Translations of the Bible - English Standard Version

The English Standard Version has been making some waves in the Christian community. It is the number one selling Bible for the Kindle at Amazon. It has been endorsed by everyone from Jack Cottrell, Max Lucado, to Ravi Zacharias. But I decided to look at the preface to see how they approached interpreting the original texts.

The ESV takes the place of the New Revised Standard Version as an update of the Revised Standard Version. The NRSV was published in 1989. The NRSV is my personal favorite, although I will be making the switch to the ESV. It has been slammed as being too liberal in some circles. Here is a post making that point. What I like most about the NRSV, which the ESV tries to maintain, is that it takes the approach of being a literal translation while still trying to be grammatically fluid.

There is debate on whether a more dynamic, thought-for-thought, translation like the Message or the New Living Bible is more useful than a literal, word-for-word, translation like the NASB or the ESV is better. Each probably serves its purpose and probably more useful for some rather than others depending on what the intended purpose in reading Scripture is. Many people do not want to go to the Scriptures and have an intense study. They will leave that up to their more studious friends and concede to them on the religious tit-for-tat discussions.

Any translation is influenced by the interpretation of the translator. The more you move away from the a literal translation to a dynamic translation, the more you inevitably will have the theological biases of the translator in the Scripture. Those who are reading the more dynamic versions must realize that they are reading something between a literal translation and a commentary. For this reason, it is best to go with a more literal translation when doing serious Bible study if you do not read the original languages.

Many literal translation proponents enjoy the New American Standard. The NASB does take the literal translation approach, but it seems grammatically choppy and really grains against me when reading. I don't want to be grammatically frustrated when I read the Scriptures. I want to be challenged, frustrated about my own ineptitude at serving Christ completely, and wallow in grace, but I do not want to be distracted by bad sentence structure. I have no problem with the translation of the NASB. It is the delivery of that translation that upsets me.

When I do intensive Bible study, I will reference and look at the NASB, the NRSV, the NIV (because that is what most people read), and the original text if I am reading the New Testament (my Hebrew is useless). I might even look at the Message or some relevant commentaries if I am confused. But the NRSV is what I use when I just doing my devotions or reading the Bible for pleasure.

But I am going to trade in my NRSV for the ESV. It takes the literal approach while trying to be grammatically fluid. They explain their approach in their preface:
Every translation is at many points a trade-off between literal precision and readability, between “formal equivalence” in expression and “functional equivalence” in communication, and the ESV is no exception. Within this framework we have sought to be “as literal as possible” while maintaining clarity of expression and literary excellence. Therefore, to the extent that plain English permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original; and, as far as grammar and syntax allow, we have rendered Old Testament passages cited in the New in ways that show their correspondence. Thus in each of these areas, as well as throughout the Bible as a whole, we have sought to capture the echoes and overtones of meaning that are so abundantly present in the original texts.

Michael Marlowe, a reviewer, posted a lengthy review in which he stated that "Its English recalls the classic diction of the KJV, and so it has some literary power (this is not unimportant in a Bible version)." Wayne Jackson, in his review for the Christian Courier, noted that the language is "rendered in beautiful English." That might seem irrelevant, but for those of us who cannot stand the NIV or the NASB because of the grammar, have fluid grammar is important for a literal translation.

In then end, all of the popular translations cover the essentials of the faith and would be useful for study. We will not be saved through study. The purpose of study is to show ourselves approved in the way we live. It's not just to be intellectual Scripture giants. Our knowledge is pretty irrelevant without grasping the grace of God and surrendering our hearts to him.

edited to add:
I just pulled the trigger and bought...

I liked the single column, reference system of this Bible. You can view a sample page here.

You can see other ESV Bibles at their website although I would advise buying them on Amazon where it much cheaper and free shipping if you order over $25. I found it best to look at the company's website because I was looking for a Bible with the cross references. Then I would take the ISBN number from the website and look it up on Amazon to find to the price.