A New Conservative Translation

One of the most important advances in Biblical studies was the release of The English Standard Version by Crossway Bibles in 2001. Edited by J. I. Packer, this translation has been gaining a sizable following among Conservative scholars over the past several months.
Two doctrinal considerations commend the English Standard Version, the translators? commitment to the complete truthfulness and their assurance of the ultimate unity of Scripture. Both convictions spring from a belief that the Bible ultimately has one Author, and that He neither lies nor makes mistakes.
The translators of the English Standard Version were all committed to inerrancy, believing Holy Spirit guided the writers of scripture so that what they wrote was fully and completely the word of God.
The doctrine of inerrancy greatly influences our approach to Bible study. While paraphrases and Bible storybooks have their place, for study and worship Christians should use a version that helps the reader understand, in his or her own language, the words God inspired. An important feature of the English Standard Version is that it allows readers to trust the words it uses to be the Word of God. Any translation is only as reliable as its faithfulness to the original words that God inspired. Many modern editions, such as the New International Version, use an approach of ?dynamic equivalence,? paraphrasing ?thought for thought? rather than translating ?word for word.? Such renderings may be useful as commentaries, but they fail to do justice to our faith that God inspired not just the general thoughts but also the specific words.
The weakness of the New International is apparent as it obscures the actual words used in the inspired text. Paul, for example, opened and closed the book of Romans using the phrase ?obedience of faith? (Rom. 1:5; 16:26). In the first passage the New International reads: ?the obedience that comes from faith,? and in the second: ?so that that all nations might believe and obey him.? These renderings are useful commentary, perhaps, but not accurately Paul’s words. The reader of the New International would never guess that the apostle used exactly the same words in both texts and could not appreciate the way Paul develops this theme throughout the book of Romans.
The English Standard, in contrast, permits us to more closely approach the actual words God inspired, using ?obedience of faith? consistently both in Romans 1:5 and 16:26. This approach proceeds from a conviction that the words of the Bible are the very words of God. The words themselves being from God?not just the outline or concepts?each word deserves to be translated with accuracy and precision.
Emphasizing the words God inspired enables a reader to consider the text effectively for studying a text begins with understanding the words. There is no other way to begin.
The English Standard further emphasizes the unity of the Bible, embodying the old principle that ?Scripture shines in its own light.? Much modern scholarship has abandoned this truth.
The Revised Standard Version, for example, renders Isaiah 7:14, ?Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.? The Hebrew word here could be translated either as ?virgin? or ?young women.? The English Standard, however, translates the word as ?virgin,? because Matthew 1:23 quotes the passage and uses a Greek word that clearly means ?virgin.? One passage of Scripture, in this way, informs the translation of another.
Beyond these doctrinal considerations, most readers of the English Standard will appreciate its dignified beauty. Unlike many of the trendy modern versions, the English Standard does not attempt to use artificially ?inclusive? language, but maintains generic masculines reflected both in the original language of Scripture and in traditional English usage.
The English Standard Version has quickly gained acceptance among Conservative scholars and should be a valuable tool for serious Bible study for years to come.

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Greg Tidwell

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