It Takes a Village to Publish a Bible

August 22, 2011 1 Comment


How does an editor approach translations of Scripture? Editor Chris Reese describes the work behind the scenes of the ESV Ryrie Study Bible.

It was with some trepidation and a full cup of coffee that I began editing the Ryrie ESV Study Bible last spring.  The Ryrie is iconic among study Bibles and has gained many readers since it was first published in 1978.  With the rise in popularity of the English Standard Version, it made sense to expand our Ryrie line to include the ESV, which joined the KJV, NIV, and NASB editions.

But the task would be challenging.  Given that ESV was closest to NASB, we decided to join the ESV with our New American Standard version study notes.  But since the notes contained so many quotations from the NASB, the process required looking at every study note in detail to determine what changes would need to be made.

Thankfully, we had the help of the crack editorial team at Peachtree Editorial Services, and the biblical and theological expertise of Dr. Charles Ryrie, who reviewed all of the edits.  We also owe a special debt of gratitude to Livingstone, who designed and typeset the ESV Ryrie.

Still, there were many details to be attended to as we tailored the notes, where necessary, to accommodate the ESV text. The following are just a few examples.

• In Ephesians 2, the phrase “in His flesh” occurs in verse 15 in the NASB, but in verse 14 in ESV.  Thus, it was necessary to move part of the note for verse 15 into the note for verse 14 in the Ryrie ESV.

• In Deuteronomy 11:10 in NASB, the Lord reminds the Israelites that they used to “water [the land in Egypt] with your foot.”  The Ryrie NASB provides a helpful note of explanation that “the reference may be to waterwheels turned by the feet.” However, the ESV renders this phrase as “irrigation,” and doesn’t mention “foot,” making the description of the waterwheel unncessary in this context.  So, we omitted the description, and kept the rest of the note that was still applicable (“Agriculture in Egypt was dependent on irrigation.  By contrast, Palestine is watered by rain”).

• Another NASB/ESV difference appeared in Jeremiah 25:26.  NASB refers to the “king of Sheshach,” which the Ryrie NASB note explains is “a code name for Babylon.”  The ESV, on the other hand, translates “Sheshach” as “Babylon,” and includes a footnote stating: “Hebrew Sheshach, a code name for Babylon.”  Thus, for ESV, we could simply omit the explanatory note about Sheshach.

As the project moved along, I realized that it takes a large team to successfully create a new study Bible—scholars, editors, designers, typesetters, cartographers, proofreaders, and others.  And as Proverbs reminds us, “in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (11:14).  With our combined knowledge, experience, and passion we brought a new study Bible into the world that we are proud of, and accomplished a formidable task by God’s grace and blessing.

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