Typically we have a Bible translation that we come to love and are often unwilling to try new translations that come along. “Why try a new version when I like the Bible I have?,” is often our reasoning. While I grew using the NKJV as it was a present to me for my 13th and 16th birthdays, I have always been curious about new translations that hit the market. One of the newer translations released is the English Standard Version (ESV). One of the first things I do when examining a new translation is read the preface which contains the translation philosophy. Notice the translation philosophy of the ESV:
“The ESV is an ‘essentially literal’ translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on ‘word-for-word’ correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.”
“Within the framework we have sought to be ‘as literal as possible’ while maintaining clarity of expression and literary excellence. Therefore, to the extent that plain English permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original; and, as far as grammar and syntax allow we have rendered Old Testament passages cited in the New in ways that show their correspondence. Thus in each of these areas, as well as throughout the Bible as a whole, we have sought to capture the echoes and overtones of meaning that are so abundantly present in the original texts.”
This philosophy certainly sets the ESV as being worthy for use in study since it does not use a “thought-for-thought” translation style. Rather, the ESV seeks to faithfully represent the original text so that the student can make the interpretation, not the translators.
In my opinion, I really am enjoying the ESV. The NASB has always claimed to be a literal translation. However, I never was a fan of the NASB because it is very “wordy” and inserts many unnecessary words into the text. It is nice to have a modern translation built upon the latest scholarship that seeks to translate concisely the word of God. If you do not own an ESV, I would strongly encourage you to try it, regardless of the version you may currently be using. While no translation is perfect, I think you will be very happy with your purchase and will enjoy reading and studying from an ESV.