Today I'd like to review another Bible version, the one our family switched over to after using the NIV for many years. We switched to ESV, and the majority of us have the MacArthur ESV Study Bible, so that's the version I'll be reviewing today.
The ESV is a joy to read, a true and honest translation of the Word of God; and MacArthur has rich study notes that enhance our understanding of the Word. With much delight, I introduce you to this version today, with the same Pros and Cons format we had before.
ESV Study Bible
|This is what my Bible looks like. :)|
The biggest pro of this version is the Scripture itself. This version is reverent, and rich in its choice of words. The ESV uses the 'essentially literal' approach to interpreting Scripture, meaning it takes every word from the Greek and Hebrew and translates them faithfully according to the meaning. In this version I don't have to constantly sift and challenge as I did with the 2011 NIV, but I can rest in the fact that presented here is a careful and trustworthy translation of the word of God. This is a weighty thing to say of any Scripture, but as far as I have read, I can truly say this of the ESV.
Personally, I think it's not only more faithful to the Greek, but better to build up vocabulary and elocution as well. While I don't claim that big words are better, there is a certain level of intellectualism that upholds the authority of Scripture, and this certainly seems to have it, though I have not read through the ESV in its entirety yet, but only about half of it.
Some people have concerns that the 'essentially literal' approach is choppier than versions which use the 'general meaning' translation format for a smoother read. But I have not found the ESV to be unreadable; it flows smoothly, though its syntax and wording are on a slightly higher grade level, and I think even young children would be able to get most of the meaning. Certainly as much, or even more, than KJV.
As well as the reliability and accuracy of the text, the study notes are also a joy to read, and give much insight into the meaning of the text. Though I do warn my readers, MacArthur is strongly premillennial and credobaptist, and these theological views do come into play with his notes. However, I think even people of differing viewpoints would find some common ground in his careful exegesis of Scripture, his complementarian viewpoint of men and women's roles, and his unapologetic stance on young earth creation. Finally, I can say after 12 years of Bible reading, I now have study notes that are not generally bland. These are rich with insight, and trustworthy according to my study of Scripture. Though I must make the disclaimer that I have not read most of these notes yet; I'm only beginning, and I fully acknowledge that MacArthur is human, and therefore subject to errors and misunderstandings like the rest of us. The notes should not replace Scripture itself, but they are helpful in illuminating Scripture, and in the case of MacArthur, such illumination seems to be trustworthy as far as I have read.
The only serious con I could think of, believe it or not, had to do with the notes. They are extensive, a condensed form of MacArthur's commentaries, and in many instances take up more of the page than the Scripture itself. This can make chapters stretch out indefinitely, and would bog down some readers. Thought MacArthur certainly isn't trying to upstage Scripture, I wouldn't mind seeing a little more of an even spread. But his notes are such good teaching, and the scripture itself is so true, that I'm willing to bend a point. However, some purchasers looking at different versions of the ESV study Bible might want to take this into consideration. My brother has both a MacArthur Bible and a thin-line Bible, and I'm thinking that I'll do the same as well.
There are very few bells and whistles in MacArthur's version. The charts are few and far between, and I haven't come across a single picture thus far. I always find charts of themes, commands, kings and sacrifices very helpful, and I do wish this one had a few more, but I have other Bibles I can refer to, so I'm willing to work with it.
Also, this version does not put the words of Jesus in red-letter. I prefer red-letter versions; it's easier to locate specific passages in my opinion, and if I were able to customize my version I would definitely add this feature.
Ultimately, the ESV has both spiritually nourished and challenged me in daily Bible reading, and I look forward to discovering more about this version. It does not compromise, and stays faithful to the true spirit and wording of the Holy Bible. And I look forward to wearing out my copy with many years of good use.
Though I still keep it in the box it came in, and pull it out every morning. :) I'll have to bend someday, so it can look well-read.
But not yet. I love the gold on the pages.
MacArthur's 2011 NIV
John MacArthur saw the faults in the newest translation of the NIV, and though he was initially reluctant, he did release a version with his study notes so that readers could receive the correct meanings of the Scripture passages, in spite of the modern updates. In his own words:
"No matter what version of the Bible people are reading, I want to be able to help them understand the meaning fully and accurately. The NIV is the most widely used translation in the world, with millions of users. Some prefer it because they find it easier to read than other translations. All English versions of Scripture have translation problems and ambiguities. That's one of the major benefits of a good study Bible. The notes and other tools built into the volume can highlight and clarify the proper meaning—or at least give a more precise understanding of what the original text actually says. My prayer is that these insights and explanations, together with the acclaimed readability of the translation, will help illuminate the true meaning and unleash the divine power of Scripture for NIV readers." --The MacArthur Study Bible, by Phil Johnson
While I think mature Christians would do well to seek out a better version, MacArthur is wise to see an opportunity to take dominion here, and point people to the true meaning of Scripture. I'd like to see one of these copies someday, and check out how he handles the passages. Certainly, if people are going to continue reading the NIV (and they will), wise study notes are a must to help counterbalance the faults of the translation.
This concludes Bible Week here on My Lady Bibliophile. :) We've looked at a couple of versions of Scripture, and two different translation philosophies. Have you read the ESV Bible? How about the 2011 NIV? What did you think of them?