Thursday, March 4, 2010

MacArthur Study Bible in ESV

Though I do not own a MacArthur Study Bible, I've used one in the past and quite enjoyed it. Now it has been released in the English Standard Version. MacArthur has long used the New King James Version, though this probably had more to do with the limited choices available at the time. The NKJV, while a product of wonderful scholarship, is severely limited by its manuscript base (it uses only the textus receptus, the same as the KJV, which is rather poor). Still, I have used the NKJV in my pulpit ministry for the past 3 years and found little difficulty in working around the occasional manuscript problems. For public readings, it reads fairly well (perhaps a tad too awkward and archaic at times, but still understood), and its translations can be trusted.

Frankly, I would have little difficulty using a number of translations. The NIV, NKJV, NASB, and now the ESV, are all excellent options for Evangelical churches. As I've already mentioned strengths/weaknesses of the NKJV above, here are my thoughts on the others:

NIV: The NIV is a tad loosey-goosey at times, as it strives for greater readability. But it has often been falsely called a "dynamic equivalent translation". That is simply not true. More accurately, it is almost exactly half way between a dymanic equivalent and literal translation style--with all the blessings and curses that brings. All in all its a good "middle of the road" translation. The worry is what it is going to become in the future, as Zondervan has gathered a new translation team to completely redo it. The last time they did this it resulted in a disastrous gender neutral version, which almost tanked the NIV in the States until they withdrew it.

NASB: Good, solid, excellent scholarship--and at one time was a favorite among conservative bible schools (and some seminaries). In the 1980's it was fast becoming the de facto translations at these institutions, and every young graduate proudly introduced it to their churches. It is a favorite (or at least was) with Greek professors because it sticks closer to the word order of the original Greek. The only problem here is that it sometimes make the sentence harder to understand than if it had been in KJV English. So, it gets a high score on accuracy---but a low score on readability.

ESV: I've been very pleased with this version, which I have used in my personal Bible study for the past 2 years. It beats the NASB and NKJV both on readability and accuracy, its manuscript base is superior to that of the NKJV, and for public reading it sounds more 'majestic' than the NASB . Negatively, it doesn't match the NIV's readability. Our family has chosen the ESV for our bible memory, personal study, and family devotions.

But, as the old saying goes, the best translation is the one you will actually read. Find one you like and just get into the Word. In the video below, MacArthur discusses the new publication of his study Bible in the ESV:

MacArthur ESV Study Bible Promo from Crossway on Vimeo.

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