March 25, 2012 Q & A

What about different Greek versions of the New Testament?


What is your opinion about the different Greek New Testaments and translations? Do you think it is correct to use, for instance, Nestle Aland 27 instead of Textus Receptus for translation? Do you recommend the English Standard Version (ESV) or New American Standard (NAS) version above the King James version?


I've long had an interest in the debates about the correct Greek text of the New Testament. I remember, years ago, my many discussions with Dr. Edward F. Hills who is well-known for writing The King James Version Defended. He convinced me that there is much to be said for the majority Greek text (which is not quite identical with the so-called textus receptus) used by the 16th century reformers. But after some sixty years working with the Greek text of the New Testament as a pastor, I came more and more to the conclusion that B. B. Warfield (the famous Princeton theologian of a previous generation) was right. We should not spend too much time and energy worrying about the extremely small amount of the Greek text of the New Testament that is debatable because the overwhelming majority of the text is certain. I've never yet found anything in the realm of textual problems that casts even the slightest doubt on the great doctrines of our faith.

As for versions, I am in complete agreement with the decision of Great Commission Publications (which is jointly owned and operated by the OPC and the PCA) in choosing the ESV as the preferred version. No version is perfect, as our own Westminster Confession of Faith (1:8) makes clear. That is why our pastors are required to know enough Greek and Hebrew to go behind the translation to the original. But, as that same Confession of Faith rightly says (in that same section), the original text needs to be "translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come." And here the word "vulgar" means simply the language that the people use and understand. And there is nothing better, in the English language, in my opinion, than the ESV.

Thanks for your excellent question.



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