Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why Are We Moving to the ESV?

We all have a favorite version of the Bible to read. You know, the one we're comfortable with and used to, maybe even one we've grown up with. 

Most churches have a version they use corporately. It's good to have a common Bible. It keeps things simple on Sunday morning. We've all had the experience of trying to follow along with someone who is speaking or teaching out of a version we don't have handy. It can be a difficult and frustrating experience. 

At WBF, we have used the New American Standard Version (NASB) for nearly our entire history. It's a fine translation, using the word-for-word format which, done correctly, provides as close to a literal translation as we can get and still remain readable. 

Every now and then, a new translation will come out. Most are exhaustively researched with the translation team laboring over every word and phrase, taking years to complete the job. We've seen some very good ones in recent years; The Holman Christian Standard Bible, The New English Translation, an updated version of the Geneva Bible and a few others are some of the better versions. They all benefit from the latest scholarship in the original languages and a panel of translators that have a passion for God's word. We could comfortably recommend any of the Bibles listed. 

Then there's the English Standard version (ESV), one of the more recent translations and one of the finest ever accomplished. It's not only a great translation, it is a significantly easier read than many other word-by-word translations. It enjoys the benefit of our most recent language scholarship and the study of some of the most  thoroughly examined and accurate texts available to the academic community done by some of the leading and most respected scholars in their field

While the credentials of the ESV are impressive, they alone are not enough reason for us to move from our trusted and familiar NASB. 

So, why change?

As we prepare our church family for life in the 21st Century and begin thinking about the next generation of leaders and what environment they will operate in, it is our responsibility to provide them with the best tools possible and prepare them for life in a digital, constantly connected age. 

The ESV is so far ahead of everyone else in this respect, they become the pragmatic choice for a church looking down the road far enough to see that the nature of reading and learning is changing with breath-taking speed. 10 years ago, few of us would have imagined that a local wi-fi network would be a necessity for a church like ours much less a strong presence on facebook complimented by an interactive web-site. 

Let me share with you, what one of my pastor friends based his decision to move his church from the NASB to the ESV on; they are all practical reasons...and good ones, at that. He says,

  • The ESV has many more editions available than the NASB, and their typography and general quality far exceeds the available NASB editions. As a part-time graphic designer, this means a lot to me. Other things being equal, a beautiful Bible is better than an ugly one. And I’m convinced that typography is more important to Bible reading than most people realize.
  • I like Crossway; they have a distinct conservative identity and a notable spirit of excellence, one that attracts conservative writers who are making real contributions to the church. I also know many or most of the scholars who produced the ESV; I have their exegetical commentaries, and that work gives me confidence about their translation work. The Lockman foundation has no identity apart from the NASB, and it lacks that drive for excellence (its website, for example, looks like it comes from 1999).
  • Crossway showed a commitment from the beginning—which they have kept up over almost 10 years—to making the ESV available in innovative technological formats. I use the ESV website probably 15-30 times a day. It looks great without being overwhelming and it has helpful features, such as free audio Bibles and different text display options. Crossway gets technology: they realized that making the ESV available free online (and for Kindle, iPad, etc.) will encourage people to use the translation.
  • The ESV Study Bible was the most beautiful production of its kind (and it has a very nice website), spawning several imitations almost immediately.
  • The ESV Study Bible (ESVSB) has quickly gained a reputation as one of the best study Bibles ever made available. 
I'm in total agreement with all of the above reasons. But, the ESV website and the web and mobile apps are the primary motivators here. They're easy to use and customize-able making personal Bible study and note taking accessible and permanent just by signing on. There are plenty of great Bible study tools on the web, but none available directly from the publisher and few so handy and easy to use. Try it out and see if I'm not right about this. 

In short, a better read, a superior translation, state-of-the-art reading and study tools...all from a publisher that is committed to excellence in their product. For a church that places a high value on the Scriptures and on teaching folks how to be Bereans, it's the right choice for the future. 

Some handy links:
None of this has been done quickly nor in a vacuum. As an Elder Board, we've been looking at the ESV for a little over three years. I've been using it personally for quite a bit longer. 

We're all, as a leadership team, convinced it is the way to go. Still, while this is not a new issue for us as a leadership team, we realize it is for most of the folks in our church family. This is why we're going to take our time rolling it out. There's no need to run right out and buy a new Bible. We'll be phasing it in over the next 12-18 months. You'll see ESVs begin to show up in the pews as we replace worn NASB Bibles. (Isn't it great to have a church family that wears out the pew Bibles? We replace one or two a month!)

Shortly, we'll have information directly from Crossway on how we can get new Bibles at a significant discount as we being the change-over process. Keep your eyes peeled for more information. 

Meanwhile, here's a number of endorsements of the ESV. You'll notice many familiar faces and names among them with more than a few who have authored books on the WBF Bookstore shelves.

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