Thursday, January 25, 2007

English Standard Version

I read a very strong paper on Bible translations last night. The paper was written by Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church Seattle as an explanation why their board of elders had decided to use the English Standard Version exclusively in all teaching and preaching. I recently purchased an ESV interlinear English-Greek bible so I was able to compare some of the passages that in my own mind are somewhat different. One passage that comes to mind is the end of Luke 4 where the mob in Jesus' home town is about to throw him over the cliff. The NIV says Jesus walked through them and left. The Living Bible says Jesus "slipped away". The "Message" says he slipped through them or something like that and the ESV says he walked "amidst" them.

"Walked through" seems about right for Jesus but a little on the rough side, like a linebacker or a bouncer. Slipping away is out of Jesus' character as the "Lion of Judah" and the redeemer and saviour. I don't recall ever hearing about Jesus "sneaking" around and that is the message I get in the word "slip". I think walking "amidst" them describes what he did rather well. He didn't sneak but didn't violently shove his way through to escape but probably just put some moves on them as he made his way to the perimeter of the mob, much like trying to get away from the stage-divers at a rock concert.

I do think Jesus reveals himself through the Holy Spirit as well as through scripture, possibly even more so, but I agree with Pastor Driscoll that the ESV is the best "word for word" translation of the original Greek (I haven't even looked at Hebrew) while maintaining readability in the English Language. I won't throw out my NIV or KJV and will use them often in comparison study but I look forward to digging into the ESV for my daily reference.

It may seem trivial but as you read through the ESV there are little differences that amount to a great deal after you've chewed on them awhile. Another instance I just remembered is a scripture where the apostles were together and the NIV says that the Holy Spirit was "in" them. The ESV uses "among" as a more accurate word for the Greek word used. I have been looking at my own faith journey with great scrutiny to sift out that which is false and that which is true according to scripture and the teachings of the early church fathers. This "personal faith" that is the product of so many post-modern factors may also find part of its roots sunk in how we wrap our minds around God and his influence on creation - based on teachings that are inconsistent with the nature of the Triune God. For a long time I viewed God as far off unless I confessed, got right with God, went to my knees in prayer, worshipped and adored him. The Holy Spirit was not "IN" me. I remember conversations with God about that, feeling apart from God and unprotected from Satan. There were many different influences that brought me to the realization that God "blesses the just and the unjust" therefore their is not a true "physical" separation from God for anyone. God truly is "among" us, not in an outside way but in an agape way, one we cannot explain in English because our whole language was developed in a Sacred-Secular dichotomy that forces us to look at "reality" as those things we can sense with the 5 senses.

Now I know God in a different way. When I am in sin I struggle to be "in" Christ but he never ceases to be "in" me, turning my heart, beckoning my spirit to turn "in" to him. You can't learn that alone in your personal faith though, it takes people to teach that.

Emmanuel, is God with us. Check out the ESV.



Adam J. said...

I have been using the ESV for about six months now and I really like it. I agree that it is the best word for word translation. Piper has also written a good article in support of this translation if you want to check it out at

Sam said...

I will read Piper. I listen to his podcasts often. Thanks.