Why I Think It’s Time to Change Bibles

I announced on Sunday that I will be changing to the use of the English Standard Version (ESV) for preaching and teaching.

Why Change?

Changing Bible translations is one of the hardest things for me to do. While I use several different translations for study, for my personal reading and for preaching and public reading, it is really helpful to have one translation you can get comfortable with.  You know the routine right?  You know how things are worded, making using the concordance easier.  You even know where certain verses are located on the page.  Your Bible becomes your spiritual filing cabinet, with notes, underlines, etc.  Even though I often use an electronic version of the Bible, there are times I go back to my old bibles to see what’s there.  So this kind of change is even hard for someone who typically likes change.

I have used the New International Version (NIV) for over 20 years of preaching. In my training and first years of ministry I used the New American Standard Bible (NASB). I appreciated it because of the literal nature of the translation. It was easy to go from the English to the Greek and understand it. But that literal nature also made it a little hard to read.

When I began church planting in 1992, I realized that the people I was hoping to reach would not have a lot of experience with the Bible and I needed to find something more readable, while being accurate. The NIV seemed like a perfect choice. So I made the switch. It was a hard transition for me, but it’s been a worthy tool for ministry.

In 2012, the NIV has been revamped. The general philosophy of interpretation has remained the same, but some of the changes have reminded me that their chief concern is to make it readable and understandable to a modern audience. This is laudable, but it means that the translators do a little more interpreting than I would like. In trying to make things clear I believe they lose some of the nuance and intended ambiguity in Scripture. Also, in trying to make it accessible to the modern audience, they work to make the text gender neutral. For me, this means that we are readers, more than in the past, are one step further removed from the original text. Also, in making these changes, Zondervan has decided to no longer sell the 1984 version of the NIV. So, if I continued to preach from the 1984 version of the NIV, no one new to the church would be able to obtain a copy of the Bible I preach from. As a pastor, this is not an acceptable option.

Why the ESV?

So, not being pleased the NIV changes, I began looking for other options. The ESV is a worthy translation. I’ve watched forums (see link below) and I’ve read articles by pastors and teachers I respect, from all sides of the issue. I have come to believe that the ESV is a good choice to help us get into the text of Scripture. It strives to be a more literal translation while being readable (a little more like the NASB but a clearer read). It is committed to keeping nuance and even ambiguity in the text when it occurs in Scripture.

What should you do?

First of all, whatever translation you prefer, READ YOUR BIBLE! The NIV, ESV, HCSB, NASB, KJV, NKJV, RSV, NLT are all good translations of God’s Word. And in being that they have the power to bring change to your life.

Second, try the ESV. I would encourage you to pick up a copy of it. Read it alongside the Bible you now use. Bring it on Sundays and follow along as we read. I hope, over time, you will find it a worthy translation to use.

Here is the link to videos of a forum that was held last Fall at Liberty University. It is a discussion of each of three translations (NIV, ESV, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible).

Here are the videos of the debate. (Click Here)

Which Bible do you use?  Why?

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3 thoughts on “Why I Think It’s Time to Change Bibles

  1. I still use NIV84. I agree with your concerns with the direction Zondervan has gone with NIV. I have not educated myself on ESV, so I appreciate your info. I hate changing translations when I have so many NIV84 verses memorized.

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    1. Thanks Jim. My frustration is that when they created the TNIV years ago, it didn’t sell. So, now they’ve kept the old name and replaced it with a new text. Kind of what Coca Cola tried to do with new Coke. Remember how well that worked? haha

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