Introduction to the ESV

"This Book (is) the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God." With these words the Moderator of the Church of Scotland in the British Coronation service hands the new monarch a Bible. What he says expresses what the translation team of the English Standard Version wishes to tell the world.

Here, we would say, is the Word of God, true and trustworthy, infallible and inerrant in its facts and its teaching, adequate and authoritative for faith and practice in all aspects of one's relationship with God.

Here is the Word of wisdom and eternal life, which proceeded from God, which proclaims God, and which will point its readers to God.

Here is the Word of witness through which the Holy Spirit of God makes known the reality and power and grace of Jesus Christ.

The Bible excites us, because its Triune God excites us; our prayer for this version is that it will bring similar excitement to all to whom it comes.
 

Story of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible

The English Standard Version (ESV) stands in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations of the past half-millennium. The fountainhead of that stream was William Tyndale's New Testament of 1526; marking its course were the King James Version of 1611 (KJV), the Revised Version of 1885 (RV), the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), and the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971 (RSV). In that stream, faithfulness to the text and vigorous pursuit of accuracy were combined with simplicity, beauty, and dignity of expression. Our goal has been to carry forward this legacy for a new century.

To this end each word and phrase in the ESV has been carefully weighed against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, to ensure the fullest accuracy and clarity and to avoid under-translating or overlooking any nuance of the original text. The words and phrases themselves grow out of this Tyndale-King James legacy. Archaic language has been brought to current usage and significant corrections have been made in the translation of key texts. But throughout, our goal has been to retain the depth of meaning and enduring language that have made their indelible mark on the English-speaking world and have defined the life and doctrine of the church over the last four centuries.

Translation Philosophy

The ESV is an "essentially literal" translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on "word-for-word" correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.

In contrast to the ESV, some Bible versions have followed a "thought-for-thought" rather than "word-for-word" translation philosophy, emphasizing "dynamic equivalence" rather than the "essentially literal" meaning of the original. A "thought-for-thought" translation is of necessity more inclined to reflect the interpretive opinions of the translator and the influences of contemporary culture.

Every translation is at many points a trade-off between literal precision and read-ability, between "formal equivalence" in expression and "functional equivalence" in communication, and the ESV is no exception. Within this framework we have sought to be "as literal as possible" while maintaining clarity of expression and literary excellence. Therefore, to the extent that plain English permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original; and, as far as grammar and syntax allow, we have rendered Old Testament passages cited in the New in ways that show their correspondence. Thus in each of these areas, as well as throughout the Bible as a whole, we have sought to capture the echoes and overtones of meaning that are so abundantly present in the original texts. As an essentially literal translation, then, the ESV seeks to carry over every possible nuance of meaning in the original words of Scripture into our own language. As such, it is ideally suited for in-depth study of the Bible. Indeed, with its emphasis on literary excellence, the ESV is equally suited for public reading and preaching, for private reading and reflection, for both academic and devotional study, and for Scripture memorization.

Translation Style
 

The ESV also carries forward classic translation principles in its literary style. Accordingly it retains theological terminology--words such as grace, faith, justification, sanctification, redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, propitiation--because of their central importance for Christian doctrine and also because the underlying Greek words were already becoming key words and technical terms in New Testament times.

The ESV lets the stylistic variety of the biblical writers fully express itself--from the exalted prose that opens Genesis, to the flowing narratives of the historical books, to the rich metaphors and dramatic imagery of the poetic books, to the ringing rhetorical indictments in the prophetic books, to the smooth elegance of Luke, to the profound simplicities of John, and the closely-reasoned logic of Paul.

In punctuating, paragraphing, dividing long sentences, and rendering connectives, the ESV follows the path that seems to make the ongoing flow of thought clearest in English. The biblical languages regularly connect sentences by frequent repetition of words such as "and," "but," and "for," in a way that goes beyond the conventions of literary English. Effective translation, however, requires that these links in the original be reproduced so that the flow of the argument will be transparent to the reader. We have therefore normally translated these connectives, though occasionally we have varied the rendering by using alternatives (such as "also," "however," "now," "so," "then," or "thus") when they better capture the sense in specific instances.

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. 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 of its meaning 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 God's family, now enjoy all the privileges, obligations, and inheritance rights of God's 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. Similarly, where God and man are compared or contrasted in the original, the ESV retains the generic use of "man" as the clearest way to express the contrast within the framework of essentially literal translation.

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 on the terms of our present-day culture.

Textual Basis
 

The ESV is based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983), and on the Greek text in the 1993 editions of the Greek New Testament (4th corrected ed.), published by the United Bible Societies (UBS), and Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.), edited by Nestle and Aland. The currently renewed respect among Old Testament scholars for the Masoretic text is reflected in the ESV's 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 27th edition. In this regard the footnotes that accompany the ESV text are an integral part of the ESV translation, informing the reader of textual variations and difficulties and showing how these have been resolved by the ESV translation team. In addition to this, the footnotes indicate significant alternative readings and occasionally provide an explanation for technical terms or for a difficult reading in the text. 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.
 

ESV Sample selections

Matthew 5

Matthew 5

The Sermon on the Mount

5:1Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons [1] of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Anger

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother [2] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults [3] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell [4] of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. [5]

Lust

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Divorce

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Oaths

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. [6]

Retaliation

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, [7] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, [8] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (ESV)

Footnotes

[1] 5:9 Greek huioi; see preface
[2] 5:22 Some manuscripts insert without cause
[3] 5:22 Greek says Raca to (a term of abuse)
[4] 5:22 Greek Gehenna; also verses 29, 30
[5] 5:26 Greek kodrantes, Roman copper coin (Latin quadrans) worth about 1/64 of a denarius (which was a day's wage for a laborer)
[6] 5:37 Or the evil one
[7] 5:40 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin
[8] 5:47 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters


 

Translation Team

The ESV publishing team includes more than 100 people. The fourteen-member Translation Oversight Committee has benefited from the work of more than fifty biblical experts serving as Translation Review Scholars and from the comments of more than fifty members of the Advisory Council, all of which has been carried out under the auspices of the Good News-Crossway Board of Directors. This 100-member team, which is international and represents many denominations, shares a commitment to historic evangelical orthodoxy, and to the authority and sufficiency of the inerrant Scriptures.

Also on the translation team:

Translation Oversight Committee
Advisory Council
Note: The positions listed below reflect the positions held during the translation process. They may have since changed.

ESV Translation Review Scholars
The following people comprise the team of more than fifty Translation Review Scholars. The Translation Review Scholars are an international team from many denominations who were chosen to review selected books of the Old or New Testament in conjunction with the Translation Oversight Committee, based on their special expertise in the original languages and specific books of the Bible.

Dr. T. D. Alexander
Director of the Christian Training Centre
Union Theological College Belfast
B.A., The Queen's University of Belfast
Ph.D., The Queen's University of Belfast
Dr. Clinton E. Arnold
Professor of New Testament Language and Literature
Talbot School of Theology
B.A., Biola University
M.Div., Talbot Theological Seminary
Ph.D., University of Aberdeen
Dr. William D. Barrick
Professor of Old Testament
The Master's Seminary
B.A., Denver Baptist Bible College
M.Div., San Francisco Theological Seminary
Th.M., San Francisco Theological Seminary
Th.D., Grace Theological Seminary
Dr. Hans F. Bayer
Associate Professor of New Testament
Covenant Seminary
M.A., Ashland Theological Seminary
M.Div., Ashland Theological Seminary
Ph.D., University of Aberdeen
Dr. Gregory Beale
Professor of New Testament
Wheaton College
B.A., Southern Methodist University
M.A., Southern Methodist University
Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary
Ph.D., Cambridge University
Dr. Ronald Bergey
Professeur d'Hébreu et d'Ancient Testament
Faculté libre de Théologie réformée Aix-en-Provence, France
B.S., Philadelphia College of Bible
M.A., Jerusalem University
Ph.D., Dropsie University
Dr. Daniel I. Block
John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
B.Ed., University of Saskatchewan
B.A., University of Saskatchewan
M.A., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Ph.D., University of Liverpool
Dr. Craig L. Blomberg
Professor of New Testament
Denver Seminary
B.A., Augustana College
M.A., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Ph.D., University of Aberdeen
Dr. Darrell L. Bock
Research Professor of New Testament Studies
Dallas Theological Seminary
B.A., University of Texas at Austin
Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary
Ph.D., University of Aberdeen
Dr. Irvin A. Busenitz
Vice President for Academic Administration
Professor of Bible Exposition and Old Testament
The Master's Seminary B.A., Grace College of the Bible
M.Div., Talbot Theological Seminary
Th.M., Talbot Theological Seminary
Th.D., Grace Theological Seminary
Mr. Edward E. Chandler
Ph.D. (cand.)
Catholic University of America
M. Div., Covenant Seminary
Dr. Daniel L. Gard
Dean of Graduate Studies
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN
B.A., Carthage College
M.Div., Concordia Theological Seminary
M.A., University of Notre Dame
Ph.D., University of Notre Dame
Dr. Robert P. Gordon
Regius Professor of Hebrew
Cambridge University
M.A., Cambridge University
Ph.D., Cambridge University
Dr. Gene L. Green
Associate Professor of New Testament
Wheaton College
B.A., Wheaton College
M.A., Wheaton College Graduate School
Ph.D., University of Aberdeen
Dr. Michael Grisanti
Associate Professor of Old Testament
The Master's Seminary
B.A., Pillsbury Baptist Bible College
M.Div., Central Baptist Theological Seminary
Th.M., Central Baptist Theological Seminary
Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary
Dr. George H. Guthrie
Associate Professor of Christian Studies
Union University
B.A., Union University
M.Div., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Th.M., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Ph.D., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. Scott J. Hafemann
Professor, Hawthorne Chair of New Testament Greek and Exegesis
Wheaton College
B.A., Bethel College
M.A., Fuller Theological Seminary
Dr. Theol., University of Tübingen
Dr. Charles D. Harvey
[current position not on file]
B.A., Taylor University
M.Div., Reformed Theological Seminary
Ph.D., University of Edinburgh
Dr. Richard S. Hess
Professor of Old Testament
Denver Seminary
B.A., Wheaton College
M.Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Th.M., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Ph.D., Hebrew Union College
Dr. Harold W. Hoehner
Senior Professor of New Testament Studies
Dallas Theological Seminary
B.A., Barrington College
Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary
Th.D., Dallas Theological Seminary
Ph.D., Cambridge University
Dr. David M. Howard
Jr. Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
B.S., Geneva College
M.A., Wheaton College
Ph.D., University of Michigan
Dr. Gordon P. Hugenberger
Senior Pastor
Park Street Church, Boston, MA
B.A., Harvard University
M.Div., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Ph.D., College of St. Paul and St. Mary
Dr. Philip Johnston
Professor of Old Testament
Wycliff Hall, UK
B.A., University of Cambridge
B.D., Queen's University, Belfast
M.Th., Queen's University, Belfast
Ph.D., University of Cambridge
Dr. Reggie McReynolds Kidd
Associate Professor of New Testament
Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL
B.A., College of William and Mary
M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary
M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary
Ph.D., Duke University
Dr. Nobuyoshi Kiuchi
Professor of Old Testament
Tokyo Christian University
B.A., Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Ph.D., The Council for National Academic Awards
Dr. Andreas J. Köstenberger
Associate Professor of New Testament
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Mag. et Dr. rer. soc. oec., Vienna University of Economics
M.Div., Columbia Biblical Seminary
Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Dr. V. Philips Long
Professor of Old Testament
Regent College
B.A., Wheaton College
M.Div., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Ph.D., Cambridge University
Dr. Ernest Lucas
Professor of Old Testament
Bristol Baptist College
M.A., Regent's Park College
Ph.D., University of Liverpool
Dr. Dennis R. Magary
Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
B.A., Fort Wayne Bible College
M.Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Walter A. Maier, III
Professor of Old Testament
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN
B.A., Concordia College
M.Div., Concordia Theological Seminary
M.A., Harvard University
Ph.D., Harvard University
Dr. J. Gordon McConville
Professor of Old Testament
Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education
B.A., Cambridge University
M.A., University of Edinburgh
Ph.D., The Queen's University of Belfast
Dr. Christopher Mitchell
Theological Editor
Concordia Publishing House
B.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.Div., Concordia Seminary
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Leon Morris
Former Principal of Ridley College
Melbourne, Australia
B.Sc., Sydney University
Th.L., Australian College of Theology
B.D., London University
M.Th., [university not on file]
Th.D., Cambridge University
Dr. Russell Nelson
Professor of Religious Studies
Division Chair
Concordia University College of Alberta
B.A., Concordia Senior College
M.Div., Concordia Seminary in Exile, St. Louis
Ph.D., Harvard University
Dr. Raymond Ortlund, Jr.
Pastor
First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, GA
B.A., Wheaton College
Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary
M.A., University of California-Berkeley
Ph.D., University of Aberdeen
Dr. Douglas A. Oss
Pastor
Capital Christian Center, Salt Lake City, UT
B.A., Western Washington University
M.Div., Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary
Dr. John N. Oswalt
Research Professor of Old Testament
Wesley Biblical Seminary
B.A., Taylor University
B.D., Asbury Theological Seminary
Th.M., Asbury Theological Seminary
M.A., Brandeis University
Ph.D., Brandeis University
Dr. Iain Provan
Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies
Regent College
B.A., London Bible College
M.A., Glasgow University
Ph.D., Cambridge University
Dr. Paul R. Raabe
Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO
B.S., Concordia Teachers College
M.Div., Concordia Theological Seminary
M.A., Washington University
Ph.D., University of Michigan
Dr. Thomas Renz
Professor of Old Testament
Oak Hill Theological College-London, UK
M.Div. (equivalent), Freie Theologische Akademie, Giessen, Germany
Ph.D., Bristol University
Mr. Max Rogland
Ph.D. (cand.) Leiden University
B.A., B.Mus., University of Washington
M.Div., Covenant Theological Seminary
Dr. Allen Ross
Former Professor of Old Testament
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
Th.D., Dallas Seminary
Ph.D., Cambridge University
Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner
Professor of New Testament Interpretation
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
B.S., Western Oregon University
M.Div., Western Conservative Baptist Seminary
Th.M., Western Conservative Baptist Seminary
Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary
Dr. Moises Silva
B.A., Bob Jones University
B.D., Westminster Theological Seminary
Th.M., Westminster Theological Seminary
Ph.D., University of Manchester
Dr. Frank S. Thielman
Associate Professor of Divinity
Beeson Divinity School
B.A., Wheaton College
B.A., Cambridge University
M.A., Cambridge University
Ph.D., Duke University
Dr. Willem A. VanGemeren
Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies
Director of the Ph.D. in Theological Studies
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Diploma, Moody Bible Institute
B.A., University of Illinois, Chicago
B.D., Westminster Theological Seminary
M.A., University of Wisconsin
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
Dr. James W. Voelz
Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO
A.A., Concordia College
B.A., Concordia Senior College
M.Div, Concordia Theological Seminary
Ph.D., Cambridge University
Dr. Dean O. Wenthe
President
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN
B.A., Concordia Senior College
M.A., University of Notre Dame
M.Div., Concordia Seminary
Th.M., Princeton Theological Seminary
Ph.D., University of Notre Dame
Dr. Walter W. Wessel
Former Professor of New Testament
Bethel Seminary-West
B.A., UCLA
M.A., UCLA
Ph.D., University of Edinburgh
Dr. Robert W. Yarbrough
Associate Professor of New Testament
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
B.A., Southwest Baptist College
M.A., Wheaton College Graduate School
Ph.D., University of Aberdeen