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 well-known hierarchical complementarians. 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 a more 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. The same cannot be said about how they translate verses that pertain to women in ministry. Some Bible readers are not aware that many women are mentioned in the New Testament as ministers and leading figures in their churches. This is because English translations have often 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 at Pentecost 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.
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.
 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 than 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.
 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 CEB, CSB, NIV, NRSV and TNIV have aimed to be both gender-accurate and gender-inclusive in their translations, but the CSB holds back on a few verses related to women in ministry. (More on this here.)
 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.
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Postscript: June 19 2013
The ESV is Unapologetically Complementarian
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.
Postscript: August 23 2017
Contributors to the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible
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.
Postscript: September 20 2022
Priscilla and Aquila in the ESV Global Study Bible
Today on Facebook, someone named Tyler pointed me to the entry of Priscilla and Aquila in ESV Global Study Bible which is online here. The not-so-subtle sexism of the ESV is evident in the title of this entry which puts the focus more on Aquila: “Aquila and his wife, Priscilla.”
In the short entry, Priscilla’s name is first in this statement: “Paul left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus to establish the church in that city.” But then they have Aquila’s name first when speaking about Romans 16:3f. However, Paul had Priscilla’s (Prisca’s) name first here. In fact, Prisca’s name is first in the list of 28 Roman Christians in Romans 16 who Paul asks to be greeted. First of 28 people! (More on this list here.)
Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned by name, and always as a couple, in six verses in the Greek New Testament: Acts 18:2, 18:18, 18:26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Timothy 4:19. Priscilla’s name is first in four of these verses in (most) Greek New Testaments.
The ESV has the names Priscilla/Prisca and Aquila in the correct order in their translation. (See here.) But when it comes to the title of their study note, I agree with Tyler’s observation, “It seems to me the ESV had their thumb on the scale in listing Aquila first.”
Postscript: September 22 2022
Contributors to the ESV Expository Commentary Series
The twelve-volume ESV Expository Commentary claims to be a series “designed to strengthen the global church” position. To this end, we are told that the editors “have gathered a team of experienced pastor-theologians to provide a new generation of pastors and other teachers of the Bible around the world with a globally minded commentary series rich in biblical theology and broadly Reformed doctrine …” (My italics.)
There are 40+ contributors to this commentary series. Despite their aim to strengthen the global church and provide for Bible teachers around the world, almost all the contributors are white men. Furthermore, most of these men are from the USA (30), with a few from Australia (5), Scotland (4), England (3), and Canada (3). There is one East Asian scholar teaching in Singapore, Jerry Hwang, who wrote the commentary on Jeremiah, and one female scholar, Mary Willson Hannah, who wrote the commentary on Ruth. (These statistics come from Jacob Randolph.) You can see the names of contributors to the various volumes on Amazon here.
Female Bible Translators
Women Bible Scholars and Translators in the Church
Which Bible translation is best?
Manhood and Masculinity in the ESV
Junia in Romans 16:7 (in the ESV)
A Critique of the ESV by Mark Strauss
A Critique of the ESV Study Bible notes on 1 Timothy 2:12
Gender Bias in the NLT