Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Post I Didn't Want to Write: My ONE Issue with the ESV

I've been postponing this post for over a year. I love the ESV. I am thankful for such a faithful and readable translation of God's Word. However, I have one issue. What grieves me the most is that it didn't have to be an issue. It could have been avoided quite easily.

My issue: the 2007 Text Edition.

For those who don't know, here is a little history: The ESV was first published in 2001. Then, in 2007, they introduced a new "text edition." Basically, the new text edition has some minor changes in words, punctuation, and footnotes. Notice: Not an updated version but a new text edition. They don't advertise this text edition and you cannot find anything on their website about it. The only way to know if your ESV is an original 2001 text edition or a new 2007 text edition is to look on the copyright page of your Bible.

The way I discovered this was through studying to preach. I was preaching from Ephesians 5 and was meditating on verse 7. I was pondering the implications of the command not to "associate" with people characterized by the darkness. What does it mean not to associate with such people? I planned to deal with this question in my sermon. While doing some ESV reading online, I noticed that the ESV website had a completely different word in Ephesians 5:7. It said, "Do not become partners with them." The word "associate" was not even in there. As you can imagine, I did a double-take. I looked back in my printed version and checked to make sure it was actually an ESV Bible. I looked back on the website and made sure I was looking at the ESV. I had a dilemma. I had 2 ESV Bibles and 2 different translations. I wondered what was going on. I did some research online and could find no explanation for the change. So, I e-mailed someone at Crossway and found out about the 2007 text edition.

Now, I understand the change from "associate" to "partner." I actually think the 2007 text edition captures the essence of the command better. The command is not to join with such people. It doesn't mean you can't talk with them and share the gospel with them. However, my dilemma was for preaching. I had planned on making a point of pondering the word "associate." I was imaging people holding their ESV's with "partner" in them while I was making a big deal about "associate" in my ESV. Does Justin know how to read?

Since that time, I have come across a number of other changes in the 2007 text edition. And, I have come across this list of all the changes. There are quite a few more than I had at first thought.

Please don't misunderstand: I have no problem with the changes in the 2007 text edition. Most of them I have found are actually an improvement in translation (I don't like the one in John 4:14).

My problem is with how Crossway has handled these changes. I understand that they didn't want to come out with the "Updated ESV" so soon after the original publication of the ESV. However, would calling it "Updated ESV" (or something similar) serve churches and pastors better? I think it would.

There are no perfect translations and there is always room for improvement. However, why not gather those improvements up and when they are sufficient enough, come out with an revised ESV?

Here are a few of my reasons for these thoughts:

1. Words matter in expository preaching. I want people looking at their Bibles and observing particular words and phrases. When I say the ESV has a particular word, it is not helpful if someone has the ESV and has a different word. Now, as a preacher, if I intend on making a point from a particular word, I have to know what both text editions say so that I can make a comment about it if there is a change. This just seems like an unnecessary step.

2. There is no way to know when you buy a Bible which text edition you are getting (unless you are buying one of the newer editions). If you buy a Thinline Bible from an online book seller, you can't know if you will get the 2007 text edition.

3. Some of the changes are more than "minor." I think the changes are substantial enough to warrant a new edition. For example, look at Malachi 2:16 (hating something and not loving something are two different things).

4. Other translations have done this successfully. Everyone knows the difference between the NASB and the NASB Updated.

Here is what I would urge Crossway to do:

1. Don't keep updating text editions. Gather up the changes that you think need to be made and wait till you are ready to do a complete revision.

2. Publicise the 2007 Text Edition. Tell people about it. Include an article on the website about it. If people know about it, they can be prepared to observe the changes.

3. Keep up the great work in setting the standard for Christian publishing. You are a gift from God.


PaPaMarc said...

Thank you for this information. I ran across a difference in one of my ESV's and Bible Gateway a few weeks ago but did not take the time to research what was going on. This information will really help explain things down the road when a congregation of ESV users start shaking their heads. I too am upset that Crossway didn't do a better job of informing everyone.

jason sessoms said...

I was reading Acts with a few friends and came across a different word. I thought I was going crazy, as all of us use the ESV. I kept flipping my bible over to read the spine and I was wondering why no one else seemed to be phased. Justin N. and Randy told me about update a few days later.

I can imagine the frustration a pastor would have.

Nicole said...

Thanks Justin, we were just talking about getting the ESV. Would you recommend the "text edition" or the original? I appreciate your explanation.


pastor justin said...

I'm glad you are getting an ESV. It is a superior translation.

Go ahead and get one with the 2007 Text Edition. The changes are helpful. It may be difficult to find an "original" anyway.

Anonymous said...

This is certainly unfortunate. I feel sorry for those churches who bought pew Bibles before 07'. I wonder when they will do it again? An updated ESV announced to the public would have been much more considerate. I do love Crossway though!

BoldLion said...

Hi! Justin,

I know that you were talking about this during Thanksgiving time. This is very interesting and I do hope that CrossWay will publize this online to inform other about the different between 2001 and 2007. I got several 2001 edtion. One of these day, I will get 2007.

Thank you for sharing this information to others! Which one are you using for your sermon on Sunday?

Hungry to eat His Word,
'Guerite ~ BoldLion

Blake White said...

Now you have to buy another ESV to be current. They did the same thing this year (2011) that they did in 07.