Crossway Reverses Controversial Decision to Make ESV Bible Text Permanent

Amid much public debate, publisher says strategy for a ‘stable’ Bible was a ‘mistake.’

The publisher of the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible has reversed its controversial decision to finalize the text after tweaking 29 verses.

“We have become convinced that this decision was a mistake,” stated Crossway president and CEO Lane Dennis in an announcement released today. “We apologize for this and for any concern this has caused for readers of the ESV, and we want to explain what we now believe to be the way forward. Our desire, above all, is to do what is right before the Lord.”

“Good for the ESV,” tweeted Scot McKnight, who had criticized the decision to make the text permanent.

“I’m glad Crossway made this decision about the ESV, and I’m glad to see them change their minds in an admirable way,” tweeted Desiring God editor Bryan DeWire.

Last month, Crossway announced that after changing 52 words in 29 verses—out of more than 775,000 words across more than 31,000 verses—the ESV text would “remain unchanged in all future editions.”

The publisher’s intended goal was “to stabilize the [ESV], serving its readership by establishing the ESV as a translation that could be used ‘for generations to come,’” stated Dennis today. “We desired for there to be a stable and standard text that would serve the reading, memorizing, preaching, and liturgical needs of Christians worldwide from one generation to another.”

From a publishing standpoint, it wasn’t a bad decision, said Mark Norton, Bible development director at Tyndale House Publishers, which publishes the New Living Translation (NLT). Freezing a translation simplifies the process of keeping new editions in sync with one another, and also increases confidence in the translation itself.

“Readers … tend to be pretty hard on the publisher introducing the changes,” he told CT after Crossway announced the decision to stop making changes. “For many of the ESV’s readers, a trustworthy text is a text that doesn’t and won’t ever change, not a text that is on the path of continual improvement.”

While Tyndale would never “put an absolute lock” on the NLT, it deals with the same publishing challenges that Crossway does, Norton said. “We are at a moment in the NLT’s translation life where we plan to put a soft lock on the text.”

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Jeremy Weber