Choose a Bible Translation

The Bible is your basis for all your studies in God, but you can study for ages and get nowhere if you don't understand your Bible. There are so many Bible choices out there, from KJV to NIV to NW, knowing which one to choose with their benefits and disadvantages is tough nowadays. Read on to find out how to choose a Bible translation

  • A translation needs to be faithful to the original, it needs to be clear in the target language, and above all it must have the confidence of the reader. A specific Bible should also have the introductions, cross-references, indexing, maps and study notes necessary for your purposes. Put it all together, and you will have the ideal Bible for you.


  1. Line up several translations, side-by-side, and compare the same verses. There are interlinear Bibles that will do this for two, four or eight translations. Read some passages in each one. (You may want to compare Acts 26:14 and Psalm 1:1, since these show how translations deal with difficult Greek words and how sensitive they are to avoiding English idioms, respectively.)
    • Are certain translations clear and understandable, while others make little or no sense? Ideally, the translation should "speak to your heart" as well as your mind. The worst translations speak to neither, and make it easy to ignore items that a part of you wants to ignore.
    • Best translations are not the ones which are flowery or use old out of date terms and expressions which we no longer use in modern day language.
    • Many find that Bibles which use modern day, common language are easiest to understand and the easiest to build ones' faith on.
  2. Consider your purpose. How will you use the translation? Do you intend to read through the entire Bible, or entire books or chapters? Will you be looking up single verses and then quickly checking their context? Will you be wanting to study the original language(s), word by word?
    • As you compare the translations (in step 1), consider your intended usages. Which translation will make that easiest and help you avoid misunderstandings?
  3. Decide what kind of translation you would like. Are you searching for a translation for serious study, or one that reads easily in modern language? Consider purchasing both -- one of each -- different translations serve well for different purposes.
    • New American Bible (NAB): This a modern language Bible which is a relatively easy to read and study.
    • New World Translation (NW): This is a modern language literal translation for serious study, and comparing the English to the Greek. The NAB and NW are the most literal modern translations available, with the English rendering corresponding most closely to the Greek.
    • English Standard Version (ESV): Also quite literal but has fewer study helps available.
    • Revised Standard Version (RSV): A literal translation which was revised again in 1990 by the (New) Revised Standard Version (NRSV) which is considered a considerably looser translation then its predecessor.
  4. Some consider the King James Version (KJV) but do remember that the English language has changed since the 1600s. Some words which seem familiar may have changed their meanings over time; for example, the word "nice" used in the KJV originally meant "silly." This translation is therefor harder to understand.
    • Also, archaeologists and linguists continue to learn about the sites, cultures and languages of the Bible. We continue to discover earlier manuscripts. Newer translations (such as the NKJV) account for such discoveries; the KJV does not.
    • The Contemporary English Version (CEV) is very easy to read, and yet remains faithful to the original meaning. Another popular choice is the Good News Bible (GNB, also called the Today's English Version or TEV); the English used is very simple. The New Living Translation (NLT) is another popular example of this kind of translation.
    • The Living Bible (TLB) was a paraphrase by Dr. Kenneth Taylor of the American Standard Version, whereas the NLT used a translation committee and translated from the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Another popular paraphrase is The Message. Many enjoy the freshness of this rendering of scripture, paraphrased from the Greek by pastor Eugene Peterson.
  5. Remember that several major translations fall somewhere between the highly literal/thought for thought spectrum. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and New International Version (NIV) are examples of such translations that are generally well respected and used by many churches.
    • They are modified-literal translations that began with a word-for-word translation, and then translators modified the results to make the sentences more closely correspond to English syntax (grammar).
  6. Before purchasing a Bible read the translators preface- this will help you to determine the philosophy of the translators, and whether the translation is likely to be more or less literal.
    • Staff at Christian bookstores may be quite knowledgeable about different translations, and will likely be willing to answer any questions you may have.


  • There are two extremes on how can translators be faithful to the original. Translators can choose either, or usually something in the middle.
    • Formal equivalence, or literal translation. This is sometimes called word-for-word translation. A translation is formally equivalent if the words (and prefixes, etc.) are mostly matching between the languages. A translation into an unrelated language cannot be strictly literal. There will be some insertions, deletions and other modifications in order to make the result grammatical (or close to grammatical). Typically, though, a native speaker of (say) English will say it doesn't sound right. Readers have a harder time understanding it. Some meanings have been lost (e.g., Acts 26:14). Other meanings have been skewed (e.g., Psalm 1:1), so there are new, unintended meanings. Hopefully, though, such changes and losses are infrequent and minor. The bulk of the meaning is transferred, even if it sounds odd or is (at first) hard to understand.
    • Dynamic equivalence, or meaning-for-meaning translation. Dynamic equivalence attempts to understand the meaning of the original, and to convey that same meaning in the target language. So, if the Apostle Paul were writing this letter to the Romans in, say, British English, how would he have written it? Dynamic Equivalence gives the translation committee more freedom – a looser leash, if you will – and has the danger that they will unintentionally introduce new meanings. The translators have to understand the original sentence or paragraph and agree on it, and on a way to convey it in normal English. They use various methods to ensure that the meaning remains the same.
  • Usually, if you compare a literal and dynamic translation, they are saying the same thing. One is just clearer. On the contrary where they diverge, there is often no way to know which is the more accurate, even with a little Greek or Hebrew knowledge.
  • Bible Gateway has many translations available online - for free, as does Blue Letter Bible. This may be a good way to sample various translations to determine your preference. Bible Gateway has 21 English versions, 8 Spanish versions, as well as over 30 other language translations of the Old and New Testaments.
  • E-sword is a free Bible study program that you can download. There are many translations available (some free, some can be purchased for a small fee) and tools for study.
  • One common rule for Bible study is, 'When studying the Bible, use a Bible, not a paraphrase.'
  • The A few modern translations that benefit from recent archaeological discoveries and improved knowledge of ancient languages are more accurate to the first written texts formed the English Bible. The NASB, the NKJV, the HCSB are a few of these.


  • Understand that such Christian denominations as Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Protestants who read the Bible may not only have different opinions on it, but different Apocrypha ("hidden") books as well. Even "apocrypha" itself is up for different denominational interpretations.
  • While the King James Version (Authorized Version in the UK) AKA 1611 KJV is often thought to be the most accurate translation, the facts do not bear out this claim.[citation needed] The 1769 version is considered much more clear and accurate in the English language.
  • Avoid Bibles dedicated to specific religions. The Douay-Rheams, the Jerusalem Bible or the New American Bible focus on the Catholic; the American Standard Version has been the focus of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Use a Christian Bible.
  • Make sure to read the preface to the Bible you are considering, editors sometimes make changes that you may find unacceptable.
  • Generally it is best to avoid translations produced by any one denominational group, as these are likely to be somewhat biased by the theological beliefs of the translators in certain areas.

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