ESV Bible English Standard Version critique Mark Strauss men only

Over at Suzanne’s Bookshelf, I was reading a comment left by a blogger who goes by the name “Theophrastus”. Theophrastus pointed out that of the 95 theologians and scholars who contributed to the ESV Study Bible not one of them was a woman. Not one! They were all men!

Theophrastus quipped, “I just guess there aren’t any Reformed women qualified to write about the Bible.”

The list of contributors to the ESV Study Bible is easy to find online. When I looked at the list for myself, I found, with a few exceptions, a veritable who’s who of many of the most well-known hierarchical complementarians.[1] Hierarchical complementarians are Christians who believe God has ordained men to be the leaders and authority figures in the church and in the home, and that God has designed women to be submissive responders to male authority. Moreover, they believe that being in authority and being in submission are the defining roles for men and women respectively.

It is not only the contributors to the ESV Study Bible that are all male. The members of the ESV Oversight Committee, as well as the Review Scholars, are all, and only, male. Several of the Review Scholars, however, hold to an egalitarian ethos.

Most English Bibles, including the ESV, are reliable and trustworthy in how they translate verses and passages that pertain to the doctrine of salvation.[2] The same cannot be said about how they translate verses that pertain to women in ministry. Some Bible readers aren’t even aware that many women are mentioned in the New Testament as being ministers and church leaders. This is because English translations have typically obscured or downplayed the passages that mention these women. The English Standard Version (ESV) and the New Living Translation (NLT), in particular, are notorious for downplaying the ministries and roles of New Testament women in their translations.

I know that the message of Christian egalitarianism is not well understood or well received by some Christians, and I am usually patient as I continue to write and teach that Jesus’ act of redemption on the Cross and the outpouring of his Spirit has brought about the real possibility of harmony, affinity and equality between the sexes, but I am dismayed that not one female scholar was included in the ESV Bible’s men-only club.[3]

Update (June 19 2013)

I just found this article on the website of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) entitled Literary ESV is Unapologetically Complementarian. The CBMW’s brand of gender complementarity is hierarchical, with distinct gender roles of authority for men and subordination for women.

Update (August 23 2017)

The list of contributors to the ESV Study Bible is no longer accessible online. But the contributors to the new ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible is available. And guess what? All the contributors are male. You can check this here. As far as I can tell, the only ESV “study” Bible where women are contributors is the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible. I haven’t been able to find out if women scholars contributed to the ESV Children’s Bible.


[1] As well as well-known hierarchical complementarian scholars, there are also some more obscure scholars who contributed to the ESV Study Bible. Theophrastus sarcastically observes:

. . . it seems there is no Christian woman in the whole wide world more qualified that Rev. Andrew Stewart. Never heard of him? Well it seems he has an M.A. from Covenant Theological Seminary. Also he is the co-pastor of a congregation in Geelong, Australia, with about 100 parishioners. I’m sure we can all agree that he is more qualified than every single woman living on the planet.

[2] Most English Bible versions are reliable in how they translate verses that apply to most major Christian doctrines but show some bias when it comes to verses about women in ministry. The NIV 2011 makes a fair attempt at being accurate and fair in its translation of verses that affect women. The CEB, CSB, NRSV and TNIV, however, have made a more thorough attempt to be both gender-accurate and gender-inclusive. (More on this here.)

[3] If the real reason there was no woman contributor was because no woman was as qualified as the men (which I strongly doubt), this is another cause for concern.

In response to some comments below, I have compiled a list of women Bible scholars who were (and are) involved in recent English translations, here.

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