The English Standard Version

Mark Aites


With the New King James Version of the Bible being gradually phased out by Nelson Publishers, one looks for a reputable translation, with easier terminology, to take its place.  The following are some selected remarks made by Wayne Jackson in a feature article of the Christian Courier, December 1, 2002 concerning the English Standard Version:


“In the autumn of 2001, a fresh English translation made its appearance. Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers (Wheaton, IL) introduced the English Standard Version (ESV).  The Preface of this rendition begins by echoing a statement expressed by the translators of the original King James Version.  “God’s sacred Word . . .is that inestimable treasure that excelleth all the riches of the earth.”  The translators pledge that this sentiment “is the motivating force” that undergirds the publication of the ESV.

Unlike many modern paraphrases, which pursue the Dynamic Equivalence (DE) approach, the ESV “seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and personal style of each Bible writer.”  Its goal, therefore, was to produce, a “word-for-word” edition.

There are several strengths that underscore the value of the new ESV. First, as reflected in the textual base, it is translated from the latest collection of Hebrew and Greek documents, giving it the strongest textual foundation of anything yet produced in a translation.

Second, unlike some of the more recent versions, whose translators were characterized by liberal tendencies, the ESV appears to have been produced by men who attempted to “carry over every possible nuance of meaning in the original words of Scripture into our language.”

For example, the RSV created a storm of controversy with its “young woman” rendition of Isaiah 7:14, whereas the ESV has it “virgin” — and so Isaiah and Matthew (1:22-23) are in harmony again!

Another of the strengths of the ESV is the clarity and accuracy which many passages lacked in some of the earlier versions.  For example “expanse” replaces the ill-rendered “firmament” in Genesis 1.  The term “cattle” (a specific term) appears as livestock” (more generic) in the ESV of Genesis 1.

Genesis 22:1 notes that “God tested Abraham”; he did not “tempt” him (cf. James 1:13) as the old KJV suggested.  The Shakespearean “thee” and “thou” are replaced with contemporary pronouns: And God said to Abram, Go from your country and your father’s house . . .“ (Genesis 12:1).  The increasingly obsolete “brethren” is now found as “brothers.”  Or when more distant relatives are considered, “brethren” becomes “kinsmen” (Genesis 13:8)...

Concerning the Sunday collection, the ESV correctly has: “On the first day of every week,... . ,“ whereas both the KJV and ASV omit the term “every.”

There is no flawless translation.  There is no version upon which all would agree in every particular.  One may suggest improvements in a translation, without adopting the radical viewpoint that the version must be condemned altogether because of a weakness, or mistranslation, in some instances.

The ‘ESV appears, in this writer’s judgment, to be a good translation — in spite of a few problems

Though the ESV is not without some weakness, generally speaking, it appears to be an accurate, literal translation, rendered in beautiful English.  It is a version, we believe, that will serve the English-speaking world with distinction.  It is our hope that this new version will not become a point of contention within the body of Christ.