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Which translation should you use?

Updated on July 12, 2014

Which translation of the Bible is best?

I was asked not too long ago about why I use the NIV (New International Version) Bible. My answer was it's a simple matter of choice. And it is just that; a simple matter of choice. Each Bible has its advantages and disadvantages; but, in each translation the fundamental doctrines that each Christian lives by are the same (i.e.-the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ).

There are two (2) distinct forms of Biblical translations :

  1. "Formal Equivalence" which is a word-for-word translation. And,
  2. "Functional Equivalence" which is a thought-for-thought translation. This is simply where the translators were more concerned with the meaning of the original text and not so much with the grammatical form of the original text.

Some examples of formal equivalence translations are; but, not limited to:

  • KJV (King James Version)
  • ASV (American Standard Version)
  • NASB (New American Standard Bible)

Some examples of functional equivalence translations are; but, not limited to:

  • NIV (New International Version)
  • NEB (New English Bible)

There is also a style of translation known as "Optimal Equivalence" where the editors and/or publishers chose to give a balance to both "Formal Equivalence" and "Functional Equivalence", using both word-for-word translations and thought-for-thought translations. The HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) is a prime example of "Optimal Equivalence".

In this article blog, I hope to be able to describe and define the different translations that are out there for you, the reader, to choose from. I have researched 22 different translations; there are many more that I have not researched. That being said, I'm only putting 11 of the Bibles I have researched into this article blog. The choice of translation is a personal matter when searching out and acquiring a Bible. As stated earlier, though the wordings are different from Bible to Bible, the fundamental doctrines remain unchanged.

AMP (Amplified Bible)

The Amplified Bible, or AMP, is an English translation Bible published jointly by Zondervan and The Lockman Foundation. It was designed to "amplify" the text of the original by using a system of punctuation and other typographical features to bring out all shades of meaning from the original texts. It also includes event descriptions, a history of each book, an added dictionary, and an updated concordance.

From 1965 through 1987, the AMP was published in six (6) stages:

  1. The Gospel of John was published in 1954.
  2. The entirety of the New Testament was published in 1958.
  3. Volume II (2) of the Old Testament (Job-Malachi) was published in 1962.
  4. Volume I (1) of the Old Testament (Genesis-Esther) was published in 1964.
  5. The complete Bible was published in 1965.
  6. An updated edition was published in 1987.

There are seven (7) major difference between the AMP and other translations:

  1. Parenthesis ( ) and dashes - - are used for additional phrases of meaning included within the original words, phrases and clauses.
  2. Brackets [ ] are used to clarify words or comments that are not specifically stated in the original texts.
  3. Titles used for Father and Son are offset with commas.
  4. Italics are used to point out familiar passages that do not adequately support the original texts and are used for readability purposes only.
  5. Capitals are used for names and personal pronouns when referring to Father, Son and Holy Spirit only.
  6. There are verse references for further study.
  7. Any synonyms used are limited to what the text seems to warrant.

The Amplified Bible is good for word study; but, must be used very carefully.

ASV (American Standard Version)

The translators for the ASV (American Standard Version) Bible were made up of Baptists, Congregationalists, Dutch Reformed, Friends, Methodists, Episcopals, Presbyterians, Protestant Episcopals and Unitarians. The first edition of the ASV Bible was published in 1900. For many years the ASV Bible was the Bible of choice for those attending a seminary.

CEV (Contemporary English Version)

The CEV (Contemporary English Version) Bible is also known as The Bible for Today's Family. Translation and editing began in 1985 by Barclay Newman, who conducted a study on how English was read and ordered. The New Testament was released in 1991 with the Old Testament following in 1995.

The CEV Bible was designed for lower reading levels to make it more easily understood and followed three (3) distinct principles during the editing process:

  1. It had to be understood without stumbling over complicated words and/or phrases.
  2. It had to be understood by those without a "Bible language" understanding. And,
  3. It had to be understood by everyone.

The translators incorporated gender-neutral language for all of mankind (him, her, his, hers); but, gender-specific language for Father and Son. The paraphrasing used in the CEV makes for clearer understanding of the context by using simpler modern language.

ESV (English Standard Version)

The ESV (English Standard Version) Bible was first published in 2001 with updates in both 2007 and 2011. It is the most up to date "formal equivalence" (word-for-word) Bible on the market today. The editors of this Bible eliminated nearly all of the stilted English terminology while taking into account differences in grammar, syntax and idiom; however, it still maintains the literary excellence of the original KJV (King James Version) Bible. The ESV is used widely for many Bible studies.

GNB (Good News Bible)

The GNB (Good News Bible) translation was first published in 1976, and updated in 1992. The work on the GNB started when people (mostly from Africa and the Far East) wanted a version that was easier for non-native English speakers to use and read. It is a "functional equivalence" translation, meaning it serves more as a thought-for-thought Bible. There is an introduction for each book of the Bible and the language is such that it is suitable for younger children and those learning to speak the English language; but, because of the language simplicity, the poetic language is often sacrificed for readability. This Bible has been endorsed by many people and groups, including Billy Graham, the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian Church.

HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

The HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) is a modern English translation published by Holman Bible Publishers. The New Testament was first released in 1989, and by 2004 the first edition was completed. More than 100 international and inter-denominational scholars and proofreaders helped in formatting this translation using "optimal equivalence"; meaning, it uses word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations. Because the primary goal of this publication was to convey the original text in as clear a way as was possible, this "optimal equivalence" was the best approach to use.

KJV (King James Version)

To start, the KJV (King James Version) Bible in publication today is not the same as it was in 1611 when the original KJV was published. Since 1611 there have been over 100,000 translations changes, including 300+ words that do not mean the same today as in previous centuries.

The KJV Bible, in its beginning, was also known as the Authorized Version, or AV, or the King James Bible. It was the English translation, from the original text, of the Christian Bible for the Church of England. The authorization for the translation of a new Bible was given by King James VI in 1604, and in 1611 the work was completed by Robert Barker. All told, there were 47 scholars, all members of the Church of England, who helped with the translation process. The primary concern for the translation was producing a Bible that would hold appropriate and dignified language and meaning when read in a pubic setting (i.e. church). The entirety of the work had to conform to the ecclesiology of the church, and had to reflect the episcopal polity structure of the Church of England with the belief in an ordained clergy. The New Testament was translated from the Greek language, the Old Testament was translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic languages and the Apocrypha was translated from the Greek and Latin languages. Although the KJV has public domain in nearly all of the world today, publication and distribution of the KJV in the United Kingdom is solely a Royal Prerogative.


The ecclesiology of a church refers to the theological study of the Christian Church (ideals regarding the origins of Christianity, the relationship between the church and Jesus, the Christ, the church's role in salvation). In the Greek language the word is ekklësiä, meaning a congregation or a church, with the ending logia, meaning knowledge or logic.

Episcopal Polity is the hierarchy of church government with the chief local authorities are known as bishops.

The Apocrypha is a collection of ancient books found in a separate section of the Bible between the Old Testament and the New Testament, or sometimes as an appendix to the New Testament. In Greek the work is apòkruphos.

The Royal Prerogative is the monarchal authority that governs privileges and immunities with the commonwealth of the United Kingdom.

MES (The Message)

The MES (Message) Bible was published in segments between 1993 and 2002. It is an idiomatic translation of the original language of Bible, meaning it has a large figurative language base. As such, it is more of a paraphrased translation, or a commentary on the Bible itself, and it lends itself to be more relevant to the people of today's society verses those in past centuries. Because of its paraphrasing, it is recommended that the MES not be used as a sole study Bible.

NIV (New International Version)

The NIV (New International Version) Bible is one of the most popular Bible translations in the world today. It was originally published in 1970s (the New Testament in 1973 and the Old Testament in 1978) and had updates in 1984 and 2011. The editors and publishers used a mix of word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations. Today there are more than 450 million copies worldwide.

**This is the Bible version I personally prefer to use. The language is a little more simpler and uses a lot of modern day language. I will sometimes switch between my NIV and my husband's NKJV (New King James Version). As I stated earlier, the translation of Bible you use is a persona choice as the major Biblical doctrines are unchanged.

RSV (Revised Standard Version)

The RSV (Revised Standard Version) Bible was originally meant to be a KJV revision. It was intended to be more readable than the KJV while maintaining a literary accuracy.

The RSV was published in 10 stages:

  1. The 1st edition of the New Testament was published in 1946.
  2. The Old Testament (and thereby the full Protestant Bible) was published in 1952.
  3. The Apocrypha was published in 1957.
  4. A modified version was published in 1962.
  5. The RSV Catholic Edition of the New Testament was published in 1965.
  6. The RSV Catholic Edition of the Old Testament was published in 1966.
  7. The 2nd edition of the New Testament was published in 1971.
  8. The Common Bible was published in 1973.
  9. The expanded edition of the Apocrypha was published in 1977.
  10. The 2nd Catholic Edition was published in 2006.

TLB (The Living Bible)

The TLB (The Living Bible) Bible was released in 1971. It is a paraphrased Bible with language that younger children could readily understand. For this reason, this Bible is a good family devotional Bible; but, not good for more in-depth Bible studies. The TLB has been well received in many evangelical circles, and many youth-oriented Protestant groups have also readily accepted it. It was a best-seller during the 1970s.

...even more...

I have listed these 11 Bible versions, there are 11 more that I have personally researched. I encourage you to seek out and weigh which Bible translations might be of more benefit to each of you in your own faith walks.

The other 11 that I have researched; but, not categorized in the article blog are:

  • NKJV (New King James Version)
  • LEB (Lexham English Bible)
  • NASB (New American Standard Bible)
  • NCV (New Century Version)
  • NEB (New English Bible)
  • NET (New English Translation)
  • TNIV (Today's New International Version)
  • NJB (New Jerusalem Bible)
  • NLT (New Living Translation)
  • REB (Revised English Bible)
  • NRSV (New Revised Standard Version)

Which one...

Which Bible translation is the one that you prefer to the other?

See results


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