Is The ESV the Calvinist Bible?

Several blogs I’ve visited seem to think that the ESV is the Calvinist Bible. One text quoted to justify this claim is 1 Tim 2:3-5:

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (ESV).

Now compare the TNIV:

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human.”

The issue surrounds “all people,” which is the Greek πάντας ἀνθρώπους. Both the TNIV and the ESV render the Greek as “All people.”

Well, let me serve up another Scripture text. Consider Titus 2:11, where both the ESV and the TNIV have “All people” for the Greek πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις. The same two Greek words but in a different case.

I’m no huge fan of the ESV, but we must be fair in our evaluation of the ESV. And, yes, it is true that the Reformed/Calvinistic community has adopted it as their own.

So when we think of the ESV we think of a Calvinistic Bible. But I do not find that to be the case, and the use of 1 Tim 2:3-5 as proof does not hold up.

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15 Responses to Is The ESV the Calvinist Bible?

  1. this is a bit of a seriously delayed response, but as I understand it, it is the offical Bible of the Reformed Churches in America. Remember, Reformed is typically code word for calvinist.

  2. tc robinson says:

    Brian, I think you’re correct. For example, Mark Driscoll, who is somewhat Reformed and Emergent, switched his entire church to the ESV. He’s just one of the many who have done that in the Reformed churches.

    But I’m still not a fan of the ESV.

  3. Simon says:

    The ESV seems to me to be a great translation and before anyone can say otherwise, they have need to study the Greek and Hebrew more greatly than the translators of the ESV.

    Some clearly critique Calvinism but sometimes I wonder if any Calvinist critics really read John Calvin? For if they did maybe they would not miss-understand his interpretations of scripture?

    True interpretation of the Bible and Calvins commentaries would reveal that Christ indeed died for the entire world, desires all to be saved and that there is an elect also. But God knows not all souls will be saved, but the elect will, and no one shall pluck them out of His hand (John 10: 28).

    The 5 points of Calvinism do not 100% convey all of Calvins understanding no more than current Wesleyan teaching conveys the teachings of Joacob Arminius.

    Embrace the power of Christ, live holy lives and you will have a blessed assurance both now and forevermore, that is what Calvin originally proclaimed.

    Simon Peter

  4. shimeon says:

    Can objective arguement not be published then?

  5. Theophrastus says:

    Well, according to Time Magazine the ESV Study Bible is “Calvinist-flavored”. And, in his April 2nd blog entry, one of the contributors (David Black, whose Greek textbook you favorably reviewed) claims that this assessment is “correct.”

    Now, to be sure, this is the ESV Study Bible and not the translation, but this is the official study Bible put out by the ESV publisher.

    So, I think it is fair to call the ESV a Calvinist translation.

  6. tc robinson says:

    Theophrastus, thanks for the info. Much appreciated.

  7. Paul Lauski says:

    Are Calvinists Christians?
    ESV means English standard;standard means canon. If one recanonizes the Bible, can he claim to be Christian. It will be nice everyone can read Greek instead of having someone to re-interpret the Bible for you.
    The reformist is a misnomer. The Calvinists were defeated hundreds of years ago. All of these resugence was caused by the loss of power of the evangelist conservatives of the SBC; which is now ruled by Calvinists. In no time, it will be ruled by Charismatics. The doctrines will keep on changing back and forth.
    5 point Calvinism has nothing to do with John Calvin. The 5 point people are remnants of the puritans, racist Christians, the dutch, the South Africans who claimed they are the only God chosen people. Grace is something that “You are bone with it.” The hidden message is you cannot convert by evangelism to the other (race) people to be Christians. It is a righ-wing nut platform. They are bitter of Obama’s success in his election. They always use gay bashing or abortion to complement their teaching. Calvinism has it roots in Kentucky and the Southern States excluding Texas. Texas is mainly dominated by Dallas based evangelists. The 5 pointers only use a few Calvinist authors’ publications for their teaching in hope to use their books to replace the Bible.
    Jerry Falwell and John Basagno considered the teachings of the 5 pointers (the extreme Calvinist in heart) heresy. Heresy is defined by teaching away from the main stream.
    The newer Bible translation of ESV is basically a rewritten version of the Bible. They should be condemned and should not be allowed in any Christian churches according to the end verses of Revelation.

  8. T.C. R says:

    You seem angry. You should focus your energy on Jesus. Matters of Bible translations and so on are secondary.

  9. L.O.V.E says:

    predestination=to me (an idea that many Christians have as a need to show God’s divine sovereignty over every aspect of our lives) v. free will= (to me mans minuscule part in the plan of salvation which is simply, believe confess and live for Jesus.) can some one tell me what they believe is truth

  10. Tim Prussic says:

    I think the reason that the ESV has been so well received by the Reformed/Calvinist community in the US is that it is a wonderful faithful translation with a better text basis than the NKJV. I’ve been reading the ESV for the past 7 years and have never thought of it as “Calvinistic” in its renderings.

  11. T.C. R says:


    Nah, the top dogs are from other Christian denominations.

  12. bradley mcfadden says:

    What about Revelation 13:8? I think this is the best example of the ‘lean’ toward a reformed view by the ESV.
    “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” KJV
    Notice “from the foundation”.
    “and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
    Notice the addition of the word “before”.
    I am not aware of any other translation that adds that word to the passage. To be fair the ESV does not add it in Rev 17:8 but to me, that makes it even more curious because the greek is the same in both. (full disclosure i am NOT a greek scholar, expert or even novice.)

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