Now I originally got this book way back in 2015, when I wasn’t quite sure about all the various translations, and was aiming to just stick with the ESV, since it didn’t seem to be an outright paraphrased translation but also had readability fixes (that got rid of Old English), that I figured were a good thing.
Since then I’ve obviously stopped going down the ESV path, but while cleaning up I found this small book (only 31 pgs. long) and I figured it would be interesting to read and discuss here, since I never heard why exactly pastors may have chosen the ESV for their churches. I was just choosing for me, alone.
All I can say after reading this is … wow. This book, written in 2011 by a senior pastor who had been in that role since 2004, talks mainly about how he has chosen ESV bibles to replace the aging/worn NIV pew bibles. He says many odd things like this: “I grew up using the New International Version. This is what my church used, my parents read around the dinner table…” He then actually lists the number of times he’s read the Bible – ESV (12 times), KJV (3-4 times), NIV (6 times), RSV/NASV (3-4 times) and excerpts of NRSV, NKJV and The Message (so what is that, like 1 verse?). So, if I read the Bible approximately 10-20 times, am I qualified to be a senior pastor (as he was, 7 years before becoming a full-time pastor)? That’s odd. I’ve never heard a preacher actually list actual numbers like this. For all we know, this guy could have read the Bible once or twice total before even getting his job in 2004 and then did all this reading afterwards.
He then continues, in describing other translations: “The KJV/NKV is based on inferior manuscripts.” Uh, what? You mean the most widely read version over the last 400 years is based on inferior text? And secondly, the NKJV has nothing to do with the KJV, except for the name, which is the reason why KJV people refuse to switch to it. The NKJV changed thousands of things, and borrowed heavily from other translations like the NIV, NASV and RSV. How does he not know this? I know this, and I know very little.
Further on he describes how the ESV is better than the NIV, because with the NIV and its poor translation, he has to “unexplain” the English to get the message. He then complains about doing his actual job, explaining the Word of God: “The ESV requires much less correcting in preaching. This may be the most important reason for switching to the ESV. I preached from the NIV for five years. To do careful preaching requires a more careful text than the NIV. The other option is to frequently un-explain the English translation, which is a terrible habit … because it leads people to think they need an ‘expert’ in Greek or Hebrew to really explain the Bible” and “it causes people over time to come to their English Bibles with less confidence.”
So … he badmouths the NIV constantly for not being accurate and literal and refuses to explain the text is so wrong people can’t take it at face value .. but earlier on the same page says the NIV “is a good translation in many respects.”
How can it be a good translation when you admit for half a decade you had to give people a heavily edited and distorted view of the Bible, because you didn’t want to pull out a Strong’s Concordance or explain how much these modern translations paraphrase things or are based on garbage Greek from Westcott & Hort?
Lastly, on the penultimate page, he throws in this gem: “Choosing a Bible translation is not a life or death decision.” You read that right. A man who works professionally in teaching others about the WORD OF GOD — WHICH IS GOD, just said the Bible itself is “meh” and not really important in the grand scheme of things. Whoa. Whoa!
What do I take away from all this? Apparently anyone can be a preacher if they read the Bible a dozen or so times and openly endorse these modern, heretical translations based on horribly corrupted manuscripts. Just terrible. Gives me even more reasons to not bother with church, period, if crazies like this run them.