The translators of the King James Version of the Bible suffered a host of criticism over their "new translation". So much so that in the introduction to the 1611 edition, they wrote:
"Whosoever attempteth anything for the public (especially if it pertain to Religion, and to the opening and clearing of the word of God) the same setteth himself upon a stage to be gloated upon by every evil eye, yea, he casteth himself headlong upon pikes, to be gored by every sharp tongue. For he that medleth with men's Religion in any part, medleth with their custom, nay, with their freehold; and though they find no content in that which they have, yet they cannot abide to hear of altering."
From The Translator to the Reader in the 1611 edition of the Authorized King James Version.
Some folks get upset when anyone suggests that their Bible translation isn't the best one. If you're one of these, stop reading, or you will just get upset (and that leads to lengthy emails telling me how totally ignorant, arrogant or evil I am, emails which I assure you do not seem at all as clever or biting to me as they did to their writers). If, on the other hand, you're trying to answer the title question of this page, then you're welcome to my thoughts on the subject. This page is meant to be a work in progress, and I do welcome informative comments. For beginners comments on the Bible in general, check out my article: Bible Primer.
The Christian religion described in the Living Bible is not the same religion described in the New American Standard Bible. Different translations say significantly different things. I struggle over whether it is better to have an accurate translation or a translation that is so reader-friendly that it actually gets read. I guess a Bible with some problems is better than no Bible at all. But it does matter.
Bibles appear at different reading levels. The King James Version is considered the most difficult (12-grade) and at the other end of the spectrum is are the simple English and Children's Bibles. Most translations fall in the 6-8th grade reading level. The NASB is more difficult than that, and the Contemporary English Version (CEV) simpler.
There are also different translation methodologies including:
I think that Formal Equivalence is the proper starting place. Formal Equivalence translations are least likely to skew the text in one direction or another. They will preserve figures of speech. In some places, however, it's difficult to render a thought from one language to another and preserve word equivalences. For this reason, I believe that there is also a place for Dynamic Equivalence translations. By consulting more than one Dynamic Equivalence translation, one can get a range of interpretations and insights in to what the text means. As far as I'm concerned, there is no place for paraphrases.
Perhaps identifying unreliable translations to avoid is easier than saying which one is best. Translations I've picked for this category are those that I believe can lead the reader to misunderstand what the Bible says.
No translation is perfect, and I personally use several. If someone is only going to have only one translation, then this is a list of safe ones:
There seems to be no end to the flood of new Bible translations, each trying to outdo themselves in readability. I used to buy new translations when they came out, but now I've become somewhat skeptical as to whether anything significantly better is coming out or whether the same ground is just being re-plowed over and over to make a buck. Nevertheless, here's a list of translations that I have comments about.
- "...so the Pharisees and canon-lawyers asked him, 'How come your students don't walk according to the tradition of the elders, but rather eat their bread with dirty hands?' He said to them, 'Isaiah prophesied very well about you fakes. As it says, These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from from. Pointlessly they worship me, teaching as their doctrine the commandments of the world." Mark 7, Gaus.
"Don't give in to your distress. You believe in God, then believe in me too. There are plenty of places to stay in my Father's house. If it weren't true, I would have told you; I'm on my way to make a place ready for you. And if I go to make a place ready for you, I'll return and embrace you. So where I am you can be there too." John 14: 1-3 SV.
"Jesus said also to the people: 'when you see a cloud coming up in the west, at once you say, 'It is going to rain,' and it does. And when you feel the south wind blowing, you say, 'It is going to get hot,' and it does. Imposters! You can look at the earth and the sky and tell what it means; why, then, don't you know the meaning of this present time?" Luke 12:54-57 TEV.
Lo, I send my Envoy to clear the way for me; and the Lord for whom you long will come suddenly to his temple [[that Envoy of the Compact whom you desire; he is coming--the Lord of hosts declares]]. Malachi 3:1 Moffatt
"Then again I say to you, It is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24, Lamsa.
"You must not let yourselves be distressed--you must hold on to your faith in God and to your faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father's House. If there were not, should I have told you that I am going away to prepare a place for you? It is true that I am going away to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am."
"During Passover the governor always freed a prisoner chosen by the people. At that time a well-known terrorist named Jesus Barabbas was in jail So when the crowd came together, Pilate asked them, 'Which prisoner do you want me to set free? Do you want Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah'? Pilate knew that the leaders had brought Jesus to him because they were jealous." Matthew 27: 15-18 CEV.
"Now when Avram was ninety years and nine years old Yhwh was seen by Avram and said to him: I am God Shaddai. Walk in my presence! And be wholehearted! I set my covenant between me and you, I will make you exceedingly, exceedingly many. Avram fell upon his face. God spoke to him, saying: As for me, here, my covenant is with you, so that you will become the father of a throng of nations. No longer shall your name be called Avram, rather shall your name be Avraham for I will make you Av Hamon Goyyim / Father of a Throng of Nations!" Gen 17:1-5.
"And came out the Pharisees and they began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, trying him. And having sighed deeply in the spirit of him he says, why generation this does seek a sign? Truly I say to you, in no way will be given to this generation a sign". Mark 8:11-12 Interlinear.
Bibles translations are often denoted by an abbreviation. Here are some:
|AMP||The Amplified Bible||NASB||New American Standard Bible|
|NIV||New International Version||CEV||Contemporary English Version|
|NLT||New Living Translation||KJV||King James (Authorized) Version|
|RSV||Revised Standard Version||NRSV||New Revised Standard Version|
|Moffatt||The Bible A New Translation by James Moffatt||Phillips||The New Testament in Modern English|
|TEV||Today's English Version (Good News Bible)||ESV||English Standard Version|
|NKJV||The New King James Version||KJ21||21st Century King James Version|
|ASV||American Standard Version||WE||Worldwide English (New Testament)|
|LB||The Living Bible||YLT||Young's Literal Translation|
|Darby||Darby Translation||WYC||Wycliffe New Testament|
|NAB||New American Bible||ICB||International Children's Bible|
|NIRV||New International Reader's Version||TLB||The Living Bible|
|MSG||The Message||NET||Natural Equivalent Translation|
|NCV||New Century Version|
There are Bibles on the Internet. Here are some:
If you're an Evangelical who appreciates the problems with the King James and wants something trustworthy and readable, I recommend the New American Standard Bible (NASB). It's a literal translation based on solid texts. If you're a mainstream Protestant, the New Revised Standard Version is probably the way to go--your friends may be using it, and it works well for worship. If you're Catholic, try the New American Bible. If you're not a Christian, but might want to become one, get Gaus' Unvarnished New Testament and then an NASB to pick up the Old Testament. If English is not your first language or you have difficulty reading, then the Good News Bible (Today's English Version) might be best for you.
(2 Tim 3:16 KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
(2 Tim 3:16 KJV 1611 ed.) All Scripture is giuen by inspiration of God, & is profitable for doctrine, for reproofe, for correction, for instrution in righteousnesse, [yes, my copy says "instrution"]
(2 Tim 3:16 NASB) All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
(2 Tim 3:16 NRSV) All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
(2 Tim 3:16 CEV) Everything in the Scriptures is God's Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.
(2 Tim 3:16 NET) Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God's approval.
(2 Tim 3:16 Gaus) All the scripture is divinely inspired and useful for teaching, pointing out faults, giving correction and offering guidance along the paths of justice
(2 Tim 3:16 NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
(2 Tim 3:16 REB) All inspired scripture has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, or for reformation of manners and discipline in right living,
(2 Tim 3:16 NAB) All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
(2 Tim 3:16 NJB) All scripture is inspired by God and useful for refuting error, for guiding people's lives and teaching them to be upright.
(2 Tim 3:16 Phillips) All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for resetting the direction of a man's life and training him in good living.
(2 Tim 3:16 TEV) For all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living.
(2 Tim 3:16 NWT) All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness
(2 Tim 3:16 Lamsa) All scripture written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness;
(2 Tim 3:16 NEB) Every inspired scripture has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, or for reformation of manners and discipline in right living,
(2 Tim 3:16 Moffatt) All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for amendment, and for moral discipline,
(2 Tim 3:16 AMP) Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action),
(2 Tim 3:16 MSG) Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another--showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way.
(2 Tim 3:16 NLT) All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
(2 Tim 3:16 ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
(2 Tim 3:16 NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
(2 Tim 3:16 KJ21) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
(2 Tim 3:16 ASV) Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.
(2 Tim 3:16 WE) All that is written in the holy writings comes from the Spirit of God. The holy writings are good for these things: to teach people, to show them when they are wrong, to make them see what is right, to teach them to do what is right.
(2 Tim 3:16 YLT) every Writing [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that [is] in righteousness,
(2 Tim 3:16 Darby) Every scripture [is] divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;
(2 Tim 3:16 WYC) For all scripture inspired of God is profitable to teach, to reprove, to chastise, [for] to learn in rightwiseness,
(2 Tim 3:16 3rd Millenium) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
(2 Tim 3:16 Douay-Rheims) All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice:
(2 Tim 3:16 NCV) All Scripture is given by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right.
(2 Tim 3:16 God's Word) Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God's approval.
(2 Tim 3:16 Webster's) All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
(2 Tim 3:16 Wesley) Every Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for convincing, for correction of error, and for instruction in right doing;
(2 Tim 3:16 Inspired Version) And all scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;
(2 Tim 3:16 Brown and Comfort Interlinear) ALL SCRIPTURE [IS] GOD-BREATHED AND USEFUL FOR TEACHING, FOR REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION FOR TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS,
Some Other Articles on Bible Translations
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