NKJV v. ESV

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FrielWatcher

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have been reading the NKJV for about ten years now because the ESV came out so much later. Also have been reading the NASB for cf. But now, I am going to be getting the ESV Study Bible which I guess people have been waiting quite a while for its release.

It seems there is some debate about the validity of the NKJV about it not being based on critical text or TR? What are the board's opinion of the ESV? It seems that the flow of the ESV is a bit harder to read than say the NKJV (less lyrical?) but its accuracy cannot be denied.

Thank you.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I think most would agree that the NKJV is somewhat more literal overall than the ESV. The NT is based on the TR and has textual variants from the CT and the Majority Text in the margin. Overall the readability is similar, with the NASB generally considered to be a little less readable.

The ESV Study Bible is indeed long awaited since if I recall correctly it was originally hoped to be published in 2005. It looks like it will be an excellent resource, particularly for the new believer.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
The ESV is excellent, except that they didn't really cue the reader on to translation decisions. Italics are not used to show inserted words and there are very few margin notes revealing decisions and textual variants. This gives the read the idea that the translation is absolutely correct, when it is not. Although I'm a MT guy, I prefer the NKJV because it's close, uses italics to reveal decisions (added words) and has variants in the margins to cue the reader/student to dig further when necessary. This became very apparent in my recent study of Ephesians 4:11.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
The ESV is a great translation of the Critical Text. I think it's well balanced in terms of literal and literary...plus i think it's theologically solid.
 

Grace Alone

Puritan Board Senior
Our church uses ESV and it has been endorsed by a huge number of reformed pastors and theologians. I am also looking forward to the ESV Study Bible! It certainly has an impressive list of men who worked on the study notes.
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
:worms:

I may be waaaaay off base here and please tell me if I am terribly wrong but it does bother me that so many "Reformed Leaders and Pastors" have come out in full force for the ESV. Especially ones who seem to have a vested interest in it being well-received and becoming a "Standard Text".
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
I am a contrarian by nature and it seems odd that so many would come out with glowing and uncritical views on anything.

They aren't uncritical, they absolutely loathe the historic Protestant view on the identity of the Providentially Preserved text of Scripture.

Thomas,

I believe you misread the post a bit (or I misunderstood you?). He said that he was surprised that so many Reformed leaders would be so unqualified about the same thing.

I do believe, however, that there is a logic behind it. The ESV was completed under the leadership of a bunch of traditionalists in terms of gender roles. Since people like Grudem and Piper have been sounding the alarm against evangelical feminism for years, they wanted to be sure that the ESV did not go the route of the NIV (i.e., as it drifted into the TNIV). And, frankly quality notwithstanding, I almost think that they would have gone for ANY Bible that was not associated with the NIV.

As it turns out, pretty much everyone raving about the ESV is in the same camp on gender roles. And, they were all united against what Zondervan was doing with their revision of NIV.
 

Thomas2007

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am a contrarian by nature and it seems odd that so many would come out with glowing and uncritical views on anything.

They aren't uncritical, they absolutely loathe the historic Protestant view on the identity of the Providentially Preserved text of Scripture.

Thomas,

I believe you misread the post a bit (or I misunderstood you?). He said that he was surprised that so many Reformed leaders would be so unqualified about the same thing.

I do believe, however, that there is a logic behind it. The ESV was completed under the leadership of a bunch of traditionalists in terms of gender roles. Since people like Grudem and Piper have been sounding the alarm against evangelical feminism for years, they wanted to be sure that the ESV did not go the route of the NIV (i.e., as it drifted into the TNIV). And, frankly quality notwithstanding, I almost think that they would have gone for ANY Bible that was not associated with the NIV.

As it turns out, pretty much everyone raving about the ESV is in the same camp on gender roles. And, they were all united against what Zondervan was doing with their revision of NIV.

What I understood him to be saying was that it bothered him that so many have joined ranks with uncritical (not unqualified) unity about promoting the ESV as a "standard text." Hence, my response was directed toward the unified criticism and its goal of altering the Protestant standard, I didn't understand and don't recall reading that the comments regarded gender/feminism.
 

JonathanHunt

Puritan Board Senior
I am a contrarian by nature and it seems odd that so many would come out with glowing and uncritical views on anything.

I would agree with what others have said that this is not so much to do with the textual arguments but with the fact that many of these men have favoured the NIV (wrongly In my humble opinion) and have seen the NIV project floating off on a raft toward Liberal Island. The rope has long since snapped and they cannot get it back. So they endorse a new raft. Ignoring the fully-equipped ocean-going liner named HMS King Jimmy in the port next door.
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I agree with you Jonathan. I do not think the ESV has any "textual criticism" per se (other than it is ~90% of the majorly flawed RSV) but you are right that something just smells fishy to me here about the ESV Study Bible particularly.
 

nicnap

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I am a contrarian by nature and it seems odd that so many would come out with glowing and uncritical views on anything.

I would agree with what others have said that this is not so much to do with the textual arguments but with the fact that many of these men have favoured the NIV (wrongly In my humble opinion) and have seen the NIV project floating off on a raft toward Liberal Island. The rope has long since snapped and they cannot get it back. So they endorse a new raft. Ignoring the fully-equipped ocean-going liner named HMS King Jimmy in the port next door.

:lol: Thanks...I agree, but your illustration is great. :lol:
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
I appreciate Piper's reasoning -- as well his heart -- in siding with the ESV. The one thing he doesn't mention is the source Hebrew and Greek texts. Is this not crucial -- that the original language manuscripts be the best, the most accurate? Even more important than a quality literal, easy-to-understand translation is the integrity of its text. Although I love the language of the KJV, I admit it is difficult for me at times, and I will use other translations as well as study the original Hebrew and Greek to get clarity; but I know that I can trust what it says, and that it does not omit from or add to the Word of God. This is the deciding factor for me in choosing my Bible.

My church uses the NKJV as the pew Bible as the choice I had from the planting church was either ESV or NKJV. I had already taught a class in Africa that had been issued ESVs and these bright men spotted right away that there were serious problems with the ESV, beautiful edition that it was. It damaged their faith perhaps -- some of them -- that there was this discord among Bibles and Greek scholars concerning the true text. I do not have this trouble with the NKJV, even though it has some few errors of translation in the NT, and some underlying textual problems in the old. I can deal with those.

The ESV is notorious in recapitulating the omissions of the Critical Text, going further than most in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew with Asaph and Amos in 1:7, 10, as most CT versions didn't dare to print what their Greek text said. Seven and ten are special numbers in Scripture; now I don't want to get weird on y'all, but it sure does seem to me that the Lord marked this version with red flags on the very first page of the NT; an error in verse seven...divine warning...and in ten (the number of completion)...an error here signifies to me that the entire work is such that we are to be ware of it. I'm not into numerology, but this sure is striking.

I'll stick with an acccurate, if more difficult, Bible.
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
They aren't uncritical, they absolutely loathe the historic Protestant view on the identity of the Providentially Preserved text of Scripture.

Thomas,

I believe you misread the post a bit (or I misunderstood you?). He said that he was surprised that so many Reformed leaders would be so unqualified about the same thing.

I do believe, however, that there is a logic behind it. The ESV was completed under the leadership of a bunch of traditionalists in terms of gender roles. Since people like Grudem and Piper have been sounding the alarm against evangelical feminism for years, they wanted to be sure that the ESV did not go the route of the NIV (i.e., as it drifted into the TNIV). And, frankly quality notwithstanding, I almost think that they would have gone for ANY Bible that was not associated with the NIV.

As it turns out, pretty much everyone raving about the ESV is in the same camp on gender roles. And, they were all united against what Zondervan was doing with their revision of NIV.

What I understood him to be saying was that it bothered him that so many have joined ranks with uncritical (not unqualified) unity about promoting the ESV as a "standard text." Hence, my response was directed toward the unified criticism and its goal of altering the Protestant standard, I didn't understand and don't recall reading that the comments regarded gender/feminism.

The Gender/feminism point was in explanation for WHY so many Reformed guys jumped on the ESV bandwagon. I see it in terms of the controversy over the TNIV and the desire for a "safe" translation. It is VERY unusual (some said "fishy") for so many Reformed leaders to all agree on ANYthing. Being united against the gender neutral Bible is one way to accomplish it.

I took your comment to be picking up on the word "uncritical" and suggesting that they were anything but "uncritical" in their unified dismissal of the traditional text and the kind of points our TR brethren make about supernatural preservation. And, they were VERY "critical" in the sense of supporting the Critical Text which lies behind almost all of the modern translations (except the ones revising the KJV).

My point was that this is using the words "critical/uncritical" in two different senses. The Reformed teachers uncritically accept the ESV because they wanted a Bible that was not gender neutral AND because they accept the arguments of the proponents of the Critical Text (aka eclectic text, UBS4, NA27). With respect to being in favor of the ESV, they are uncritically supportive; in terms of orientation to textual criticism, they are examples of "critical" scholars since they accept the Critical Text rather than the Received Text (TR). Or, perhaps I missed your point. Sorry! :(
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
The reason that Piper et al. went to ESV is stated here:

Good English With Minimal Translation: Why Bethlehem Uses the ESV

I wholly agree that the ESV does not make itself apparent with its translation decisions as the NKJV did. I appreciate that about the NKJV but it seems that the NKJV never took off as a standard for any denomination as did the NIV, NRSV, or the Message did when people became Purpose Driven. :banghead:

The NKJV has far outsold the NRSV, Message, etc. The Message is not the standard of any denomination that I know of and the NRSV is the standard of "mainline" churches like the ECUSA, PCUSA, UMC, etc. The NKJV is widely used in many churches. It's not likely to be adopted by any denomination for use in denominational publications because it is not based on the critical text, and most in leadership in denominations of any numerical significance tend to favor the critical text.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
It seems a lot of the leaders jumped onboard the ESV bandwagon for these reasons:

1. A lot of them were involved with the project personally or had close friends who were, like Grudem, Piper, etc.

2. The desire to have a critical text translation that was more literal than the NIV and more readable than the NASB.

2.a. Some of the above like Piper and Grudem confessed to being "closet RSV readers," so those who liked the RSV but didn't like the theological problems were bound to like the ESV, which Piper described as "The RSV with the theological problems fixed."

3. Respect for and trust of Crossway may also have been a factor.

Since there were already plenty of translations were not gender neutral, I don't see that as being a huge factor in the push for the ESV, although the fact that it was not gender neutral of course was a major factor in its acceptance. I think it had more to do with people wanting a more literal translation than the NIV, rejecting the NKJV because it isn't based on the critical text and the belief (right or wrong) that the NASB is too woodenly literal and thus not readable enough for the masses. Personally I think some of the criticism of the NASB is overblown, especially the 1995 update, but overall it does not flow quite as well as the NKJV or ESV. This is despite the fact that the NASB sometimes renders phrases in a more common English idiom than will the NKJV or even the ESV in the same passage.

Beyond the endorsements, another factor in the ESV's success among younger people and those who blog and otherwise spend a lot of time online is that Crossway/Good News Publishers made a concerted effort to be web friendly. If the NKJV is even available online on the publisher's website, (and not just on Bible Gateway) I'm not aware of it. But since it's been around so long, apparently they don't feel the need to promote it in this way.

The NKJV is my main version as well. But one thing that keeps it from doing even better in my opinion is the generally poor quality of the editions that Nelson produces (other than the Signature Series.) This includes bad bindings, poor paper and the fact that all NKJV's today are "red letter" other than pew Bibles and the MacArthur Study Bible, which are the only two exceptions that I know of. And their "red letters" are often much harder to read than other publishers since often it is really sort of a dim burgundy hue that makes it even harder for me to read. But I may be in the minority on this one, and I don't know that the Bible buying public notices or minds these things so much.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
In all my translating for sermons, I have found that in both OT and NT the ESV loses a lot of the intended meaning. If one were to compare it with the NASB or NKJV.

(This almost creeps me out to say this) but I think KJV and NKJV are more accurate in their getting across the intended meaning more than any other. KJV can be hard to understand for the average joe, to understand what it means, but NKJV I believe is great. Obviously this is just my opinion. But countless times as I was preaching from the ESV I got frustrated because I had to continually clarify what the translation actually means or said. Whereas now that I preach from NASB (I don't have a NKJV or KJV), I don't have to do that as much.

I don't like text criticism...
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
In all my translating for sermons, I have found that in both OT and NT the ESV loses a lot of the intended meaning. If one were to compare it with the NASB or NKJV.

(This almost creeps me out to say this) but I think KJV and NKJV are more accurate in their getting across the intended meaning more than any other. KJV can be hard to understand for the average joe, to understand what it means, but NKJV I believe is great. Obviously this is just my opinion. But countless times as I was preaching from the ESV I got frustrated because I had to continually clarify what the translation actually means or said. Whereas now that I preach from NASB (I don't have a NKJV or KJV), I don't have to do that as much.

I don't like text criticism...

:amen:
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
In all my translating for sermons, I have found that in both OT and NT the ESV loses a lot of the intended meaning. If one were to compare it with the NASB or NKJV.

(This almost creeps me out to say this) but I think KJV and NKJV are more accurate in their getting across the intended meaning more than any other. KJV can be hard to understand for the average joe, to understand what it means, but NKJV I believe is great. Obviously this is just my opinion. But countless times as I was preaching from the ESV I got frustrated because I had to continually clarify what the translation actually means or said. Whereas now that I preach from NASB (I don't have a NKJV or KJV), I don't have to do that as much.

I don't like text criticism...

I have a similar experience. When i read the original languages to prepare for a sermon the NASB/KJV/NKJV are much closer to the text. But when i am just reading to read I don't really pick up on it as much.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
I'm coming at this more as a writer (I can make no claim regarding the original languages). When I hear the ESV read, it sounds like language tortured to go on and on -- what could be said more succinctly gets drawn out. That does NOT necessarily push me into the camp of those who like a translation based on dynamic equivalence. Far from it, my favorite text is NAS. I really don't like hearing the ESV and would not welcome it as a text to read. When I study, I usually have the NAS and NIV open and often refer to the KJV since that is how I sometimes first learned a text...
 

matthew11v25

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm coming at this more as a writer (I can make no claim regarding the original languages). When I hear the ESV read, it sounds like language tortured to go on and on -- what could be said more succinctly gets drawn out. That does NOT necessarily push me into the camp of those who like a translation based on dynamic equivalence. Far from it, my favorite text is NAS. I really don't like hearing the ESV and would not welcome it as a text to read. When I study, I usually have the NAS and NIV open and often refer to the KJV since that is how I sometimes first learned a text...

Out of curiousity, you do not find NASB also difficult? How about the NKJV?
 

FrielWatcher

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have never understood those who say the NASB 1995 ed. is "wooden" and "hard to read". I find it the easiest and the truest of any CT Bible.

I find the ESV the most "wooden" and that it has tough flow. My mother gave me a NASB "Living Application" Bible a few years back. It is geared toward life applications (duh!) but it is also beneficial because the notes have good commentary for study. I as well find it as easy to read as the NKJV with good literality.

So, I will be getting the ESV study bible because of the study references but I still love the NKJV.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Backwoods, I'm with you on enjoying the way NAS reads ... the NKJV seems like the worst of all worlds; it loses the sheer poetry of the KJV.
 

FrielWatcher

Puritan Board Sophomore
Backwoods, I'm with you on enjoying the way NAS reads ... the NKJV seems like the worst of all worlds; it loses the sheer poetry of the KJV.

I disagree that the NKJV loses it poesy. It does not have the exact poesy as the KJV, but better than other translations. It is more accessible to our people but holds true to orthodoxy.

A question - does the language of the KJV need to be preserved when no one speaks it but the KJV and writers of the same time? So, yes, to read the old valuable works, it is beneficial - but as a matter of retaining trueness but allowing the word to be read in the by the language that is spoken today?
 
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