23 August 2007

ESV Thoughts

We've been using the Lectionary for LSB now for over a year, and this employs the ESV text. I confess that there are times I still stumble. My old ear is trained to KJV and I suspect it always will be. But I've grown quite fond of the ESV. It's rather faithful (though no version is perfect, including the Authorized Version!), and yet it seems to speak an English that most folks will have little trouble understanding. I am especially thankful for the Epistles in the ESV. St. Paul's grammar and syntax is at times torturous and KJV was all too faithful in reproducing it! I'm glad to read aloud the simplified syntax in the ESV to the congregation - especially breaking up the long sentences. In use for over a year now, I can honestly say it strikes me as a good liturgical text. It is a text that is dignified and yet accessible, and as the icing on the cake, it still seems to be overwhelmingly similar to the "flow" of the KJV (especially when compared, say, to NIV).


Past Elder said...

The ESV has become my "Bible of choice" for the largely the same reasons.

My former synods resists it, preferring the NIV. The official reasoning is it's more readable and the ESV is off putting. Well for one thing, the churches growing like weeds around here generally use the KJV so older English doesn't seem to be the problem, for another I don't find the NIV to be exactly English as spoken on the streets either, and for yet another I think the real reason has something to do with LCMS scholars having participated in the ESV.

I came up on the Douay Bible in the Challoner revision common among pre conciliar Catholics. But the KJV was not unknown, more as a foundational text for English than a Bible version. In those days, the idea was translating from the Vulgate was preferable to sole reliance on Greek texts because St Jerome would have had access to more ancient (presumably more accurate) texts than exist now. Then came the Jerusalem Bible, the textus receptus of the conciliar crowd, and I, though decidedly un-conciliar, still use it if for nothing else than reminding myself through the notes of the classes I went through in college (historical-critical city).

My other main study text isn't really a Bible at all but Herz' Pentateuch and Haftorahs, once a standard for Orthodox Jews, containing the readings for the synagogue lectionary, if you will, with extensive notes blowing the h-c crowd out of the water.

I have never encountered a single Christian who knew it. Then again, I suppose I am the only confessional Lutheran whose main "study Bibles" are from conciliar Catholic and Orthodox Jewish sources! Oh well, the Bible I read is the ESV Concordia Edition. And I keep a KJV around too, which is also the English text in Herz, though a rabbinic revision published by the Jewish Publication Society in 1917 or thereabouts. They have since put out a replacement.

Past Elder said...

PS -- my hardest task, biblically, coming back to Christianity was after a twenty some year stint as a Righteous of the Nations reading the Hebrew Bible, to re-learn again the Christian OT order which has the Prophets and the Writings all mixed up. Whoever started doing that? Bad idea. I'd love to see Christian Bibles go back to the Hebrew Bible for the OT, not just for the books but the order of books. Jesus didn't seem to have a problem with the Law/Prophets/Writings layout!

Bryce P Wandrey said...


I am an ecumenical chap. For this reason I wish that there was one translation that was used by the "Church" for public services (all of them have their defincies; some more than others). This is not to say that other translations could be used for Bible Study, etc. (In my congregation people had both the NIV and ESV in their hands while I read the RSV; I found the ESV and RSV almost consonant, the NIV almost a commentary at times).

For this reason, the LCMS "doing its own thing" with the ESV, chaffes me a little bit. But it is a fine translation, in the tradition of the KJV and RSV. I guess that I could hope that it becomes a standard translation for the "Church" but in my experience the LCMS has not, recently at least, done a good job at setting an example for the Church (please, don't take this antecdote as an excuse to attack me over relativism, liberalism, etc).


L P Cruz said...

Pr. Will,

I love this ESV too. I think I will stop buying new translations for a while as this one works for me. I started with KJV too but I noticed, that when I need to recall a passage from memory, it is the KJV that I hear in my mind when locating the verse. Something psychological I suppose.

Yes, too, I read somewhere that the base English translation that the ESV scholars worked from is the RSV. I held to my NRSV even though they do not print it anymore until the ESV came along.


Sam said...

Mr. Wandrey (Sorry, I don't know if you are a Rev. or not),
I understand your concern that the LCMS is "doing its own thing" by adopting the ESV. However, more and more congregations (outside of the LCMS) are adopting the ESV as their standard translation. If you go to Christian bookstores, the ESV often has a prominent location on the shelves. I would say that the LCMS did a very wise thing in adopting the ESV over other Bible translations.


Christine said...

When I was growing up most of the mainlines churches had switched from the KJV to the RSV. The NIV has a definite "evangelical slant", which is why it is preferred by many Protestant/Evangelical congregations.

The ESV retains the clarity and dignity of the RSV. They are very similiar translations.

wm cwirla said...

I share your experience in adjusting to the public reading of the ESV. I am slowly warming up to it. For good or ill, my previous 15 years have been occupied with reading aloud the NIV. In personal reading, I use the RSV to cheat on my Greek. The ESV and RSV are very similar translation. I think the LC-MS made the right move in translation choice with the ESV. It is vastly superior to that horrid paraphrase that is read in the Roman churches these days.

Rev. Al Bergstrazer said...

I grew up with the RSV as the only alternative to the KJV, so the ESV is not such a surprise. It is what the RSV could have been, and what the NRSV should have been given the controversy over certain texts in Isaiah.
One of the considerations for Lutheran Service Book that was a strong suit in ESV's favor is that it still has some vestige of meter to the translation. This is particularly beneficial when we turn to chant the Psalms/Introits etc. Of course it cannot compare to the beauty of the KJV, yet it is better than the NIV in this regard. Which is to say that most contemporary translations are rendered to be read, not spoken or sung-and we are the poorer for it.
I think the ESV is a reminder that mastery of the English Language is just as important as Mastery of Hebrew and Greek when looking for an excellent Bible version.

Father Hollywood said...

I personally like the ESV, but I do think there is a lot of truth that we are "doing our own thing" in using it. I keep hearing about all these denominations that are using it, but it seems more smoke than fire.

The NKJV (though there are things about it I personally don't like) is a far more ecumenical translation - especially among conservative English speaking Lutheran, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. I think the NKJV tries even harder than the ESV to be the heir of the KJV.

My congregation is using the NKJV in the Divine Service mainly because we have the compilation of the one-year lectionary readings (as well as the introits and graduals) in an electronic format already set up in the NKJV.

It has really hurt the cause of biblical literacy when the KJV ceased being a nearly-universal standard in the English-speaking world. As much as I personally like the ESV, I think it's just one more version in the smorgasbord that adds, rather than helps, the problem of a multiplicity of versions.

Sometimes I get so fed up with all the various versions of Bibles, catechisms, liturgies, and hymns that I think I'm going to chuck them all for the Latin. There is no way Eugene Peterson is going to edit a modern language version of the Vulgate! ;-)

Past Elder said...

There's a part in the Preface to the LC bemoaning various versions of the same text and encouraging sticking to one.

Despite the tendency to consider the KJV as the Bible itself, there is a lot to be said for the centuries in which it simply was the Bible in English.

Several Bible to choose from, several liturgies to choose from, no problem for the post conciliar age, which sees several faiths to choose from too. It's no accident all that hit at the same time.

Nonetheless, the ESV really is the one to have picked and I am delighted we picked it. I think the LCMS would do well to do its own thing. That "thing" is why I joined. The Common Service (DSIII) in the LSB has some revision too, but it is wonderful and I think we are better served by it and the ESV than KJV and page 15 though I have no problem with them either.

William Weedon said...

One thing that always drove me nuts, though, about the NKJV was the rendering of our Lord's "Amen, Amen" as "Most assuredly...". I think that ESV runs with RSV in offering "Truly, truly."

William Weedon said...

As to the ecumenical question, I really don't have the foggiest idea how wide-spread the use of the ESV is. I know that there are several big name Evangelical types who hyped it. The real pity is that we just never gently updated the KJV as language changed in a similar way to the Luther Bibel and thus most of us would still all be using the same version.

Peter said...

I would like to see a translation simply say, "Amen, Amen, I say to you."

Christine said...

As to the ecumenical question, I really don't have the foggiest idea how wide-spread the use of the ESV is. I know that there are several big name Evangelical types who hyped it.

I'm guessing that's true. Most of the Protestant mainline is still using the NRSV and Catholics have their own RSV Catholic edition.

John Weaver-Hudson said...

We have used the ESV for about two years after using the NIV for about twenty years. The echoes of KJV diction are welcome and the form-equivalent translation approach is solid. We are very happy with it (except for the lack of a giant print edition). Since we alternate between CW and TLH, the ESV works well with both.

Pr John Weaver-Hudson
Hope Ev. Luth Church (WELS)
Dynamic! Hartford, Michigan

Bob Waters said...

While the ESV obviously has many virtues, its habitual translation of mishpat as "rules" is shallow, impoverished, legalistic- and bugs the living daylights out of me. Seems to me that "judgments" or even "will" would have been a far better translation in most places.

Another thing: for a translation which supposedly so widely use, at least in the Des Moines area it's remarkably hard to find.