MODERN ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS
Unless you happen to be able to read Hebrew, Aramaic or
Greek, your basic tool for reading and studying the Bible
will be a good English translation (or version). This is not a bad
thing, but in a certain sense, you are at the mercy of the
translators, in that
they often had to make choices
as to what the original Hebrew or Greek was intending to
say. While no major doctrines are affected by the
translation, to determine the exact meaning of the original
text, you might need to check out several translations.
If you are just beginning to read and study the Bible, I
would find one good translation for now, but you might want
to check out other translations after you’ve been through
the Bible a time or two. In fact, we recommend an
experienced reader consult several translations for the
reasons discussed below.
There are three basic categories of grammatical translations:
Formal Equivalence (Verbally Accurate or Literal) -
attempts to translate the original language word-for-word,
retaining the original syntax and sentence structure as
close a possible. The advantage is you get close to the
English word-for-word equivalency of the original language.
Metaphors and idioms are generally retained, which can
provide insight into cultural backgrounds of the text.
These translations are also less interpretive, allowing the
reader to draw his or her own conclusions regarding the
text's meaning (this can be both positive and negative
depending on the reader's knowledge of the Scriptures). Disadvantages are an awkward literary style, and
expressions that are no longer used, including terms for
money, weights and measures etc.
Functional or Dynamic Equivalence (Concept Accurate) -
attempts to produce an accurate translation of the
concepts or thoughts of the original language. This is the most
common method of the modern translations. The stress
is on the meaning of the text (thought-for-thought) rather than
on the exact wording. Its primary
advantage is delivering a more natural contemporary style without
sacrificing the original intent of the author. Even
mostly literal translations must make some use of this
method, since a purely formal-equivalence translation would
be unintelligible in most modern languages.
Paraphrase (Free Translation) - attempts to translate
the ideas with emphasis on modern language and expressions.
They seek to provoke the same emotional responses and
experiences as the original readers. Some of the more
loose translations actually come close to being
commentaries. Disadvantages of this type is the risk
of distorting the text's meaning from its original context.
When interpreting Scriptures, we must always determine the
original intended meaning first, then attempt to discover
the meaning for us today. These translations should never be your only
source of Bible study. We recommend reading them in
parallel with at least one other translation from the other
two categories. This can be a great method of
experiencing old truths expressed in new stimulating ways,
while allowing us an anchor within a version closer in
equivalence to the original text.
Most translations range across two categories to various
degrees. In addition, decisions must be made on how to
translate ancient weights and measures, currency, dates and
times, proper names, metaphors, phrases unique to the
culture, and technical terms. My personal preference
is to translate these as close as possible to their modern
equivalents, then list the original terms in the footnotes.
What is the best translation to use? This is
one of our most commonly asked questions, and the answer
actually depends on
your situation. For example, the NASB and ESV
are great for serious study due to their conservative nature
and accurate translations. The GNT is a good choice
for new readers or children because it contains the simplest
language of any version. For the average person, we
recommend choosing a functionally accurate version (such as
the NIV) for your primary translation.
We strongly recommend against choosing a free
translation as your primary source of study. This is
particularly true for the Message. I personally read
and enjoy the Message, but be aware that the primary purpose
of the author (Eugene Peterson), is to provoke an emotional
response similar to that of the original audience or readers.
While he holds true to an accurate paraphrase of the
original text in most cases, we find that on occasion, he
substitutes his own politically correct interpretation.
For example, in Paul's list of sins in 1Cor 6:9-11, he
deletes the sins of adultery and homosexuality, but adds a
reference to environmentalism. This is also a good
example of why we should choose a version translated by a
team of scholars rather than an individual, so that personal
biases can be minimized.
students should read from several versions, preferable at
least one from
each category. A convenient alternative is a parallel
Bible, as long as it contains a good range of translation
types (I have one with the NKJV, ESV, NLT and the Message).
I find this to be a very effective method of Bible study.
Each type of translation can provide a unique insight into
the text. For instance, we can obtain the
word-for-word translation from a literal type, an equivalent
contemporary expression from a functional equivalent
version, then additional insight from the paraphrase.
Comparing the word-for-word with the thought-for-thought translation
can be particularly valuable. I offer a good example,
applying this method to the
"love-hate" idiom in
our Bible Genre Analysis Section.
I personally use the ESV, NIV, NET, NASB, HCSB, NLT, and AMP as primaries
for my studies, but also enjoy reading the KJV, NKJV, NRSV,
GNT and even the Message on occasion. There are so
many excellent modern versions that it sometimes becomes a
matter of literary preference.
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|KJV - King James
Translated in 1611 using the Byzantine
family of manuscripts, Textus Receptus, an older and debatably
slightly less accurate manuscript than those used by more modern
versions. Elizabethan style Old English is majestic but
difficult for modern readers, especially youth.
|NKJV - New King James
produced from the Byzantine family (Textus
Receptus) in 1982. This is a revision of the King James version,
updated to modern English with only minor translation corrections
|NASB - New American
translated from Kittle’s Biblia
Hebraica and Nestle’s Greek New Testament 23rd ed; updated in 1995
with smoother language. produced by conservative scholars and
considered by many to be the most accurate modern English
|ESV - English Standard
||a more conservative
revision of the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version;
attempts to capture the precise wording of the original text and the
personal style of each Bible writer, while taking into account
differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary
English and the original languages. more literal than the
popular NIV, but more figurative than the NASB; the new 2008 version
"essentially literal" translation makes for a great study Bible.
|AMP - The Amplified Bible
a unique Bible which seeks to be true to the original Hebrew and
Greek texts, as well as capturing the full meaning behind them.
It contains translations of the original words, but also adds
addition phrases of meanings included in the original language, and
clarifying comments not actually expressed in the original text.
These are marked by being enclosed in parentheses () and brackets 
respectively. In effect, this provides both a literal and a
functional equivalent translation for much of the text.
|NRSV - New Revised
||update of Revised Stand
Version (which was an update of the KJV from more reliable
manuscripts) to take advantage of Dead Sea Scroll discoveries and other
modern techniques; widely accepted by most Catholics and Protestants
(dissatisfaction by conservative evangelicals led to ESV and NIV); contains
Jewish influence; comes in three editions - Standard (Protestant),
the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books addition and the
Catholic Edition containing the OT books in the order of the Vulgate
|HCSB - Holman Christian
||first published in 2004;
translated by an international, interdenominational team of 100
scholars and proofreaders committed to biblical inerrancy; strikes a
balance between the literal and dynamic philosophies. The
translators worked from the Nestle-Aland
Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition, and the United Bible
Societies’ Greek New Testament, 4th corrected edition (for the New
Testament), and the 5th edition of the
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (for the Old Testament).
|NIV - New International
||the most popular modern
English translation of the Bible, translated from the Hebrew,
Aramaic and Greek texts by over 100 scholars from multiple nations
and over 20 denominations. The NIV, an explicitly Protestant
translation, preserves the traditional conservative Evangelical
theology on most contested points such as the virginity of Mary, and
the Messianic passages of the OT.
|NAB - New American
||produced by Roman Catholic
scholars in cooperation with the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops; the most popular Bible for modern Catholics and
the American Catholic Church; portions have been rejected by Rome
due to "inclusive language" (gender-neutral) and "liberal"
|NJB - New Jerusalem
||translated from Hebrew and
Greek by French Scholars; the most widely used Catholic translation
in English speaking countries outside of the United States
|GNT - Good News
||aka Good News Bible (GNB);
formerly Today’s English Version (TEV); renamed the GNT because of
misconceptions that it was merely a paraphrase and not a genuine
translation. Hebrew and Greek translated "thought for thought"
rather than "word for word". It has been endorsed by Billy
Graham, the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention,
the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church (USA)
and is one of the authorized versions to be used in the Episcopal
Church. It is written in simple, everyday language, and so is often
considered particularly suitable for children and for those learning
English; also contains line drawings of Biblical events
|REB - Revised English
||more literal1989 update of
the NEB; also added gender-neutrality; similar method of translation
as NIV, but lacks the evangelical interpretation of the NIV
|JB - Jerusalem Bible
||the first widely accepted
Catholic English translation of the Bible since the Douay-Rheims
Version of the 17th century. Translators take a less literal
(liberal) approach to increase understanding of tricky passages.
This results in the introductions, footnotes, and even the
translation itself, reflecting the conclusion of modern
historical-critical method "scholars" For example, the
introduction and notes reject Moses'
authorship of the Pentateuch.
|NLT - New Living
||started out as a revision
to The Living Bible, but evolved into a new English translation from
available texts in the original languages; follows the dynamic
equivalence or "thought for thought" method of translation rather
than a more literal method; a bit more literary in style and flow
than many other versions; new 2008 Study Bible has great features.
|NEB - New English Bible
||produced primarily by
British and European scholars but influenced by foreign idiom,
especially that of the Americans, so could be understood by a large
body of English speaking individuals; thought-for thought
translation method. Due to its official status and scholarly
translators, the NEB has been considered one of the more important
translations of the Bible to be produced following WW2.
from the original languages; an attempt to capture the emotional
response to the original
writings in the "street language" of today. The author, Eugene
Peterson, considers this version to be a full translation, but we
recommend treating it as a paraphrase or commentary.