Posted: January 6, 2020

Starting in 2020, we will begin using the English Standard Version (ESV) as our primary Bible translation. Here is some context for our decision.

Generally speaking, Bible versions fall into three distinct categories:

1. Very literal
A literal translation of the Hebrew and Greek, often at the sacrifice of readability. Examples: The King James Version, The New American Standard Bible, English Standard Version

2. Literal as possible
A literal translation but trying to maintain easy readability. Examples: New International Version 1984, Holman Christian Standard Bible

3. Paraphrased
Willing to sacrifice some literal translation for the sake of readability. Examples: The Message, New Living Translation, New International Version 2011

Why the change?

In 2011, the New International Version (NIV) published an update from its 1984 version that we have traditionally used at Fairhaven. The changes moved the NIV translation from “literal as possible” to a “paraphrase” version. Changes like using gender-neutral language and poor grammar make the text appear less clear. The 2011 version of the NIV is not heretical, but it uses less-disciplined translation rules and formats. Because the 1984 version of the NIV is no longer available to purchase, it would be a challenge for us to continue using it as our primary translation.

Therefore, as a church, we are moving from the NIV to the English Standard Version (ESV) as the translation that we will provide and use in our material and preaching. It’s a more reliable translation that still is very readable.

The Fairhaven Church Governing Board unanimously approved this change on October 14, 2019.

About the ESV

The English Standard Version (ESV) has stood in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium. The fountainhead of that stream was William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526; marking its course where the King James Version of 1611 (KJV), the English Revised Version of 1885 (RV), the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), and the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971 (RSV). In that stream, faithfulness to the text and vigorous pursuit of accuracy combined with simplicity, beauty, and dignity of expression. Our goal has been to carry forward this legacy for a new century.

To this end, each word and phrase in the ESV has been carefully weighed against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, to ensure the fullest accuracy and clarity to avoid under-translating or overlooking any nuance of the original text. The words and phrases themselves grow out of the Tyndale King James legacy, and most recently out of the RSV, with the 1971 RSV text providing the starting point for our work. Archaic language has been brought to current usage, and significant corrections have been made in the translation of key texts. The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. It aims to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.

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