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Question 1:

Why are there so many translations of the Bible, and why do you use the ESV?

This is a great question, and a perfect question to begin this series. Let's break this down into a few parts.

First, there are two main categories of Bible translation: Thought for thought translation and word for word translation. Each type has its benefits and its shortcomings.

Thought for thought translation begins with the overall thought of a particular passage. The translators then put that thought into English in a way that is succinct and easily understood. This means that the translation often comes across as easily read and in rhetoric that is understandable. The shortcoming of this type of translation is that that the reader is often at the mercy of the translator, because the interpretation of the passage is done prior to translation. Examples of this type of translation are the NIV, NLT, as well as a few others.

In word for word translations, each word is translated from the original language into the final language. This means that the translators are less concerned with the interpretation of a passage as a whole and instead focus on the interpretation of each particular word. When the reader then opens their Bible, what they have is a closer view of what was originally said and written. However, the sacrifice made here is that the translation can be choppy or harder to read, with the sentences sometimes not flowing easily. Examples of this would be the ESV, NASB, and the RSV.

There are other translations that fall outside of these categories. For example, one is the King James. This translation was developed from the Latin translation of the Bible. (Called the Latin Vulgate). So, the KJV is actually a translation of a translation. There are some issues with the KJV because of this, but this was the penultimate translation, at least in usage, for many generations. Another translation would be The Message. Translation is probably a bad word to use for this, as The Message is really more of a commentary. The combination of loose interpretation as well as new age wording make The Message a less than favorable tool for study.

To answer the question, "Why do I use the ESV?", the answer is fairly simple: The ESV is arguably the best combination of accuracy and readability of any English Bible available today. It is a useful Bible for deep study, but is also fairly easily read as well. The ESV serves us well on Sunday mornings and in our weekly Bible studies, in that we can follow the English text and make the word for word correlations to be sure we are getting a correct and full understanding. Our goal in study should be to understand, inasmuch as possible, the original intent of the original author, and to me, the ESV is the best translation we have today for that purpose.

Here is an example of why I prefer the ESV:

John 17:19
ESV: “sanctified in truth”
NIV: “truly sanctified”

You can see that the understood meaning here is markedly different from one to another. The ESV expresses closely what Jesus and John originally intended, which is that we are to be sanctified in the truth, not just completely sanctified. Its these subtleties that make picking a translation important.

I hope this was helpful for you. Thanks to Lloyd for this week's question, and I am looking forward to hearing from others who have questions you might like answered.

May God bless you and keep you,
Pastor Jayson

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