Arminian Today

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What I Would Change in the ESV

I love the ESVas a Bible translation.  It is my reading, studying, evangelizing, praying, and blogging Bible.  I admit that I own several Bibles including the ESV.  On my desk right now I have an NASB and four ESV’s so I would say that the ESV is by far the one translation I turn to the most.  My ESV even goes with me to work and stays by my side nearly everywhere I go.  I want the pagan men and women that I work with to see the Word of God out front and I pray that they see the Word of God at work in my life (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

The ESV, however, like all Bible translations is not perfect.  It does have its faults.  I have very few problems with the ESV as say I have with the NIV or the NLT.  I prefer an essentially literal translation and I believe that most serious students of the Word of God would agree that there is something comforting about simply being able to read a text from the Bible and know that the translation is seeking to be faithful to the translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts and not seeing to add its own perspective to the text.  Again, no translation is perfect.  All are translated by people who, I hope, seek to translate the text accurately into the English language (or whatever language they are seeking to translate it into).  One need not know Greek to know that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are seriously bias and flawed in their translation, the New World Translation.  The ESV is a faithful translation as far as I can tell.

But what would I change about the ESV if Crossway was listening to me?  Here are a few of my own thoughts.

1.  Italicized Words.

I would do as the NKJV or the NASB do and words that are added for clarity would be put in italics.  Even the original KJV did this.  It helps the Bible reader to know that this word is not in the Hebrew or Greek text.  To me it’s just another area of showing the reader that you desire to be faithful when translating the Word of God.  Not one dynamic equivalent translation uses italics properly because of the number of words added to the text for clarity.  The ESV is a faithful, essentially literal translation and should reflect this with words in italics.

2.  Translate the Greek word Dulos as “Slave” and not “Servant.”

In his book, Slave, by Dr. John MacArthur, MacArthur shows how important the usage of the word “slave” was in the New Testament.  It was the favorite term by Paul the Apostle for himself (see Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10).  It was also used by Jesus to refer to His followers in Luke 17:7-10.  The word was a common word in the Roman times and it carried with it the idea of being purchased by another for work to them.  We have been purchased by God through His Son (1 Corinthians 6:20).  Our duty is to serve God loyally as His slaves.  The Holman Christian Standard Version (HCSB) translates the Greek word as “slave” in its New Testament.  I would love to see the ESV follow suit and do the same.  That is the best translation of the word.

3.  The Word of Christ in Black.

This is a personal preference to end with.  I prefer a Bible that has all the words in black and avoids putting the words of Christ in red.  I know some Bible readers enjoy the words of Christ in red but to me, its confusing.  First of all, the words of Christ are not over the words of say Moses or Paul or Peter.  They are all inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16).  By placing the words of Christ in red it seems as if the words of Christ are over the other words of all others.  The words of Jesus are important but so are the words of the New Testament letters or the words of Luke in Acts.  Secondly, when I was a boy it seemed all I would ever get at church for Christmas from my Sunday School teachers were KJV award Bibles.  I must have had ten of them!  They all had the words of Christ in red.  I would open that Bible and somehow the words of Christ seemed to me to be mystical or unique because of the red writing.  They scared me.  They, of course, were not my main problem but my sin was but that is another question altogether.  My point is that even as a boy, the words of Christ in red threw me off.  It seemed they were above all others and they are not.


Just my own thoughts.  You are free to disagree.  The best translation is a used translation.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/20/2012 at 4:59 PM

Posted in Bible Translations

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9 Responses

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  1. I like the ESV translation as well because of it’s word for word accuracy, but all of the commentary in the Study Bible version is from a Calvinistic point of view; just like most Study Bibles. This is why I actually wnet out and bought a NIV FIRE BIBLE Global Study Edition because the commentary in it is from an Arminian/Spirit-filled point of view.

    David Garcia

    05/20/2012 at 7:19 PM

    • The ESV Study Bible does lean Calvinistic in its notes. I agree. I wrote once on this blog about the need for a solid reformed Arminian study Bible. I would love to see an Arminian study Bible in the ESV.

  2. Some very good suggestions.

    Another thing about the colouring of the words of Jesus. Sometimes bibles credit certain statements to Jesus when context suggests that the statement is actually commentary from the writer of the gospel.
    John 3:16 is one such statement. Some bibles include this as a quote from Jesus – others leave the statement outside of the ” “, indicating that John (the writer) was responsible for the statement, giving an expanded commentary on the significance of what Jesus had said.


    05/20/2012 at 7:32 PM

  3. brother, i can definitely agree with your statement that the best translation is a ‘used’ translation. i’m in the camp that still loves and uses the kjv for my daily study and teaching uses and encourages the nkjv when i others balk at the ‘archaic’ words.
    either way, the Word is used, read, studied, taught from and ‘propagated’ in the world that needs Jesus. i’m enjoying your blog. keep up the good work.

    In Christ

    mike and brandy

    05/21/2012 at 5:52 AM

    • The NKJV is a fine translation. I have preached from it many times and enjoy it. I own several copies of the NKJV.

  4. I think italicised words are over-rated. Do we mean words not in the Greek, or not implied in the Greek? Pronouns are often not used, but are implied in the verb, but then a pronoun can be added for emphasis. Do we italicise or not? The Lord’s prayer has evil one because it is thought that the usage is personifying evil, though the Greek just has evil. I don’t mind italics, but it may suggest to readers that the word is not there when it might be, or that the translators are adding when at times they may not be.

    I like the NIV which doesn’t italicise but does include half brackets when the addition is clearly added but possibly disputable.

    I have thought a little about this. I wonder whether they should use the word bondslave.

    Words in red/ black is a publishing issue, not a translation issue. None of my ESVs have words in red.


    05/21/2012 at 6:44 AM

    • I did know the red words were publishers preferences. That is why I added that my last point was a personal preference more than asking the ESV publishers (Crossway) to remove the words of Christ from red back to black. I like how the NASB has words not found in the original in italics and they add brackets with passages that are debated in the various manuscripts such as in Acts 8:36-38. The ESV adds verse 37 as a footnote.

  5. The best translation is the read translation.

  6. bummer my first comment did not make the cut for your “approval”… thought we had some shared interest. Oh well…

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