About the English Standard Version of the Bible


The English Standard Version (ESV) is a revision of the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version. The first edition was published in 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Translation philosophy

The stated intent of the translators was to produce a readable and accurate translation that stands in the tradition of Bible translations beginning with English religious reformer William Tyndale in 1525–26 and culminating in the King James Version of 1611. Examples of other translations that stand in this stream are the Revised Version (1881–85), the American Standard Version (1901), and the Revised Standard Version (1946–52/1971). In their own words, they sought to follow a literal translation philosophy. To that end, they sought as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer, while taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. The result is a translation that is more literal than the popular New International Version, but more idiomatic than the New American Standard Bible.


Work on this translation began over the perceived looseness of style and content of recently published English Bible translations. The group sought and received permission from the National Council of Churches to use the 1971 edition of the RSV as the English textual basis for the ESV. Nevertheless, only about 5%–10% of the RSV text was changed in the ESV. Many corrections were made to satisfy objections to some of the RSV's interpretations that conservative Protestants had considered as theologically liberal, for example, changing the translation of the Hebrew "almah" from "young woman" to "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14. The language was modernized to remove "thou" and "thee" and replace obsolete words (e.g., "jug" for "cruse").

The ESV underwent a minor revision in 2007. The publisher has chosen not to identify the updated text as a second or revised edition; it is intended to replace the original ESV under the original name. At present, both revisions coexist on the market. An edition of the ESV with Apocrypha is being developed by Oxford University Press, which will be available in early of 2009.

Textual basis

When necessary to translate difficult passages, the translators referred to the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible (as found in the second edition of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia), to the United Bible Societies' fourth edition of the Greek New Testament, and to the twenty-seventh edition of Nestle and Aland's Novum Testamentum Graece. In a few exceptionally difficult cases, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, and other sources were consulted to shed possible light on the text or, if necessary, to support a divergence from the Masoretic text.

Criticism and controversy

Dr. Mark L. Strauss, who has defended gender neutral Bible translations like the TNIV, NLT, and NRSV, argues that the ESV uses similar gender neutral language. He wrote, “What is odd and ironic is that some of the strongest attacks against the gender language of the TNIV are coming from those who produced similar gender changes in the ESV”. Strauss has also suggested that criticism against competing Bible translations to the ESV is marketing contrived. ESV translator Wayne Grudem has responded that, while on occasion the ESV translates "person" or "one" where previous translations used "man", it keeps gender specific language where that is in the original, so it does not go as far as gender inclusive translations such as the TNIV and NRSV; and the ESV web site makes a similar statement. For instance, unlike the TNIV and NRSV, it never changes "brothers" to "brothers and sisters". This of course presupposes that adelphos is gender specific in every context, a point disputed by such as Don Carson, citing in the singular Mt.5:22, and noting that the Colorado Springs guidelines (B.2) were revised to allow at least the plural adelphoi to be translateed "brothers and sisters".

Use of the ESV

Three existing study bibles have been adapted to use the ESV text: the Scofield Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2001, ISBN 9780195278750), which updated the Scofield Reference Bible, and the Reformation Study Bible, which adapted the notes from the previous edition that used the New King James Version. The ESV Study Bible was released in October 2008.

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod has adopted the ESV as the official text used in its official hymnal Lutheran Service Book, released in August 2006. It is in use in the church's three and one year lectionaries released with "Lutheran Service Book." The official publishing arm of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Concordia Publishing House, is using the English Standard Version as its translation of choice in all its published materials. Concordia Publishing House is releasing The Lutheran Study Bible in October 2009, which will use the ESV translation.