Evaluating the English Standard Version (ESV)



The English Standard Version

Published by Crossways Publishers

Translated in 2001 “with the 1971 RSV text providing the starting point (Preface to the ESV).”


The ESV Bible carries forward the trusted legacy of the Bible in English—the legacy established first in the Tyndale New Testament (1526) and the KJV Bible (1611). With this legacy as the foundation, the ESV Bible (2001) reflects the beauty and majesty of the original languages, first captured centuries ago by these early Bible translations. – From www.esv.com

Key #1: Concept Behind the Translation

 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 Bible writer.  As such, its emphasis is on “word for word” correspondence at the same time taking into account difference of grammar, syntax and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. – Preface to the ESV

Plain English:   This translation seeks to be as literal as possible while understanding that sometimes a phrase is no longer in use and cannot be understood without explanation(i.e. a baker’s dozen = 13).

Key #2: Readability

The ESV is written on a 10th grade reading level.   Vocabulary will be written at this level.  For instance, iniquity is not a word the average 2nd grader knows.

Key #3: Understandability

Because of the grade reading level, it may use words that are inaccessible to the average reader.  For instance, the word, “knew” in Genesis 4:1 requires context word work to understand.  The word means to have sex but a reader has to look at the context of Adam’s knowing of Eve to get the meaning.

Key #4: Reliability

The translation committee consists of scholars who teach or represent traditionally conservative institutions.  For instance, Wayne Grudem teaches at Phoenix Seminary.  Many people regard his Systematic Theology as a conservative theology primer.  His role as a Baptist Theologian carries the widespread respect of scholars.

Key #5: Relateability

Many people grew up reading the KJV or a similar translation.  The ESV reminds them of those roots. This common history allows them to access the ESV pretty readily. However, the nature of the statements are not always intuitive.  This lack comes more from the nature of the concept.  Word for word translation does not always take into account the nature of the current American thought processes (for better or for worse).



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