Note: This is a very long post. However, I do believe it is worth the effort. May the Lord Bless you for taking the time and making the effort.
There was a time when all over the internet and especially among the various and seemingly numerous Christian blog sites, articles were popping up promoting and recommending the excellent translation called The English Standard Version or ESV. While the ESV came out in 2001 and is really a rework of the RSV, it increasingly continues to rise in its acceptance and praises among those who are discovering this wonderful translation and using it for their own personal reading, memorization, as well as for study, preaching and teaching the Word of God to others. While it isn’t without it is opposition, it seems to me, although I admit my bias, that there is overwhelming support for this translation.
If you don’t have a copy of the ESV, I would strongly encourage running out and picking one up and have a good read. I for one believe that the ESV is a very reliable and trustworthy translation. It is fresh and as I have said before, it’s like coming home after being gone for a long time. I hadn’t changed translations in twenty five years and then after a period of several years of transition, I finally made the change to the ESV. Compared to my move from the KJV to the NIV, making this change has been very easy. I use it for reading, study, teaching and preaching. As for memorizing, I am struggling a bit with this. This is no fault of the ESV, as I have always struggled with memorization.
I used the NIV for 25 years. I began over the years to have some real reservations regarding it and the whole dynamic equivalence translation approach. I truly wondered why we couldn’t have an accurate, yet much more readable translation without compromising the scriptures to achieve this. Well, I believe that the ESV is such a translation. The ESV follows in the tradition of the KJV, RSV and other great formal (more literal) equivalent translations. They have sought to be as accurate as possible with today’s understanding of the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts available to us. The ESV is classified as requiring an 8th grade reading level. The Bible Translation Scale, which places translations where they fall in reference to how Formal or more literal the works are in comparison with how Dynamic or thought for thought the works are, places the ESV far to the left or as a much more literal translation than even the KJV.
While you will in all likelihood, not find every passage translated to your liking, I have found this translation to be so wonderful that I have and will continue to highly recommend it those I serve in the ministry, fellow colleagues and to anyone who will listen. There are a few and I mean only a few places where the wording is a bit of a stretch, but I have found these to be in no way a problem. In fact I believe that the ESV reads very smoothly over all. I for one like, that this translation isn’t in an everyday all too common vernacular.
I for one want accuracy that I can trust, readability that doesn’t compromise the integrity or Godly meanings and teaching of scripture. I want a Bible that is first, last and always about rendering the Holy Scriptures as the very Holy and Living Words of the Lord God Almighty as he has revealed them to His creation, without feeling the need to continue inculcating our culture into them. If this means I must do a little extra work or even a lot to get at the wonderful realities of God’s Holy Word, then bring it on. I do not want to see the Word of God continuing to be compromised for the sake of the current marketing strategies, perceived or felt needs, the dollar, culture or the latest wind of relevance and fear of man’s inability to get it or of Gods inability to reveal his Word to those who hunger and thirst for it. I believe that I have found all of these things and much more in the ESV. For this I am truly grateful.
I read on the web a good while ago now, some who were complaining about the Bible Translations that use our language in unfamiliar ways and the ESV was listed as one of those. I read and looked at the problems as they were outlined, but found myself going, “what’s the big deal”? I could see what it was that they were referring to, but for me, the passages seemed clear enough. For those words or phrases that needed a little help to understand, this was easily accomplished with a little bit of digging. Sometimes it only meant looking at an English Dictionary for a further understanding of the English words being used; sometimes it required a little more work, howbeit nothing more than 4 to 5 minutes of study.
2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
I think we are getting much lazier in regard to the Word of God, Christianity and Faith as a whole. We don’t want to read, study, work, figure things out, buy books or software or even use online resources. We have cried out for this simple, dumbing down and laying it all out nice, easy and clear for us so that we do not have think too hard, Word of God. The result of this is that we have an epidemic of Biblical illiteracy rampantly growing in the church of the West with devastating consequences. The church of the West is aging, dying, and most shameful, we are becoming irrelevant to our nation and cultures. We want instant satisfaction, gratification and simplification of all we do, are and live. We want things made easy, we want things dumbed down for us so that we do not have to work, strive or discipline ourselves, die to ourselves, in order to grow forward.
The Bible wasn’t written in English nor was it written by those who were raised in the Western part of the World. It is Middle Eastern in its natural origin, so it takes us westerners some work to understand this world and time so very different from our own. The Bible is also a very ancient Book, being two to three thousands years old. Therefore it is not a recent work and as a result of this there are many aspects of its language, wording, phrasing, and its literary forms such as its poetry, imagery, metaphor, prose, multiple meanings, mysteries, ambiguities, sacredness, tone, beauty, theology, etc. that are challenging to us all today. Yes, and it most certainly should remain so. However, as a result of our unwillingness to truly study and do our homework on our end, there is a lot of information and understanding that we loose out on and we end up with misinformation, misperceptions, and misunderstandings instead. This lack of understanding also results in our assuming things in God’s Word that are simply not accurate. With all of the resources available to us, not taking the time to study and do our homework, well, this is just plain lazy. There is not one true excuse, for any of us.
Proverbs 2:1-5 (ESV) My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
This is the Beauty of the Word of God, its richness, depth and the wonderful discoveries that lay just under the surface for us to find, enjoy and pass on to others, as the truth of God’s Holy Word. How many times have I read a verse or passage a hundred or more times and then have it all of the sudden come alive in ways that I never imagined, only later to wonder why it was that I had never seen the truth in that text so clearly as I do now? I want to have to seek the Lord Jesus regarding his Word and lean upon the God the Holy Spirit to open my eyes and the ears of my understanding so that I can get it. I want to have to think, study, research, figure things out and wait upon the Lord for his insight and understanding concerning His word. I also want to know what it is that he is speaking to me in my life and circumstances. Sometimes this means I have to dig for it and earnestly seek his revelation. I not only want to, but I realize that I need to.
I am no scholar, which is most likely already evident. I am just a man who has learned how to learn and knows that before the Lord he needs to keep growing and learning. This is simply, though not always easily, accomplished. This isn’t something that someone can do for me or you. No one else can grow for you, learn for you or mature for you and deepen your relationship with the Lord Jesus for you, no one! If you don’t draw upon the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, accepting the responsibility to grow, learn and mature in Christ Jesus through the living and alive Word of God, these things will not take place! It will just not happen and indeed it cannot happen.
I think this whole issue of not wanting to do the work of study in the Word of God is just another picture of the dumbing down of the Church in America. We have chosen as a nation to dumb down our schools, etc. Evidently our nation and culture are continuing to be allowed to shape the Church of America as well. As a result we have as the church also bought into this lie of needing to dumb down, our always moving to the lowest common denominator. We’re not expected to rise up and wise up. No! We’re expected to move down and stay down. I am surprised that there are not many more loud outcries concerning this. What is being said is simply that we are all just too stupid or ignorant to handle anything that requires a little effort, discipline and work. So it seems that very few expect it let alone require it.
The standards for church leadership are becoming lower and lower because we are desperate for leaders; the standards for church membership and for being called a Christian are also being lowered and lowered because of the perceived need to keep or increase the body count in our churches or its finances. We are chasing illusions if we think this will not continue to hurt us all as the Church. Whatever happened to the Biblical standards of righteousness, holiness, truth and godliness? Whatever happened to lives being surrendered unto the Lord Jesus, in spirit and in truth? What has happened, is our culture has been allowed to determine our faith, theology, understanding and the reality of what it now means to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, in a post modern and politically correct world.
All too many of the recent translators of the last fifty years or so, have decided that we cannot handle what the original Word of God says, the way it says it and the way it would read if translated in an essentially literal manner. As a result of their assumption that we are all too ignorant to step up to the level of the Word of God as it is or should be, they have decided to make it easier on us. Again the dumbing down in this is all too evident. It is assumed that the Bible needs to be able to be understood by those who are not Christians or are young Christians at the very least, by simply reading it the first time through. In order for this to take place, it is assumed, the Bible needs to be rewritten and retranslated down to 4th grade or so reading level. Even the 8th grade reading level is considered by some as too difficult. The ongoing assumption is that we cannot, as Americans, handle or even learn to handle metaphors, ambiguity, multiple meanings, poetry, rhythm and ancient references, terms or word pictures, etc. etc. So they have taken it upon themselves to dumb down, I mean, simplify the scriptures for us. Yes, they are convinced that we cannot read beyond grade school or at the most early junior high levels, nor evidently learn to do so and so to help us out they are going to take out all of the hard stuff for us. They are so very kind don’t you think?
Do I really want someone else deciding for me what I can and cannot handle as if I was some kind of child? Do I really want someone reducing the text and interpreting it for me, from only one perspective when there may be several levels of understanding in any given text, simply because they think that I cannot handle anything too difficult? Do I really want someone who adds to the text that which isn’t there or takes away from it that which is suppose to be there, without telling me they have done so and then giving me a Bible that they say is true to the original text but in truth it is not. Do I really want a translation that that is so often translated in such a free form that I do not actually know that what I then read therein, is really what the Scriptures truly say or not? No to all of the above! I want a Bible I can trust, where translators have made every effort to convey in English that which is in the original languages. I praise the Lord for those translations whose translators have genuinely made this very real effort. I am pleased to say the ESV is most certainly one these and in my humble opinion, it is one of the best.
When we look at these free form translations that attempt to read like today’s newspapers, I cannot help but wonder what happened to the beauty of the Scriptures, and the power of their Holy Words, or the flow of their richness, depth, meaningful and thought provoking wordings, with the simple yet powerful metaphors, the glorious nuance and the clear challenge of the sacred language? Where are the word pictures, the exalted language of the Lord God speaking in his power and glory? What happened to my reading the Word of God and suddenly being transported back in time to an event in history that is unfolding before my eyes as I read the rich rhythm of His word pictures painted under the inspiration and wonder of the Holy Spirit. When you reduce that which is Holy to the common street language of everyday conversation you loose the power of the Scriptures breadth and beauty. Unintentionally yet actually you discover that the very Words of God begins to loose their sacredness and are simply reduced to the commonness of which has and is becoming its new formed language, a language of the current culture. All because someone somewhere decided that you and I cannot handle the Word of God as it is or would be if it was translated accurately in a manner that was essentially literal.
Maybe it is true and we have become lazy, blind, deaf and ignorant as a church. We have indeed become illiterate Biblically. We have had these new freeform translations for the better part of fifty years and we have not only, not become more literate Biblically but have actually only gone down in our literacy as the church in the West. We need to quit setting our focus downward and beginning setting our goals and focus upward, if we are ever going to see this trend of dumbing down the church change. We need to quit using the lowest common denominator as our highest aspirations. We need to begin calling the people of God upward and onward. Raise up the banner once again. We can do all things through Christ Jesus!
We can by the mercy, grace and powerful Holy Spirit, repent, change, and turn this whole trend around. We can in and through Christ Jesus take back our hearts, minds, churches, faith and lives, in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can take back the Word of God and once again begin to let it speak for itself, becoming the living and alive Word of God and the Sword of the Spirit, no matter how difficult it may seem to us in the natural. We can, but will we? It takes work and commitment. It takes a willingness to step up to the call and the occasion. It takes a lot of faith, which comes only by the Word of God. It takes risk, perseverance, discipline, study, prayer, righteous obedience unto and before the Lord Jesus Christ. It takes a lot of dying to ourselves and to our cultural values and to life experiences that have shaped so very much of our lives, understandings and perceptions. It most certainly means our beginning to move counter current to our culture and to the modern tendencies of dumbing down to lift up which in truth only leaves us down where we had set our goals to begin with, reaching downward and not upward.
Let us reach once again upward, paying the price of these essential and vital changes so desperately needed in us, let alone in our churches, families and nation? Let discontinue letting someone else make decisions for us as what we can and cannot handle, concerning the Word of God? Let us accept our responsibility to grow in the Word of God, in our becoming those who is rightly handling the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15).
I know that we can in Christ Jesus do all things. We can, in and through Christ Jesus, but will we? That indeed is the question. One thing for sure we all can do and that is to begin to resist those who would decide for us what we can handle and what we cannot handle, concerning the Word of God. I would wholeheartedly recommend you also get an essentially literal translation of the scriptures such as the English Standard version or one like it. (or such as the NKJV or NASB, etc.) Stand up and set your goals to becoming all that the Lord has intended for you to become in and through him.
Jude 1:20 (ESV) But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit;
You need to begin to actually and accurately understand who you are in Christ Jesus, what God’s Word actually says and doesn’t say, means and doesn’t mean. This and so much will not happen by sitting passively in a church service. You need to get up, get dressed and get into God’s Word and Presence, seeking the Living Word in His Tent of Meeting. You can do it! You can become in and through Christ Jesus so very much more than you are. Rise up to the high call of the chosen and don’t by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit and of the living God, settle for anything less.