Reading our bibles (Part 2)

For those who have begun reading a chapter a day through 2 Samuel, today we reach a pivotal chapter, 2 Samuel 7 – God’s covenant with David. That is the backdrop to everything that is happening in 1 and 2 Kings. Be encouraged to press on in your reading as we anticipate the birth of King Jesus at Christmas, which is the fulfilment of 2 Samuel 7.

Last week I mentioned issues we had with the NIV2011 version, and this is addressed in the sixth fact about the ESV. May the final five facts[1] be helpful references as we hold the ESV bible translation in our hands.

  1. In the area of gender language, the goal of the ESV is to render literally what is in the original.

For example, anyone” replaces any man” where there is no word corresponding to man” in the original languages, and people” rather than men” is regularly used where the original languages refer to both men and women. But the words man” and men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew. Likewise, the word man” has been retained where the original text intends to convey a clear contrast between God” on the one hand and man” on the other hand, with man” being used in the collective sense of the whole human race (see Luke 2:52).

Similarly, the English word “brothers” (translating the Greek word adelphoi) is retained as an important familial form of address between fellow-Jews and fellow-Christians in the first century. A recurring note is included to indicate that the term “brothers” (adelphoi) was often used in Greek to refer to both men and women, and to indicate the specific instances in the text where this is the case. In addition, the English word “sons” (translating the Greek word huioi) is retained in specific instances because the underlying Greek term usually includes a male meaning component and it was used as a legal term

in the adoption and inheritance laws of first-century Rome. As used by the apostle Paul, this term refers to the status of all Christians, both men and women, who, having been adopted into Gods family, now enjoy all the privileges, obligations, and inheritance rights of Gods children.

The inclusive use of the generic he” has also regularly been retained, because this is consistent with similar usage in the original languages and because an essentially literal translation would be impossible without it. In each case the objective has been transparency to the original text, allowing the reader to understand the original on its own terms rather than in the terms of our present-day Western culture.

  1. In the translation of words referring to God, the ESV takes great care to convey great nuance when it comes to the Hebrew and Greek terms.

Concerning terms that refer to God in the Old Testament: God, the Maker of heaven and earth, introduced himself to the people of Israel with a special personal name, the consonants for which are YHWH (see Exodus 3:14–15). Scholars call this the Tetragrammaton,” a Greek term referring to the four Hebrew letters YHWH. The exact pronunciation of YHWH is uncertain, because the Jewish people considered the personal name of God to be so holy that it should never be spoken aloud. Instead of reading the word YHWH, therefore, they would normally read the Hebrew word adonay (Lord”), and the ancient translations into Greek, Syriac, and Aramaic also followed this practice. When the vowels of the word adonay are placed with the consonants of YHWH, this results in the familiar word Jehovah that was used in some earlier English Bible translations.

As is common among English translations today, the ESV usually renders the personal name of God (YHWH) by the word LORD (printed in small capitals). An exception to this is when the Hebrew word adonay appears together with YHWH, in which case the two words are rendered together as the Lord [in lowercase] GOD [in small capitals].” In contrast to the personal name for God (YHWH), the more general name for God in Old Testament Hebrew is elohim’ and its related forms of el’ or eloah’, all of which are normally translated God” (in lowercase letters). The use of these different ways to translate the Hebrew words for God is especially beneficial to English readers, enabling them to see and understand the different ways that the personal name and the general name for God are both used to refer to the One True God of the Old Testament.

  1. It is based on well-attested Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

The ESV is based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (5th ed., 1997), and on the Greek text in the 2014 editions of the Greek New Testament (5th corrected ed.), published by the United

Bible Societies (UBS), and Novum Testamentum Graece (28th ed., 2012), edited by Nestle and Aland.

The currently renewed respect among Old Testament scholars for the Masoretic text is reflected in the ESVs attempt, wherever possible, to translate difficult Hebrew passages as they stand in the Masoretic text rather than resorting to emendations or to finding an alternative reading in the ancient versions. In exceptional, 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.

Similarly, in a few difficult cases in the New Testament, the ESV has followed a Greek text different from the text given preference in the UBS/Nestle-Aland 28th edition. Throughout, the translation team has benefited greatly from the massive textual resources that have become readily available recently, from new insights into biblical laws and culture, and from current advances in Hebrew and Greek lexicography and grammatical understanding.

  1. It is endorsed by dozens of evangelical leaders and used by Christians and churches around the world.

The ESV has been endorsed by many pastors, ministry leaders, scholars, and authors in the US and abroad, including John Piper, R. C. Sproul, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., David Platt, Kevin DeYoung, Ajith Fernando, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Crawford W. Loritts, Jr., Daniel B. Wallace, Tetsunao Yamamori, and Joni Eareckson Tada.

The ESV is the preferred Bible translation for many international ministries, including the Gideons International, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Awana, and others. The ESV is also used extensively by a host of major denominations, churches, and church networks, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Free Church, the Anglican Church in North America, the Presbyterian Church in America, and Acts 29.

Each year, millions of copies of the ESV are distributed worldwide through partnerships with hundreds of churches, ministries, and Bible societies around the world — with many of those distribution projects supported by Crossways Global Ministry Fund.

  1. It was ultimately created to honour God and serve Christians around the world.

We know that no Bible translation is perfect; but we also know that God uses imperfect and inadequate things to his honour and praise. So to our triune God

and to his people we offer what we have done, with our prayers that it may prove useful, with gratitude for much help given, and with ongoing wonder that our God should ever have entrusted to us so momentous a task.

Soli Deo Gloria! — To God alone be the glory!

Last week I shared from the song ‘Read your bible, pray every day’. May I end with another children’s song that has blessed me: ‘Jesus loves me’. This song reminds us that we are loved because ‘the bible tells me so’. Through Scripture, God communicates to man in the vernacular. As we read the bible, God communicates who He is and how He relates to His children in the past, in the present and into the future. May our Heavenly Father’s words always encourage, edify and exhort us.

[1], February 18, 2021.

– Ps Daniel Tan