Why the English Standard Version (ESV) should not become the Standard English Version, by Mark Strauss

Today New Testament scholar and seminary professor Mark Strauss presented a paper at the annual conference of the ETS (Evangelical Theological Society). The title of his paper is

Why the English Standard Version (ESV)
should not become the standard English version
How to make a good translation much better

Mark L. Strauss
Bethel Seminary San Diego
m-strauss@bethel.edu
(this paper may be reproduced and distributed in complete form without written permission from the author)

Mark has given me permission to post his paper.  I appreciate the way that Mark has approached his topic: He deals with wordings of specific verses in the ESV which can be improved. In my opinion, this is a better way to evaluate any Bible version, rather than making a subjective generalized evaluation.

As you read Mark’s paper, see if he has been objective in his evaluation of the wordings of specific verses in the ESV. The paper follows:

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I need to say first of all that I like the English Standard Version (ESV). After all, the ESV is a moderate revision (about 6% I believe) of the Revised Standard Version (RSV; 1952), which itself was done by very competent scholars. Like the New Revised Standard Version (also a revision of the RSV), the ESV generally makes good exegetical decisions. Both the ESV and NRSV also significantly improve the gender language of the RSV.1

So I like the ESV. I am writing this article, however, because I have heard a number of Christian leaders claim that the ESV is the “Bible of the future”—ideal for public worship and private reading, appropriate for adults, youth and children. This puzzles me, since the ESV seems to me to be overly literal—full of archaisms, awkward language, obscure idioms, irregular word order, and a great deal of “Biblish.” Biblish is produced when the translator tries to reproduce the form of the Greek or Hebrew without due consideration for how people actually write or speak. The ESV, like other formal equivalent versions (RSV; NASB; NKJV; NRSV), is a good supplement to versions that use normal English, but is not suitable as a standard Bible for the church. This is because the ESV too often fails the test of “standard English.”

This paper is a constructive critique of the ESV and an encouragement for its committee to make a good translation much better by doing a thorough review and revision of its English style and idiom. Critical questions we will ask include: (1) Does this translation make sense? (2) If comprehensible, is it obscure, awkward or non-standard English? Would anyone speaking or writing English actually say this?

A few clarifications are in order. First, as a Greek professor and a Bible translator, I am a strong advocate for using multiple Bible versions, especially those from across the translation spectrum. Both functional equivalent (idiomatic) and formal equivalent (literal) versions have strengths and weaknesses, and both are useful tools for students of the Word. Functional equivalent versions (NLT, NCV, TEV, CEV, GW, etc.) are helpful for communicating clearly, naturally and accurately the meaning of the text. Formal equivalent versions (KJV, NKJV, NASB, RSV, ESV, NRSV, etc.) help to reproduce formal features of a language like metaphors, idioms, word-plays, allusions, ambiguities and structural markers. Mediating versions, which lie somewhere in the middle (NIV, TNIV, HCSB, NET, NAB, NJB, REB, ISV), are a nice balance, retaining more formal features than functional equivalent versions but with more clarity than literal ones. I have addressed these issues in depth elsewhere and will not repeat them here.2 Concerning my personal experience, I have served on three translation committees and have consulted for a fourth.3 My desire is for all English versions to reproduce clearly and accurately the meaning and message of God’s Word.

It will become obvious from the examples below that the ESV’s problems with clarity and fluidity are primarily related to its overly literal translation policy. For real-life translators around the world—whether in

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1 See discussion below under gender-language.

2 See Gordon D. Fee and Mark L. Strauss, How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), passim.

3 I served on a revision committee for the New Century Version (NCV) and presently serve on the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) for the NIV/TNIV, and on an editorial team for a new version—tentatively called the Expanded Bible—to be released by Thomas Nelson next year. I have also done consulting work for the New Living Translation (NLT).

———

the jungles of Irian Jaya or in the halls of the United Nations—the best translation is not a literal one, but one that reproduces the meaning of the text in clear, accurate and idiomatic language. One anecdote may be helpful here. As I was reading through the ESV (in conjunction with another project), I came to the epistle to the Hebrews. Hebrews contains some of the finest literary Greek in the New Testament and can be a very difficult book for my Greek students. I expected to encounter substantial problems in the ESV. Instead, I found that the ESV was quite well translated in Hebrews, with fewer of the kinds of problems I was encountering elsewhere. Then the reason dawned on me. The fine literary Greek of Hebrews—with radically different word order, grammar and idiom—is simply impossible to translate literally into English. To do so produces gibberish. Ironically, the ESV was at its best when it abandoned its essentially literal” strategy and translated the meaning of the text into normal English. It is ironic that the ESV’s main marketing slogan—an “essentially literal” translation—is what makes it deficient as a standard reading Bible for the church.

Method
I have divided these ESV problems into eleven broad categories: (1) “oops” translations, (2) idioms missed, (3) lexical problems, (4) exegetical errors, (5) collocational clashes, (6) archaisms, (7) inconsistent gender-language, (8) awkward and unnatural style, (9) word-order problems, (10) run-on sentences, and (11) mistranslated genitives.
For most categories, I will note the ESV rendering and then compare it to at least two other versions that use more standard English. One of these will always be the TNIV, which will serve as a “control” text. This is to avoid the criticism that I am selectively choosing whichever version happens to improve upon the ESV. Sometimes, in fact, I will criticize both the ESV and the TNIV.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg, a small sampling that I have come across rather incidentally during work on other projects.4 I hope this will stimulate a more thorough analysis of English style and clarity for all English Bible versions. Sadly, English Bible translators have an unfortunate tendency to sacrifice comprehension and clarity in a misguided attempt at “literal accuracy”—an oxymoron, more often than not.

(cont’d)

55 thoughts on “Why the English Standard Version (ESV) should not become the Standard English Version, by Mark Strauss

  1. Mason says:

    I think part of the issue here is usage. If you are comfortable with more of the context of the Bible and even more so if you can use the original languages than I think an ‘essentiality literal’ translation like the ESV could be ideal for your use. I think this would be especially true in detailed study of a passage for a lecture/sermon/paper. In such a setting some of the awkwardness (which I find the ESV is not nearly as guilty of as for example the NASB) actually helps get at the nuance of the text.
    On the other hand, for general reading, or for those without the resources to dig deeper, it might make more sense to go with a translation more in the middle ground. In the area of teaching and preaching in today’s world a translation that handles gender language better (like the TNIV) should be considered.
    The oops passages of the ESV, while unfortunate, are inevitable in any translation when you are working with that much text and that many people.
    Overall no translation is perfect, so having two or three from a range of approaches is quite important.

  2. Wayne Leman says:

    Daniel asked:

    Where is the rest of the paper?

    It’s coming in following posts here, Daniel. It’s a long paper and I have to reformat the paper to get it to fit smoothly on this blog.

    Stay tuned!

  3. Joe Louthan says:

    I can’t stand contemporary english bibles like NIV and NLT. I have caught these versions leaving stuff out verse to verse. Maybe not passage to passage or chapter to chapter but the other versions should never be quoted from.

    Luke 17:35. Seriously, I read that and seriously though “Oh, they are grinding flour or grain or something together.” I never thought about it in the other way until the author mentioned it.

    I am not some old dude. I am 33 years old. Trust me, I have seen more women “grinding” (seductive dance) than anybody who might be reading this blog and I still thought it was two girls making flour.

  4. Mike says:

    “Seriously, I read that and seriously though “Oh, they are grinding flour or grain or something together.” I never thought about it in the other way until the author mentioned it.”

    That may be the case, but its still a ill-formed sentence because unlike the Greek word, the English “grind” is transitive and *requires* an object. So regardless of whether you did or did not misunderstand the text, it is still a poor translation.

  5. Wayne Leman says:

    Brian suggested:

    After this critique and the one by Rod Decker, an update of the ESV should be quite substantial, no?

    Yes, Rod Decker said some of the same things. Personally, I believe that the ESV team could make the needed stylistic changes to bring the translation closer to standard English. But the ESV would continue to retain its unique character and essentially literal translation philosophy which its adherents like so much.

    But a translation team has to see the need before they will make changes, just as any of us individuals have to first recognize our needs before we are willing to consider making changes.

    I don’t think the ESV team feels a need for any extensive changes. And it has been endorsed by ministers they respect greatly. They don’t feel any financial pressure that would call for change.

    I still hope that Mark Strauss’ review, Rod Decker’s, and perhaps there will be others, will help nudge the ESV to make needed stylistic changes. And the same goes for other English versions that need similar changes. No one is dismissing any of these versions. They can just be made better. I hope that this blog can help create more awareness of changes that can be made to translations so that we can have better Bibles. And if enough people begin to understand that neither we nor other critics are dismissing translations, but trying to help them be better, then maybe the needed revisions will take place.

    All longlasting English versions have periodically undergone changes, including KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NLT, and TEV. The changes are not highly noticeable, but they are, in general, improvements.

  6. Peter Kirk says:

    ESV could be made better, but what’s the point? The market is already saturated with good quality English Bibles. If ESV were improved in the ways which Strauss suggests, the result would be so similar to NIV (not TNIV unless the gender issues are also dealt with) and HCSB that there would be no niche remaining for it. At least ESV as it currently is has found a niche market among those who believe that archaic and unclear language is the sign of a proper Bible, and that clarifying such language is the job of a preacher.

  7. Vince says:

    “I am not some old dude. I am 33 years old. Trust me, I have seen more women “grinding” (seductive dance) than anybody who might be reading this blog and I still thought it was two girls making flour.”

    No kidding, what are people thinking!

  8. Wayne Leman says:

    Vince ended:

    No kidding, what are people thinking!

    Vince, I suspect they are thinking about English grammar. If someone is grinding some substance, English, unlike Greek which has a implicit object, requires that there be a transitive sentence. In English transitive sentences need an object so that we know what it is that is being ground, whether it is flour, corn, nuts, metal for construction, etc.

    The more Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek syntactic forms that are imported to English Bible translations, the more opportunities there are for ungrammatical English. If, however, the syntactic requirements of a translation language are followed by translators as closely as they follow those of the biblical languages, then we get more grammatical translations.

    It’s not always a question of whether someone, perhaps with Bible teaching in church, can figure out what the ESV or any other version intends to communicate. What Mark Strauss and others who care about professional standards in Bible translation are saying is that the meaning of the biblical texts will be *communicated* more accurately if only the grammar of the translation language is used in a translation.

    Accuracy is the highest goal of Bible translatoin. Many English Bible versions are exegetically accurate, but not communicatively accurate, because they have much foreign syntax imported to the translation.

    Perhaps you have had the experience of trying to read an appliance manual written by someone who is not a native speaker of English. You can often figure out what they intend to mean, but the manual would communicate more accurately and clearly if it had been written by a native speaker of English.

  9. Wayne Leman says:

    Peter responded:

    Wayne, I don’t think ground nuts are nuts that have been ground in a mill, but nuts (peanuts) that grow on the ground.

    You could be right, Peter. I know very little about agriculture, having grown up as a fisherman.

    I do know that some of the women in my family have ground walnuts and probably other nuts to put in cookies (oh, excuse me, biscuits!).

    🙂

  10. Charles Borjas says:

    I believe that most of the modern translations can be helpful in understanding difficult and complicated passages in the KJV and I use most of them for reference and study.
    But I would not , for a minute , replace the KJV with the ESV, NRSV, NLT, Message, NCV, CEV, GN, NET,Amplified or any other modern translation as the “Standard ” of Bibles.

    In my opinion, ALL Of the modern translations are paraphrases of the KJV, and have changed some very important verses and essential doctrine in many places.

    For me, the KJV, with a Young’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicons and King James English Dictionary is great. Also using other versions makes it impossible to use the Hebrew and Greek Lexicons as they were originally made for the KJV.

    Using modern translations also makes it impossible to use some of the classic commentaries and Bible study tools such as Torrey’s Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Nave’s Topical Index, and Thompson Chain reference Bible.

    Now, my main study Bible is the KJV Word Of God Sword Bible with the definition of special archaic words in the margin.There is also an easy read version which changes the KJV archaic personal pronouns and grammatical endings of verbs to modern English without changing the doctrine or meaning of the passage for those who love the KJV but stumble over its classic archaic literary form.

    So Now I just add a new translation to my library of modern translations for reference when I get stuck, but will never completely replace the KJV as my Standard Reading and Study Bible.

  11. Peter Kirk says:

    Charles, you are entitled to your opinion, but in this case it is contradicted by the well established facts. Arguably some modern translations are “paraphrases of the KJV” in that they are revisions of it, although the changes are based on the original language texts. But many other modern versions are fresh translations, direct from the original languages without reference to KJV, and so are in no sense “paraphrases of the KJV”.

    Yes, there are many differences between KJV and modern translations. But these are mostly changes for the better, because it has become clear that the KJV rendering was inadequate in one way or another for a modern audience. Rather few of the changes have real specific doctrinal significance.

    I accept your argument that many helpful resources are based on KJV. But these are mostly older resources which lack the many insights of 20th century scholarship. There are many excellent newer resources linked to modern translations. I hope you are not denying yourself what you might learn from them.

  12. Charles Borjas says:

    All of the modern translations I know use the Westcott-Hoyt Greek(Who were Gnostics, possible even non-believers or atheists, version, to translate from as their Greek source, which has many translation errors, as as I said cannot be a word for word translation as they have changed many of the words and meaning of the original, by choosing only one of the many synonyms listed, usually the one that they feel best reflects their own beliefs,….
    and then call it the Word of God for today.
    I said that they are paraphrases, because when the original wording of a writing is changed it becomes a paraphrase.
    When the new translation cannot even be recognized as a Bible verse, then it is a perversion.
    When the Dynamic Equivalent method is used, which is the case with the NLT, Message, NIV, NNIV, NCV, CEV,Amplified, and many others, then it is a thought for thought translation, and you get a paraphrased version. Some of these modern translations changed the wording so much that it became harder to understand than the KJV in many places.

  13. Charles Borjas says:

    Also you were saying that the scholars of today are doing a better job of translating the Bible:

    “I accept your argument that many helpful resources are based on KJV. But these are mostly older resources which lack the many insights of 20th century scholarship. There are many excellent newer resources linked to modern translations. I hope you are not denying yourself what you might learn from them.”

    So you are saying that modern translators have more insight than the KJV translators because of 20th century scholarship. What exactly is that supposed to mean?

    Did not God promise to preserve His own Word?
    If God kept His promise, then what we need to do is simple. Have archaeologists find all the copies and pieces of copies they can find that have survived from ancient times. If God kept his promise, copying errors will not have polluted the text.

    Instead, when we compare the copies from churches all over the ancient world, we will find that they agree, that they all had basically the same text. If we occasionally find a copy that does not match the others, we will throw it out, knowing that it was made by a sloppy copyist.

    This has, in fact been done. The Old Testament Hebrew text was preserved by the Levites. Jesus and The apostles quoted it, and we can trust it. For the New Testament, of all the copies in existence today, 95% agree in an incredible way. God did keep His promise! Only 5%, a tiny minority, are “messed up.” All we have to do is put together a Hebrew and Greek text made up from our overwhelming majority of ancient texts, and we will have a text that we can be confident is exactly the same as the one held by the early church. Today, this text is called by several names, the most common being the “Received Text” or “Textus Receptus.”

    This was the text used by devout translators like William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Calvin and others, some of whom died to preserve the Scriptures. If they were going to have to die for it, they were determined to die for the right text! This is also the text used to make the most famous and durable of all English Bibles, the King James Bible.

    No modern English Bible translation uses this text! But that’s another story.

  14. Charles Borjas says:

    I opened and read a NIV once, and I was sorry I did! I checked out all of my favorite verses like John 3:16 and was shocked to see how much they changed it and many other verses. The NIV in my opinion, falls flat as a pancake and lacks the inspiration God gave to the authors of the Bible, in other words, I do not believe that the NIV or even more serious , the NEW IMPROVED NIV are the Word of God. If the first NIV was the Word of God why did they need a new improved one? Is is up to the whims of man to go trying to improve the Word of God?

    http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Bible/NIV/why.htm

  15. David Ker says:

    Charles, your comments inspired me to have a look at the translations that the KJV was based on, principally the Geneva and Bishops Bible. And these are greatly influenced by the Tyndale translations.

    What struck me as I looked at the history of the KJV was how often it was ecclesiastical disputes that motivated translation. The Bishops Bible was an Anglican reaction to the Presbyterianism of the Geneva. And when the Bishops Bible failed to catch on the KJV was produced largely to support organizational dogma through key terms like “church” and “bishop,” etc.

    Interestingly, many of the disputes we see surrounding ESV and NIV derive from similar theological motivations.

  16. Peter Kirk says:

    Charles, modern translations are not based on the Westcott and Hort text but on the Nestle-Aland text. The religious beliefs of the editors are irrelevant, but I could point out that the Textus Receptus is based on the work of the life-long Roman Catholic Erasmus who collated manuscripts produced by Eastern Orthodox copyists. But I would prefer an accurate text published by an atheist to an inaccurate one published by a Christian. Wouldn’t you?

    Modern translations are indeed not word for word, but then neither is KJV. Compare it with the Greek text, any Greek text, and you will soon realise that. The KJV authors were also “choosing only one of the many synonyms listed, usually the one that they feel best reflects their own beliefs”, as is clear from their choice of “bishop” rather than “overseer” etc for episkopos, because this is what any translator is forced to do.

    On your definition “when the original wording of a writing is changed it becomes a paraphrase”, every translation is a paraphrase, because a translation by definition uses different wording from the original. Or if you mean it is different from a previous translation, then KJV is a paraphrase of the Geneva Bible, of Tyndale, of Wycliffe etc.

    Charles, I see that I have a very simple way of convincing you that the Nestle-Aland or Westcott and Hort text is the best. I will get a few thousand copyists to write out manuscript copies of one or other of them. These will then be the majority of manuscripts, and so by your argument will be the text which God has preserved. After all, the Byzantine text which is now the majority became that only because the inhabitants of Constantinople used to pay for copies of it to be made for them – big business in the days just before the printing press. Anyway the true majority text is significantly different your favoured “Received Text”, especially in 1 John 5 – the disputed passage here is in almost no Greek manuscripts!

  17. CHarles says:

    Kirk, you only addressed one of my statements, and left the others untouched. Of course I would rather read a Bible that was translated by God believing , Bible believing Christians than Bibles translated from a Greek version done by people who were practically atheists.
    Of course the religious beliefs would have a major part in the outcome of a translation.
    The KJV has stood the test of time, and the test of fruit. It is the Bible that has changed the world. As far as other translations, they too have some fruit, but they also have a lot of bad fruit too.
    I myself have tried many other versions of the Bible, but I always come back to the beautiful KJV.
    Some of the other translations have been a huge disappointment. The wording funny and unnatural, sounding more like English that is dubbed into Japanese movies. Especially the ESV and NRSV also the NASB. Very difficult to follow, and many of the words, instead of being simplified, have been made more difficult to understand.
    The King James translators were honest and had the integrity to make note of the words they inserted to make the English sound more natural.
    All of the King James translators were Bible believing Christian Godly men of prayer. I would sooner trust the Spirit of God working through them, than Westcott and Hort, who apparently were not born again spirit filled men.
    This can be and has been problematic in producing a Greek Translation that is read and believed as The Word Of God. Now you have a Theological issue here.
    You wouldn’t want to read a copy of the Declaration Of Independence that was written by a Communist would you?
    So is the comparison of reading and studying a Bible translated from the Greek translation of men who were not true dedicated Christian born again believers.
    I rest my case.
    All the best

  18. Jonathan Morgan says:

    I use all of those resources mentioned with several versions, but typically with the ESV (mostly because it is much easier to get free for Bible software, in my case BPBible, and it is a translation that IMHO picks a reasonable position on the literal/dynamic divide). The fact that they were created with the KJV says nothing about whether they can be used with other versions, though they may be easier to use with the KJV.

    My personal opinion is that the Bible should be available to all people as close as possible to in their own language, without compromising the quality of the text. The ESV is very close to my own language, as is the RSV and NIV, all of which I use. The KJV is most definitely not in my language, and I suspect not in the language of most people who use it (certainly most of those who I talk to who use it are less aware of how the language has changed since then than I am). I have seen far too much time wasted discussing what the KJV text is really saying rather than the scriptural message. I doubt this is what the Bible was given to us for.

    Most of the examples in Mark Strauss’ paper are at least partially to do with translation philosophy. Some of them I like better than the ESV, others I don’t, but it is not really important whether I like or dislike it but whether it matches the translation philosophy of the translation. Saying that something should be translated a certain way is meaningless if it does not consider the purpose of the translation. If you wish to make a translation that is “more literal” (as the ESV aims to) then it is with the intent of leaving readers to find out the meaning (at least to to some extent) rather than making an interpretation which may be wrong. If you wish to make a translation that is “more dynamic” it is trying to make it easier to read, and some of that is going to have to make decisions that the original means something which could be wrong, but will be a lot more helpful if they are right. IMHO, people should try to use and compare more translations rather than just relying on one translation. If I had to choose one translation to use I would tend to pick a more literal translation in the hope that I have sufficient knowledge of scriptures that I can interpret it rather than relying on someone else’s interpretation however careful, but as there are several useful translations at varying places on the scale there is no need to try and make all of them at the perfect position of the spectrum, especially since you are unlikely to get everyone to agree on the perfect point in the spectrum. The discussion this paper provoked is a clear sign of that. Even to pick a point on the spectrum is questionable, since the likelihood of a translation holding the same point for both NT and OT and for all books in both is low (though it may be close). For example, the ESV is considered to be “more dynamic” and “less literal” in Hebrews.

    I would change the question the paper raises to “Should there be a Standard English Version?” My answer would be no. While it would be nice to have the perfect English translation, I don’t think we can agree what it would look like, let alone do it.

  19. Michael Nicholls says:

    Charles:
    All of the modern translations I know use the Westcott-Hoyt Greek(Who were Gnostics, possible even non-believers or atheists, version, to translate from as their Greek source

    Have you stopped to ask why ‘all’ the modern translations use Westcott-Hort (or in fact, Nestle-Aland)?

    which has many translation errors,

    They didn’t do translation, they collected manuscripts in the original language.

    as I said cannot be a word for word translation

    If they were doing translation (which they weren’t), word for word is a bad way of doing translation. It violates so many principles of translation.

    as they have changed many of the words and meaning of the original, by choosing only one of the many synonyms listed, usually the one that they feel best reflects their own beliefs,….

    To what original manuscript are you referring? The Textus Receptus? Also, this is argumentum ad hominem and a straw-man attack. I’d like to see your source.

    I said that they are paraphrases, because when the original wording of a writing is changed it becomes a paraphrase.

    Peter’s already addressed this, but I’d like to add that ‘paraphrase’ is a word that’s often loosely thrown around. It seems that you’ve given it a very restricted definition, so that everything from the CEV to the NIV to the Cotton Patch Bible to the KJV is a paraphrase, because all translations change the original wording.

    When the new translation cannot even be recognized as a Bible verse, then it is a perversion.

    I think most people agree. But which translation are you talking about? I can recognize most translations as Bible verses. I think this is another straw-man argument, by painting other translations as unrecognisable and then concluding that they are a perversion. What translation methodology are you using to reach this conclusion?

    When the Dynamic Equivalent method is used, which is the case with the NLT, Message, NIV, NNIV, NCV, CEV,Amplified, and many others, then it is a thought for thought translation, and you get a paraphrased version. Some of these modern translations changed the wording so much that it became harder to understand than the KJV in many places.

    Dynamic Equivalence and Formal Equivalence, as terms, are over-simplifications of translation methodology. See the list that I posted in another thread for some of the other aspects of language/translation. If a translation ignores the other aspects listed, even though it’s a word for word translation, is it still a good translation? No.

    I do not believe that the NIV or even more serious , the NEW IMPROVED NIV are the Word of God.

    According to what the KJV translators have they themselves said about translation, the NIV is indeed the Word of God:

    Now to the latter we answer; that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. (Preface to the KJV, part 9)

    If the first NIV was the Word of God why did they need a new improved one? Is is up to the whims of man to go trying to improve the Word of God?

    “Whims of man” is an emotional argument. Remember, the KJV underwent many revisions, and there aren’t many people who actually own an original 1611 version. I’m curious, do you use a 1611 KJV or a 1613, 1629, 1638, 1762 or 1769 revised version? Was it the whims of the KJV translators to try to improve the Word of God? Was the Bishop’s Bible not good enough, that they had to ‘improve’ the Word of God? Simply put, translations undergo revisions because the target languages continually change; critical texts undergo revisions because of new manuscript discoveries. I realise there’s more to it, but this is the gist.

    Of course I would rather read a Bible that was translated by God believing, Bible believing Christians than Bibles translated from a Greek version done by people who were practically atheists.

    You’re not responding to Peter’s whole comment/question. It was “But I would prefer an accurate text published by an atheist to an inaccurate one published by a Christian. Wouldn’t you?”

    Or, put simply, would you prefer an accurate text published by an atheist, or an inaccurate text published by a Christian? Also, it seems that different things are being discussed. Peter is talking about the collecting and assembling of Greek manuscripts. You seem to be talking about Bible translation into English.

    I would sooner trust the Spirit of God working through them [the KJV translators], than Westcott and Hort, who apparently were not born again spirit filled men.

    Apples and oranges. Westcott and Hort weren’t doing translation work. You can’t compare translation with textual criticism.

    Also, from most reports, Westcott was quite a pious Christian man. That’s a little unfair to imply that it’s assumed that he (and Hort) wasn’t ‘born again spirit filled’.

    The KJV has stood the test of time, and the test of fruit. It is the Bible that has changed the world.

    This is debatable. What do you mean by ‘test of time’? Most people who understand textual criticism would say that the KJV, being based on the Textus Receptus, has in fact ‘failed’ the test of time, since time has shown that it was based on inferior and manipulated source texts. Perhaps there are other tests of time?

    As far as other translations, they too have some fruit, but they also have a lot of bad fruit too.

    What are your sources for this? I think you’d be surprised at the fruit of translations such as the NIV, if you looked into it. Also, this argument assumes that ‘fruit’ necessarily follows from good translation work, when in fact, although there’s some truth to it, there are many other factors that affect the success or failure of a translation, such as marketing, government suppression/support, common opinion, association with movements/denominations, etc etc. I’m a Wycliffe missionary, so I hear of a number of sad cases of good translations that aren’t being used, not because they’re bad translations, but because of wrong associations, government obstruction, wars, and sometimes our own lack of a good Scripture-use programs. 😦

    Hope that addresses some of your points that got missed. I’d like to hear your comments on mine. 🙂

  20. CHarles says:

    Well,no matter what my sources, it seems you will not be persuaded anyway. I am not trying to persuade people to believe in the KJV Bible if they just decided they don’t want to.
    As I said the greatest sources I can name are the good results I have witnessed myself in my own life and the lives of others, whereas I have not witnessed such results in followers of the NIV, NASB, NRSV, The Message, and I am talking about real missionaries who have gone to other countries to lay down their lives there, all of the greatest missionaries I have ever heard of used the KJV Bible.
    If you can name famous missionaries that have accomplished great missionary works and miracles using the NIV, NASB, NRSV, the
    Message etc,. please do name them. How about your own life? How has your own life been changed and impacted by whatever version you read? What are the passages that motivate you to follow Jesus?
    How about your relationship with the Lord? It is hard to believe in having a relationship with the Father , Son and Holy Spirit with some of these other translations that deny the trinity, leave out the blood of Jesus, and the name of Jesus, omit essential verses and whole passages, and change the glory of God into carnal philosophy.

  21. Michael Nicholls says:

    Charles, it took me a long time to write that. I was hoping you’d address the points raised. It’s a little unfair to say that I won’t be persuaded if you haven’t addressed the issues and given me an opportunity to be persuaded.

    The issue of ‘famous’ missionaries is complicated, because ‘fame’ for a missionary doesn’t come in 5, 10, 15 years. Most ‘famous’ missionaries come from a period in time when modern translations didn’t exist. There are plenty of missionaries that I meet now, who should be (perhaps will be one day) famous for their work, and they don’t use KJV. Sorry, off the top of my head I don’t know which translations missionaries of old used, but I’m guessing it was one of the 2 or 3 versions at their disposal.

    Charles:
    I am not trying to persuade people to believe in the KJV Bible if they just decided they don’t want to.

    Why not? If what their reading is a ‘perversion’, isn’t it better to try to persuade them to read the true Word of God?

    How about your own life? How has your own life been changed and impacted by whatever version you read? What are the passages that motivate you to follow Jesus?

    I grew up on NIV and NKJV. I enjoy reading the NLT. I try to use the Greek (Nestle-Aland) when I can.

    When I was young I’d go to my grandparents’ house, who were strong and influential Christians in my life, and we’d read passages from the KJV together. I memorised Psalm 91 in the KJV just by constantly reading it at their place, but I never understood what I was memorising.

    “Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.” Ps. 91:3 KJV

    That’s from memory, from about 20 years ago. I’m still not sure what it means. Therefore, it hasn’t had much impact on my life. It won me a bar of chocolate once though, so that was nice.

    It is hard to believe in having a relationship with the Father , Son and Holy Spirit with some of these other translations that deny the trinity, leave out the blood of Jesus, and the name of Jesus, omit essential verses and whole passages, and change the glory of God into carnal philosophy.

    Sorry to harp on it, but references please? I can’t be persuaded if I can’t see the examples.

  22. CHarles says:

    It also took me a long time and effort to write what I did , post links for you, and give examples of the effect the King James Bible has had on the world. If you can’t see the obvious, and would rather quote from the NLT “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” and the NIV: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,* that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

    instead of the beloved KJV ” For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
    and for 1 Jn 5:7 “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
    We have in the: NLT : “So we have these three witnesses*–

    and the NIV says , For there are three that testify:
    and the ESV For there are three that testify:
    and the NASB For there are three that testify:
    and the RSV And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth.
    and the ASV..And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth.
    and Darby…For they that bear witness are three:

    Why even Young and Webster got it right…

    Young: because three are who are testifying [in the heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these — the three — are one;

    Webster: For there are three that bear testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.

    Sorry, with all due respect to your opinions, the Greek Manuscripts that are responsible for these newer modern New Age versions have many serious errors in the truths proclaimed in the Bible and are not preaching the true Gospel.

  23. CHarles says:

    Well, I am talking about people such as Catherine Booth, F.F. Bosworth, E.M.Bounds, Charles Finney, A.J.Gordon, Kathryn Kuhlman, John G.Lake, Aimee Semple Mcpherson, D.L.Moody, Andrew Murray, Oral Roberts, A.B.Simpson, CHarles Spurgeon, R.A.Torrey, Smith Wigglesworth, Mary Woodworth Etter, George Muller and missionaries and evangelists of their caliber.
    Maybe for some of them there wasn’t any other translation,and that was a plus for their ministry.
    The excuse many people use for not reading the KJV is that it is hard to understand. Perhaps they think it ti too much work to look up the words they don’t understand.
    But now with so many Bible programs that will give you the Hebrew and Greek lexicons, or even tell you what the archaic word means in today’s language. As a child,for me most of it was not so difficult to understand as the KJV used many simple small three and four letter words. It was used in my Sunday School. And the teacher translated it into understandable English for those who didn’t understand certain words, but when I didn’t understand it , I learned what the words and expressions meant.
    That later was a tremendous help to me also in understanding Shakespeare when I had to read it in Junior High School.

    When you quote the KJV to people, even without telling them, they can tell it is the Bible. It carries the authority and Spirit of God, whereas when some of the other versions are quoted or read,
    they sound quite weak and watered down and powerless.

    You can’t demonstrate the power of God if you have a weak, and watered down presentation of His Word. Who would believe that it is really God’s Word?

  24. Peter Kirk says:

    Charles, very few modern Bible translations have been translated by “people who were practically atheists”. Plenty of them have been translated by committees made up entirely of good evangelical Christians, more than can be said for the KJV translators. Westcott and Hort are irrelevant as they have not translated any modern versions and their textual work is only marginally involved. Why don’t your enquire about the spirituality of Nestle, Aland, Karavidopoulos, Martini and Metzger? They are the editors of the UBS Greek New Testament, which is what modern translators actually use.

    I accept that there has been a lot of good fruit from KJV, but also a lot of bad fruit, as we can tell from the wars and breakdown of society in the 20th century, not to mention previous centuries.

    If you can name famous missionaries that have accomplished great missionary works and miracles using the NIV, NASB, NRSV, the
    Message etc,. please do name them.

    Of course I can’t, because cross-cultural missionaries usually cannot use ANY English translations, they need translations into the language of the people they are reaching. As for miracles, can you tell me of any miracles performed in the name of KJV, rather than in the name of Jesus?

    But I agree with this part of what you wrote:

    The wording funny and unnatural, sounding more like English that is dubbed into Japanese movies. Especially the ESV and NRSV also the NASB. Very difficult to follow, and many of the words, instead of being simplified, have been made more difficult to understand.

    Good modern translations are written in good modern English, not in the pseudo-archaic form sometimes found in these three versions.

  25. Jonathan Morgan says:

    The biggest concern with the KJV is not that it is “too hard”, but that people interpret it wrongly. Many words have changed in meaning, and so people have three options to interpret a passage:
    1. Determine the correct meaning of the word in the context and understand it.
    2. Use the wording of the KJV with the meaning the word has now.
    3. Pick a random meaning from a lexicon / dictionary and say that it should be translated that way.

    (1) will be the correct interpretation, but takes time and often wastes time that could be better used understanding the real meaning of the passage and how it applies. Using a translation in our language saves that time.

    (2) and (3) will sometimes be right, and sometimes very wrong ((3) does happen with modern translations too, but in my experience it’s not as common). (3) even gives the speaker or writer a sound of authority (they know and understand the original), which is often unjustified.

    As for the ESV & Co, I find it fairly natural sounding (less NASB), but I freely admit that that’s probably because I am used to it (like many people are used to the KJV).

  26. Michael Nicholls says:

    Charles:
    It also took me a long time and effort to write what I did , post links for you, and give examples of the effect the King James Bible has had on the world.

    Charles, thank you for the link you posted. I did have a look at it.

    Also, I appreciate the anecdotal examples you listed. They show me where you’re coming from and how you feel about the topic.

    If you can’t see the obvious,

    Then perhaps it’s not obvious? Generally, I like to examine the facts of an issue (studies, statistics, annotated examples), otherwise unverified experiences can be refuted by other unverified experiences. It’s not a good way to arrive at a conclusion. So I’ll just quote Peter Kirk and leave it at that:

    Charles, you are entitled to your opinion, but in this case it is contradicted by the well established facts.

  27. Nev Spencer says:

    I think I will buy an ESV. enjoyed the debate, take the point that most of the aids are based on KJV but find it better to preach from modern versions.

  28. GDP says:

    Several concerns. First, the ESV seems to go back in some measure to the “literal” of the KJV; not a problem but an indication that the modern debate arising from a lack of appreciation for the distinctives of male, female, submission, “authority”, etc in favor of ideological gloss (mostly egalitarianism), seems to have accomplished or caused more than intended. And that leads to the second point of “another version” which signals the “imperfection” of all previous and there to the devaluation of the word to everybody. It should be noted that the Bible’s language, particularly the more literal, should not be sacrificed to modernity’s vulgarism, but should be extolled as the teaching device it is, and there to the understanding of its value as literature in terms of developing a Godly mind, capable of articulate distinction having overcome the “difficulty”, and there to its own melody, which has been left out of most of the academic discussion, particularly its language and tenor of law, something imbedded in our jurisprudence, now waning in the face of a sadly ignorant emergence of “philosophic” interpretation.

  29. Brandon says:

    Charles seems to be pretty active online in his fight for the KJV…you’re fighting the wrong battle friend…maybe try some love for fellow and caring for “the least of these”, and putting Christ first in your life (I’m pretty sure your KJV teaches that). Just a thought!

  30. avengergt12 says:

    For those that missed it, part two is found using the link near the top right which says
    ESV #2, by Mark Strauss

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