A little while back this blogger posted some commentary regarding my possible switch over to the English Standard Version (ESV) of the bible. Crossway released it in 2001, I bought a copy in 2002 and now in March of 2007, I’m switching over to the ESV as my “Main” translation. What I mean by “main” is that it is the version I will use most frequently for study, meditation, memorizing and leading. Of course I will still use the NIV, NLT and maybe even some of Eugene Peterson’s The Message (for commentary) but the ESV will be home.
I grew up surrounded by the NIV. My denomination favors NIV. I’m young. Why would I succumb to a translation that is more wooden, less “contemporary” and even less hip? “Why not go TNIV?” you may be asking. “After all”, you say, “it is gender inclusive!”. Boy, it sure is. By which I mean, Person, it sure is. And that’s all well and good for some. But I want the most reliable and readable translation. If I were a fundamentalist/purist evangelical I would be KJV. If I were just a purist, I would read only the Hebrew & Greek texts. If I was hip, I would use the TNIV (very Rob Bell) or NLT (Finally! A version that I can understand without thinking!). I’m not either of those. I’m just a guy who thinks that God’s Word must go forward. If this is ture, then it’s also true that accuracy matters. We are relevant in our irrelevance. It may be offensive, unclear, thick… but is that okay? Know what I mean?
I’ve also noticed that the NIV is fairly supportive of the idea that God’s blessings to us are material, abundant and a sign of a response to our faith. Before you freak out, let me just say that God’s blessings are abundant, tend to be a response to our faith (but aren’t tied to it) but are not solely material. If you’re like me (and I know I am), you have probably heard Jeremiah 29:11 quoted ad nauseum for the sake of “proving” that God wants to bless you/help you/straighten you out/give you what you deserve. In the NIV, it reads:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Neat. There’s even a Saddleback song about it, which is how I memorized this text in High School. It made me feel good, like God would give me a house and a car and a family and good teeth and a decent retirement. All I needed to do was trust. And pray. Indeed, every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father. He is Jehovah Jireh — my provider. These ideas aren’t wrong, as long as they don’t become a pillar of your theology. For me, it had. My understanding of God was that he was the sky fairy, the heavenly pinata, the Prayer of Jabez guy who has the solutions to my agenda figured out. I was ready to live the American dream. Prosper. No harm. I’ll take it!
Then you go to the ESV of Jeremiah 29:11. It reads:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Same idea… right? Wholeness? That word makes me think less about stuff and more about my own spiritual condition. Evil? Again, this brings less attention to the “harm” around me and more attention to my own capacity for evil. And so it takes on a bit of a different angle… that the blessings of God are not material. The blessings of God are spiritual (with a nod to Ron Kopicko, for saying this the way you do).
God cares less about giving me stuff and more about having a wholeness. Wholeness gives me a future. A hope. That’s a better plan, anyway.
I’m not bashing the NIV, nor the translators. I’m just saying that the ESV renders things in a different way that, according to what I’ve read, has a higher degree of accuracy to the original texts. So… here I am.
To see others who have switched, check out:
Why John Piper’s Church Uses the ESV (Includes a great collection of comparisions to other versions)
Mark Driscoll’s Church Uses the ESV(Includes comments, both positive and negative, from other bloggers)