Since college I had used the New American Standard Bible (NASB) as my translation of choice both personally and in the pulpit. When I began as the Teaching Pastor alongside with the Senior Pastor (whose name is Bruce) in 1998 that preference didn’t change even though he primarily used the New International Version (NIV). Thus the congregation would be exposed to my NASB when I taught and the NIV when the senior pastor was in the pulpit.
Then one day, my birthday to be exact, Bruce walks in my office with a gift. I open it up to find a Thinline NIV Bible with a note written on the inside of the cover saying, “Yancey, I give you this with an agenda. I want us to move to one translation.” I couldn’t have agreed more. My only problem was that I didn’t want it to be the NIV. Do I hate the NIV? No, it has served well many a Christian. It’s just that when you teach expositionally like I do, you don’t want to undermine your congregants confidence in their Bibles by repeatedly saying, “Now I know your Bibles say X but in the Greek it actually reads Y.” I found that the NIV had me facing that situation more than I felt comfortable. So while I was excited about moving to a common translation for our church, I wasn’t excited about it being the NIV.
I shared those feelings with Bruce adding that I wanted to try and search out a translation that would marry well the characteristics of both accuracy and readability. Essentially, I wanted our church to be exposed to a translation that “said it right” like the NASB and “said it well” like the NIV. Thankfully, Bruce was all for it! In researching numerous different translations I discovered the ESV. After studying its background, philosophy and, not the least of which, the text itself, I was convinced I had found the perfect translation for us.
I remember calling Good News Publishers/Crossway Books and talking to Bill Jensen, who at the time was Vice President for Bible & Product Development, about if they would consider working with us if our church decided to move solely to the ESV. Bill assured me they would and was incredibly gracious by giving each of our elders an ESV Bible so as to help them make a well-informed decision. A few months later our elders, impressed with its powerful combination of accuracy and readability, consented to adopt the ESV as our church’s translation. Everyone was incredibly excited about this “new” translation! We shipped in hundreds upon hundreds of ESV’s for our members to purchase (which they did in droves), they could now easily follow along with the teacher when we read from our Bibles during the services and the teaching team could finally stack hands on one translation.
It was early in the game for us and frankly, for the ESV as it intersected working with churches. Bill asked if I would personally endorse the translation to which I didn’t hesitate. In fact, I felt honored to do so (even though I caught endless grief from my buddies who saw my name along with Sproul, Piper et al. on the ESV website). I truly believe it simply is the superior English translation today for preaching, studying, reading…for it all.
Now looking back on that decision we couldn’t be happier. The ESV has continued to hold up its end of the bargain by faithfully delivering the biblical text with accuracy and readability. I hear it’s the fastest growing English version today. Good. It should be. The men and women at Crossway Bibles have done an amazing job! May God continue to bless them and the continued expansion of the ESV in the homes and churches around the world.
Funny. I wasn’t going to write this story at all. I really wanted to scratch up a short post about the new ESV Study Bible coming out October 15th. I’m excited because many in my congregation initially asked me in 2005 if there was an ESV Study Bible. I would point them to the Reformation Study Bible but now I’m happy to say that the ESV has their “own” study Bible. I’ve seen a glimpse of it at a conference in Seattle. I believe it will be the “Mother of All” Study Bibles. I can only trust that if the guys at Crossway handle it as well as they’ve handled the ESV itself, then for those who love study Bibles, this will one you shouldn’t be without.
I guess I’ve written “my story with ESV” instead of simply promoting the ESVSB because I’m proud of them and their work, grateful for the gift they’ve given the church, happy I crossed paths with them when I did and grateful that God has raised them up for a time such as this.
PS – Watch the video below for an intro to the new ESV Study Bible