ESV Bible Transition
Old North is excited about our current transition to the ESV Bible translation. Please see the article from Steve Kristan for more information.
Why Old North Church is Switching to the ESV
By Steve Kristan
After an extensive review of various modern Bible translations, Old North is switching to the English Standard Version (ESV) as the primary Bible for preaching and teaching.
The Bible is a collection of 66 documents inspired by God and originally written in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. In the US, we’ve been blessed with the availability of several good quality English Bible translations. With that in mind, people often ask, “Which is the best Bible translation?” God in his sovereignty has used and will continue to use many different English translations to build up his church and have people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the best Bible translation is the one that you will read!
That said, there are distinct differences in Bible translations. For over 20 years, Old North Church has used the original New International Version (NIV 1984) translation as the main Bible for preaching and teaching. It has been a terrific Bible.
Early this year the NIV 2011 was introduced and contained significant changes from the NIV 1984. At that time, it was announced by the publisher that the NIV 1984 would be withdrawn from the market and that the NIV 2011 would be the only NIV translation going forward. What this meant to Old North Church is that as we replenish our NIV pew Bibles, we would be forced to acquire the NIV 2011 edition.
The arrival of the NIV 2011 (and subsequent phase out of the NIV 1984) presented an challenge for us. Unless we replaced all 600 of our our pew Bibles at the same time, we would have a mix of NIV 1984 and NIV 2011 in the pews. This mix would be confusing to some people, especially those people with a pew Bible in their hand that did not match the NIV version Pastor Brent would be using from the pulpit. In addition, some of the more modern Bible translations available today have incorporated the latest archeological and biblical interpretation discoveries.
The elders of Old North decided to conduct a Bible translation review with the intent of coming up with one main Bible for Pastor Brent to use in his teaching and preaching. The elders assigned a committee to investigate various translations and come up with a recommendation. The committee was made up of myself, Pastor Brent, and Dr. Chuck McGowen. After extensive review of the NIV 2011, Holman Christian Standard Bible, and the ESV, the committee recommended that Old North adopt the ESV for preaching and teaching. The reasons were:
1. The ESV employs an “essentially literal” translation philosophy. In Matthew 4:4 Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. The wording here is important. Jesus said that every word in the Bible is important.
The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each biblical writer.
The NIV uses a “dynamic equivalent translation” philosophy. The first concern of the NIV translators has been the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the biblical writers. The difference means the ESV tries to translate “word-for-word” as much as possible while the NIV translates “thought-for-thought.” as much as possible.
The elders recognize that an essentially literal translation best matches Old North’s high view of Scripture and its commitment to expository preaching. This reflects our confidence in the verbal (down to the very words in the original languages) and plenary (throughout every part) inspiration of Scripture. We believe the ESV best meets these goals.
2. The ESV is a more transparent translation. Since the ESV is a “word for word” translation it leaves interpretive ambiguities unresolved so that the reader or preacher or student, rather than the translator, can determine which meaning is best.
3. The ESV engages in less under-translation. The ESV includes theological words and important concepts found in the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic languages. In order to make the thought (not the words) of the biblical writers clearer, the NIV at times avoids theological words and important concepts found in the original languages. The ESV includes those words.
4. The ESV retains more of the literary qualities of the Bible. As a word for word translation, the ESV retains more of the nature of the writing that God by his Holy Spirit inspired the biblical authors to produce.
5. The NIV 2011 made significant changes over the 1984 version. The translators, in an attempt to produce a translation more acceptable around the world, made changes relative to gender that we would characterize as inaccurate. We would also disagree with some of the doctrinal wording of some translated passages.
Summary. The decision by Old North to switch to the ESV for preaching and teaching is an important one and we are very excited about this change. As the Apostle Paul wrote:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV)