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The odd Gideons Textus-Receptus ESV

February 28, 2014

I have now read repeated reports that The Gideons are now distributing (along with their traditional distribution of the KJV) a variant of the ESV that has been modified to include “missing verses” from the Textus Receptus.  According to some accounts, the ESV is replacing the NKJV; after the acquisition of Thomas Nelson by HarperCollins, The Gideons were not able to negotiate a renewed licensing agreement to their tastes. 

Here is the lengthy copyright entry in the new Gideons ESV Bible (original source):



From the copyright notice:

The ESV Bible translation carries forward the historic stream of Bible translation in English exemplified especially by the King James Version (KJV) Bible of 1611 and subsequent literal Bible translations.  At the request of the The Gideons – and in appreciation for their worldwide, century-plus distribution of more than 1.8 billion Bibles – Crossway is pleased to grant permission to The Gideons to include certain alternative readings based on the Textus Receptus, for exclusive free distribution of a Gideons edition, as follows:  Bible translation of the New Testament into English and other languages are almost exclusively based on either (a) the Greek Textus Receptus manuscript tradition (which was the basis for the 1611 translation of the KJV Bible), or (b) the Greek NA-UBS manuscript corpus (which is the basis for almost all Bible translations completed since the late 1800s).  In some places in the New Testament of the ESV Gideons edition, as printed and distributed exclusively under license to the The Gideons International, the Gideons edition follows the Textus Receptus manuscript tradition, which corresponds in the vast majority of instances to the corpus of New Testament Greek manuscripts known among scholars today as the Majority Text.

One commentator compiled a list of changes made in the Gideons ESV.

I have to admit that Crossway has shown a fair amount flexibility with its ESV edition – allowing this adaptation, a version that includes apocryphal books (based on the RSV Apocrypha), and even considering at one point a set of modifications for the Catholic lectionary

While I am unable to recommend the ESV translation, I am fascinated by its evolution and change through this process.   I hope I can obtain one of these Gideon modified ESVs..

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2014 5:48 pm

    This is interesting. I had always assumed that the Gideon’s used the NKJV because they got a good deal on it. I didn’t realize that they were committed to the Textus Receptus.

    I’ll need to have one of my college buddies grab me a pocket New Testament next time the Gideon’s come to campus. I just hope they don’t have a three year supply of unopened NKJVs in storage.

    I share your reservations about the ESV as a translation. When I read from it, I always find myself enjoying it to a point. It reads so much like the RSV on which I was weaned that it feels familiar and comfortable. Then I inevitably hit one of the places where the translators have “corrected” the RSV for apparently doctrinal reasons, or I get my fill of the ESV’s deliberately masculinist language, and I have to put it down in disgust.

  2. March 3, 2014 7:24 pm

    Brant, I think you are right on both counts: the Gideons loved the NKJV both because they could get a license rights cheaply and it suited their position on Textus Receptus.

    We are now in a situation where Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp (in the form of HarperCollins) controls the US licensing rights to NIV, NKJV, NRSV, and a number of less popular translations. One response to this has been a proliferation of new translations: certainly the HCSB was a way for B&H publishing to avoid NIV licensing fees; and the CEB serves a similar function (avoiding NRSV licensing fees) for its five member publishing houses.

  3. March 3, 2014 8:18 pm

    Curiously, the Textus Receptus ESV on the Gideon’s website does not “correct” Revelation 22:19. The NKJV, following the TR, reads:

    “…God shall take away his part from the Book of Life…”

    The ESV, following the Nestle Aland/USB text, has:

    “… God will take away his share in the tree of life…”

  4. March 6, 2014 2:56 pm

    Hmm…maybe if you can talk them into issuing a special egalitarian edition…

    But seriously, say what you will about the ESV–at least it’s not owned by NewsCorp. I just hope that Murdoch never gets his hands on it. He already seems to control a huge chunk of the NASB market through Zondervan, so the ESV may be the only modern Tyndale-KJV translation left that doesn’t funnel money directly to the man behind Fox News. That’s not to say that I’m too fond of Crossway’s ideology, but at least they still represent the little guy in a publishing market that’s becoming increasingly monopolized. (Plus, they really know how to put together a single-columned paragraph Bible. I’m just saying.)

  5. March 7, 2014 6:12 pm

    Criticmamoreno — Crossway has indeed proven itself to be an outstanding publisher in terms of supporting its translation in many different formats and in innovative (particularly innovative Internet-based) marketing.

    I also have deep qualms about supporting News Corp — particularly in light of the phone-hacking scandal from Murdoch’s News of the World. On the other hand, I do have to say that they are trying some efforts that look quite promising — I am particularly excited about their support for a new version of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series.

  6. eparses permalink
    March 9, 2014 11:21 pm

    Hello Theophrastus! I found this via Google and I recognize your name from the Catholic Bibles blog. Brant, while I didn’t see Rev 22:19 when I drew up the comparison list, I was surprised the Gideons didn’t change 1 John 5:7. That’s one verse I thought would have been included. I even double checked both texts for this. As for Theophrastus’ point about Crossway, I think they are doing a very good job in managing the ESV. I also do not like that Murdoch’s entities have control over Big Bible (my name for the NIV and now the NKJV). While he doesn’t personally control their use, it just stinks.

  7. March 10, 2014 12:49 am

    1 John 5:7 and Revelation 22:19 have this in common: they occur in the Textus Receptus and, hence, the KJV and NKJV, but not in the Majority Text.

    I am shifting my estimation of the Gideon’ preferred textual basis.

  8. June 29, 2016 11:11 pm

    I wonder if anyone objects to using the KJV because of the man, King James, who wanted to make another translation because of the problems that he had with the Geneva Bible? I’m sure he wasn’t all that nice of a guy. Anyways I won’t stop using the NKJV because of the publisher. It makes no sense to me for so many people to say so many bad things about modern publishers and not a word about the KJV’S. It seems like a double standard to me.

  9. relative permalink
    July 17, 2016 4:16 am

    I’ve been doing some research and trying figure out which Bible is the most truthful and accurate, historic events pertaining to witnessed accounts of the messiah and the apostles.
    I seek the truth.
    Apparently NIV is inaccurate and seems to have people with an agenda behind it. KJV bible was probably corrupted by a King with an agenda. I’m not sure what to think of the Geneva Bible or where to go to find information about which dated version of the Geneva Bible is the most accurate. Tyndale translated a lot from Martin Luther’s German language version. Martin Luther (as far as I know) translated from the Latin Vulgate. The Vulgate may have been one of the original 50 Constantine had printed in the 300s A.D.
    It seems that Constantine had an agenda to create a Roman church-government 270 years (or so) after the original events. And, anyone that’s done any research can tell that the catholic church (not only was a corruption of what a “church” really is) but that it morphed into a form of anti-Christ by putting establishment pseudo kings (Vatican) ahead of GOD and the WORD as they burned real Christians to death and burned all other non-roman-catholic Bibles (when found).
    The Septuagint looks like it was placed in a secluded monastery (in the hills of Syria), as some sort of attempt at manipulation by the Vatican’s Jesuit (disinformation) order or something. That rendering all bibles (based off the Septuagint) as another tool of the Vatican to keep the status-quo of the church-state.
    So. The question is; where can I get a true (un-adulterated Bible?)
    Is there a copy of an Eastern Catholic Greek to English translation somewhere (that wasn’t burned during the crusades? {crusades being a means of forcing Eastern catholic in step with Roman catholic (western side of the empire’s dogma) Preferably, one first made before Constantine began rule.
    Anyone have a clue on this?
    I hope I don’t have to wait for the tech (to develop) to decipher the signals from (in the past cores) of atoms to get an eye witness account of events. If there ever could be such a thing.
    Maybe all I can do is rely on the Holy Ghost to guide my understanding with the closest-to-the-truth Bible I can find. Maybe a Geneva Bible but I don’t know the circumstances around that venture. Is there such a thing as a more-recent translation of Martin Luther’s work? I read somewhere that the guy spent 3 days trying to decipher Jesus’s last words.
    “Why to be left alone?”??? “I” or “they”. Even the people surrounding Jesus had a hard time understanding the words.
    Seems like Martin Luther put in an honest effort at translation.
    I guess I’ll need to employ detective skills in conjunction with pattern recognition and pray for assistance from the Holy ghost while reading the best version of a Martin Luther Bible. I may have to settle for a Tyndale or Geneva version.
    If anyone wants to redirect my thinking on these matters feel free.

  10. Henry Bemis permalink
    September 1, 2016 11:52 pm

    Was wondering why you cannot endorse the ESV. According to scholars it is much more in line with modern textual research than the NKJV. I have one given to me by the Gideons and it is a nice little Bible. They also give out nice Camouflaged ones free to our troops.

  11. Marty Whitton permalink
    November 20, 2016 7:28 pm

    I have done an intense study of the Gideons ESV in particular relating to the Title of our Lord Jesus Christ as given in the Textus Receptus based. I found missing words that belonged to His glorious name and title name For instance there are 120 word omissions of His title that are evident throughout the Gideon ESV New Testament . For instance one such omission is found in Revelation Ch 22 v 21 where His tile is diminished by omitting Christ from His Title His name that was given to Him by God as the name that is above every other name.Who are we to attempt to take that preeminence from Him.

    To give credit to Gideons they did replace many of the missing verses, part chapters and words that were found missing in the ESV. They failed miserably in giving Him the honour and glory with His full titles to His name.


  1. Two ESVs after “the Permanent Text of the ESV Bible, unchanged forever, in perpetuity” | BLT

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