September 5 – The New Blue Book in the Pew

ESV BibleLPC worshipers will notice something new in the pew racks and Chapel bookshelves on Sunday morning.  Thanks to generous contributions to our Memorial Fund, we have been able to replace our older New International Version pew Bibles with brand new English Standard Version Bibles.  Take a look!

So why did we do that? The old NIVs seemed to be wearing well enough (maybe not used enough).  Part of the problem is that our old NIVs were old NIVs.  In 2011 an updated NIV was published with a number of revisions to the text, and the older versions removed from the market by the copyright holder.  The older versions were not available electronically and it made life a little more difficult for our Tech Team members putting passages on the screen each Sunday.  But as much as we love our Tech Team members, we didn’t do it for them.

In its thirty plus years of service, the NIV translation has served the holy catholic church in the English speaking world very well and the updated version is likewise a fine translation.  But we decided against the new NIV.

I fell in love with the English Standard Version when I first began using it nearly a dozen years ago.  And since its publication it has become a standard for evangelical churches and scholars throughout the English speaking world.  But we didn’t buy the new Bibles for me or for the sake of scholarship alone.

We bought new pew Bibles because we believe that the words of the Bible are God’s words to us and so the better the translation, the better our ability to hear God speak. Why the ESV, then? Because it is the English Standard Version.

It is English.  Of course, the original manuscripts of written Scripture were in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). Though we don’t have any of those original texts, what we have is remarkably old and remarkably reliable.  But most of us don’t speak Hebrew and Greek, so we need an English version.

It’s a “Standard” Bible.  When you see the word standard in an English Bible, you’re learning about its ancestry. What we commonly call the King James Version is more formally known at the Authorized Version (authorized in by King James in 1611) and widely considered to be one of the masterpieces of the English language.  After about 150 years in circulation – and with no copyrights or other protections, there were hundreds of varieties of the Authorized Version in circulation, some with misprints and words spelled differently and no agreement about punctuation and capitalization.  In 1769 scholars at Oxford University produced a standard text of the Authorized version which became, well, the standard for English versions of the Bible.

If you read a Revised Standard Version, and American Standard Version, a New American Standard Version, a New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, you’re reading an heir of King James.  Every Standard Version since 1769 has updated previous versions with updated spelling and grammar, but, more importantly, with translation based on the best available Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.  They follow the same translation principle – verbal equivalence – which renders the most accurate translation available, but always compares the new translation with the Standard Version in hopes of capturing the beauty and cadence of the King James.

And, yes, it is a version, one group of scholars and linguists best and faithful rendering of the ancient texts. In our Reformed Tradition we speak of Scripture as containing infallible truth and authority as “the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life.”  But we also know that translations and versions aren’t infallible, and so “we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word.” (From Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith)

Why not come to worship a little early on Sunday or linger a little longer after worship.  If you worship in the chapel, take one of the new ESV Bibles to the seat with you along with your hymnal.  When you find your favorite pew in the Sanctuary, find that new Bible and open it up. Our pew Bibles are very simple. No red letters, no long concordances or study helps.  Just a faithful and good translation of this amazing gift from God, his own words breathed onto paper.

Please return the new Bible to the pew rack or the book shelf in the chapel. We’ll be using them every Sunday.  But if it’s time for you to find a new Bible for your own study and devotional life, feel free to talk to me.  I’d love to tell you more about the ESV, but especially about this “whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for God’s own glory, our salvation, faith, and life.”