I just updated my Bible Preferences, and I need to update you, my loyal readers, on why this has happened.
First of all, my church life has changed dramatically over the past year or so. My wife and I have nearly stopped attending the church where we were very active for many years, because of personal problems and disagreements which really have nothing to do with this post, so I won’t go into those issues here. This also means I have stopped not only teaching my Bible study class, but also attending the Bible study class I was attending at our church for a year or more. What this has done is change my attitude towards the Bibles I have been using. Whereas in the recent past I tended to choose Bible translations I felt were the best compromise between literal accuracy and being easy-to-read, because in my opinion that is what most Christians needed; I have now turned to a more introspective position. I am now 60 years old. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, when our English language was a little more formal and structured, and the Bible was either the KJV or the RSV and contained such words as ‘thee” and “thou” and “beseech” and “behold”. The RSV was the Bible I grew up with; it was the Bible I was given when I was in third grade and the Bible in which I first became interested. I read it; I heard it preached, and I understood it (pretty well, at least.)
So what I have found myself seeking recently is the Bible for a 60-year-old man; a Bible that is familiar, yet easy to understand while also being literally accurate. My search concentrated less on the NIV and other less-formal translations, and more on the older and more formal translations. I not only worked with my ESV, NKJV, and NASB, but I also seriously considered the old KJV, the NASB 1977 edition, and the old RSV as well.
The problems I had with the KJV were the same ones I have always had with it — archaic English and lesser manuscripts. I find myself very uncomfortable with it still, even after all these years.
I do like the updated NASB, and so the NASB77 was a natural for me to check out, especially since I own a printed one. I often find it refreshingly clear, but they chose to use archaic English in “addressing the deity”, which I found gratuitous and off-putting, so it remains a secondary translation for me.
The RSV was more familiar to me, and I’m still considering buying a printed RSV Bible, although it’s hard to find outside of “Catholic” versions. It’s a smooth-reading classic, in my estimation, but in today’s world it suffers from the archaic English again.
The NKJV is a great, concise translation, with little in the way of archaic language, but it’s often rather muddy and hard to understand. It also suffers from the same textual base as the old KJV itself.
I finally got it narrowed down to the ESV and the NASB. While I enjoy the accuracy and clarity of the NASB; and I enjoy the way the translators mirrored the original languages in the idioms and other expressions, it finally came down to the familiar cadences of the ESV for me. The more I examine it, the more clear it becomes how much the ESV is the latest revision of the old RSV. I am continually becoming more and more comfortable with the ESV, and I couldn’t be happier with it. (Except Crossway needs to increase the font size of the notes and cross-references so they can actually be read and used.)