I like the ESV a lot. I have long been a fan of the RSV, and the ESV is about 95% identical to the RSV, which is a good thing. If these were available in the RSV and the RCL, I would get them and use them. Alas, the RCL version is only available in the NRSV, which is not much different from the NIV (actually, it’s probably a little better than the NIV, but it is no better suited for reading aloud or for preaching than the NIV is).
The LCMS gave the ESV a big boost by making it their official translation. (We use the children’s bulletins published by Concordia, and since that is the LCMS’s publishing house, now our children’s bulletins feature the ESV!). I think the ESV has real potential to become for 21st century, English-speaking churches what the RSV was for most churches during the 1950’s and 1960’s: the standard version (hence the name!). If they really, really want to do this, though, there are a few things they’re going to have to do:
1. Publish an ESV pulpit/lectern Bible, already! The Scripture lessons in worship should be read “from a volume of appropriate size and dignity,” which means not from a pocket New Testament. For crying out loud, the NIV has a pulpit Bible. Publish one already, Crossway!
2. Ditto an ESV Gospel book!
3. Make the ESV available with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. The RSV has them. The NRSV has them. The KJV has them. So do the NEB and REB and many, many others. ESV seems to have won some popularity among conservative Anglicans. How about becoming the Bible they can use all the time, including for the readings at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (which sometimes includes readings from the Apocrypha). The ESV web site has teased us for years by saying, “The ESV may be published in the UK in editions that include the Apocrypha,” but so far they have not put their Maccabees where their mouth is. So put up or shut up, ESV!
4. How about a RCL bulletin insert, like the ones in the link above from Morehouse? It would sure save some space in the ol’ church bulletin. A word of advice: call me for the versification on the Psalms. I promise I’ll do it right, and I won’t overcharge you.
5. I notice you have allowed Max McLean to record an audio version of the ESV.Throw all of those recordings away, right now, and immediately repent. We heard a program on the radio the other day which featured him reading Scripture, and my eleven-year-old said, “Is this a joke?” It sounded like a cross between Dr. Smith on “Lost in Space” and John O’Hurley as J. Peterman on “Seinfeld.” So over-the-top. So affected. Just gross.