Originally the Bible was written in Hebrew (and some Aramaic) for the Old Testament, and Greek for the New Testament. It is a profound challenge—and responsibility—to translate Scripture into the native tongue of the reader in such a way we can understand what God has said.
The first translation of the complete Bible into English was completed by John Wycliff in 1382, and now there are more different versions of English translations available than in any other language. Here at Christianbook.com we carry over 30 different English translations.
This of course presents a considerable challenge when choosing a Bible. We want a translation that faithfully and accurately renders God's word in words that we can understand—regardless of our cultural background, reading level, or experience with the English language. It is a daunting task to wade through available translations. We have assembled these few pages to give you some background on the most commonly used English translations and so help you choose the translation which best suits your needs.
Choosing a Bible: Understanding Bible Translation DifferencesLeland RykenCrossway / 2005 / Trade Paperback$3.49 Retail:5 Stars Out Of 5 4 Reviews
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How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible VersionsGordon D. Fee, Mark L. StraussZondervan / 2007 / Trade Paperback$10.99 Retail:4.5 Stars Out Of 5 8 Reviews Video
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At one end of the spectrum is the word-for-word translation (also referred to as a formal equivalent or literal translation). This approach seeks to represent the original Greek and Hebrew in a more word-for-word manner and preserve—as far as possible—original word order, grammar, and syntax. Many prefer this method because each Greek or Hebrew word is generally represented by the same English word in all occurrences. Some of the more literal translations include: the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the English Standard Version (ESV), and the New American Standard Bible (NASB). The most literal translation is the interlinear which contains the text in its original language with the English equivalent under the text.
On the other end of the spectrum we find the thought-for-thought translation (also referred to as a paraphrase or functional equivalent). This approach is more concerned with putting meaning of the passage in a colloquial language familiar to the reader. This type of translation seeks to render the ideas of the original text as accurately as possible in the target language (like English). Some examples in this category are: The Philips New Testament in Modern English, The Living Bible, and The Message (by Eugene Peterson). Many find this translation more readable, especially for new readers.
The middle of the spectrum is occupied by the dynamic equivalent, or mediating translation. These translations seek to strike a balance between the two translation approaches. They are sometimes more literal, sometimes more colloquial or conversational depending on the subject and text. Some examples in this category are the New International Version (NIV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and the New American Bible (NAB).
Many find it helpful to consult more than one translation—or to use different translations in different settings. While a more literal translation may be preferred for study, a less literal translation may be desired for devotional or casual reading. A Parallel Bible contains two or more translations for easy comparison.
Overview and Comparing Translations
Overview of Translations
Use this list for a brief overview of select translations.
- Amplified Bible
- English Standard Version (ESV)
- Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
- Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
- King James Version (KJV)
- The Message (MSG)
- New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- New International Version (NIV)
- New International Reader's Version (NIrV)
- New Living Translation (NLT)
- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- Tree of Life Version (TLV)