A few of you have said something. I am sure more of you have noticed but said nothing.
Since December, we’ve been preaching at Capitol City from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. For more than a decade, I’ve sat on the fence between two English Bible translations. I have read and studied personally from the ESV, while preaching from the New International Version. (A little over a year ago, I explained why I prefered to preach from the NIV.) But I sit on the fence no longer. For the foreseeable future, we’ll be preaching and teaching from the ESV at Capitol City. I wanted to share a few of the reasons why. But let me start with one reason that is not a reason we are switching…
We are not switching because we’re dissatissfied with the NIV. We’re not dissatissfied with the NIV. I know a few Christians who really dislike it, but that’s not us – that’s certainly not me. I had the privilege of studying with the chairman of the NIV’s translation committee. He is a brilliant New Testament scholar who truly loves the Lord. In the translation work for the NIV, he led a team of brilliant scholars who really love the Lord. The NIV is a great, accessible translation, translated by men and women who are wholly devoted to the Lord’s work. If you are reading from the NIV, you are reading from a great translation.
If that is true, then why would we switch? I can give you three reasons.
1. The ESV is more accessible than I thought. For the last decade, the main reason I haven’t preached or taught from the ESV is because I thought that it was a bit inaccessible. About one in five adults in the US read below a fifth grade level. The ESV definitely reads above a fifth grade level. For that reason, I steered away from it.
But then my own children began to debunk my concerns about accessibility. We read from the ESV as a family, and the Bibles my kids read from on their own are ESV Bibles (more on that below). My oldest two sons are strong readers for their age. But even before they were strong readers, they jumped in to the ESV with both feet. The syntax and vocabulary weren’t too daunting for them. They embraced the challenge. Now, they read the Bible with the same determination with which they read other books. The accessibility of the ESV simply hasn’t been an obstacle for them. In my own home, my primary argument against using the ESV started to unravel. When combined with the reasons below, that made this change a lot easier for me to consider.
2. The ESV Study Bible and other devotional Bibles are fantastic. That’s true for the NIV, too, but there are a lot more options – and some truly great options – when it comes to the ESV. My wife calls the ESV Study Bible her “seminary degree”; it is full of great insight into the meaning of the biblical text. Every ministry leader on our staff has the ESV’s Gospel Transformation Bible on his/her desk. The ESV student and children’s Bibles are fabulous. I’ve been impressed by what I have seen from the ESV’s Woman’s Devotional Bible and Men’s Devotional Bible. I am so excited about the content that Crossway, the publishers of the ESV, is producing that it made switching to the ESV an easy decision.
3. Many of the ESV Bibles published by Crossway are simply beautiful. You might think this is a silly (or inconsequential) reason, but I don’t. Crossway has put a lot of effort into making beautiful looking and feeling Bibles. In a world where book publishing is going digital, they are bucking the trend by making beautiful print Bibles. (I should, however, give a shoutout to the ESV Bible App. It’s the best free Bible app for your smartphone, in my opinion.) Why does having a beautiful Bible matter?
Simply put, I think it serves as an encouragement to read your Bible. I find myself stimulated by the quality of the leather in the ESV Bible I preach from. At home, I’m studying from the ESV Reader’s Bible – which I purchased thanks to a generous gift given to me by our staff last Fall. It’s a stunning set of books, and I get excited every time I open it. Should we require such material motivators to delight in God’s Word? No. But they help stir my affection for Scripture. In my mind, that’s a good thing.
So now you know what we’re reading from on Sunday morning, and why. One church member, after asking me about this recently, said something like, “I like to bring the right textbook to class.” If that’s you, you’ll find plenty of beautiful ESV Bibles available. We even have a few in our “Grow” area in the Atrium. And if you are interested in free, remember that the ESV Bible App is a great way to go.