Why I Switched (KJV->ESV)

Posted by Matt Lane on March 13th, 2008 filed in Bible, IBS

Two years ago God worked on me really hard.  That first year was a year to remember and one of the many things that happened is that I switched over to using the ESV.  For almost 30 years I had been reading, studying, and memorizing the KJV.  It was really the only thing I knew. I can remember thinking evil thoughts about people who read from the NIV.  Thoughts like “they don’t have a real Bible” and “they are not as good as me because I have a better Bible” and “they sound like they are reading from a kids Bible”.   I am disgusted and ashamed of those thoughts now.  I pray I never vocalized them to anyone.  Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV BibleMoving on…

Now to many, using a different translation is not an issue and would be surprised that anyone cares.  I am in that camp now but only recently.

So what led me to making the switch? As I previously said, God was kicking me with many things a while back and consistently getting deep into my Bible was foremost.  As I was studying more and attending and leading Bible studies, the thought occurred to me that the KJV’s language was a little out of date.  It sounds funny for me to even write that.

So why the ESV?  Well I had never heard of it before until I heard John Piper preach from it.  I had been recently introduced to him and to the world of podcasting.  One day as I was listening to him, I got online at biblegateway.com and tried to figure out what version of the Bible he was using.  It was then that I discovered the ESV.  I then went over to esv.org and read the introduction for it.  I liked what I read.  I found out how it was different from other translations and then went on to read all about the translation philosophy and then compared it to other philosophies. I learned all about manuscripts and heard and read a lot of debate about which ones are supposedly good or bad.  From there I read The Word of God in English which is a pretty scholarly read.  I also found that the translation was specifically targeting KJV users as they pointed out the heritage of the ESV.  I watched the videos and read the reviews.

Now mind you this happened over a period of a few months.  I was trying to digest everything in my head as much of this I had never heard of nor been exposed to.  So where did I turn to next?  Well Google of course.

What did I find?  Well reasons why Piper, Driscoll, and others us it and their reasons just made sense to me.  I also found plenty of hate speech from the KJV-only crowd along with some honest critics and some people who just prefer another translation for various reasons.

So what was a legalistic, KJV only, fundamental, Bible believing, independent Baptist to do?  Well I took the plunge and bought an ESV Scofield Study Bible.  I loved it!  A few months later I bought another one for my wife.  She was already using an NIV study Bible so switching for her wasn’t as big a deal.  Her background is in the Catholic Church so she doesn’t have all the baggage I do.  I wanted us to be using the same words when we studied scripture so I thought the investment a worthy one.  I do have to tell you that it was strange for me to put my old KJV Scofield Bible on the shelf.  There was a part of me that still clung to it.  But not for long.

And what exactly do I like about the ESV translation?  Well I won’t go into great detail here as others that I have stated above do a much better job.  Here is short list:

  1. Word for word translation
  2. Plain English
  3. I can spend my time wrestling with the meaning, not the words.
  4. Keeps words that have been the foundation of Christian beliefs like propitiation, justification, and sanctification.
  5. Published by Crossway (they have their faults but overall seem like a great company)

Anyway, I have not looked back.  I haven’t studied out of the KJV in forever.  I even have a hard time listening to people read out of it and can now get lost in it if I’m not paying close attention.  It didn’t take long to lose the ability to easily understand the King’s English.  I have often thought about people who are not churched and if they think the same thing.  That thought has driven me even farther from the KJV.  I do owe many years to the KJV and through it I learned so many things.  My Christian foundation was built on it.  I do not want to discount that fact and so let me be clear that the KJV is God’s Holy Word and is to be respected as such.  It is simply not the version that I or my family will use to read, study or memorize from.  We will be using the ESV.

So what’s the point of this post?  Well something that it’s not is to get involved in some crazy debate about which version is better than another or if one version is inspired and others are not.  It is simply to chronicle one man’s journey and with a hope that it might help someone else.  In the end, I really don’t care which version you read as the message of Jesus is in almost all of them and that is what is important.  Regardless of which version you use, read, study and apply the scriptures so as to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  Oh, and do it using IBS.

Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV Bible


10 Responses to “Why I Switched (KJV->ESV)”

  1. Nathan Stitt Says:

    I also really enjoy the ESV, though I don’t really limit myself to one translation anymore. I found your post via the ESV blog and really enjoyed reading about your process.

  2. Robert Talbert Says:

    I’ve been using the ESV for myself now for about three years. I forget how I heard about it — it may have been some tape series from Piper I was listening to — but for me, it was #3 and #4 of your list that really hit home with me. Those words in the older translations, like “propitiation”, actually MEAN something, something which a kinder and gentler synonym just can’t quite capture.

    I was also a fan and user of the old-school RSV for many years, but (1) the RSV, as opposed to the NRSV, is not easy to find in print in the USA; and (2) there are some translational issues with the RSV that seem to suggest the translators’ theology was a little suspect. (Google about it.) So with the ESV being basically a corrected version of the RSV, it was a winner all the way around with me. (Now to convince my pastor now to switch to it!)

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  6. James Betoney Says:

    I study from the ESV too. I like your comment, “I can spend my time wrestling with the meaning, not the words.” I believe God’s word was meant to be understood but more so, obeyed. So how many obstacles do we have to climb just to get to that point of obedience? With modern translations, and my preference the ESV, it is easier. Some KJV-only advocates say that all modern translations aka. ‘New Age Bibles’ are interpretations. That is not true! I made it an experiment to start from the beginning, with no preconceived notions or biases about the KJV or any other translations, and did my research from scratch to decide which translation to use. I’ve come to the conclusion that in this day and age of 2010 the ESV is my preference in Bible Study. It is my contemporary. And I’ve come to conclude that the KJV is good overall translation too, but not one I would use.

  7. Matt Lane Says:

    Hi James, thanks for the comments. It is funny (in a sick way) to read the junk out there from all the KJVers. I don’t think any of it leads anyone to love Jesus more nor does it help the world see Christians as loving and full of grace.

    I do love the ESV though when I study I have several translations I refer to. The ESV is the version I read to my kids and the version we memorize from. In the end, whether someone uses the ESV, NIV, KJV or whatever, we all need to give God the glory that he has spoken to us through the written word and that the point of the Bible is not to worship it but the God who breathed it out. If more people did good study of the Bible, they would know more of God and would be embarrassed of the things that divide us. Like translations.

  8. Jesse Says:

    I began as a KJV onlly advocate (an ignoramus) and was taught that the Greek taught otherwise. I switched! Poor “…” until I studied the history of the versions and especially Wescott (an evolutionist/unbeliever/professor/smart/linguist/”let me strip my panty hose off pagan! ). He believed that “literature evolves” and becomes better! and so his interpretation espoused a better translation (and hence a myriad of translations, some good some bad) . I find one serious fault, all new translations are based on one simple idea that the “few” trump the majority”. If you don’t understand “lay-down-befo-yo” hurt yourself, I find many departures from the traditional translative interpretations that confuse the original Greek in many modern versions. Be aware (translations are not, let me repeat; are not direct translations of the Greek!), they are translations of the individuals interpreters of the words of what they think the paragraph means! I have come to the conclusion that modern translations make money and don;’t reflect original intent! Lay down befo u hurt yo self. I have returned to the KVB! This is where I stand!

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  10. Venesh Vijayan K Says:

    Well written article.. The fruit of the Spirit is evident.. Concluded well with describing it as your journey.. Helpful indeed.. Stay Blessed!

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