Is ESV Right for Me?

Is ESV Right for Me?

One of the friends of our ministry asked for some thoughts on the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible and, since many of you probably have questions about choosing a translation, I thought I would share them here as well as sending to him.

I really enjoy the English Standard Version; it has made some impressive strides in the churches and it is one that you can trust to have in your home for worship.

  1. Among the descendants of that most excellent King James Bible, the ESV strikes me as the most liturgical sounding, when read aloud. It has very similar rhythms as the KJV and a melodious tone. The ESV is one of the few translations that fit both the High Church (very conservative, structured litugy) and the Low Church (less rigid, more flexible/contemporary) models of worship and service.

We have recently begun adopting the Hymns of Grace hymnal at our church and part of the reason for that is the fact that the responsorial readings are all in the ESV. Incidentally, this is the only hymnal to offer the ESV.

  1. The English Standard Version is truly a global Bible for English Speaking Christians. This past summer, the Philippine Bible Society hosted a conference wherein they recommended that all churches in the Philippine Islands adopt the ESV. To the best of my knowledge, ESV is also used by a large number of churches in the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation and it is very very popular amongst Reformed Denominations in the US and Australia. I do not have figures for the European Baptist Federation or African Baptist Union, but it is clear that, around the world, ESV is gaining ground on the NIV as the dominant English Bible. Why Is this important? The Bible not only guides our faith, it also molds the language of our worship and when we speak the same language, our fellowship is that much more rich.


  1. ESV is faithful to the original manuscripts, easy to understand, and essentially literal. When a pastor brings ESV into his pulpit, you can trust that you are hearing an English translation that accurately represents what the human authors of Scripture originally wrote. The reading comprehension level is around middle school level, making it accessible to most English speaking Christians with little difficulty . Since there are widely variant education levels across the spectrum of Christianity, ESV helps to bridge the gap in understanding the Scripture.


  1. There are huge numbers of helps available for ESV readers to aid in understanding the text. From the massive ESV Study Bible and MacArthur Study Bible to commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, the learning library at Ligonier Ministries etc. ESV has one of the largest offering of supporting materials that a Christian will be able to access. Crossway even offers a subscription service, giving Christians access to some of the most popular and detailed resources available to understand the ESV.


Is the ESV right for me? This is a good question to ask and, I suspect, what our friend had in mind in asking for my thoughts. If you are a Pastor/Elder, you can request an evaluation kit from Crossway which will include a sample ESV BibleĀ  (they send you a pew Bible) so that the ESV can be experienced by the whole group of Elders.


For those who are not vocational ministers, I would recommend that your first choice of translation be whatever is heard from your pulpit on Sunday. That being said, I fully endorse the ESV and commend it to you for your study and personal worship times. For the last 18 years ESV has faithfully served the church and it will continue to do so far into the foreseeable future. It is faithful, accurate, easy to understand, and very accessible. If you need a new Bible this is one of the two translations I recommend most highly when I am asked.


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