LTRP Note: Lighthouse Trails is not what some term “KJV Only.” However, we have come to trust the King James Bible more than other versions, and this is what we use for our articles and books. That said, we have strong concerns about many of the new modern translations (and paraphrases that are treated like translations). The ESV has been marketed as a very close translation to the KJV. But a close look, as is done by this Canadian Lighthouse Trails friend, Art K., reveals that the ESV differs from the KJV in many instances and should not be touted as very similar to the KJV. Please also read the article below by Warren B. Smith called “The Kindly Christian Widow.”
The following is an updated version of Art K.’s article with new references and information from an earlier version a few years ago.
The English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible. “A Dream Come True”?
Written and compiled by Art K. (updated: April 2016)
Introduction to a Study on The English Standard Version
First, why I compared the KJV to the ESV is because the ESV study Bible has received such high praise for being an excellent literal translation.
Second, in the Preface under “Translation Legacy” page 19, we read “The English Standard Version (ESV) stands 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 the course were King James Version of 1611…” I understood this to mean that there would be a great similarity between the KJV and the ESV. What I found however, is that the ESV, is in the majority of the references, very similar or the same as the NIV. This I find difficult to reconcile with the statement made in reference to the KJV.
Third what motivated me to further compare the ESV to the KJV, was the very high praise that the ESV has received from so many people who are well versed in the field of bible translations. For example, John Piper calls it “a dream come true”? Please see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlFsBdEkxMQ
Fourth what motivated me to examine the ESV Study Bible was what I read in the Introduction under the subtitle “Divine Words and Merely Human Words”, where it is written “The ESV Study Bible contains two kinds of words. The first kind is the actual of the Bible, which are the very words of God to us. These are printed in the larger font of each page. The second kind is the study notes, which are merely human words” page 9.
The problem is knowing which group of words to trust. The first group of words “the very words of God to us” in the ESV have so many omissions compared to the KJV that it creates serious doubt, not trust. If there are so many omissions in “the very words of God” in the ESV, how can we have confidence in the ‘words of men, in the explanation?
Before we accept this translation as “a dream come true” we need to examine the ESV bible carefully and ponder the words of Jesus, “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you”.
1) The following examples are from the New Testament only.
2) This is not an exhaustive study.
A Related Article by Warren B. Smith
The Kindly Christian Widow
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
When I was in the New Age and very involved with A Course in Miracles, I was working for a Northern California agency as a program coordinator serving the developmentally disabled. One day while I was visiting the elderly widowed mother of one of my clients the subject of religion came up. After asking me what I believed, she listened politely as I shared my enthusiasm for the New Age teachings of A Course in Miracles. As I described what I believed, she smiled sweetly but didn’t say much. When I finished talking, she excused herself for a moment and went into another room. When she returned she was holding a large, blue King James Bible. She wanted me to have it. Not wanting to offend her, and noting its color was a perfect match with my Course in Miracles books, I accepted her gift.
Several years later, as my wife and I were beginning to understand how deceived we had been by A Course in Miracles and our other New Age teachings, it was this kind woman’s King James Bible that we continually turned to for support and counsel. It sharply contrasted the differences between the New Age “gospel” and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and was instrumental in our ultimate conversion to the Christian faith. And we have continued to use the King James Bible for the last twenty years. It has been our guide in everything we do. We thought it was beautifully written, and we found it to be very readable. Occasional outdated words are often defined by their context or can be easily looked up in a matter of seconds. More than anything, though, the teachings and doctrine of the King James Bible have always rung true.
Bible versions only became an issue for us when my book The Light that was Dark was in the process of being published by Moody Press. Moody insisted on converting many of my King James quotes into a newer version. They said they had to make my book more “readable” and “seeker friendly,” so I reluctantly went along with their request. I would not do that today.
I have never understood why church leaders have felt it necessary to downplay and almost apologize for the King James translation. As “seekers,” the King James Bible had met us right where we were at. It might not have been “spiritually correct” for that kind woman to give an unbeliever a King James Bible instead of a newer version, but I will be forever grateful that she did. It helped to save our lives.
No Legitimate Reason?
Having only used one Bible all these years, I wanted to understand why Rick Warren felt the need to use fifteen different Bible versions and paraphrases in The Purpose-Driven Life. In the back of his book I found this explanation:
This book contains nearly a thousand quotations from Scripture. I have intentionally varied the Bible translations used for two important reasons. First, no matter how wonderful a translation is, it has limitations….
Second, and even more important, is the fact that we often miss the full impact of familiar Bible verses, not because of poor translating, but simply because they have become so familiar!….Therefore I have deliberately used paraphrases in order to help you see God’s truth in new, fresh ways. English-speaking people should thank God that we have so many different versions to use for devotional reading.1
I couldn’t really relate to what Rick Warren was saying about “limitations” and overly “familiar” verses. I had always had full confidence in the King James translation, and familiar verses became more and more precious as their truth continued to resound in our lives year after year.
Of the fifteen different versions he used, The Message was clearly Rick Warren’s favorite. In The Purpose-Driven Life he rarely referred to the King James Bible. I found his strange reason why in his 1995 book The Purpose-Driven Church:
Read Scripture from a newer translation. With all the wonderful translations and paraphrases available today, there is no legitimate reason for complicating the Good News with four-hundred-year-old English. Using the King James Version creates an unnecessary cultural barrier…. Clarity is more important than poetry.2
No “legitimate reason” to read the King James Bible? I remember reading that and being amazed. How could he possibly teach something that was so untrue? The King James Bible had not “complicated” the “Good News” for my wife and I when we were lost in the New Age—it had provided much needed clarity by exposing the deceptiveness of our New Age teachings. In The Light that was Dark I commented:
When we could finally see through the spiritual deception, most of the Scriptures that we had been reading clicked into place. It was as if scales had fallen from our eyes, and suddenly the New Testament was flooded with light. Though we had a lot to learn about other aspects of the faith, it was apparent that we were, by virtue of our having been so thoroughly deceived, already well-versed in the Bible’s description of deception.3
Sometimes we thought we were confusing everyone but ourselves. Disappointed but not disheartened by our friends, and discouraged but not disillusioned by some of the churches, we were nevertheless determined to tell our story of the reality of evil and of the power and majesty of the real Christ—how it was the Bible, not our alternative spiritual teachings, that read clearer and truer than the morning paper.4
God had used the King James Bible in a mighty way to reveal the truth. It had pulled us out of the New Age and put us on solid ground. Its straightforward warnings and teachings were clear and true. If we had been dependent on The Message, or some of the other Bible versions that Rick Warren uses, we might still be in the New Age today. It was the clarity and precision of our King James Bible that had exposed the deception behind our New Age teachings. And it is the clarity and precision of our King James Bible that continues to expose these same New Age teachings that are creeping into the Church today. I just thank God no one put something like The Message in my hands when I was in the New Age. And I thank God for kindly Christian widows. (an excerpt from chapter 4 of Deceived on Purpose by Warren B. Smith)
1. Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), p. 325.
2. Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), p. 297.
3. Warren Smith, The Light that was Dark (Chicago, IL: Moody Press: Northfield Publishing, 1992)p. 141. Note: this book is now published by Mountain Stream Press.
4. Ibid., p. 149.