I told you a little about by new Bible purchase over HERE. After reading that you are probably wondering why I chose the English Standard Version as my primary study and preaching translation. That’s easy… because John Piper uses it. Duh! Okay, I’m kidding… that probably falls under the category of what my wife calls a ‘seminary joke.’
To answer this question I need to offer some definitions. One of the most important terms in this discussion is ‘inerrancy.’ I believe very strongly in the inerrancy of the Bible which means that I believe the Bible has no errors. There is an important detail when defining inerrancy that many do not know. The definition of inerrancy for conservative evangelicals was solidified by the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy. They defined the term by stating that the original manuscripts are without error. Among other things, this means that all of our different English translations and paraphrases do not fall under this umbrella.
This means that choosing a translation can be very important depending on the intended use for that translation. I believe that I own a copy of every single mainstream translation. Aside from the hard copies on my shelves, I use Logos Bible Software and have thousands of volumes filed away on my hard drive. I use many of them and have experienced the Holy Spirit using most all of them in my own life.
I remember during my seminary days needing to read the Old Testament from start to finish during one semester. Then during the next semester we were assigned the New Testament from start to finish. I used Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase called The Message and was blessed by it. It was a blessing to take in the big picture narratives through Peterson’s great gift for writing.
If we wanted to make some very broad and basic generalizations, we could divide all of these editions into two categories, paraphrases and translations. When I use the term ‘paraphrase’ I am referring to an individual (or group of individuals) who have taken the original languages of the scripture and correlated an idea in Greek with an idea in English – or an idea in Hebrew with an idea in English. A translation, on the other hand, would take each individual word within the original language and associate that with the best individual word in the English language.
I do believe that paraphrases have a significant purpose. However, when we want to take an in-depth look at the scriptures for personal study or teaching purposes, we should strive to find the best word-for-word representation of the originally inspired words. This is what we often refer to as a word-for-word translation.
Early in my Master’s program I chose the degree path called Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages. I really enjoyed Greek and Hebrew and took every class that was available. After we went through the basics of vocabulary and grammar, we transitioned to translation and exegesis. When I began, it was before all of these great software tools were readily available. I remember sitting at the table with my Hebrew or Greek texts, the appropriate Hebrew or Greek lexicon, and multiple english translations/paraphrases all open in front of me. I would translate a passage from the original language word-for-word and then reference the various english editions. This process opened a world of understanding to me in regards to the differences between all of these english editions.
I quickly learned that no single English edition was perfect. Every one of them was translated by one man or a group of men in the very same way that I was translating in those moments. There were decisions that had to be made regarding how a word or idea in the original language would be equated to our native language of 21st century English.
Those days of working deep into the intricacies of the languages was when I found my affinity for the English Standard Version. Please understand that I do not consider myself an expert in these matters, but rather just someone with some experience – maybe just enough to be dangerous. I consistently found that the most consistent translations adhering to the original languages were the New American Standard Version and the English Standard Version. This is why I encourage one of these two translations for personal study and teaching. The reason I chose the ESV over the NASB was primarily because the translation committee who completed the ESV did a great job taking the literary genre into consideration as they were accomplishing this word-for-word translation. The best examples of this can be found through reading the two translations side-by-side in Old Testaments books such as the poetry of Psalms.
My goal here was to share my journey in the most simple terms that I possibly could. Remember, none of our English translations are perfect. They were all translated by men who have inherited a sin nature through Adam as described in Romans 5:12. Yet that does not lessen the importance that we must place on carefully handling the word of God as THE truth and means of God wrought transformation in our lives today.
Now you know how and why I chose my new Bible.