Pastor Tim Theule is having an open discussion about whether to buy pew Bibles for his church to give away.
I prefer an English translation that is as close to the original Greek as possible. I prefer a “word for word” translation. Why? Do the individual words matter that much?
Jesus said. . . Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. –Matthew 5:17-18
The smallest letter and punctuation mark mattered to Jesus, not just the concepts. They should matter to us, too.
The Apostle Paul said . . . All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; –2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture, not just the concepts or ideas of Scripture. I believe that inspiration (and inerrancy) extends to the very words of Scripture.
Whenever we translate from one language to another, there is interpretation that happens, but I believe that interpretation is minimized with a “word for word” translation. I desire as accurate an English version as I can get my hands on, even if it’s more wooden and less readable.
The commenters raise a lot of good points; don’t miss them.
Tim, we want to help you make the best decision for your church. Most of all, we welcome the dialogue you’re having. To respond to some of the points you raise:
Some of your commenters have hit the nail on the head about why we like the ESV–that it is “word for word” accurate but retains the literary character of the King James. It’s not as tough to understand as a strictly literal translation might be. Obviously, we think it strikes a good balance between accuracy and readability, but we recognize that people prefer other translations–and in fact we think that’s great.
As to the cost issue, one of the commenters mentioned that we sell the ESV pew edition for $6.90 each if you buy them in packs of 24, which you might do if you’re planning to give them away.
Finally, the ESV’s sales are growing strongly–they were up 114% over the last year.
We think that the ESV makes an excellent choice for a pew Bible to give away or for use in pew racks. We have a section of this website dedicated to churches. Check it out!
Update June 13, 2005: Grace Church has decided to go with a different translation for their pew Bibles but will use the ESV in some places:
As a way of exploring the ESV together as a congregation, we will begin using the ESV on certain occasions, in certain places in the worship service (for example in the call to worship, where the Scripture is printed and/or projected).
We hope that Tim will keep us updated about how the system they’ve adopted works for them.