New Bible edition draws support from Patterson, Mohler, other Baptist leade

WHEATON, Ill. (BP)--Several prominent Southern Baptists are lending their names to plans for an inerrancy-based edition of the Revised Standard Version (1971) of the Bible.

Called the "English Standard Version," the new Bible edition will be published by Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, based in Wheaton, Ill.

A Crossway news release Feb. 17 said the ESV project will require "great care" and thus "it will be a while before we will be able to set a date for publication." Baptist Press was told by one scholar, however, the New Testament revision could be ready within a year.

Crossway's news release made no mention of the New International Version of the Bible, the nation's best-selling Bible, which weathered a storm of controversy in the evangelical community two years ago after its guardians began revising it with gender-neutral, or gender-inclusive, language. The International Bible Society and Zondervan Publishing House soon announced they were dropping the NIV revision.

The ESV will be "more literal than the New International Version," the scholar told Baptist Press, "and more readable than the New American Standard Bible," which some people use because it is an "extremely literal translation." The ESV will be geared toward mature readers, the scholar said, but also for preachers to use in sermons without having to explain so often, "What it means in the original language is … ."

The key goal, according to the Crossway news release, is: "To reclaim for the Body of Christ the best essentially literal translation of the Bible, which most accurately, clearly, and timelessly communicates the written Word of God, in the words of enduring English."

The Crossway news release also stated, "The English Standard Version will carry forward the classic principles of essentially literal translation, doctrinal accuracy, and literary excellence. As such it will not be a new translation, but rather a new edition of the Bible in the historic stream of translations based on these principles."

Among the Southern Baptists on the new English Standard Version's 51-member advisory council are:

-- Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and his wife, Dorothy.

-- R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., and Thomas R. Schreiner, professor of New Testament interpretation at the seminary.

-- Carl F.H. Henry, theologian and founding editor of Christianity Today magazine.

-- Timothy George, dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.

Additionally, the ESV's 12-member translation oversight committee will include Paul R. House, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, as associate chairman of the project's Old Testament committee.

Among other members of the translation oversight committee are Wayne A. Grudem, chairman of the department of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and J.I. Packer, author and professor of theology at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The overall project will be chaired by Good News/Crossway's president, Lane T. Dennis.

Mohler, in comments to Baptist Press Feb. 19, said the English Standard Version "will fill a very real need among modern Bible translations. The translation will combine the strengths of an established translation line with the contributions of trusted evangelical scholars. The result will be a translation evangelicals will trust."

Mohler noted, "The recent debates over the proposed revision of the NIV and gender-inclusive language underline the need for a translation like the ESV, which seeks to achieve formal equivalence with the best Hebrew and Greek texts. This greatly reduces the risk of editorial creativity with the text, and ensures the most direct and straightforward translation.

"Any effort to translate the biblical text into a modern language must be undertaken with great care," Mohler stated, describing the team of scholars working on the ESV as representing "conservative scholarship at its best."

Citing the intent of the Reformers "to make the Bible available to all Christians and not just to scholars," Mohler added, "We must insist upon translations we can trust -- and that means translations which seek the most precise word-for-word translation of the text possible within the constraints of the language."

Paige Patterson could not be reached for comment Feb. 19.

Among other leading evangelicals on the ESV advisory council are Jerry Falwell, TV preacher and pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va.; theologian R. C. Sproul, Maitland, Fla.; Edwin W. Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church, Chicago; Jack Hayford, pastor of The Church on the Way, Van Nuys, Calif.; John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis; Harold O.J. Brown, professor of systematic theological, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, N.C.; Todd Hunter, national director of the Association of Vineyard Churches-USA;

In addition to Patterson and Mohler, theological education leaders on the advisory council include Don Argue, president, Northwest College, Kirkland, Wash., and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Hudson T. Armerding, president emeritus, Wheaton (Ill.) College; John F. Walvoord, chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary; Gregory Waybright, president of Trinity International University, Deerfield, Ill.; and Luder G. Whitlock, president of Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Miss.

Crossway, in its news release, said the ESV adaptation of the RSV will be published under a licensing agreement with the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., for English language publication in North America and the rest of the world.

The Crossway news release stated, "Our purpose is not to create a new translation but to change the wording of the RSV only where there is a significant problem. We are making improvements in a relatively small number of places that show theological problems, that have archaic or obscure words, or that have inaccuracies."

More specifically, Crossway stated, "Adaptations will include: a) several passages with doctrinal implications (e.g., changing 'young woman' to 'virgin' in Isaiah 7:14, and 'expiation' to 'propitiation' in Romans 3:25, etc.); and b) updating archaic or obscure language throughout the Old and New Testaments (as well as changing 'thee' and 'thou' to 'you,' etc.). At the same time the ESV will retain the literary excellence and precision in translation exemplified in the historic stream of Tyndale and the King James Version."

Concerning gender-related language, Crossway said, "In general, the revision retains generic 'he,' 'man' (designating the race), and masculine terms in the RSV that represent a male meaning component in the original text." The publisher added, however, "'A man,' 'the man,' 'any man,' 'every man,' 'no man,' and 'men' in the RSV are to be reviewed to see whether in some cases changes can improve accuracy."

Members of the ESV's translation oversight committee, Crossway said, will be "godly persons who: are mature in their faith; love God's Word; affirm the inerracy of the Bible; are committed to historic, evangelical orthodoxy; fulfill the biblical requirements for being an elder; are in full fellowship in a Bible-believing evangelical church; have specific qualifications as a scholar in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or as a pastor/theologian; and have earned academic credentials at the doctoral level. Members of the [committee] will also be committed to the support and use of this new edition of the Bible in their own work and ministry."

James A. Smith Sr. contributed to this article.

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