Word-For-Word Accuracy & Literary Excellence Worthy Of God's Word
The English Standard Version is founded on the conviction that the words of the Bible are the very words of God. And because the words themselves—not just the thoughts or ideas—are inspired by God, each word must be translated with the greatest precision and accuracy. As Jesus Himself stressed, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
This passion for God’s Word is the driving force behind the translation of the ESV Bible. The English Standard Version does not try to “improve” on the original in light of today’s culture or by using trendy language. Instead, the utmost care has been taken to express God’s Word in English that most closely captures the meaning of the original, with understandability, beauty, and impact. In doing so, the ESV has embraced three major emphases that have been part of English translations for centuries.
(1) Word-For-Word Precision and Accuracy
The ESV will be valued by everyone who places the highest priority on accuracy and precision. As an essentially literal translation, the ESV embraces the ideal of word-for-word exactness while at the same time taking into account the differences between modern English and the original languages. The result is a Bible translation that reflects the original texts as closely as modern English will allow.
In contrast, many modern versions have followed a “thought-for-thought” translation philosophy, emphasizing “dynamic equivalence” rather than the essentially literal meaning of the words found in the original texts. Because of this, these translations are more inclined to reflect the interpretive judgment of the translator and contemporary culture than an essentially literal translation. The ESV, however, takes word-for-word accuracy and readability to new levels of excellence.
(2) Literary Excellence, Beauty, and Readability
Because the words of the Bible are the very words of God, expressing them with literary excellence, beauty, and readability is among the greatest responsibilities of any translation. The original translators of the King James Version understood this well and wrote, “God’s Sacred Word ... inestimable treasure which excelleth all the riches of the earth.”
This conviction is also the foundation of the ESV. Holy Scripture is the Word of God, true and trustworthy, inspired, infallible, and inerrant in both its facts and its teaching. And it is sufficient and authoritative for every aspect of life and our relationship to God.
These convictions call for nothing less than literary excellence, beauty, and readability in the translation of God’s Word, and are at the heart of the ESV.
(3) Depth of Meaning Expressed with Power and Force
Everyone who longs to know the truth of God’s Word expressed in all its depth of meaning will welcome the ESV Bible for its commitment to classic literary principles. Instead of following today’s trends in Bible translation, the ESV honors the legacy of literal English translations and seeks to carry forward that legacy to succeeding generations.
This commitment means that the ESV retains classic theological terms—like covenant, grace, justification, redemption—that have been an integral part of Bible translations and Christian doctrine for centuries. In addition, the ESV preserves the stylistic variety of the biblical writers—from the exalted prose in the early chapters of Genesis, to the flowing narratives of the historical books, to the forceful, closely reasoned logic of Paul’s letters. The ESV deals with questions of gender by rendering literally what is in the original. Similarly, the generic use of “he” is retained, as literal translation and an easy flow of English would be impossible without it.
One Bible, for Life
Given these commitments, the English Standard Version is ideallysuited asoneBible for all of life— to read and treasure, to study and memorize, for worship and preaching, for personal reading and family devotions, as a lifelong gift to our children—for all who love God’s Word.
The ESV Translation Legacy
The English Standard Version stands in the classic stream of essentially literal Bible translations that began nearly five hundred years ago. The first translation in this classic stream was William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526. The Tyndale legacy was carried forward by the King James Version of 1611 (KJV), by the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), and by the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971 (RSV). The English Standard Version (ESV) follows in this tradition, where accuracy, simplicity, dignity, and beauty of language have always been the standard.
With this classic translation legacy as the starting place, every word and phrase has been compared and weighed against the original languages for accuracy, precision, and literary excellence. More than one hundred people have been involved on the translation team, including the fourteen-member Translation Oversight Committee, over fifty Translation Review Scholars, and more than fifty members of the ESV Advisory Council. The publishing team represents many denominations and countries, and is committed to the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Bible as the Word of God.
Our prayer is that the ESV Bible may be used by God to bring many to salvation in Jesus Christ and to a deeper understanding of His Word, for His kingdom and His glory alone.
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