s your experience with the ESV?


  1. I know a Baptist Greek professor who would not be happy with the description of the NRSV up there.

    I’m a fan of my ESV, though I pulled my NIV off the shelf a few nights ago, and was shocked at how smoothly it read. It had probably been 4 years since I’d opened it.

    I’ve got a RSV and a HSBC New Testament as well, and I think both of those are pretty fun to read from.

  2. You’re asking for personal experiences with the ESV, right? Not reviews? Okay; I’ll let Michael Marlowe over at Bible Researcher handle the ESV-review job. Here’s a little insight from my experience with the ESV that involves one of my favorite research-subjects: the ending of the Gospel of Mark. The ESV is supposed to represent the best scholarship evangelicalism has to offer, right? Then why is the treatment of Mark 16:9-20 so sloppy? Walk through the footnote to Mark 16:9 with me, step by step, and I’ll show you what I mean. I hope this won’t sound too whiny.

    “Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8.” That is technically true, but as far as continuous-text Greek manuscripts are concerned, exactly two (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) end the book with 16:8, and something like 1,500 include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8.

    “A few manuscripts insert additional material after verse 14.” That is false! The only manuscript with additional material after verse 14 is Codex Washingtoniensis. Jerome mentioned copies with the extra material, but Jerome’s comments about manuscripts are not, themselves, manuscripts.

    “one Latin manuscript adds after verse 8 the following” —
    The one Latin manuscript being referred to here is Codex Bobbiensis, and it does not just provide the paragraph known as the Intermediate Ending; Codex Bobbiensis also has an interpolation between Mark 16:3 and 16:4 (completely unmentioned) and does not have the final phrase of 16:8 (completely unmentioned!) and its text shows some affinities with the docetic “Gospel of Peter.”

    “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” That is not an accurate representation of what Codex Bobbiensis says; Codex Bobbiensis has the Latin equivalent of “appeared to them” after the reference to Jesus.

    “Other manuscripts include this same wording after verse 8, then continue with verses 9-20.” This is technically true, but the total number of Greek manuscripts that include this same wording is *six,* and none of them are particularly early.

    The textual choices of the ESV’s text-compilers in Jude, especially in verse 5 (“Jesus” is used, not “the Lord”) and in verses 22-23 are interesting.

    I didn’t find anything in the ESV, textually or stylistically, to convince me to use it, rather than the NKJV, as my primary translation of the New Testament. I haven’t read the OT in the ESV enough to offer an informed opinion.

    And might I offer a timid suggestion that Dr. Mark Strauss, who endorsed the TNIV, and who is currently a member of the CBT that will be producing the new edition/revision of the NIV in 2011, might not be the most objective and disinterested reviewer of Bible translations?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  3. I’m a big fan of my ESV, been reading it (almost) every day since January now, and it’s amazing. I do think that different translation styles are mostly a matter of personal taste. As long as it’s a literal translation, and not made up bilge like The Voice New Testaments, then I don’t see anything wrong with preferring the ESV or the NIV or the NLT or the NASB or the ol’ KJV.

    I don’t understand the comments about it being hard to understand at all. If you’re reading and there’s a word you don’t understand, pull out a dictionary for pete’s sake. That’s much better than complaining that the translators didn’t bring the words down to your level. If you’re reading and the phrasing of a verse makes it hard to understand – maybe … just maybe that’s intentional. Wouldn’t you rather have the verse as accurately translated as possible than have it made simpler and thus glossing over something that wouldn’t be so simple in the Greek?

    Seriously, what’s the deal – I think I have to be against this particular complaint philosophically no matter what version you’re talking about. It’s one thing if it’s hard to understand because the translators simply made a bad job of it (and I don’t think you could say this of the ESV). It’s another thing if it’s hard to understand because, in that particular passage, it’s actually really a concept that’s hard to understand. Where does this need come from to bring English translations down to the lowest common denominator in order for them to be really “modern day” English?

    Some readers are complaining that the ESV isn’t modern day English??? How? Read a little Shakespeare for once … or Charles Dickens, or even some C.S. Lewis. Then you’ll stop worrying that the ESV isn’t modern enough.

    The ESV is in modern day English, but it seems to have been put together at the same time, by translators who both loved and had an ear for the English language. I’ve grown up using mostly the old KJV and the NIV about equally in the past. The KJV always was much better for reading out loud. The NIV was usually better for giving to a brand new Christian. I always found it useful to read both. The ESV sort of combines the two, but again I admit this is my personal taste.

    • Nate Williams says

      I have nothing against the ESV for reading at a high level. I do not mind looking words up. What I do have a problem with is the use of archaic language. I love Shakespeare but I don’t speak it. The ESV is full of archaic English words left over from the RSV and they were archaic when the RSV came out! Even if you use the ESV and love it, does it communicate well to others? Try using the ESV to communicate God’s word an 80 year old who left school in the 8th grade. Try using the ESV at a middle school or high school weak of camp. The ESV is sloppy. You can tell that they did not bother to correct some of the sentence structure or clean up archaic language. I agree that some verses are meant to be complex, why make them more complex and difficult then they already are?

    • “I don’t understand the comments about it being hard to understand at all. If you’re reading and there’s a word you don’t understand, pull out a dictionary for pete’s sake. That’s much better than complaining that the translators didn’t bring the words down to your level. If you’re reading and the phrasing of a verse makes it hard to understand – maybe … just maybe that’s intentional.”

      Whoa there. This is the exact same argument the King James Only people make. I would not go down this road. It is better to admit the imperfections of the ESV- you can still hold that it is superior _comparatively_ while acknowledging it has parts not as easily comprehended as would be preferred.

  4. The ESV at times is clunky for me (just like when I’m using my granddaddy’s old KJV). But it is worth the effort for use in personal study. I do like the elegance of the language amongst the formal equivalence translations (then again, I love the RSV courtesy of my granddaddy using that and KJV to preach from, but finding a copy of the RSV nowadays is near impossible here in Australia). I picked up my ESV Study Bible partly because of the marketing hype that was generated on the net. I picked up the original ESV translation when it was first released courtesy of me being in a rather Calvinist phase of theological understanding coupled with being starry-eyed at John Piper (to the point where he became a sort of unofficial pope in my own eyes).

    Having said that, nowadays I flutter around using multiple translations whenever I’m assisting my pastor out as his wingman for our youth fellowship Bible studies. NRSV, ESV, KJV, RSV, NKJV, NLT2, TNIV, NIV, Jerusalem Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, NAB, NASB, GNB/TEV, NET Bible and NCV. But a lot of those translations I have are in study bible format (they’re purchased more for the study notes than the translation itself) rather than pure text/reference editions.

    Surprisingly, out of all Bible translations available today, I really do love the Revised English Bible with Apocrypha over the ESV and other translations (it’s surprising that I mainly use the NRSV, T/NIV and ESV [in that order] for personal study). The REB may not be as “accurate” (I hate that word which is why I’m toughing it out learning NT Greek and Hebrew on my own now so I can read Scripture in the original languages), but it reads beautifully out loud whenever I am going through my lectionary readings in the daily office by myself (the REB is my devotional bible translation).

    I only just wish I could find a travel edition in genuine leather binding so it could actually become the Bible I take around with me everywhere for use (though my Oxford NAB is filling that niche nicely atm).

  5. Let me caution commenters that this is not a discussion of Greek manuscripts or the textual base of various translations.

  6. I too fear I may have bought into the marketing. I have always been a NKJV guy till a few years ago. The problem is that my church uses the ESV now. I preach from it and give it to our new converts. But times it does feel clunky. I am no scholar but I like to think it is because it is a word for word translation but sometimes i fear that is just a coverup. My other issue is the obvious reformist in certain texts and especially the ESV study Bible (read the commentary on the parable of the vine for an almost laughable example).

  7. I don’t care much for the ESV because it is awkward to read. I don’t think “essentially literal” necessarily entails “essentially accurate” which is the primary presupposition of the translation philosophy. There is an argument out there that says we should render old literature as literal as possible to preserve its literary form. In fact, we do this all the time with Shakespeare’s work. But the problem with this argument is that it presupposes that such a literary form can be preserved when translating from one language into another. It is not like preserving the idiom of Old English in spite of Modern sensibilities, in which case it is still “English to English.” Greek to English is much different, and as any translator of any literary work from any other language will tell you the literary features of the original are lost in translation. Nor is there any one-to-one correspondence between languages. For example “como esta usted” in Spanish literally means “how do you call your self?” The meaning, though, is “how are you?” The latter is much more accurate to the intent of the speaker than the former, yet the latter might be considered “dynamic equivalent.” The best approach is to use whatever translation philosophy available to achieve accuracy.

    Here is an example from Phil 1:3-5 that illustrates the ESV’s chunkiness when it applies its commitment to being “essentially literal” compared to the TNIV (which takes a hybrid approach):

    ESV: 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

    3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now

    If you had to read over the ESV several times to get the gist of what the TNIV plainly says, it should be obvious that the ESV’s translation philosophy is woefully weak in this passage.

    • Adam,

      Wow. Let me first lay out my biasis. I’m a KJV man. Not a KJV only guy even though at one point I probably was, but now I’m a KJV man for some of those reasons but more for just a fairly closed minded and admittedly simple minded thought of “It has worked and been blessed for a long time, and I know a lot of sharecroppers with third grade educations like my grandparents who did quite well with it.”

      With the relaization that 1. I’ll probably always be ministering to folks who are KJV folks and 2. the KJV is still widely recognized if not accepted I laid aside the whole which is best debate years ago and just made a choice and went forward

      Now with all that said, I have very little exposure to other translations, but wow the ESV passage was a car wreck, teh TNIV made much more sense. I mean I’m not rhodes scholar but I had to read the ESV passage a couple of times to make it click.

    • Adam wrote: For example “como esta usted” in Spanish literally means “how do you call your self?” The meaning, though, is “how are you?

      Ummm, actually “¿Cómo está usted?” is literally “How are you?” (with the “estar” verb for “to be”, indicating a temporal condition or state, as opposed with the “ser” verb for “to be”, which is for more-or-less continual traits like “I am a man” or “I am a Christian”)

      “¿Cómo se llama usted?” is translated taken to mean “What’s your name?” but literally is “How are you called?” or “How do you call yourself?” (llamarse can be taken to mean “call oneself” or the passive voice “to be called”).

  8. I bought into the ESV late in 2004. Over the years I have read completely through the NIV (twice), NASB (twice), ESV (3 or 4 times), and NLT (once). I have no bias from upbringing as I was raised with no spiritual heritage. I’ve done all of my memorizing in the ESV and have had some trouble with some sentences, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome with practice. I did find that the NLT read very smoothly and it is what I would recommend for someone who just wants to sit and read.

    I’ve had a couple of years of Greek and a year of Hebrew, so I know a little bit about what goes into a translation. The thing that must be understood is that every translation has a theological bias. There is no way to be completely objective when making translation decisions. Therefore, apart from a mastery in the languages (and even that has bias as it depends on from whom you learn), you need to trust the folks who prepare the translation. I like the NLT for a formal equivalence translation becuase it reads well and I trust D.A. Carson. I know where they have made interpretive leaps, but I generally agree with them.

    What I’ve found is that changing translations often makes the text come alive because I start reading the text in a new light. I would say that, apart from mastery in the languages, the best thing would be to use a variety of translations. Get some good commentaries from scholars you trust and, above all, spend time in prayer for the Holy Spirit to illuminate the text for you. I do know that the Lord has used the ESV Study Bible to bless me quite a bit as I read through the text and the notes in the Major Prophets.

    • In addition to reading multiple English translations, if you speak some other language (doesn’t have to be Greek or Hebrew), reading parallel in that language can open up new windows on meaning as well. I love how the Spanish Reina-Valera 1960 revision states Hebrews 11:1: Es, pues, la fe la certeza de lo que se espera, la convicción de lo que no se ve. — It is, then, faith the certainty of what is hoped for, the conviction of what is not seen.

  9. I read through the ESV when it firt came out, and found it really “clunky”. That impression has not changed with time. I remember a couple weeks ago reading a passage from my discipleship group’s study in the NRSV, the NIV, the NLT and the ESV (I was stuck in trying to understand it, and my NIV’s notes weren’t helping), and found the ESV of it (in case you’re curious, it was Ephesians 2:14-20) to be really awkward in reading. The experience reminded me of why I don’t read the ESV!

    Part of the problem is that I grew up with the NRSV, and am a new reader to the NIV (I’ve used the TNIV, but my discipleship group doesn’t). Trying to compare the passage I mentioned in the different versions reminded me of this, and of the problems I had with the ESV when it first came out. Come to think of it, I see the problem even more plainly in the passage you mentioned, Adam O. Wow! That’s even clunkier than the Ephesians passage I was stumbling on. All in all, the translation frustrates, and I’d much rather use the KJV.

  10. As an LCMS pastor, I use ESV as my primary translation for worship and for our church’s adult Bible study–mostly because it’s the translation the Synod adopted for the new hymnal and lectionary. Because of my appreciation for the RSV, I was really psyched when the ESV came out and got one right away. I like it well enough for personal use, but I have to say that, only a year into ministry, I’m not terribly wild about the ESV’s new status as the preferred translation in the LCMS. Don’t get me wrong; it’s OK. I just feel like it’s needlessly awkward much of the time (which makes for ungainly public reading). Also, the ESV’s awkwardness increasingly strikes me as somewhat dishonest–like the use of unnatural English word order makes the ESV feel more “accurate” than it really is, obscuring the fact that (like every other translation) it regularly irons out significant expressions and makes translation choices that are by no means obvious to every reader. In any case, I stopped using it with my youth (in favor of the NIV), because they were struggling to understand it.

    P.S.: Michael, is your first update missing a hyperlink?

  11. Come on! The listing of all those blessed translations are things many people in this world just don’t have. Those many people would also be willing to die for any copy of the Scriptures. I actually mean “die.”

    That won’t register for many of us because we will be busy wagging our jaws (love to use another term but I would get censored) and strutting our infinite knowledge about bible translation. Who cares? Let’s move on and thank God we even have the translations to beef about. Get on you knees and thank Him. This will help you from getting off on some polemic or diatribe which will help none of us.

  12. I like the ESV, but, as with any translation, there are places where I have problems. As I have been preaching through Ephesians 1, I have come across several verses where I agree more with the NIV than with the ESV. Also, I have several copies of the ESV and I have found 3 or 4 places in Ephesians where the two copies are different by a word or two (e.g. Does 1:5 include “as sons” or not?). This makes me wonder which is the real ESV.

  13. I once wrote a (not very good) Onion-esque satire on the TNIV/ESV debate that reported the news “Area Husband Caught Reading TNIV” as if it were pornography.


  14. The ESV, IMO, works best on the study desk. In this respect it is a lot like the NASB. For reading out loud in worship and for general use something like the NRSV, NIV, TNIV, HCSB, or even the NAB works better. The NLT is great for general reading. My two cents.

  15. Over the course of my ministery as a Methodist pastor, I have used various English translations to read the Scripture lessons: the NRSV, ESV, RSV, ASV, and the KJV. My favorite is the RSV. The churches in my charge do not have pew bibles, so whichever version I read from is the one whereby they hear the Word of God proclaimed. I find I primarily read and preach from the ESV- it is readily obtainable if my parishioners wish a copy, and I feel it to be closer to the RSV than the NRSV is, for reading and proclamation for public worship. My experience has been quite favorable, and my litmus test for worship isn’t the pro’s and con’s of the readability of a particular Bible version, but rather how faithfully I relate the text to the congregation versus their comprehension of the message. For me, the ESV has proven most satisfactory in this endeavor.

  16. For me I generally don’t have a massive preference for translation, I got into the habit of using the NIV because it was the preferred translation for my Theology degree (non-denominational, Evangelical college).

    However, for me at least, the moment someone starts using KJV as their primary, outward facing translation (there’s no problem with viewing the KJV in the privacy of your own home) I instantly think “this person has no desire whatsoever to reach people outside the church unless they are time travellers from the 16th century” is that wrong of me?

    On another note, I love Adrian Plass’ humorous definitions of the translations:

    “KJV: form in which the Bible was originally written in 17th century English, latter translated into Hebrew and Greek for some obscure reason, and then translated back again into those ridiculous modern versions

    Readers Digest Bible: the one where your name is actually mentioned in print throughout the New Testament and there is a chance to win your salvation in a draw just before the second coming.

    NIV: ideal for those unhappy with the decrepit and very local versions of scripture.

    Amplified Bible: Ideal for churches without a sound system”

    Ahh got to love Adrian!

  17. Just a quick one. Proverbs 30:18-19

    18 Three things are too wonderful for me;
    four I do not understand:
    19the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a serpent on a rock,
    the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a virgin.

    “Virgin” is an accurate translation. Can’t fault the ESV for that. However, what does the word “virgin” connote in people’s minds today? How well does this translation communicate the original meaning (which, I’m pretty sure, wasn’t a matter of mere gynecology) to the modern reader/hearer? Not very well.

    NLT is much better, imo…

    18 There are three things that amaze me—
    no, four things that I don’t understand:
    19 how an eagle glides through the sky,
    how a snake slithers on a rock,
    how a ship navigates the ocean,
    how a man loves a woman.

    The kids at the High School can understand this at once without being distracted by the strange (to their ears) way in which the word “virgin” is used.

  18. I come from a tradition where I think many people would be astounded to find out that any Bible translations exist other than the NIV, except those couple of old people that still carry their KJV. As a young adult I started exploring translations. NCV, HCSV, ESV, NKJV, NLT, Amplified etc.

    I really enjoy the ESV for studying (with a mix of other translations for reference if possible), but I also have never used the RSV or NASV and don’t have much experience in the way of Formal Equivalence translations.

    Last Sunday I determined that I really need to take my NLT or NIV to church though. I was reading scripture in our service (out of Phillipians) and I used my ESV. It’s the first time I’ve ever lost my place multiple times during a 15 verse scripture reading. When I read it out loud it felt cluncky comming out of my mouth and I had to make sure what I’d just said was right, even though I’d just read it through to myself 15 minutes before!

    I have noticed in these comments that the negative comments have tended to center around the Pauline Epistles for the most part. Is it possible the ESV translation team just had trouble replicating Paul’s style while doing a decent job otherwise?

  19. Comment by Scott Seaman:

    I find the ESV easy to read most of the time. Occasionally, it requires more effort in difficult passages than what I was used to with the NIV and the NET.

    I’ve read one-half of the ESV NT with my 15 year old son and he doesn’t squeak about it being unduly hard to understand, although, he has learned some new words. I read Acts with my 22 year old son this summer and he thought the ESV was easier reading than his NIV.

    When I occasionally run into a strangely worded or difficult passage, I realize that is the result of my preferred translation philosophy, and don’t feel anxious about it.

    The ESV “marketing” caught my attention, but detailed discussion of translation philosophy by Ryken (see http://www.esv.org/translation/woge) and others, and the long history of appreciation for the RSV, convinced me it was worth the extra effort to use essentially literal Bibles and evaluate them as I go.

    I’m thrilled that the ESV strives to be transparent to the metaphors originally given in scripture for our contemplation. Some translations too often don’t distinguish between idioms and metaphors, and replace easy to understand metaphors such as “walk” with “live”. These words are not entirely equailvent because “walk” carries the additional sense of moving toward a destination.

    I feel motivated to use the ESV for memorization because it retains God’s metaphors and because the words and phrasing are similar with other non-paraphrased translations. I see this shared vocabulary as enhancing a sense of community between believers.

    The ESV & NLT are good companions. The creators of the ESV and NLT had different goals and approaches to translation. Therefore, these translations bring different benefits to their use. Many people don’t realize that some key figures behind the ESV also recommend the NLT. This is even noted at ESV’s website. Refer to Packer’s interview http://www.esv.org/bounce/wm/interviews/openline.3.wma

    Over the years, friends have mentioned how helpful the old Living Bible was in getting an initial grasp of the epistles. Personally, I found that good study bibles provide the necessary help, but I can see that in some circumstances, a paraphrase like the NLT, might be a good beginners Bible.

    Regarding Strauss’ 2008 ETS presentation linked above: Strauss is a spokesman for Zondervan and cranks-out one-side critiques of the ESV and essentially literal translation philosophy. Mounce plans to reply at this year’s ETS meeting. http://www.koinoniablog.net/2008/11/ets-day-2-by-bill-mounce.html

    Scott seaman

  20. I did not like the ESV, which I discovered after buying three brand new ESV’s after they did their big advertising thing in World Magazine, back in the day when I was an avid World reader. I figured it had to be good, so I got one for me and two for others. Yuck. And I’m a translation junkie who was predisposed (since at the time I leaned towards the Piper/Grudem crowd, big time) to love it. But I didn’t. It was clunky and often seemed forced.

    Later, when I discovered some of the hoopla, primaraly the purposeful “male-ing” of the text to reflect CBMW complementarian interpretations (ahem, bias), I was just plain ticked. Don’t do that to me. Or, if you are, let me know up front, you know?

    I love the NASB, having grown up with it… I find it very well done, on an intellectual level and appreciate how the footnotes often include an equally viable alternate translation of a specific word. I like how they respect the intellect of the reader by giving them a couple ways of looking at the passage (yes, yes, I know there are more than a couple, but, hey, I’ll take what I can get!). 🙂

    I love The Message for rescuing me from Bible PTSD (after the Bible had been used as a tool by Gothard-esque “spiritual authority means doing everything I say with a smile” people, verses used to spiritually abuse me into submission to tyranny)…can’t thank Peterson enough. It was like a cool drink of water in a desert. Bless that man!

    I like to change translations every year or two, just to keep the text fresh (and I appreciate the luxury of being able to do that, realizing that many don’t have such an opportunity).

    I am currently reading out of The New Jerusalem bible (love that one for the Psalms…wowzers…).

    I’m also a huge fan of the New English Bible, which is rarely seen outside of used bookstores, and is, I believe, or was, the Anglican text of choice. Aside from having that uber-cool cross on the cover, I think it does a fantastic job with the epistles.

  21. Actually, I think the LCMS will eventually regret their decision which will unfortunately be very costly for them.

    I’m always fascinated to read readers’ comments about Bible translations. Some are mildly supportable–I can at least imagine what “clunky” might sound like–but most opinions summarize the entire translation using terms such as “like” “love” “don’t like” “accurate” and so on. (You can see the same types opinions at Catholic blogs discussing the merits or demerits of the NAB versus Douay-Reims, and so on.) And I always wonder what the basis is for these comments. Is the best translation the one you “like”? hmmm. Does “liking” it really make it better somehow?

    I recall when James Dobson went on a rampage after the TNIV came out and at the time wondered to myself, “What does this guy really know about Bible translation anyway? How much actual Bible translating has he done?” Is he (or Piper for that matter) really knowledgeable enough to endorse or reject entire translations? I’m pretty skeptical.

    I think if we all spent as much time studying our Greek and Hebrew as we do blogging, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation.

  22. I’m really only familiar with two translations–the KJV, which I grew up with and my current church uses, and the ESV, which a PCA church I was part of used.

    The ESV is definitely easier to understand.

  23. I once read somewhere that the NRSV has as much liberal bias as the ESV has conservative bias.
    I do agree the ESV is clunky. Compare it to the NRSV and this is obvious. The NRSV is really smooth. Ultimately, it boils down to what works for you, but I suspect that, as several posters mentioned, any single translation will get old over time. If you are the typical evangelical looking to the text for truth and illumination you are limited to the text at hand. Yes I know it’s “God’s Word” but it’s still a book, full of words. Any growing Christian is going to get to the point where the Bible moves from daily reading to reference manual. You find yourself reading books and looking up topics more and picking up the Bible for basic reading less. And that’s ok. Don’t blame the translation for _that_, and stop giving yourself grief over it. Here is a great article on “Quiet Time Guilt”:

  24. I used to be an NIV guy, until… I read one of my favorite theologian authors make a passing comment about how the NIV misinterprets Paul and through use of dynamic equivalence ended up making very little sense. This shook me up big time. I loved to read the bible. I studied every day, read it every spare moment I had. After I read this particular authors comment, and looked it up myself and saw that he was correct, I could no longer read the NIV. I was in limbo for the next year as I studied the making of translations.

    So now, even though there are times when I am frustrated by the ESV’s rendering (especially in some of the Gospels), I feel alot more confidence, assured that the words I am reading is closer to what is actually written. Also, for the most part, the ESV does very fine for me. I never have trouble understanding what is read, it’s more frustration at the way it is said (i.e., “Judge not, that you be not judged”).

  25. I don’t have a huge problem with any of the contemporary translations, with the possible exception of the NASB which stands head and shoulders above the rest in clunkiness and general unreadability. Typically when I’m looking up a passage online I’ll bounce between a couple different translations to ensure I’ve got the proper sense of the original. In no cases that I’ve encountered have I felt as though a particular translation was glaringly different from all the rest.

    Given that I already own a couple bibles and all of them are online anyway, I can’t get behind laying out the cash for yet another one. Sorry ESV…

  26. This excellent article on translation philosophies by Michael Marlowe explains why “clunkiness” may not be so bad: http://www.bible-researcher.com/dynamic-equivalence.html