There are literally hundreds of translations of the Bible – thousands, if you count languages other than English – and it can be difficult to determine which one you prefer to use. Each translation has its own unique aspects and origins. Most of the popular ones include the 66 books that are considered canon in the non-Catholic world, while a few may contain the Apocrypha, which are included in Catholic canon Bible translations. Most of the translations into English have been finished since the mid-1970s, but a few were published earlier (most notably the King James) and a couple of them have revisions as recently as 2014.
The King James Version (also known at the Authorized Version or King James Bible, usually abbreviated KJV) has long been a favorite among Christians in the English-speaking world. Originally translated into Olde English in 1611, the spelling was put into modern standards but the phrasing was kept the same. Some of the words may be antiquated, but those who prefer it feel that the meaning of the original is better preserved through the chosen vocabulary, because the words used contain more depth of meaning than some of the word choices replacing them in more modern translations. Most of the texts sold today are based on the 1769 edition.
Like the King James, the New King James Version (NKJV) is based on the King James Version, but updated to modern English. Many verses are the same or very similar, with simple changes made to grammar order, replacing antiquated words with their current equivalents, and such similar adjustments. The style is the same, however, which makes it ideal for those who prefer the “feel” of the KJV but desire simpler wording.
The modern translation that seems to appear most often today is the New International Version (NIV). This translation was created due to the desire of people to have a translation that used today’s English instead of the old vocabulary used in the KJV. This translation was completed in 1978 by Zondervan and the International Bible Society. It has been updated in 1984 and 2011. Those who prefer this version cite its accuracy and ease of reading.
The New Living Translation (NLT) is a revision of the Living Bible, which is a paraphrase more than a translation. Published in 1996 originally, the NLT was revised in 2004 and 2007, using Hebrew and Greek texts in the process. One of the main differences between this and other translations is that measurements have been updated to current equivalents for better understanding.
Another modern English translation that is very popular is the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), published in 2017, which is a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), which was published in 2009. 100 scholars representing seventeen denominations worked together to translate the Bible into a clear, readable, and original translation of the Bible.
The English Standard Version (ESV) is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of 1971. This attempts to translate word-for-word from the original, using current English language for easy reading and clarity. It was published in 2001 and updated in 2016.
The Message expands on some things to be sure that readers will understand what is being said and will not be confused. The dialogue tends more toward conversational than other translations, and is a paraphrase of the original, bringing it into the 21st century. It is an excellent tool to keep alongside your regular chosen translation for a clearer vision of the concepts presented.
The New American Standard Bible (NASB) was translated by a group of believers led by the Lockman Foundation. Their intent was to present a translation that was true to the original languages, grammatically correct, and understandable. They worked on the premise that God’s authority in Scripture is ultimate, so their own viewpoints were not to have any bearing on their translation efforts. Their efforts resulted in a translation that is one of the most popular in recent years.
The Contemporary English Version (CEV) was translated for meaning rather than word-specific. Using common language, the text is translated according to what the section meant, rather than how it was worded. Usually recommended for children and new believers, this translation was introduced in 1995, with a revision in 2006.
The Good News Translation (GNT, also Today’s English Version [TEV] or Good News Bible) was one of the first translations where the text was based on the meaning of the original rather than the exact wording (also known as “functional equivalent” or “meaning-based”). Originally published in 1976, there was a revision in 1992. This Bible presents the text in a common English vocabulary that the English-speaking world at large can easily understand. There is also a Roman Catholic edition available.
The New American Bible (NAB, and its revised edition, NABRE) were published in 1970, mainly intended for Roman Catholic adherents. The revision in 2011 has added a quantity of notes that aid in individual study, while the older version is approved for public worship.
The Revised Standard Version (RSV) was originally published in 1952, and revised in 1977, and was an update of the American Standard Version (ASV) from 1901, a revised version of the KJV. The 1977 revision removed the “thee” and “thou” language and has been used in many Eastern Orthodox churches since then.
For those who include the Deuterocanonical books (also known as the Apocrypha), these can be found in editions of the CEB, CEV, ESV, GNT, KJV, NABRE, RSV, and others. You will not find them in the NASB, NIV, NLT, or The Message.
The Word of God has never been more accessible to people in general than it is today. Whether you choose to use one translation or a variety of them, the important thing is to spend time in God’s word and study to learn more about what He tells people, including history, songs, Christian living, the life of Christ, and things to come. The Bible is an excellent resource for uplifting, blessing, and encouragement, to one’s self and to others.