Which Bible Translation is for You?
Written by: Unknown Posted on: 02/26/2003
Category: Bible Studies
Are there many versions of the Bible? Or many translations?
If you cannot read Hebrew or Greek in which the original manuscripts were
written, you'll need a translation from those texts. In order for your pastor
to teach you from the Word of God, he also must use a translation. In order
to live for Christ, you'll need a translation so you can read what He said,
and what's been written about him.
The English language has changed dramatically over the years. In fact it has
changed so much only with great difficulty could you read any of the Bibles
translated a meer 600 years ago! Because the English language is a living
language - constantly changing - there is a continual need to translate
frequently from the original text, as old words lose their sense of meaning,
and new words come into being.
As new manuscripts are discovered, more understanding and accuracy is given to
the texts we presently have. Since the King James Version has been
translated, there have been 3 very important discoveries. Since 1611 we have
found more evidence that lends to more accurate translations, these are:
1. The Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph), discovered in 1844 in the monastery of St.
Catherine in the Sinai peninsula by Tischendorf. This was written in the 4th
century and contained most of the New Testament.
2. The New Testament papyri in 1895, discovered in Egypt, though fragmented,
have proved to be valuable.
3. The Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 near the Dead Sea, provided nearly
all of the Book of Isaiah, and many portions of the Old Testament. These are
hundreds of years older than previously known texts, and confirmed much of the
Old Testament we already have. These are also duplicated BEFORE the birth of
Translation techniques and Biblical Scholarship have tremendously improved in
the 100 years. We can have a more precise and accurate translation now - than
our forefathers ever dreamed of! Other languages we previously knew little
about, now we can understand and see the greater meaning of certain difficult
words and phrases.
Today we need an easy-to-read translation - for those of us that are not
linguistic scholars and stumble over those 27 letter words. Think about
it....since the MESSAGE contained in the Bible is so important, then we MUST
be able to give it to the poorest reader in a text they can read! This is not
re-interpreting the text, it's giving an accurate rendering from the Hebrew &
Greek in a language they can simply read and benefit from. For this reason
alone, we need the BEST possible translation we can get...consequently, it
must be readable.
This is a List of English translations, the translators and when done.
Bishops Bible...............Church of England....................1568
Rheims-Douay Bible..........Roman Catholic..................1582-1610
King James Bible............Church of England....................1611+
Youngs Literal Translation (Robert Young).......................1863
English Revised Version.....Church of England (KJV revised)...1881-85
American Standard Version...American Revision Committe...........1901
Weymouth's Modern Speech NT.(R. F. Weymouth).....................1903+
Jewish Version of 1917 (OT)......................................1917
Moffat's New Translation....(James Moffatt)................1924, 1935
Smith-Goodspeed Version.....(Edgar Goodspeed & HM Powers Smith)..1931
Charles B. Williams NT......(Charles B. Williams)................1937
Ronald Knox's Catholic Vs...Roman Catholic....................1944-50
Revised Standard Version....(KJV revised later Roman Catholic)1946-52
Confraternity Version.......(Rheims-Douay-Challoner revision)....1948
New World Translation.......Watchtower Soc.(13% more words)...1950-60
NT in Modern English by J.B. Phillips............................1958
New American Standard.......Lockman Foundation (ASV revision)....1971
Wuest's Expanded Trans. (NT)(Kenneth Wuest)......................1961
New English Bible................................................1970
NT in Plain English.........(Charles Kingsley Williams)..........1963
NT in Lang. of Today........(William F. Beck a Lutheran).........1964
Today's Eng. or Good News...American Bible Soc...................1966
Jerusalem Bible.............Roman Catholic.......................1966
New International Version...New York Bible Soc...................1978
These are the English translations only. There are thousands of translations
in other languages, and still thousands of languages without the Bible in
their own tongue.
Some of these are word-for-word translations (each word is translated
individually), some of them are paraphrased (someone 'interperts' the meaning
of a passage and then translates the passage into the second language), which
is important for knowing which Bible to study!
Some are easy to read, some are difficult; some are majestic in vocabulary, and
some are plain and simple. Some are precise in meaning, and some loosely
But sadly, some are unfaithful to the Original Text and some have added or
subtracted certain words to reflect their own doctrine. Some were translated
by well known scholars, and some by people who couldn't read a sentence from
the original manuscripts!
The King James Version, a word-for-word translation, is an excellent place to
start for study. While it holds true doctrinally as well as giving reverence
to the Word of God with its majestic style, it is still the Standard in the
majority of the churches today.
The New American Standard Version, also a word-for-word translation is
translated in more modern english and very accurate in verb tenses that are
difficult to understand in the KJV.
The New International Version is a paraphrase - but by far the best of its
kind. Paraphrases can convey easily the meaning of certian texts, and can
reflect doctrinal viewpoints of the translators. The NIV is an excellent
paraphrase, easy to read, and a good supplement to helping understand word-
It would take too much time to describe the good & bad points in all the rest
of the translations, and anyone who's really a serious student of the Bible,
will sooner or later learn to use word studies, lexicons, concordances, or
even the original languages themselves.
A concordance is simple to use, and can by comparison give quick insite into
the meaning of a particular word and how it's used. Youngs Analytical
Concordance & The New Strong's are easy to use. Vines Expository Dictionary of
Old & New Testament Words is also excellent and simple for any one to use.
With the wealth of Bible knowledge at our disposal, no one has any excuse not
to daily read and study God's Word for themselves. Many men have already
given their lives so that you DON'T have to live in IGNORANCE of what God has
said. You personally are responsible for reading and studying the Bible -
relying on another person is a sorry excuse for LAZINESS, not to mention the
BLESSINGS of having God speak to you personally through the study of His Word!
CHOOSING A BIBLE
From the Christian Research Institute
. There are several questions one should examine in selecting a version of
the Bible to use or give away. Here are a few of them:
1) How do I intend to use it?
. For deeper study, fast reading, devotional reading or some combination? A
version for broader reading and certain memory work should be in a vocabulary
and style you are comfortable with and understand easily. Using at least two
translations (one for study, one for other purposes) brings best growth and
understanding for most people. The study Bible should be more literal to the
details and actual form of the original, perhaps with notes and cross-
references. Consulting it AND a freer translation together is a helpful
method. This is because either type translation can lead to a wrong
understanding of the meaning of the original. Here is how.
. ANY Bible version should be tested by the question "Is it faithful to the
original text?" However, the question of fidelity can be divided into two
parts - transfer of the meaning and of the dynamics of the original.
Experienced translators John Beekman and John Callow in their classic work,
Translating the Word of God, explain that when a translation transfers the
MEANING it "conveys to the reader or hearer the information that the original
conveyed to its readers or hearers." When a translation conveys the DYNAMIC
force of the original, it "makes a natural use of the linguistic structures of
the RL (language of the translation) and...the recipients of the translation
understand the message with ease." (pages 33, 44) This does not mean there
will be no ambiguous or puzzling statements at all. It does not mean that
difficulty in understanding HOW something is true or how to APPLY it will be
removed. The original readers had these problems as well. Translations that
seek to maintain the meaning closer to the word level have more difficulty in
capturing the dynamic force of the original or in using the natural expression
of English (which, of course differs with time and locale, especially U.S. to
Great Britain). Translations toward the idiomatic or paraphrase side do better
with the dynamics, as a rule, but diminish the readers' ability to know
"that's the way THEY said it (in Greek or Hebrew)," or follow the nuances of
the original writers.
. Special care should be taken in use of Bible versions on either extreme.
Literal translations can mislead if one is unaware of the significance of
elements of form (grammar, style) or idiom (unique expression) that are more
like th original than English. Freer translations introduce more
interpretation (although all translation demands interpretation) and sacrifice
precision and consistency of renderings.
2) What was the goal of the translator(s)?
. To reach a specific audience? To communicate particularly the force and
impact of the original like J.B. Phillips, or to be clear and vivid like Ken
Taylor? Often the preface will give this and other helpful information.
3) Who did the translating?
. One man, a committee, or one man with a committee checking? A committee
translation is generally freer of biased theological interpretations that can
corrupt a translation but it will usually sacrifice some in consistency and
artistic, stylistic expression.
4) What are the credentials and background of the translator(s)?
. Did he (they) have expertise in the appropriate language(s)? If done by a
committee, were they from the same denomination, similar ones, or widely
. One does not have to have complete answers to all of these questions
before using a Bible version. In fact, some of the less dependable ones can
have positive uses if one is aware of their deficiencies. The subject of Bible
translation is a complex one and the previous questions far from exhaust all
the considerations.The following brief summaries evaluating specific versions
are very cursory, and not meant to be authoritative. The were produced by a
comparison and combination of the remarks of a number of evangelical scholars,
and in some cases, the personal observations of the author.
KING JAMES (AUTHORIZED) VERSION (1611)
. Translated from the original languages by committee. Unexcelled in
literary quality, although now archaic. Does not reflect the best text base on
recent scholarship (some editions give explanatory notes on the text).
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (1970)
. From the original by interdenominational committee. Patterned after
American Standard Version of 1901. Excellent precision in handling of verb-
tenses but sometimes pedantic, awkward and lacking in style - "wooden" say
many. Literalness, careful work and good notes make it one of the best study
THE MODERN LANGUAGE BIBLE (1969)
. Revision of the Berkeley Version (1945). Good balance of accuracy of
meaning with plain contemporary English. Helpful notes.
. Translated with reference to both the original and an earlier French
translation by Roman Catholic committee. Forceful but not stylisticly
consistent or fully idiomatic English. OT text not the best. Notes are a
substantial part of the work and are generally non-sectarian but should be
NEW AMERICAN BIBLE
. From the original Greek (NT); revision of confraternity version (based on
Latin Vulgate) in the OT. Catholic Committee consulted with Protestants in
final stages. More conservative than JB but introductions to sections and to
individual books "moderately liberal in tone" (Kubo and Specht, p. 164).
Format differs with the publisher.
NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
. From the original, by a large interdenominational but conservative
committee. Well balanced - good for study, faster reading, or public reading.
Based on reliable Greek text. Somewhat inconsistent in modernizing
terminology. Pleasing, very readable format (few footnotes). Many feel it will
become the most used Bible of the future, especially for evangelicals.
TODAY'S ENGLISH VERSION (Good News Bible)
. From the original. NT by one man, approved by committee. Aimed
particularly at English - as - second - language audience and those with
little formal education. Achieves its goal well - very readable, good format.
Translates dynamics well but not dependable for deeper study if used by
NEW ENGLISH BIBLE
. From the original by interdenominational British committee. Exciting
literary style, very readable but with distinct British flavor and idiom.
Excellent for non-churched. Departures from the original text and too much
liberty in certain renderings make it undependable as a study Bible.
REVISED STANDARD VERSION (1946)
. Debatable whether more a revision of KJV or a fresh translation from the
original (by committee). Probably more the latter in NT. Preserves some of KJV
sound of "Bible English", but is somewhat modernized. Accused by ultra-
conservatives of deliberate "liberal" bias (along with TEV and others) but has
weathered the storm and is considered by some church leaders as the best all-
purpose translation. Adequate, though not the best for deeper study in
J.B. PHILLIPS' TRANSLATION
. From the original but definitely a paraphrase by J.B. Phillips, a
competent Greek scholar. More than any other, makes the Bible "live" for
educated or literary people, although in British expression. Does not read
like a translation. Provokes new insight and understanding which should,
however, be checked with more literal translations and by deeper study.
Excellent for the educated, unchurched person as well as the thinking
. Paraphrased essentially from the 1901 ASV by Ken Taylor but checked by
Greek, Hebrew scholars. Serves similar purpose as Phillips' but reaches also
to the less educated. Encourages Bible reading and helps older Christians
express their faith in contemporary terms. Definitely not to be relied on for
interpretations or study. Changes, sometimes significant, made between
. Amplified Bible done from the originals. Neither a true translation nor a
paraphrase. This type version offers readers possible renderings or
interpretations and can be helpful for study or deepening understanding.
However, users must realize the original author had one meaning in mind,
determined by context and usage in that language, not our personal preference
or whim. These versions must not be substituted for responsible deeper study.
**** The following is an attempt to convey a chart from this article you are
reading. It looks a bit like a list, but the idea is to list the different
translations in the order of from the most literal to the least literal (or
--Word for Word
-New American Standard
-New International Version
-Today's English Version
-New English Version
SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR FURTHER STUDY
--Bruce, F.F., THE ENGLISH BIBLE. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.
--Dennett, Herbert, A GUIDE TO MODERN VERSIONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. Chicago:
Moody Press, 1965.
--Hawthorne, G.F., HOW TO CHOOSE A BIBLE. Christianity Today, Vol. 20,
December 5, 1975, pp.7-10.
--Kubo, Sakae and Walter Specht, SO MANY VERSIONS?. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
--WHICH BIBLE IS BEST FOR YOU?, Eternity. Vol. 25, April, 1974, pp.27-31.
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