ESV for “Joe the Bus Driver”
I’ve been reading Leland Ryken’s biography of J.I. Packer. Ryken mentions several times Packer’s involvement with the English Standard Version. Packer served as the general editor of the ESV (and apparently still does). In chapter 14, Ryken points out that Packer’s writing was almost always directed to a general audience. This extended to his work on the ESV as well:
I will add that Packer’s concern for the ordinary reader surfaced strongly during the deliberations of the translation committee of the English Standard Version. The utterance for which Packer became best known was “Joe the bus driver.” Packer championed the cause of Joe the bus driver when the committee considered lexical alternatives for the English language rendering of a Hebrew or Greek word. He wanted the rendition that would be most clear to Joe. (J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life, 196).
Sometimes you’ll hear folks talking about how the English of the ESV is too difficult, especially when compared to the NIV. The anecdote illustrates that the production of the ESV was sensitive to this concern. Did they succeed? Well, you could see this chart produced by Zondervan (publisher of the NIV). The Canadian Reformed Committee for Bible Translation (which I served on till recently) did its own research into this and found something similar to Zondervan’s conclusion. You can find that report over here. I’ll be the first to agree that the ESV is not perfect, but which Bible translation is?