The Holy Bible: English Standard Version

Wheaton, IL
Good News Publishers, 2001. 1328 pp. $19.99

Crossway Bibles released in September, 2001 yet another translation of the Scripture. By it the General Editor, Dr. J. I. Packer, promises to set a new standard in precision, accuracy, literary beauty, and readability — a claim which time and usage will either verify or challenge. The driving force behind this translation is the conviction that the Bible contains the very words of God. The announcement concerning this version suggests that in contrast to other versions “It is these God-inspired words, not just the thoughts or ideas, that must be translated, with the ideal of word-for-word exactness…” A qualification is granted in that this exactness is “as close … as modern English will allow.” The promotional literature also hints at a criticism of other translations such as when it describes this version as “A Bible Translation that doesn’t improve on the original.”

This translation took three years to complete and was accomplished under the auspices of a 100-member publishing team composed of international and national scholars, pastors, and educators from numerous denominations. The Translation Oversight Committee consisting of 14 members, and directed by Dr. Packer, also benefited from the work of more than fifty Biblical experts serving as Translation Review Scholars and from the comments of more than fifty members of the Advisory Council.

The version is recommended for study, reading, memorizing, worship, and preaching. In addition to its claim of consistent literalness, this translation retains classic theological terms such as covenant, grace, justification, redemption, and propitiation. Furthermore, it attempts to retain the stylistic variety of the Biblical writers, whether the exalted prose of Genesis, the flowing narratives of the historical books, or the closely reasoned logic of Paul’s letters.

As for gender, this version renders “anyone” rather than “any man” when there is no word corresponding to “man” in the original, and “people” rather than “men” where the original refers to both men and women. The word “brothers” is retained as an important familial form of address between fellow-Jews and fellow-Christians in the 1st century though with the recurring note that the term often refers to both men and women. The intention is to let the reader understand the original on its own terms rather than on the terms of our present-day culture. Here the footnotes that accompany the ESV text are an integral part of this version, informing the reader of textual variations and showing how these have been resolved by the translation team.

This first edition is titled a Classic Reference Bible and includes an introduction to each book, which does not address technical questions, preferring instead to help people read the Bible on their own. An alphabetical superscript preceding a word or phrase is used to indicate each word/phrase that is cross-referenced, and numerical superscripts which follow word/phrases refer to footnotes. The cross references are of several types including specific words, comparative references, less direct references, and quoted references. The footnotes offer alternative renderings, explanation of Hebrew/Greek terms, other explanatory notes, and technical translation notes.

A concordance included as a supplement to the text contains more than 2,700 entries and more than 14,500 Scripture references. Also included in this premier edition is a Free Bible Resources CD-ROM that has a $60 retail value and offers the complete KJV and ESV texts plus a commentary, topical Bible, and texts that explore both the Old and New Testaments.

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