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9 Things You Should Know About the ESV Bible

Last month the publisher and translator team that produced the English Standard Version (ESV) announced the “text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged in all future editions.” But after public debate about making the latest edition the “permanent text” they announced this week, “We have become convinced that this decision was a mistake.”

Here is what you should know about the ESV, one of the most popular English translations of Scripture:

1. The idea for the ESV Bible originated in the early 1990s when Lane T. Dennis, president of the nonprofit book publishing ministry Crossway, discussed the need for a new literal translation of the Bible with various Christian scholars and pastors. Near the end of the decade, the translation committee began work. The ESV was released in 2001, with minor revisions being released in 2007, 2011, and 2016.

2. The starting point for the ESV translation was the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version (RSV). Each word of the text was also checked against and based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983), on the Greek text in the 1993 editions of the Greek New Testament (4th corrected ed.), and Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.). Crossway adds that in “exceptional, difficult cases, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, and other sources were consulted to shed possible light on the text, or, if necessary, to support a divergence from the Masoretic text.”

3. The three general philosophies of Bible translation philosophy are formal equivalence, functional equivalence, and optimal equivalence. As Dave Croteau has explained, formal equivalence (“word-for-word” translation) attempts to translate the Bible as literally as possible, keeping the sentence structure and idioms intact if possible (examples: NASB, KJV); functional equivalence (“thought-for-thought” translation) attempts to translate the text so it has the same effect on the current reader as it had on the ancient reader (example: NLT); and optimal equivalence falls between the former approaches by balancing the tension between accuracy and ease of reading. As an “essentially literal” translation, the ESV most closely aligns with a formal equivalent translation philosophy in that is “seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer.”

4. The translation was overseen by a 15-member Translation Oversight Committee (including TGC Council member R. Kent Hughes) and another team of more than 50 Translation Review Scholars (including TGC Council member Ray Ortlund).

5. On the Christian Booksellers Association 2014 listing of top selling Bible translations, the ESV ranked fifth in dollar sales and fourth in unit sales. During the past 15 years, he ESV has distributed more than 100 million print copies as well as more than 100 million electronic copies.

6. In 2013, Gideon’s International—a ministry that distributes free Bibles to locations including hotels, motels, hospitals, convalescent homes, medical offices, domestic violence shelters, prisons, and jails—announced it would be transitioning its modern English version from the New King James Version (NKJV) to the ESV. This change will make the ESV one of the most widely distributed versions in the world.

7. The readability level of the text of the ESV is around 8th grade (7.4 on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and 74.9 on the Flesch Reading Ease). In comparison, the NIV is also at the 7th-8th level, the KJV at the 12th grade level, and The Message at the 4th-5th grade level.

For the rest of the post…

by JOE CARTER

The primary thing everyone should know about the Bible is that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16). But here are an additional 9 things that you should know about the best-selling book of all time:

1. The English word Bible is derived from the Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία (ta biblia – “the books”). While Christian use of the term can be traced to around A.D. 223, the late biblical scholar F.F. Bruce noted that Chrysostom in his Homilies on Matthew (between A.D. 386 and 388) appears to be the first writer to use the Greek phrase ta biblia to describe both the Old and New Testaments together.

2. The word “testament” (Hebrew berîth, Greek diatheke), means “covenant.” The term “Old Testament” refers to the covenant which God entered into with Abraham and the people of Israel, and “New Testament” to the covenant God has entered into with believers through Christ.

3. The practice of dividing the Bible into chapters began with Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury in the early 13th century. Robert Estienne, a 16th-century printer and classical scholar in Paris, was the first to print the Bible divided into standard numbered verses.

4. The first complete Bible printed in the Western Hemisphere was not in English or other Europeans languages. The “Eliot Indian Bible,” published in Cambridge, Massachusetts, between 1660 and 1663, was a translation in the Natick dialect of the Algonquin tribe of indigenous Americans. There were no English language Bibles printed in America until the late 1700’s, mainly because they were more cheaply and easily imported from England up until the embargo of the Revolutionary War.

5. The first red-letter New Testament (i.e., words of Christ printed in red) was published in 1899, and the first red-letter Bible followed two years later. The idea of printing the words of Christ in red originated with Lous Klopsch, editor of Christian Herald magazine, who got the idea after reading Jesus’ words, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20).

6. The Bible is not only the best-selling book of all-time, it is consistently the best-selling book of the the year, every year. (Even in 1907, the New York Times noted that the “daily sales of the Bible, 40,000 copies, exceed the annual sales of most popular novels.”) Currently, an estimated 25 million copies are sold or distributed in the U.S. every year, approximately one new Bible for every 12 Americans.

For the other three things…

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