on February 28, 2002
As one of the people who worked on the ESV, I would like to respond to a comment made in a number of reviews--that the ESV is remarkably similar to the RSV. This is somewhat to be expected, since translations that are essentially literal in terms of translation philosophy are going to be markedly similar to one another--moreso than translations that are more dynamic in their approach. Besides, our stated goal was to improve the RSV where necessary and not to produce a unique translation (if such a thing is even possible). We wanted to stand deliberately in the Wycliffe-Tyndale-KJV-RSV tradition, so that echoes of it could still be heard in the ESV. Nevertheless, we made approximately 75,000 changes to the text of the RSV, ranging from the deletion of a comma to reworking of an entire paragraph. It is not fair to say that the ESV is only a slightly modified version of the RSV--we weighed carefully every word against the original languages and made changes where we believed they were necessary. The full extent of the improvements can only be seen through a careful comparison of the entire text, not just a casual browsing through a few favorite passages.
I would also like to respond to one of the reviewers, who stated that the ESV was completed in two years, and then implied that two years was not enough time to make a significant improvement to a document with the size and complexity of the Bible. First, the project required three years, not two. Second, the fact that we were able to use the RSV as the basis for our text saved a tremendous amount of time--we didn't have to start from scratch. Third, we made the best possible use of Bible software, email, file transfers, conference calls, and other technology to which previous translators did not have access. This enabled us to complete more work in less time. Finally, we had some of the finest evangelical scholars on our Translation Oversight Committee and our Translation Review Committee. They were already experts in their fields, many of them having written commentaries on the books they revised. This also improved the turnaround time on the review process.
I hope this sheds some helpful light on the making of the ESV. Thanks for your interest.
on October 11, 2001
I have waited for a translation of the Bible like this for some time now, and I am grateful to God that it has finally arrived.
The ESV is an essentially literal translation with an eye for literary excellence. Hence, it is more accurate and precise than the NIV, and more natural and clearly expressed than the NASB. For example, the ESV translates the key conjunctions between propositions, and it also seeks to maintain consistency with recurring words. This is an area that the NIV often fails in, which makes it difficult to rely upon for in-depth study. On the other hand, the ESV seeks clarity of expression in dividing paragraphs and sentences: each paragaph is set apart by a bold section heading. The NASB, on the other hand, begins each verse on its own separate line, which makes reading the text cumbersome and awkward.
The ESV also employs a helpful center-column cross-reference system (which has been updated). It includes (1) references to specific words or phrases, (2) comparative references, (3) less direct references, and (4) quoted references. There are also footnotes which indicate alternative translations and explanations of translation decisions.
J. I. Packer is the general editor, with Clifford John Collins chairing the OT translation, William Mounce chairing the NT translation, and Leland Ryken overseeing the literary aspects of the ESV. More information can be found at [website]
I believe that the ESV will become the Bible of choice for many students of the Word of God. soli Deo gloria!
on October 15, 2001
I have waited a long time for a Bible that is sufficiently accurate for in-depth study but also accessible and understandable to readers at any level. As a pastor, I see a need for a Bible equally useful to Christians for devotional reading, verse memorization, public worship and private study. The English Standard Version Bible accomplishes this better than any Bible currently available. It is as easy to read as the New International Version and the New Living Translation, as accurate as the New American Standard and as majestic and elegant in its literary style as the King James and the Revised Standard Version. Yet, the ESV avoids the weaknesses of all these other translations. The English Standard Version is the product of the finest evangelical scholars of our time and is a testimony to God's providence in providing his Word to us in this generation. The ESV truly deserves to become the standard for English-speaking Christians everywhere. It is a translation you can trust.
on April 14, 2003
Is the NASB95 - the king of the literal bible translations dead? That must surely be the question on our minds. The answer is, "I'm not sure, but it's having a good run at it!".
Firstly my comparison - I compared 50 difficult verses. The NASB95 and ESV were way way out in front of all other versions in accuracy. I gave the NASB95 a couple of extra marks over the ESV, but there's not a lot in it.
Secondly, literalness. On a word for word basis the ESV actually seems a little more literal than the NASB95 in that it is much more thorough in translating all the little words, the "ands" and "buts" and so on, as well as allowing sentences to run on where they do in the original. On the other hand, the fact that it is a warmed over RSV shows through in a lot of verses that should ideally be re-worked in NASB style. However, the ESV sometimes seems to try harder in consistantly rendering the same Greek word as the same word in English - but not always, sometimes the NASB is more consistent. Conclusion - The ESV is more literal on the "forest scale", but the NASB is more literal in the "tree scale".
However, the NASB appears to be quite a bit more accurate with tenses. Sometimes these verses have important theological significance. e.g. Acts 13:48 NASB "had been appointed", and Mt 18:18 NASB "shall have been bound" are more accurate than the ESV equivilents which are carry overs from the RSV (and KJV).
Thirdly, readability. People are talking about the ESV being more readable than the NASB. I don't think there's a lot in it. The ESV has it's fair share of bloopers where the English is strained and the NASB is readable. Sometimes the NASB's lessor readability increases its literalness and correctness. Conclusion: I personally can't see the difference. If we could pick some verses from the ESV and some from the NASB we would probably approach perfection!
Fourthly, scholarship. The ESV has taken advantage of the latest scholarship, especially in Greek and this shines through in a number of difficult passages. The NASB95 seems overly conservative in this respect.
Fifthly, textually. The ESV seems to have greater respect for the standard Greek text - the UBS4. The NASB seems more conservative in following traditional readings. (Not just the bracketed passages, but of course including them). However, neither strictly adhere to UBS4, even ignoring verses bracketed in the UBS4 or NASB. Conclusion: A minor plus for the ESV.
Sixthly, extra features. The ESV footnotes seem more helpful than the NASB95. On the other hand the NASB's use of italics for words not in the original language and the "*" tense asterisk to show words that were present tense in the original, emparts more information than the ESV. On the other hand, the ESV's extra literalness seems to have a little less need for the italics in places. The NASB capitalizes pronouns that refer to Christ or God. While one might regard these as an unnecessary interpretive gloss, they do improve comprehension, especially since a literal translation does not allow doing what the NIV would do, which is replace "He" with "Jesus" to clarify who is talking in long narratives. I didn't like this at first, but now I do, it's just another little feature that the NASB has to add information to the text without actually departing from literalness. Conclusion: NASB's extra features probably empart more information. The use of CAPS for Old Testament quotations is helpful in the NASB, and I like the italics and "*" tense indicator.
Formats: Some people are complaining that the NASB is printed verse by verse rather than paragraph style. Actually, only some NASBs are printed that way. If you don't like it (and I don't), buy the versions that are printed paragraph style. Visit Lockman's web site if you are unclear on that. As of now, the NASB is available in pocket formats and study bibles. The ESV is planned to offer these, but not as yet.
Overall Conclusion: It's very difficult to make up ones mind which is best. The arguments seem so finely balanced in either direction. The ESV is a fine effort and one of the best two translations available. At the end of the day, I think I'm going to give the win to the NASB. The extra features of the NASB95 text - CAPS for quotes and italics, plus a slight advantage in literalness and accuracy just beats the ESV to victory. Reports of the King's death have been exagerated, but I just wish there was a translation that picked the best out of the NASB and ESV.
on November 14, 2001
After having read several excerpts on-line and then purchasing the new ESV for myself and my husband, I am delighted at such an excellent translation! I've always been frustrated with the extent of problems in so many of the modern versions and the annoyance of having way too many versions because someone is too lazy to look up the word "propitiation" in the dictionary. It's about time that word-for-word and clarity are used together in transmitting the Word of God. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that I'm more of a "TR" manuscript fan (due to tradition) than Nestle's manuscript. However, I am very unhappy with the NKJV (of which I have seen 3 different editions), and the KJV isn't something my husband is comfortable reading, so we at least are now able to agree on a Bible that is easy to read yet doesn't compromise the integrity of God's Word just to fit into modern culture. All in all an excellent modern version, hopefully to soon replace all the other dynamic equivalence versions. I'm excited that I can use this version to study, memorize, read, and share with my children as well!
on May 21, 2002
I received the ESV as a birthday present and began using it along with my NASB Bible. At my seminary, the NASB is the Bible used by the majority of professors and is our chapel pew Bible. So I felt like me doing the ESV would be following the latest fad of new Bible translations.
Seven months later, I have put away my NASB in favor of the ESV. In using it during my Hebrew class, I found it very literal for the most part and very easy to read (two, two, two in one!). Plus, the translation team contains some of my heroes: R. Albert Mohler, Mark Dever, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul... plus others from a wide range of evangelical thought.
With translations, no one will find the perfect one unless you're well-schooled in Hebrew/Greek. Each translation has good points and bad points. At the end of the day, one just has to find one they are comfortable with and one that stays true and go with it. For me, the ESV is it.
There's a wide-margin, large print one coming out for all you who can't stand the 9 pt. Berkeley font. But cut them some slack --- this is the first printing of it....
on March 1, 2002
Headed up by J.I. Packer, a lot of great folks worked on this. What I mean is honest scholars who really love Jesus and His Word. For me, the inclusion of people like Jack Deere and Wayne Grudem spoke volumes. In addition to those directly involved, the list of endorsers is a virtual "who's who" of evangelicalism.
This translation was based on the original RSV text, but carefully removes the liberal bias which manifested in that translation and it's successor the NRSV. In general I find this a trustworthy Bible to read unlike the NRSV or the NIV, which is really the main thing, and it is more readable than the NASB, so that makes it a great investment. If you are looking for the conservative answer to the NIV, look no further. After several years now, our family has switched to this as our main Bible, with some use of the HCSB, especially in harder to read sections.
This Bible is neither liberal or conservative on gender translation, unless you consider accurate to be conservative. It simply translates what is there, which is in some cases 'people' and some cases 'man' or 'brothers'.
For an example of readability-- Romans 7 was an absolute pleasure that helped me understand what I could never quite grasp before.
For an example of scholarship -- It is fascinating to see that they have corrected the reading regarding the contentious issue of the apostleship of Junia(s) to reflect the very lastest scholarship which indicates that "outstanding among the Apostles" is better translated as "well known to the Apostles" Check out the NET Bible on which this is based... It is a translation used by translators to summarize the textual details as footnotes. A great reference for those more interested in the language concerns.
Note: I also had some trouble with the binding early hardback version as another reviewer suggested, but not until we started keeping a pen in it :) I don't think this is a major issue. Be nice to the book.
on March 26, 2002
The ESV is a wonderful translation of the Bible, being a faithful update of the RSV done from an evangelical perspective. It is an "essentially literal" version, which places it in the word-for-word (formal equivalence) camp, giving due respect to the actual Words of God, while sacrificing nothing in terms of literary beauty. This is quite an achievement! Overall, the translation certainly deserves a reading and could well become the new standard version for the Christian church.
That said, I am disappointed with the poor production values of this Bible from Crossway--at least in the hardcover I purchased. From the logo, to the cover, to the layout and general typography, this is an ugly Bible. The quality of the materials and processes (binding) is also disappointing. Given the quality of this translation, I'm frankly surprised that more care and attention was not afforded this Bible by Crossway. I'm contrasting this edition in terms of production quality and beauty with the first edition NIV I have from 1978, and also my current NASB in the hardcover side-column reference edition. These Bibles far surpass this Bible in production quality and beauty (Smyth-sewn binding, lovely, readable typefaces, nice layouts, etc.). This translation deserves a beautiful format.
From the human viewpoint, for this version to take it's rightful place, it will require a publisher that can both pull off a quality Bible and market it successfully. I'm not sure Crossway is that publisher.
on June 2, 2002
I had been using the NIV for over 20 years, but some in-depth study made me less satisfied with it recently. The ESV has quickly become my new study Bible. It is literal, though not slavishly so; really quite close to the RSV, while correcting some of the RSV's questionable renderings.
As others have said, this is perhaps not the best Bible for non-Christians, new Christians. or young Christians to read - it does use 'theological jargon' which may be unfamiliar, although actually more precise, compared to NIV or other newer translations. But for serious Bible study, this is the new standard.
on June 25, 2002
I bought the ESV because I was dissatisfied with the lack of literary quality evident in the NIV, NASB, and NKJV. My hopes were not in vain. I'm familiar with virtually every English Bible ever produced, and the ESV stands out above all the rest. Not even the original King James matches its literary elegance - and the translations and textual choices are far more sound than those made in the KJV, NKJV, and NASB. The ESV is more literal and reliable than the NIV, which often slips into "Good News for Modern Man" style paraphrases, but it isn't so slavishly literal as to be alien and awkward like the NKJV.
The only Bible that matches the ESV's literary quality is the original RSV, which is no longer available thanks to the gender-neutral NRSV. But the ESV corrects the RSV's questionable theological renderings, making it an excellent Bible for all Christians.
My only complaint is that the ESV's publishers may not have the muscle or clout to adequately hype this fine, excellent book against the inferior NIV. It'd be a shame for the ESV to be relegated to status of a "seminary" Bible like the NASB, because it deserves to the gold standard for Evangelicals in worship, evangelism, and study.