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The Bible

About the Different Versions

Psalm 119:165
Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.

This leads one to the ultimate question - Which translation is best?

The Holy Spirit is sovereign over even the worst translations. Even in extremely bias translations, all the major doctrines are present. The Spirit can use there threads to lead the sincere person to Jesus.

But, stay away from those prepared with an outright obvious sectarian view point (The New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses). There is a corruption of doctrine in such versions. And, as a Bible for serious study, stay away from those prepared by individuals, Moffatt's, Weymouth's, J.B. Phillips, The Living Bible, Kenneth Wuest's Expanded Translation, the Berkley New Testament, or the more recent translation by Peterson, The Message, and Fox's translations of Genesis through Deuteronomy. These may make wonderful devotional Bibles or comparative translations, but they are not generally good for serious study. No one person can truly understand all of the spiritual nuances intended in God's Word and, therefore, their own presuppositions and preunderstandings will encumber such translations.

So, there is no single answer. Each translation has something to convey and bring to the table. The truly serious Bible student should have one of a formal equivalence translation and one of a dynamic translation. Two dynamic equivalence translations would be even better. Read all of them for better understanding of the Scriptures intent. Pray for the illumination of the Holy Spirit upon the passage.


King James -(KJV) - formal equivalence, but the original has undergone three major revisions incorporating more than 100,000 changes. By the count of some there are over 300 words in the KJV which no longer mean what they meant in 1611.

New King James - (NKJV) - formal equivalence, prepared from the same manuscripts as the King James.

New International Version - (NIV) - dynamic equivalence, based upon a new translation of the manuscripts, not a revision (as is the NKJV, the RSV, NASB). It was prepared by an international committee of more than one hundred scholars whose stated goal was to produce a translation midway between the literalness of a word-for-word and the looseness of a paraphrase. Most consider it the best phrase-for-phrase translation available today. The major flaw is that its language may be too simplistic. It is prepared from an "eclectic" manuscript, drawing upon several different manuscripts rather than a single critical text.

New American Standard - (NASB) - formal equivalence, probably the best word-for-word available today. This is also its biggest weakness in that in places it becomes stilted and wooden in its language. It uses the modern critical textual manuscripts as its basis.

American Standard Version - (ASV) - a formal equivalence, word-for-word translation, originally published by Goodspeed for the New Testament, with a small group of scholars publishing the Old Testament companion. When the New Testament portion was first published around 1923, it was highly criticized.

Revised Standard Version - (RSV) - formal equivalence, completed in 1952 and designed to be a revision of the KJV. It used the ancient manuscripts. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) follows the same principle but is "gender-inclusive" in its approach. It is to be noted that the English Standard Version was the for runner of the American Standard Version. The Revised Standard was the initial revision of the English Standard Version. The NASB is the revision of the ASV and the NRSV is the further revision of the RSV. All, in the minds of the translating committees, were designed to be replacements for, and revisions of, the King James.

Note: The NASB exhibits three major differences from the RSV (and NRSV). First, its wording is less archaic. Second, its translators are more conservative theologically. Third, as mentioned, its language is wooden in places in an effort to adhere as closely to the wording of the original as possible.

New English Bible - (NEB) - completed in 1971 (the same general time frame as the NASB and slightly ahead of the NIV), this is a dynamic equivalence translation, but the biases of the translators (a joint committee, lead by the Church of Scotland) show in the text. The Revised English Bible (REB) follows the same pattern.

The Living Bible - (TLB and "The Living Bible") - the Living Bible is a paraphrase, not a translation. It represents the views of one person as to the meaning of the American Standard Version. It is, in essence, the work of one man paraphrasing the work of another sole translator edition (at least as to the NT). The Living Bible is easy to read and is a wonderful tool for first learning the Bible. It is not a study Bible. The New Living Translation is much more of a translation, the translators referring to the original language manuscripts during its preparation. The translation basis of the New Living Translation is dynamic equivalence

Good News Bible: Today's English Version - (TEV) - dynamic equivalence, published by the American Bible Society in 1966. It attempts to present the Scriptures in idiomatic, modern, simple language.

The Jerusalem Bible is an English effort based upon a French translation. The Bible was translated from the original languages, while its study notes are translated from French. In many places the translations are freer than its counterparts, such as the Revised Standard. The Jerusalem Bible was revised by the New Jerusalem Bible.

The New American Bible is the first American Catholic Bible to be translated from the original manuscripts.

The Contemporary English Version - (CEV) - was first translated as a work for early youth. Its aim is to be a functional equivalence by determining the meanings of words and then expressing them in the most accurate and natural contemporary English.

The New Century Version - (NCV) - was originally published as the International Children's Bible. The adult version was originally called The Everyday Bible. Both versions emphasize simplicity and clarity of expression.

The Message - is a work by Eugene H. Peterson. This is an idiomatic English translation of the Scriptures and does not exist as a complete Bible.

New English Translation (or NET) - this is one "in the middle." It is brand new having been just completed (fall, 1998) and originally published solely on the Internet at This site is one composed primarily of graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary. This Seminary has produced most of the critical studies on the manuscripts in the last half of this century. The NET is describe as more accurate than the NASB, more readable than the NIV, and more elegant than either. I personally have not yet read enough of it to have any opinion on the validity of this description.

The Amplified Bible - This is not really a translation or paraphrase, but a unique study tool. Based upon the KJV, RSV, and other similar manuscripts, The Amplified Bible has expanded on alternate word meanings, providing these alternate shades of difference right in the body of the text so that one does not have to resort to a lexicon or dictionary to find the various shades of difference in word usage.

Since this page was published, several new Bible translations have appeared on bookstore shelves. A few comments might be in order about these translations to help you understand them. In general, I find the new translations to be “good” but it appears they are driven by the desire of either a Christian community or a Christian publisher to have their own translations.

English Standard Version (ESV) is published by Crossway Books and is considered a literal or “formal equivalence” translation. “that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on "word-for-word" correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.” I have read the ESV cover-to-cover and find it to be good translation. The website for this is

The New Living Translation (NLT -- originally mentioned above with The Living Bible) is a dynamic equivalent translation, that is, a thought-for-thought translation. It’s web site ( describes it as “In the New Living Translation, this is accomplished by translating entire thoughts (rather than just words) into natural, everyday English. The end result is a translation that is easy to read and understand and that accurately communicates the meaning of the original text.” With the adverse publicity being captured by the Today’s New International Version (see below), many churches who previously were using the NIV have switched to the NLT. I am currently reading through the NLT and find it to be a good translation that is easy to read. The concepts used in translation do not make this version acceptable as a primary study Bible, however, in my opinion.

Still an ongoing project is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Published by Broadman & Holman Publishers, this work currently exists in a complete New Testament. It is described as a “fresh rendering of God's Word is translated directly from the original biblical languages with a reader-friendly style geared to contemporary English usage. The approach of combining accuracy and clarity makes the HCSB a translation that any reader can enjoy” (from I have read the New Testament and find it acceptable.

Last, and most controversial, on this list of new translations, is Today’s New International Version (TNIV). Created by the International Bible Society, this translation is based upon the very popular NIV, but has been edited to make it, essentially, gender neutral in keeping with today’s culture. The information site for this version is The other side of this story may be found at the TNIV Response Center (, a site dedicated to convincing the world this is an unacceptable version. While there are sufficient materials on both sites for you to draw your own conclusions, I have great personal difficulty in reconciling the orthodox statement of belief used on this translation with the changing of important terms in the original languages from feminine or masculine to a gender neutral term. This is not a true rendering of the original languages and therefore is contra to what I read as the statement of translation belief. The original Hebrew and Greek both have ample pronouns, and noun and verb endings whereby the original authors could have used gender neutral terms had they so desired. They chose, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit not to do so. It is not the place of culture to re-edit the writings because it better fits with someone’s view of the ways the world should operate. I would vote NO on the TNIV.

I noted above a separate problem being raised by the TNIV. Many churches fearing, I believe, that many in their congregation with associate the NIV with the TNIV controversy, thus, concluding that the NIV is a poor translation as well. As a result, many churches are moving away from the NIV. The current recommendations by “those who know” are to move to either the NLT or the ESV. While there may be some merit to this concern, I believe that each pastor needs to access the knowledge and understanding of his own congregation. Further, care needs to be exercised in deciding which version to use.

For what it is worth, my favorite study Bible is the New Scofield Study Bible. This is a King James Version modified by the editors to change those word which have lost their meaning or which were incorrectly translated by the KJV committee. The King James verbiage is given in the margin.  At the same time, for daily use I am migrating toward perferring the New King James Version.

It is interesting to note that after some 1500 years of use, the Catholic Church moved away from the Latin Vulgate as its Bible. The New Jerusalem Bible appeared in 1966 and was based upon a French translation. The New American Bible is the first American Catholic Bible translated from the original languages. Both of these are freer than a word-for-word translation, and in places reflect the theological views of the Roman Catholic Church.

As an aside, the major argument presented by that group known as the King James Only-ers is based upon changes to wording in places which "reduce" or eliminate the deity of Christ. While in the case of some individual passages this may appear to be true, on the whole, translations such as the NIV and NASB have made changes the other direction in many passages and, in the minds of many, have clearer language on Christ's deity than does the KJV. For anyone interested in pursuing this course of study, I might suggest The King James Only Controversy, by James R. White, Bethany House Publishers, 1995. A second, newer book is that written by Philip W. Comfort, Ph.D., who served on the translation committee for the New Living Translation. The book is entitled Essential Guide to Bible Versions, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2000.

For those who advocate the KJV only position, one might ask, how could this be the only true translation when it was had to be revised so extensively? And, what about all those other translations from Greek and Hebrew into Dutch, or German, or French or so on? Are they not accurate? White's work address many of the arguments put forth in publication which support KJV only.




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