Is the ESV Really A Conservative Translation?

The English Standard Version (ESV) Bible is becoming a de facto standard in American Reformed churches. Many pastors and others know that the ESV is a revision of the Revised Standard Version, which years ago was rejected by Bible believing Christians because of its treatment of Isaiah 7:14. But according to the powers that be, that and other problematic verses have been corrected in the English Standard Version. They also tell us that 95% of all the Bible translations agree, and that the differences that do exist “don’t amount to a hill of beans”.

But is this true?

Table of Contents

Some verses from the ESV

Psalm 12:6-7

ESV

The words of the Lord are pure words,
 like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
 purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will keep them;
 you will guard us [or him] from this generation forever.

KJV

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. Psa 12:6-7

Doctrine

God’s preservation of His Word.

1 John 5:7-8

ESV

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

KJV

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. 1Jo 5:7-8

Doctrines

The Trinity, Baptism, The Lord’s Supper.

Micah 5:2

ESV

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
 who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
 one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
 from ancient days.

KJV

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Mic 5:2

Doctrine

Jesus as eternal God.

1 Timothy 3:16

ESV

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He[Greek Who; some manuscripts God; others Which] was manifested in the flesh,
 vindicated[or justified] by the Spirit,[or vindicated in spirit]
 seen by angels,
 proclaimed among the nations,
 believed on in the world,
 taken up in glory.

KJV

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. 1Ti 3:16

Doctrines

God taking on human flesh.

The ESV notes here as in many other places add an element of confusion as to what God is actually saying in the verse.

1 Corinthians 15:47

ESV

The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.

KJV

The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven. 1Co 15:47

Doctrine

The Divinity of Christ.

Acts 2:29, 30

ESV

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne,

KJV

Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; Act 2:29-30

1 John 4:3

ESV

and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

KJV

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 1Jo 4:3

Doctrine

God taking on human flesh.

Luke 1:28

ESV

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[a]

KJV

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, [thou that art] highly favoured, the Lord [is] with thee: blessed [art] thou among women. Luk 1:28

Matthew 1:25

ESV

but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

KJV

And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. Mat 1:25

Doctrine

The Virgin Birth of Jesus.

Mark 1:1

ESV

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.[Some manuscripts omit the Son of God]

KJV

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; Mar 1:1

Doctrine

The Divinity of Christ. The ESV notes introduce doubt, again.

Philippians 2:6

ESV

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[Or a thing to be held on to for advantage]

KJV

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: Phi 2:6

Doctrine

What exactly is the ESV saying in Phil. 2:6? Do you understand from the ESV’s rendering of the verse that Jesus is eternal God?

Luke 2:43

ESV

And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,

KJV

And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not [of it]. Luk 2:43

Doctrine

The Virgin Birth.

Luke 2:49

ESV

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[Or about my Father’s business]

KJV

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? Luk 2:49

Luke 4:04

ESV

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

KJV

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. Luk 4:4

Doctrine

The Word of God.

John 9:35

ESV

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”[Some manuscripts the Son of God]

KJV

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Joh 9:35

Doctrine

The Divinity of Christ. Christ claims here to be one with the Father.

Matthew 9:10-13

ESV

And as Jesus[Greek he] reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

KJV

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Mat 9:10-13

Matthew 18:11

ESV

[Whoops. Missing from the ESV.]

KJV

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. Mat 18:11

Luke 9:51-54

ESV

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”[Some manuscripts add as Elijah did]

KJV

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? Luk 9:51-54

Colossians 1:13-14

ESV

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

KJV

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Col 1:13-14

Doctrine

The Substitutionary Atonement.

Hebrews 1:3

ESV

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

KJV

Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Heb 1:3

Doctrine

The Substitutionary Atonement.

1 Peter 4:1

ESV

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,[Some manuscripts add for us; some for you] arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

KJV

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 1Pe 4:1

Doctrine

The Substitutionary Atonement.

Mark 16:9-20

ESV

[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.][Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9–20 immediately after verse 8. At least one manuscript inserts additional material after verse 14; some manuscripts include after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. These manuscripts then continue with verses 9–20

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

KJV

Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. Mar 16:9-20

John 6:47

ESV

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

KJV

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. Joh 6:47

Doctrine

Christ as the only way of salvation.

Acts 8:36-37

ESV

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[Some manuscripts add all or most of verse 37: And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]

KJV

And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Act 8:36-37

Doctrine

Christ as the only way of salvation.

Conclusion

Well, don’t you feel better now that you can see there are no differences in doctrine in this conservative translation?

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2Pe 2:3

For Further Reference

The Scriptures used in the post are taken from David Daniels’ sermon, “You Can’t Preach This Without a King James”.

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Alec Satin
Editor

Your editor is a Bible-believing Christian who’s learning to keep his eyes off the world and onto Him. He subscribes to the Augsburg Confession as an accurate summary of Scripture.

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