One of the earliest translations of Scripture dates back to the third century BC. Around 250 BC a group of scholars gathered in Egypt to translate the Old Testament from its original Hebrew language into Greek. This translation came to be known as the Septuagint. It was what many of the New Testament writers quoted when they cited passages from the Old Testament.
Fast forwarding almost two millennia, one of the factors driving the Protestant Reformation was Bible translation. Men like John Wycliffe believed that the common person should have the Bible in his or her own language. He worked sacrificially to that end.
Not long after the Reformation, translators produced the King James Version of the Bible. For centuries the English-speaking world relied on it. However, you would have a very difficult time understanding the English of that initial 1611 version! Recognizing how language changes over time, translators have turned out a number of English translations since 1611. In the last 50 years especially there have been an abundance of new translations.
The New International Version was completed in 1984. It quickly became a favorite among many English-speakers. It is the Bible we have in our sanctuary pews. The 1984 NIV has served very well, but it has undergone several revisions since 1984. If you were to purchase an NIV at a bookstore today it would be the 2011 revision, not the 1984 version.
Because of the way the NIV has changed from 1984 to 2011 (becoming more gender-neutral), the elders have decided to exchange our 1984 NIVs for ESVs. The English Standard Version was completed in 2001. In contrast to the NIV, which is a “thought for thought” translation, the ESV is a “word for word” translation. As the preface to the ESV states, it “seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer.” The benefit of this is that it lets “the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.” In other words, the ESV will give us the advantage of engaging more closely with what God had originally written.
What a blessing to have God’s Word in our own language! Many throughout history did not have that privilege, even as many today still do not. May we steward this blessing well by being both hearers and doers of the Word.