Why the English Standard Version?

bibleHere at King’s Church we recommend the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible and it is the one most frequently used in our services. I say this for two main reasons; the first being that it can be very confusing if we have the different words in front of us in our Bibles as the sermon is being preached. This can be very alarming for new Christians who are not aware of the issues and see a text in front of them that is sometimes quite different from what the preacher is using.

Decades ago, the King James Version. History tells us that it was actually the Geneva Bible, with its Reformation based explanatory study notes, that was the very first Bible to come over to the shores of America on the Mayflower. However, the growing popularity of the KJV eventually made seeing the Geneva Bible a rare event in church services and homes.

The King James Version is certainly an excellent translation which has served the church for many generations. However, the meaning of words have changed a great deal in the centuries since the first printing of the KJV in 1611. Many preachers (me included) found that when using it, much time was required in a sermon to update and explain the archaic language used. A newer translation removes the need for this.

In addition to the archaic language of the KJV, what we know of the original text and languages has improved significantly in the last 400 years or so. The Church in our day has needed a Bible translation which reflects this great advancement in scholarship.

In some church services, there can be as many as 10 to 15 different versions in use. Of course, people can use any translation they like. They are definitely free to do so! Yet I think it is very helpful for pastors and elders to recommend one main translation to eliminate any potential confusion for a congregation.

With this as a foundation, the next question we need to ask is “which is the best Bible to use?”

This leads me to talk about the second reason for choosing the ESV. It stems from the desire to have an essentially literal translation (a “word for word” translation) in use rather than a dynamic equivalent, or “thought for thought” one. The primary advantage in choosing a “word for word” translation is that it gives us confidence that what we read in our Bibles are the equivalent English words for what the authors actually wrote. There is no need to wonder at every point where translation ends and subjective, personal commentary begins or if important material might have been been omitted from the original.

Certainly, there are other excellent translations out there. For years I have used the New American Standard Bible (NASB) which is a tremendously accurate translation. However, a choice needed to be made. The ESV is known for both its very accurate translation and for its language flow. It is very easy to read and to memorize. It is great for both adults and children. Because of this, it is the ESV that has become our Bible of choice here at King’s Church.

While we are still on the subject of Bibles, I am often asked to recommend a good Study Bible. I always point people to either the Reformation Study Bible or the ESV Study Bible, both of which use this same English Standard Version (ESV) text. These are the two exceptional Study Bibles out there. I love using both of them and am confident that in directing people to these notes, they will not be led too far astray. I certainly cannot say that about all Study Bibles out there but these two are remarkable gifts to the Body of Christ at large. Always keep in mind though that the study notes in a Bible, while they can be very helpful and informative, are never inspired. Only Scripture is. The Bible alone is the word of God.


“With the myriad of new Bible translations on the market today, few stand out. The ESV is one of the few, and surpasses the others in its simple yet elegant style. In many respects the ESV has accomplished in the 21st century what the KJV accomplished in the 17th: a trustworthy, literary Bible that is suitable for daily reading, memorizing, and preaching.” — Daniel B. Wallace

“We are building all our future ministry around the ESV….The ESV satisfies the preaching, memorizing, studying, and reading needs of our church, from children to adults.” — John Piper, Chancellor, Bethlehem College and Seminary; Founder and Teacher, desiringGod.org

“The ESV represents a new level of excellence in Bible translations—combining unquestionable accuracy in translation with a beautiful style of expression. It is faithful to the text, easy to understand, and a pleasure to read. This is a translation you can trust.” — R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“I’m so grateful for a translation that I can trust for its accuracy and enjoy for its clarity. This is the Bible for our entire family.” — Carolyn Mahaney

“I’ve been using the ESV for my personal study since it was released. Then I began to preach from it. Then our congregation switched over to it. I hope others will do the same. The ESV is the simply the best translation for combining accuracy, readability, and fidelity to the rich history of English Bible translation. I thank God for the ESV and pray that it will be the new standard in English Bibles for years to come.” — Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, University Reformed Church, East Lansing, MI

“I appreciate deeply the evident commitment to the absolute truth of Scripture, and the willingness of these scholars to yield to the Spirit rather than bend to the wind of cultural trends.” — Bryan Chapell, President Emeritus, Covenant Theological Seminary; Senior Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Peoria, IL

“The ESV embodies both word–for–word exactness and easy readability. It has quickly become my primary Bible for both personal use and public teaching.” — Jerry Bridges, Former Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Navigators

“We use the English Standard Version as our church Bible because we are passionate about God’s Word—every last word of it—and because we want our children to have the best available translation for reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and serious Bible study.” — Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College

“The great strength of the ESV is first and foremost that it allows readers to trust the words to be the Word of God. I delight to find a clear, beautiful translation that allows me to get as close as possible to the actual words God inspired.” — Kathleen B. Nielson, Director of Women’s Initiatives, The Gospel Coalition; author, Living Word Bible Studies

“I recommend the ESV as the best literal translation for Bible study in my hermeneutics class and in Bible study seminars. Congratulations on a job well done.” — Grant R. Osborne

“The ESV shows exactly what the original says—and with elegance of style! I welcome its publication with enthusiasm.” — Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Lead Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, TN

“Retaining the majesty of language with the clarity of thought, the English Standard Version is a grand accomplishment.” — Ravi Zacharias

“I highly recommend the English Standard Version to you.” — Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

“The translation is outstanding. The ESV achieves a new standard in accurate Bible translations for our day.” — R. C. Sproul, Jr.

“I believe the ESV is the Bible of the future. It is readable, accurate, and reverent.” — Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Elegant in every way, the ESV is certain to take its place as one of the finest translations in the grand tradition of the English Bible. Scholars will appreciate the care and nuance of the translation, pastors will appreciate the cadence and rhythm of the text, and all who read it will appreciate the craftsmanship of this richly textured version. It has become my version of choice.” — Stephen J. Nichols, President, Reformation Bible College; Chief Academic Officer, Ligonier Ministries

“After twenty years of teaching God’s Word and changing translations I have found at last, by God’s grace, a translation that is easy to read and immensely accurate. The ESV is the new first choice for serious students and careful communicators of God’s unchanging Word.” — James MacDonald, Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Rolling Meadows, Illinois

“The ESV beautifully blends good, contemporary English with reverence and accuracy.” — Erwin W. Lutzer

“Meticulous care and passionate research make the ESV a crisp, accurate, and valuable translation.” — Max Lucado

“Having now read through the ESV several times in my personal devotional life, I have adopted it as the primary text for my teaching and writing ministry. I appreciate…the ESV [because it] retains theological terminology that is at the heart of the Christian faith and exercises care and precision in the translation of nuances and gender language, so as to preserve a text that is as faithful as possible to the original. By the same token, the translators have maintained clarity and literary excellence, making this an accessible translation for modern readers. My hope is that the ESV will draw millions of people into the reading and study of God’s Word and into a more intimate relationship with the God of the Word.” — Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Radio Host, Revive our Hearts and Seeking Him

“I am so impressed with the clarity, beauty, and power of the ESV that I feel that I am reading the Bible again for the first time. From now on the ESV will be my Bible of choice. I simply don’t have the words to say how thankful I am for the ESV, its faithfulness to the original, and its beauty.” — Stephen W. Brown, Professor Emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando; radio broadcaster, Key Life

“The ESV promises to be true to its name: the English Standard Version for the coming generation. It is a careful rendering that captures and communicates the sense of the original biblical text and does so in flowing modern English….Well done!” — S. M. Baugh

“I thank God for the ESV. It combines up–to–date accuracy in the text and absolute faithfulness to the words of Scripture with a literary skill and beauty in the translation which, in my judgment, is unsurpassed.” — Eric Alexander, Retired Senior Minister, St. George’s-Tron Parish Church, Glasgow, Scotland

Italian Translation

twelvewhatabouts-italyBig News Today:

A brother in Christ, Paulo Castellina, has just finished translating my book “Twelve What Abouts – Answering Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election” into the Italian language. It is available to read free of charge online. May God be pleased to use it widely in the Italian speaking world and serve the cause of reformation within the Church in Italy.

Here’s the link to the Italian version of the book.

Myths about Bible Translations and the Transmission of the Text

by” is clearly illustrated in this instance. In Italian the two words are virtually identical, both in spelling and pronunciation. They thus involve a play on words. But when translated into other languages, the word-play vanishes. The meaning, on one level, is the same, but on another level it is quite different. Precisely because it is no longer a word-play, the translation doesn’t linger in the mind as much as it does in Italian. There’s always something lost in translation. It’s like saying in French, “don’t eat the fish; it’s poison.” The word ‘fish’ in French is poisson, while the word ‘poison’ is, well, poison. There’s always something lost in translation.

But how much is lost? Here I want to explore five more myths about Bible translation.

Myth 1: The Bible has been translated so many times we can’t possibly get back to the original.

This myth involves a naïve understanding of what Bible translators actually did. It’s as if once they translated the text, they destroyed their exemplar! Sometimes folks think that translators who were following a tradition (such as the KJV and its descendants, the RV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NKJB, NRSV, and ESV) really did not translate at all but just tweaked the English. Or that somehow the manuscripts that the translators used are now lost entirely.

The reality is that we have almost no record of Christians destroying biblical manuscripts throughout the entire history of the Church. And those who translated in a tradition both examined the English and the original tongues. Decent scholars improved on the text as they compared notes and manuscripts. Finally, we still have almost all of the manuscripts that earlier English translators used. And we have many, many more as well. The KJV New Testament, for example, was essentially based on seven Greek manuscripts, dating no earlier than then eleventh century. Today we have about 5800 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, including those that the KJV translators used. And they date as early as the second century. So, as time goes on, we are actually getting closer to the originals, not farther away.

Myth 2: Words in red indicate the exact words spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.

Scholars have for a long time recognized that the Gospel writers shape their narratives, including the sayings of Jesus. A comparison of the Synoptics reveals this on almost every page. Matthew quotes Jesus differently than Mark does who quotes Jesus differently than Luke does. And John’s Jesus speaks significantly differentyly than the Synoptic Jesus does. Just consider the key theme of Jesus’ ministry in the Synoptics: ‘the kingdom of God’ (or, in Matthew’s rendering, often ‘the kingdom of heaven’). Yet this phrase occurs only twice in John, being replaced usually by ‘eternal life.’ (“Kingdom of God” occurs 53 times in the Gospels, only two of which are in John; “kingdom of heaven” occurs 32 times, all in Matthew. “Eternal life” occurs 8 times in the Synoptics, and more than twice as often in John.) The ancient historians were far more concerned to get the gist of what a speaker said than they were to record his exact words. And if Jesus taught mostly, or even occasionally, in Aramaic, since the Gospels are in Greek the words by definition are not exact.

A useful distinction is made between the very words of Jesus and very voice of Jesus, known as ipsissima verba and ipsissima vox, respectively. Only rarely can we say that we have the very words of Jesus, but we can be far more confident that what is recorded in red letters in translations is at least the very voice of Jesus. Again, if ancient historians were not as concerned to get the words exactly right, we should not put them into a modernist straitjacket in which we expect them to be something they were never intended to be.

Myth 3: Heretics have severely corrupted the text.

This myth is usually promoted by King James Only folks who assume that the manuscripts that came from Egypt were terribly corrupted. A more sophisticated approach seeks to demonstrate this in passage after passage. For example, would orthodox scribes begin the quotation of Isaiah 40.3 and Malachi 3.1 in Mark 1.2 with “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet”? The alternative reading, found in the majority of manuscripts, reads “As it is written in the prophets.” But the earliest, most widespread reading is “in Isaiah the prophet.” It looks as though the later scribes were troubled by this attribution and they ‘corrected’ it to be more generic so as to include Malachi.

What is overlooked in the approach that assumes that the earlier manuscripts were corrupted and produced by heretics is the fact that virtually all Gospels manuscripts harmonize. That is, in parallel passages between two or more Gospels, virtually all manuscripts, from time to time, change the wording in one Gospel so that it duplicates the wording in another. Would heretics do this? It represents rather a high view of scripture—or, as Paul said in another context, zeal that is not according to knowledge. Further, the great majority of these harmonizations are either found in isolated manuscripts or in later manuscripts. This tells us that the tendencies of the earliest scribes was to harmonize, but because such harmonizations are done sporadically and in isolation they are easily detected. And later scribes produced their copies in great quantities in a heavily concentrated area, resulting in a more systematic harmonization—again, something that is easily detected.

This finds an apt analogy in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. When the beleaguered hobbits meet the dark stranger, Strider, at the Prancing Pony Inn, they are relieved to learn that he is on their side. He is Aragorn, and he tells them that if he had been their enemy he could have killed them easily.

There was a long silence. At last Frodo spoke with hesitation, “I believed that you were a friend before the letter came,” he said, “or at least I wished to. You have frightened me several times tonight, but never in the way that servants of the Enemy would, or so I imagine. I think one of his spies would—well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.”

Likewise, the readings of the oldest manuscripts often has a way of making Christians nervous, but in the end it seems fouler but feels fairer.

Myth 4: Orthodox scribes have severely corrupted the text.

This is the opposite of myth #3. It finds its most scholarly affirmation in the writings of Dr. Bart Ehrman, chiefly The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture and Misquoting Jesus. Others have followed in his train, but they have gone far beyond what even he claims. For example, a very popular book among British Muslims (The History of the Qur’anic Text from Revelation to Compilation: a Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments by M. M. Al-Azami) makes this claim:

The Orthodox Church, being the sect which eventually established supremacy over all the others, stood in fervent opposition to various ideas ([a.k.a.] ‘heresies’) which were in circulation. These included Adoptionism (the notion that Jesus was not God, but a man); Docetism (the opposite view, that he was God and not man); and Separationism (that the divine and human elements of Jesus Christ were two separate beings). In each case this sect, the one that would rise to become the Orthodox Church, deliberately corrupted the Scriptures so as to reflect its own theological visions of Christ, while demolishing that of all rival sects.”

This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Even Ehrman admitted in the appendix to Misquoting Jesus, “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” The extent to which, the reasons for which, and the nature of which the orthodox scribes corrupted the New Testament has been overblown. And the fact that such readings can be detected by comparison with the readings of other ancient manuscripts indicates that the fingerprints of the original text are still to be seen in the extant manuscripts.

Myth 5: The deity of Christ was invented by emperor Constantine.

This myth was heavily promoted in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. He, in turn, based his allegedly true statements (even though the book was a novel, he claimed that it was based on historical facts) on Holy Blood, Holy Grail (by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln). The evidence, in fact, that the deity of Christ is to be found in the original New Testament is overwhelming. A look at some of the early papyri shows this. In passage after passage, the deity of Christ shines through the pages of the New Testament—and in manuscripts that significantly predate Constantine. For example, P66, a papyrus from the late second century, says what every other manuscript in John 1.1 says—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It predates the Council of Nicea (AD 325), which these skeptics claim is the time when Constantine invented Christ’s divinity, by about 150 years! P46, a papyrus dated to c. AD 200, plainly speaks of Christ’s divinity in Hebrews 1.8. The list could go on and on. Altogether, we have more than fifty Greek New Testament manuscripts that are prior to Constantine’s reign. Not one of them denies the deity of Christ.

To see some of the details that expose these myths, consider the following books:

Rob Bowman and Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ

Ed Komoszewski, James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus

Daniel B. Wallace, editor, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament.

Lost in Translation

Translators can make or break you as a speaker – if they are good, they can actually ADD something to the preaching; if not, let alone the audience. Here’s a very funny incident when an Australian TV talk show host tries to tell the Dalai Lama a joke:

When A Tsunami Comes (Italian)

Quando Giunge Uno Tsunami

‘Il SIGNORE fa tutto ciò che gli piace, in cielo e in terra, nei mari e in tutti gli oceani’ (Salmo 135:6).

Quando si tratta di Dio e del Suo sovrano diritto di fare tutto ciò che Gli piace in cielo e in terra, tanta è la depravazione del cuore umano che vorremmo mettersi subito a sedere nel tribunale delle umane opinioni sia nel ruolo di giuria che di giudice. Esigiamo delle risposte! Crediamo di avere diritto a delle risposte. Dio ci deve una spiegazione (così noi pensiamo). Ecco così che mettiamo in calendario una seduta di giudizio immediato. Dio stesso deve rispondere a noi di quel che Egli fa o supponiamo che faccia. Egli deve essere posto nel banco degli accusati, …ed è meglio che si presenti con una buona spiegazione! E che sia convincente perché noi siamo più che pronti a giudicarlo colpevole accusandolo di aver violato i nostri criteri morali di “bontà”. Eppure, nonostante che noi si abbia fissato la data dell’udienza ed assunto il miglior pubblico ministero che ci possa rappresentare, Dio non si presenta al giudizio. Questo, naturalmente, ci fa infuriare ancora di più. Dalla Sua prospettiva, però, Egli non sente di avere alcun bisogno od obbligo di fornirci delle spiegazioni.
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The Thief on the Cross (Italian Translation)

A short Gospel tract/article I wrote entitled “The thief on the cross” found feel free to share this with them.

Il malfattore appeso in croce che Cristo salva

“Uno dei malfattori appesi alla croce lo insultava: «Non sei tu il Cristo? Salva te stesso e anche noi!». Ma l’altro lo rimproverava: «Neanche tu hai timore di Dio e sei dannato alla stessa pena? Noi giustamente, perché riceviamo il giusto per le nostre azioni, egli invece non ha fatto nulla di male». E aggiunse: «Gesù, ricordati di me quando entrerai nel tuo regno». Gli rispose: «In verità ti dico, oggi sarai con me nel paradiso»” (Luca 23:39-43).

Nel contemplare la scena della crocifissione di Cristo mi sono spesso chiesto che cosa avrebbero detto ai malfattori appesi accanto a Cristo gli esponenti delle religioni di questo mondo. Ecco un criminale, senza dubbio un peccatore, le cui cattive azioni, se poste su una bilancia, avrebbero di gran lunga pesato di più di quelle buone. Essere inchiodati ad una croce avrebbe escluso per lui qualsiasi possibilità di fare buone opere per guadagnarsi a quel punto la salvezza. Sarebbe davvero interessante sentire che cosa le religioni di questo mondo avrebbero potuto dirgli. In ogni caso, a parte forse l’universalista che afferma che tutti alla fine saranno salvati, indipendentemente dalle proprie opere (cosa incompatibile con l’insegnamento della Bibbia), ogni religione esigerebbe che quell’uomo, in qualche modo, procurasse di scendere dalla croce per fare qualcosa di “meritorio” e così essere salvato (qualunque cosa esse intendano per salvezza). Che cosa gli direbbe il portavoce dell’Islam? Che gli direbbe un Mormone o un Testimone di Geova? Che cosa gli direbbe un buddista? Che cosa gli direbbe il Cattolicesimo romano? (1).

Alcuni potrebbero dire che tutto ciò che avrebbe potuto fare è sperare nella misericordia divina, ma Cristo, il Cristo della Bibbia, gli dà molto più che una vaga speranza. A differenza da quanto i sistemi religiosi prodotti dall’uomo potrebbero dargli, Cristo lo assicura pienamente del fatto che sarà salvato, e questo non dopo innumerevoli anni nelle fiamme del purgatorio per purificarsi dai suoi peccati… Gesù lo assicura che quel giorno stesso sarebbe stato nella beatitudine del paradiso! Continue reading