Bible Versions And Translations

(Christian Study Topics)

christian38_300x300The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Today there are dozens of English translations of the Bible. Due to the fact that transators of the Bible have different purposes and/or world views, translations can vary widely.

There are two basic types of translations: (1) Literal (or formal equivalence), in which translators use the original manuscripts to interpret word for word; (2) Free interpretation/paraphrase (or dynamic equivalence), in which translators render meaning by meaning.

Translations such as the KJV, NKJV (Revised Authorized Version), NASV (New American Standard Version), and RSV (Revised Standard Version) are literal translations. They follow the Greek and Hebrew text word for word wherever possible. But where the English idiom does not correspond with the original text, the words often come out sounding cumbersome and not understandable.

Most of the newest Bible versions use the second method of translating, describing the meaning of each passage. First, a translator tries to understand what the verse is saying. Then he attempts to convey this message to the reader using his own way of explaining what the verse means. If the translator has little or no knowledge, or a wrong understanding, of a particular verse, he does a great disservice to the reader. This is one way in which an individual’s own ideas are promoted.

A translator may also need to add words or phrases in order to convey his message or translate other words into a more modern usage (for example, “feet” instead of “cubits”). Some examples of free translations are Today’s English Version, The New English Bible, The Bible, A New Translation (Moffatt) and New International Version (NIV), the English Standard Version, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible. As a general rule, a translation produced by just one man will tend to be slanted toward that man’s ideas. Below is a brief description of the various English Bible translations.



American Standard Version (ASV)

The American Standard Version, also known as the Standard American Edition, Revised Version, is a revised version of the KJV. It was completed in 1885 and newly edited by the American Revision Committee in 1901.
(Word-For-Word Translation)


Amplified Bible (AMP)

The Amplified Bible was first published in 1965 and updated in 1987. (11th grade reading level). It seeks to take the ASV (1901) and update it based on original manuscripts and subtle shades of meaning implied by the text that are put into brackets. The result is a translation that is 3-4 times the length of others. It can be useful for word study, but must be used carefully. We must not simply pick and choose from the words presented to come up with our own idea of the meaning of the text.
(Word-For-Word Translation)


Contemporary English Version (CEV)

First published in 1995 and is a dynamic equivalent translation that is similar to the NLT but different in several ways. The translators were focused on how the text “sounded” (“faith comes by hearing”), so it is intended to be read aloud. This tends to make it a bit easier for people for whom English is a second language. It waters the text down to the point that certain passages create direct contradictions with other passages.
(Thought-For-Thought Translation)


Common English Bible (CEB)

The Common English Bible is a translation of the scriptures intended to be a comfortable reading level for over half of all English readers. It attempts to substitute more traditional biblical terminology with more natural wording.
(Thought-For-Thought and Word-For-Word Translation)


Douay-Rheims (RHE)

The Douay-Rheims is the translation upon which nearly all English Catholic Bible versions are based. It includes the seven Deutero-Canonical books (also known as the Apocrypha).
(Word-For-Word Translation From Latin Vulgate)


English Standard Version (ESV)

The ESV Bible is a relatively new Bible translation that combines Word-For-Word Translation precision and accuracy with literary excellence, beauty, and readability. First published in 2001, and slightly revised in 2007 and 2011. It is a conservative reworking of the more liberal RSV and NRSV translations. It was translated by over 100 scholars with J.I. Packer as the general editor. It is aimed at a 7th grade reading level. It is easy to understand, flows naturally, and is good for study.
(Word-For-Word Translation)


God’s Word Translation (GW)

God’s Word Translation (GW) translates the meaning of the original texts into clear, everyday language.
(Thought-For-Thought Translation)


Good News Bible (GNB) or Good News Translation (GNT)

The Good News Translation was first published in 1976 by the American Bible Society in a “common language.” The simple, everyday language makes it especially popular for children and those learning English. First published in 1976 and revised with gender inclusive language in 1992, written at a 6th grade reading level. It is good for people for whom English is a second language. Fairly simple language. Major drawback is that one of the main scholars who translated it renounced biblical inerrancy after it was published, casting a shadow on this translation and its reliability.
(Thought-For-Thought Translation)


Holman Christian Standard (CSB)

The HCS is a readable, translation written in modern English. It is published by Holman Bible Publishers, the oldest Bible publisher in America. First published in 2004, written at a 7-8th grade reading level. It tries to strike a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought. One of the unique aspects is that it uses the name Yahweh instead of the traditional LORD for the tetragrammaton. It is published by Lifeway Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
(Word-For-Word Translation)


King James Version (KJV)

The KJV is the first version of Scripture authorized by the Protestant church and commissioned by England’s King James I. First published in 1611 (written in the common language of the day, but at a 12th grade reading level today). It is a word for word translation but basically in Shakespearean English. Consequently, many of the words used don’t have the same meaning today and are confusing to the modern reader. For nearly 400 years the KJV was THE English translation.
(Word-For-Word Translation)


Lexham English Bible (LEB)

The LEB complements your primary translation with it’s transparent design and literal rendering. It helps you see the text of God’s Word from another angle. First published in 2010 by Logos Bible Software. It is intended as a “second” bible, to supplement your primary bible, being primarily based upon a word-for-word, almost Interlinear bible translation approach. It is available in many software packages.
(Word-For-Word Translation / Literal)


The Living Bible (TLB)

First published in 1971. It is a true paraphrase, expressing the meaning of the biblical text in the words of the Baptist author, Kenneth N. Taylor. It is written at a 4th grade reading level. Taylor basically wrote it so his kids could understand the scriptures. Good for devotional reading, but not for study. The NLT is a better and more accurate translation in this vein.
(Thought-For-Thought Translation)


The Message (MSG)

The Message is a paraphrase from the original languages written by Eugene, H. Peterson. Completed in 1993, The Message is NOT a translation of the bible; it is a paraphrase. Eugene Peterson, has an extensive background in biblical languages and felt the need to produce a bible that communicated the “earthiness of the original language.” The earthiness comes through to such an extent that it really is more like a commentary on the Bible – rephrasing the Bible in his own words. I do like how he paraphrases some passages; however, there are many times where in an effort to be earthy and edgy, he goes too far and some would even argue becomes unbiblical. Definitely NOT a study bible.
(Thought-For-Thought / Paraphrase Translation)


New American Standard (NAS)

The NAS is written in a formal style, but is more readable than the King James Version. It is highly respected as the most literal English translation of the Bible. First published in 1971, updated in 1995. The NASB is written at an 11th grade reading level and is probably the most literal word for word translation of the scriptures in English. However, as a result it is often accused of “wooden translations” that don’t flow. One benefit is that the NASB tries to consistently translate verbs in the tense implied by the text. This helps give a better understanding of the text when doing detailed study; but does make the text read awkward at times. It was THE bible for many conservative pastors prior to the release of the ESV.
(Word-For-Word Translation)


New Century Version (NCV)

First published in 1986 and updated in 1991. It is written at a 3-5th grade level and uses dynamic equivalent. It was initially a product of the Church of Christ and used by Billy Graham in his crusades.
(Thought-For-Thought Translation)


New International Version (NIV)

The NIV offers a balance between a Word-For-Word Translation and Thought-For-Thought Translation translation and is considered by many as a smooth-reading version of the Bible in modern English. The original 1984 edition was basically good. In 2011, Zondervan released an updated version pushing through a more liberal and gender inclusive version. Many people who were proponents of the NIV have now switched to other translations (many going to the ESV). Zondervan was considering updating the text years earlier, but due to public outcry from many people, they backed off and called it the TNIV. In 2011 they merged the two translations and consequently lost many readers.
(Word-For-Word and Thought-For-Thought Translation)


New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)

A Catholic translation of the scriptures first published in 1985 and includes the Apocrypha. It uses dynamic equivalent, 10th grade reading level.
(Word-For-Word and Thought-For-Thought Translation)


New King James Version (NKJV)

The NKJ is a modern language update of the original King James Version. It retains much of the traditional interpretation and sentence structure of the KJV. First published in 1982 it is based upon the King James Version from 1611. It is written for a 7th grade reading level, yet preserves much of the poetic style of the original KJV. The 130 scholars used the Textus Receptus as the basis of the translation. The Textus Receptus isn’t as old as some of the ancient manuscripts that we now have and as a result, isn’t considered as reliable. The TR includes verses and phrases that don’t appear in the earlier manuscripts leading many to believe that they were added later and not authentic. Some, however, argue that the earlier manuscripts (most of which are from Alexandria) were edited by gnostic writers who removed those verses. They also argue that it would have been strange for Mark to end his gospel without the resurrection (which is only in the TR). Either way, I believe the extra verses and phrases add greater clarity to the scriptures, but do not change any doctrines either way.
(Word-For-Word Translation)


New Living Translation (NLT)

Using modern English, the translators of the NLT focused on producing clarity in the meaning of the text rather than creating a literal, word-for-word Translation equivalence. Their goal was to create a clear, readable translation while remaining faithful to original texts. First published in 1996 and updated in 2004 and 2007 (the most recent edition being more accurate). It is very readable, written at a 6th grade reading level. Unlike the original Living Bible, the NLT is an actual translation by over 90 scholars. Using a dynamic equivalent (thought for thought translation), the NLT is very clear and great for devotional reading, or to get an overview of a book or passage. Not great for detailed word study. Many people in the bible are known by more than one name; the NLT uses a single name for clarity and footnotes the others.
(Thought-For-Thought Translation)


New Revised Standard (NRS)

The New Revised Standard is a popular translation that follows in the traditions of the King James and Revised Standard Versions. It was written with the goal of preserving the best of the older versions while incorporating modern English. First published in 1952 and revised in 1971. It is a revision of the 1901 version of the ASV and written at a 12th grade level. It follows a literal, word for word method of translation, although it has a liberal bent that comes through in numerous passages.
(Word-For-Word and Thought-For-Thought Translation)


New World Translation (NWT)

First published in 1961, this is the translation by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (aka., the Jehovah’s Witnesses). This translation has many problems and distorts the scriptures at several points to reinforce the JW’s theology. Notable cases are John 1:1, Colossians 1 (the word “other” is added multiple times) and others. This translation is only useful when speaking with a JW.
(Word-For-Word and Thought-For-Thought Translation)


Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The Revised Standard Version is a revision of the King James Version, the Revised Version, and American Standard Version. This text is intended for both private reading and public worship. First published in 1989 it is written at an 11th grade level. It is gender-inclusive (translating passages that are masculine in the original into gender neutral or inclusive in the text can be applied to both genders). The NRSV takes the liberalness of the RSV another step further. It is popular in academic classes (colleges).
(Word-For-Word Translation Using Modern American Language)


Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

First published in 2005. It was an update to the NIV that was not well received. It includes much gender-neutral language. This version (along with the NIV ’84) was discontinued with the release of the NIV 2011.
(Word-For-Word and Thought-For-Thought Translation)


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