The English Standard Version (ESV)

© Will Kinney, used with permission.

The 2001 English Standard Version is now heavily being promoted by many churches. It is a revision of the old Revised Standard Version, which earlier met with almost universal condemnation by evangelicals as being "liberal". Yet in the last few decades the church has been "softened up" by numerous conflicting bible versions like the NASB and NIV to now be ready to accept with open arms what it once rejected.

John Piper of Desiring God Ministries says: "When I turned 15 my parents gave me a beautiful, leather-bound King James Bible. I loved it....God met me in this book day after day when I was a teenager...Three and a half years later as a freshman at Wheaton I picked up the first Bible I ever bought for myself, a Revised Standard Version. It was close enough to the King James so that I felt at home, but its English was not Elizabethan; it was my English. This became my reading, meditating, memorizing Bible for the next 37 years... I would be happy to see the NIV sail into the sunset if it could be replaced by the ESV as the standard preaching, reading, memorizing Bible of the English-speaking church... I have longed that there be something more readable than the NASB and more literal than the NIV. The NIV is a paraphrase with so much unnecessary rewording and so much interpretation that I could not preach from it...I am simply arguing that the ESV is the best balance available of readability and literalness. I hope that it becomes the standard for the church."

(Comment: There are numerous and profound differences between the KJB and the RSV. After studying this issue for several years now, I certainly am not of the opinion that the RSV is "close enough")

Doug Kutilek said in a recent "As I See It", that he'll probably make the ESV his version of choice replacing the NIV.

Alan Jacobs, professor of English at Wheaton College, writing in the December 2003 edition of First Things magazine says: "It is the ESV's balance of thorough, up-to-date scholarship and deference to the elders' wisdom that makes it the best available English Bible. What this means, further, is that the ESV is the best candidate yet for the long-hoped-for "replacement" of the KJV, the translation that bridges denominational gaps and strikes the right balance among the virtues of clarity, correctness, and grace."

The ESV New Testament is based on the Westcott-Hort Greek text which differs from the Traditional Greek text that underlies the King James Bible; it omits some 5000 words, including 18 entire verses in the New Testament alone. The Old Testament is a random mixture of texts from the Hebrew Masoretic tradition, readings from the alleged pre-Christian Greek Septuagint, Samaritan Pentateuch, Syriac, and Vulgate. It is the old RSV in a new garb.

I firmly believe God has preserved His infallible, inspired, pure and complete words in the King James Bible. Without exception, I have never met a modern version promoter who believes that any text, be it Hebrew or Greek, or any Bible in any language is the infallible words of God that he would not change, alter or correct according to his own understanding. My personal belief is that when it comes to the issue of the Final Authority of God's words today, if a Christian is not a King James Bible believer, then he can be described as those of whom God said: - "every man did that which is right in his own eyes". Each one then becomes his own scholar and makes up his personalized bible version as he goes along.

As you read through these few examples, keep in mind what God Himself says of His words. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it." Deut. 4:2; "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Proverbs 30:5-6; "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Matthew 24:35.

The examples in this study are just a small portion of all that could be given of where the ESV departs from the Hebrew Masoretic texts and follows the Greek Septuagint (LXX), Syriac, Samaritan Pentateuch, Vulgate, or Dead Sea Scrolls. Often this same ESV will footnote the readings of the Septuagint, Syriac, or Dead Sea Scrolls but not follow them. The inevitable result is confusion and uncertainty regarding what God has said to us.

To avoid writing a 40 page essay on this subject, I will only cover some of the more blatant examples found in the 2001 English Standard Version from Genesis through Second Samuel. This should be enough to show there are very real and substantial textual differences between the King James Bible and the ESV.

Genesis 47:21 "And as for the people, HE REMOVED THEM TO CITIES from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof." So read the Hebrew text, the NKJV, and NASB.

The NIV, ESV, RSV read: "As for the people, HE MADE SERVANTS OF THEM from one end of Egypt to the other." Footnote: Samaritan, Septuagint, Vulgate; Hebrew "he removed them to the cities".

Genesis 49:10 "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, UNTIL SHILOH COME: and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."

The ESV reads: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, UNTIL TRIBUTE COMES TO HIM, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." Footnote tells us to compare the Syriac, and Septuagint, but that the Hebrew reads: "until Shiloh comes". "Shiloh" is found in the NASB, NKJV, but the NIV also omits the word and reads as the old RSV: "until he comes to whom it belongs".

Exodus 14:25 Speaking of the Egyptians pursuing the Israelites as they crossed the Red Sea, the KJB and the Hebrew text says that the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians: "And TOOK OFF their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily."

So read the RV, ASV, NKJV, and even the NIV, but the RSV, ESV say God was "CLOGGING their chariot wheels". The NASB also rejects the Hebrew reading and says "He caused their chariot wheels TO SWERVE". Now, I have had my car wheels swerve on ice, but not yet have they come off. The ESV at least informs us in a footnote (the NASB never does), that "clogging" comes from the Samaritan, Syriac and LXX, but that the Hebrew reads "removed the wheels". Actually they are fibbing just a bit when they refer to what the so called Septuagint (LXX) says. The copy I have reads: "The Lord looked forth on the camp of the Egyptians....AND BOUND THE AXLE-TREES of their chariots."

Deuteronomy 11:14, 15. Here Moses is speaking for God and he says: "... I will give you the rain of your land...And I will send grass in thy fields...". So read the NKJV, ASV, RV, and even the NIV. The NASB at least up through the 1972 edition also followed the Hebrew texts and read this way, but in 1977, and again in 1995 the NASB decided to follow the Samaritan, Vulgate and LXX, and reads as do the RSV, and ESV with: "HE will give you the rain...and HE will send grass...". ESV footnote: "He - Samaritan, Septuagint, Vulgate" ; Hebrew "I".

Deuteronomy 30:16 The KJB, NASB, NIV, and Hebrew texts read: "In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God..." However the RSV, and ESV add a bunch of words not found in any Hebrew text. The RSV, ESV say: "IF YOU OBEY THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD YOUR GOD that I command you today by loving the LORD your God..." Footnote: LXX; Hebrew lacks "if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God".

Deuteronomy 32:8 "When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children OF ISRAEL."

So read the NKJV, NASB, NIV, RV, ASV. But the RSV and ESV say: "he fixed the borders of the people according to the number of the SONS OF GOD." Then footnotes: Compare Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint; Masoretic Hebrew text "Israel". I don't know how the Dead Sea Scrolls read, but the ESV doesn't even read like the Septuagint. The LXX (Septuagint) reads "angels of God", not "sons of God".

Deuteronomy 32:43 "Rejoice, O YE NATIONS, WITH HIS PEOPLE." So read the RV, ASV, NKJV, NASB, NIV. However the ESV is really messed up. Keep in mind that the ESV is a revision of the older liberal RSV, and the RSV says: "PRAISE HIS PEOPLE, O YOU NATIONS." Then the NEW RSV came out in 1989 and it says: "PRAISE, O HEAVENS, HIS PEOPLE, WORSHIP HIM ALL YOU GODS." And finally the ESV comes out in 2001 and it says: "REJOICE WITH HIM, O HEAVENS; BOW DOWN TO HIM ALL GODS." As you can see, neither the RSV, NRSV, nor ESV agree even among themselves, let alone with the King James Bible and all the others that follow the Hebrew texts.

The ESV now has a footnote that tells us their reading of "Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him all gods" comes from "Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint", but that the Hebrew reads as does the King James Bible. The Septuagint copy I have does not agree with the ESV reading but says: "Rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him."

Deuteronomy 32:43 part 2 :"For he will avenge the blood of his SERVANTS, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people." This is basically the reading found in the RV, ASV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, and even the RSV. However beginning with the NRSV, and continuing with the ESV we now read: "For he avenges the blood of his CHILDREN, and takes vengeance on his adversaries. HE REPAYS THOSE WHO HATE HIM and cleanses his people's land."

Then the ESV, NRSV footnote that the word "children" comes from the Dead Sea Scroll and Septuagint, but the Hebrew Masoretic text reads "servants"; and that the Masoretic text lacks "He repays those who hate him".

Judges 14:15 "And it came to pass ON THE SEVENTH DAY, that they said unto Samson's wife..." So read all Hebrew texts and the RV, ASV, Young's, Darby, Geneva, Spanish, Diodati, and many others, but the RSV, ESV, NASB, and NIV all say: "on THE FOURTH DAY". Footnote: 4th day comes from Syriac and LXX, but the Hebrew says "the 7th day".

For an explanation of this apparent contradiction see [outdated link]

While there, be sure to read the excellent article by Marty Shue titled A Response to Gary R. Hudson - where Mr. Hudson severely criticizes those who are KJB only. Marty did an excellent job of refuting Hudson's claims. [outdated link]

Judges 16:13 Here the NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV all unite in adding these 17 words "and fasten it with a pin. Then I shall become weak and be like any other man." This reading comes from the Septuagint, but is not found in any Hebrew manuscript nor in the RV, ASV, NKJV, Syriac, Young's, Geneva or Darby.

1 Samuel 1:24 "And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, WITH THREE BULLOCKS, and one ephah of flour..." So read all Hebrew texts as well as the RV, ASV, Geneva Bible, NKJV, Young's, and others. But the NASB, NIV, RSV, and ESV unite in reading: "she took him up with her, along with A THREE-YEAR-OLD BULL". Footnote tells us this comes from the Syriac and LXX, but the Hebrew reads "three bullocks".

1 Samuel 2:33 "And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume THINE eyes, and to grieve THINE heart." So read the NKJV, NASB, NIV, but the RSV, ESV say: "to weep HIS eyes out to grieve HIS heart", then tell us in a footnote that this reading comes from the LXX, but that the Hebrew reads "your" (thine).

I Samuel 6:19 "And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people FIFTY THOUSAND AND THREESCORE AND TEN MEN (50,070): and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter."

Agreeing with the KJB reading of 50,070 men slain are the RV, ASV, NKJV, Geneva Bible, the Jewish translations, Spanish, and even the NASB AND the Septuagint! However the NIV, RSV, and ESV tell us that the LORD "struck 70 men of them". They just made up this number because they think the texts have been corrupted. Not even the Syriac agrees with the ESV because it says 5000 and 70.

I have written an article which I think explains this verse. Here is the site.

1 Samuel 9:25 When Saul went to Samuel and he was anointed king of Israel we read: "And when they were come down from the high place into the city, SAMUEL COMMUNED WITH SAUL UPON THE TOP OF THE HOUSE."

So read the Hebrew texts, and even the NASB, NIV, NKJV. However the RSV, ESV say: "And when they came down from the high place into the city, A BED WAS SPREAD FOR SAUL ON THE ROOF, AND HE LAY DOWN TO SLEEP." Then in a footnote the ESV tells us this reading comes from the Septuagint, but that the Hebrew reads like the KJB, NASB, NIV, and NKJV. The meaning is not at all the same. The RSV, ESV also change the Hebrew texts in verse 24 where the Hebrew says: "I have invited the people", but the LXX says "that you might eat with the guests".

Then just two verses later in 1 Samuel 10:1 the RSV, ESV add a whole bunch of words not found in the Hebrew texts nor in the NASB, NIV, NKJV. The KJB, as well as the NASB, NIV, says: "Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?" BUT, the RSV, ESV say: "Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over HIS PEOPLE ISRAEL? AND YOU SHALL REIGN OVER THE PEOPLE OF THE LORD AND YOU WILL SAVE THEM FROM THE HAND OF THEIR SURROUNDING ENEMIES. AND THIS SHALL BE THE SIGN TO YOU THAT THE LORD HAS ANOINTED YOU TO BE PRINCE OVER his heritage."

All the words in capital letters are not found in the Hebrew, but they are brought in from the Septuagint version which is wildly different than the Hebrew texts in hundreds and hundreds of passages.

In 1 Samuel 13:1 the KJB says: "Saul reigned ONE year: and when he had reigned TWO years over Israel, Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel...." Agreeing with the KJB reading are the RV, ASV, Geneva Bible, Lamsa's translation of the Syriac, Spanish Reina Valera 1909, 1960, Hebrew Names Version, Young's, NKJV, Diodati, Webster's, and the Third Millenium Bible.

However the RSV, ESV say: "Saul was ....years old when he began to reign, and he reigned ....and two years over Israel." The NASBs from the 1960s through 1972 and 1977 said: "Saul was 40 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned 32 years"; but the 1995 NASB Update now agrees with the NIV and says: Saul was 30 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned 42 years." Hey, they all mean the same thing, right? "He was .....years old = he was 40 years old = he was 30 years old = he reigned one year".

1 Samuel 13:15 "And Samuel arose, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men."

So read the Hebrew texts as well as the NASB, NIV. However the RSV, and ESV add a whole bunch of words from the LXX. The RSV, ESV read: "And Samuel arose and went up FROM GILGAL. THE REST OF THE PEOPLE WENT UP AFTER SAUL TO MEET THE ARMY; THEY WENT UP from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin."

1 Samuel 14:41 Again, in this verse all the words in capital letters have been added to the RSV, ESV from the LXX (so they say) but they are not found in the NASB, NIV, NKJV.

The KJB, as well as the NASB, NIV, says: "Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped."

The RSV, ESV read, adding all these words, "Therefore Saul said, O LORD God of Israel, WHY HAVE YOU NOT ANSWERED YOUR SERVANT THIS DAY? IF THIS GUILT IS IN ME OR IN JONATHAN MY SON, O LORD, GOD OF ISRAEL, GIVE URIM. BUT IF THIS GUILT IS IN YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL, GIVE THUMMIN. And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped."

Then in a footnote the ESV says these additional words come from the Septuagint. However my copy of the Septuagint does not read like the ESV says it does. It says instead "Lord God of Israel, give clear manifestations; and if the lot should declare this, give, I pray thee, to thy people Israel, give, I pray, holiness. And Jonathan and Saul are taken..." Quite different from them all, isn't it?

2 Samuel 7:16 Here God is speaking to David and He says: "And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before THEE: thy throne shall be established for ever."

"Before THEE" is the reading of all Hebrew texts, as well as the Jewish translations, the RV, ASV, NKJV, Darby, Young's, Geneva and others, but the NASB, NIV, RSV, and ESV follow the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew and say: "your kingdom shall be made sure before ME".

2 Samuel 15:7 "And it came to pass after FORTY years, that Absalom said unto the king..."

There is no question that the Hebrew texts all read FORTY years and so do the Jewish translations, the KJB, NKJV, RV, ASV, NASB, Young's, Darby, Geneva, Douay, Spanish Reina Valera 1909, and the Third Millenium Bible.

I know of at least three explanations as to what the "40 years" may be referring. Number One - the 40 years refers to the time since David was originally anointed to be king, as recorded in 1 Samuel 16:13, which occured several years before he actually began to reign as king. Number Two - it could refer to the age of Absalom at this time. Number Three - Absalom's mother was Maachah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur. Years before, David had invaded the Geshurites and killed many of their people, perhaps 40 years had passed, and now Absalom sought vengeance on behalf of his mother and her people.

In any case, the NIV, RSV, ESV all change this number to "after FOUR years", and the ESV says this reading comes from the Septuagint and Syriac, but that the Hebrew reads 40 years. Again, this is misleading. The copy of the Septuagint that I have says 40 years, and the NIV footnote says "SOME Septuagint copies say 4 years".

2 Samuel 21:8-9 "But the king took the two sons of Rizpah...and the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul, whom she BROUGHT UP FOR Adriel...and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD; and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest..."

MICHAL is the reading of all Hebrew texts and the reading of the KJB, NKJV, RV, ASV, Young's, Darby, Geneva, Spanish, and Third Millenium Bibles. But the RSV, NASB, NIV, and ESV all change this to MERAB the daughter of Saul, instead of MICHAL, based they say on two Hebrew manuscripts, the Syriac and the Septuagint, but that most Hebrew manuscripts read Michal. However, again, the copy of the Septuagint I have says Michal, as does the KJB. The NIV footnotes says "SOME LXX mss. read Merab".

The simple explanation is that though Michal had no children of her own, she did bring up these five children, possibly as a step-mother after her sister had died. Always give the benefit of the doubt to the truth of Scripture rather than altering the text just because you don't understand its truth.

2 Samuel 23:18, 19 "And Abishai, the brother of Joab...was chief among THREE...Was he not most honourable of THREE?"

So read the KJB, NKJV, NIV, RV, ASV, Geneva, Young's, Darby, AND the Septuagint. However the RSV, NASB, and ESV say "THIRTY", based on two Hebrew manuscripts and the Syriac. The simple explanation is that the "three" refers back to verse 13 where we read that "three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam."

2 Samuel 24:13 "So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in thy land?"

So read all Hebrew texts as well as the RV, ASV, NASB, Jewish translations, Geneva, Darby, Young's, and even the Syriac. However the NIV, RSV, and ESV change this number to THREE years, based on the Septuagint versions. In 1 Chronicles 21:12 the number recorded is three years, yet there is a simple way to explain this apparent contradiction. Instead of believing the infallible word of God and asking Him to open our understanding, these modern version editors prefer to assume there is a scribal error in all the Hebrew texts because "they" don't understand how to reconcile the apparent discrepancy. For my article which offers a logical explanation see:

In the New Testament, the RSV and the ESV are missing the following whole verses. Matthew 12:47 (though the NASB, NIV have it, but omit or bracket the others) Matthew 17:21; 18:11; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44, 46; 11:26; 15:18; most of Luke 9:55-56; all of Luke 17:36; 23:17; John 5:4, Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29; Romans 16:24, and most of 1 John 5:7. So, yeah, we can see that the RSV and ESV is "close enough" to the King James Bible, right?

None of these Bible versions agree with each other in both texts and meaning in literally hundreds of verses. Did God really preserve His words as He promised, or do we no longer have any Bible that we can call the complete, infallible, inspired words of God? I know where I stand, by God's sovereign grace, on this most important issue. How about you?

"Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way." Psalm 119:128

Will Kinney