How to Choose a Bible Translation

Glasses on Open BibleSince the Bible was originally written in ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, it must be translated for most of us to read and understand it. In English, we have several options. But how are they different? How do you decide which version to read? Should you have more than one?

Here’s your guide to choosing a Bible translation.

What’s the difference?

Translating from an ancient language is a balancing act between precision and readability. The more strictly a translation holds to the word order of the original, the harder it is to read, and the smoother the translated language, generally the farther it strays from the original wording. Some translations sacrifice readability in favor of an extremely precise translation (like the NASB). Others play loose with the original word order and achieve a very smooth, highly readable final product (like the NLT). Most fill the space between those extremes.

There are four major translation methods:

  • Verbal equivalence—translate with strong preference to use the same word order as the original
  • Dynamic equivalence—translate with freedom to rearrange the order of words in the final product to enhance readability
  • Hybrid—a combined approach in which a committee of scholars decide which method to use in each situation
  • Paraphrase—translate with freedom to rearrange or use different words to express the author’s intent
    (Some scholars argue this method is not even a translation, but something different.)

Do I need more than one?

Yes.

While some teach that highly readable translations are better for children and new believers, it’s wise for everyone to pair a precise translation with a highly readable one, especially when dealing with a more complex passage. The readable one may lead to faster understanding, while the precision can clarify that understanding.

The NASB, a highly precise translation, pairs well with NLT, a smooth reading.

The ESV, a balanced translation with a tendency toward precision, pairs well with NIrV, which prefers readability.

While the Faithlife Study Bible comes free with the LEB, there are many other translations available for $10.00 each on Logos.com. Pick your preferred translations today!

Comments

  1. Billy Kangas says:

    What a clear introduction great

  2. Join two Bible translations with Logos link sets and supercharge your study!

  3. Join two Bible translations with Logos link sets and supercharge your study!

  4. Debbie de LLano says:

    I agree with Billy clear introduction, I posted the article on my Facebook timeline. I couldn't have said it better thank you!!

  5. Debbie de LLano says:

    I agree with Billy clear introduction, I posted the article on my Facebook timeline. I couldn't have said it better thank you!!

  6. Brian Owen says:

    Where does the NKJV fall in regarding translation method?

  7. Ray Deck III says:

    It's an update of the KJV. The translation team used the same methods on the same ancient texts. Both used a strict verbal equivalence.

  8. Ray T Luff says:

    The thing this did not cover is whether the Bible should use the Majority Greek text as represented by the Textus Receptus or 2 rogue Alexandrian Egyptian texts which most modern Bibles including all of those listed use in deference to the over 5000 texts available. The same errors are repeated in all the Bibles listed. Case in Point in Romans these newer Bibles state that there is a Judgment seat of God rather than the majority over 5000 manuscript text that it is the Judgment seat of Christ. For a free sample of the new Simplified King James Version look under freebies at my website http://www.truthiswhatmatters.com

  9. Fred Robbins says:

    I read as many different translations as I can get.

  10. Anthony Grubb says:

    I would add only that the NKJV does not actually use the ancient texts, but only those of the Byzantine/Textus Receptus lineage which Erasmus could procure while under pressure from his publisher! No kidding! As such, it follows a very poor scholarly tradition in the wake of more reliable manuscripts, but where textual considerations can be laid aside, it is a very readable, familiar, and likeable translation.

  11. R Scott Talley says:

    A text is not considered only on the number of attesting witnesses (manuscripts) since many were copied from the same source. I suggest looking at Metzger's textual commentary for guidance on Romans 14:10 use of the phrase.

  12. Ray T Luff says:

    The problem with the rogue documents used in modern Bibles as I stated in my argument is that they are so perverse that they disagree with each other in over 3000 instances in the first four books of the New Testament alone and one of them, the Sinaiticus includes the Shepherd of Hermes in replacement of the Book of Revelation which has on claiming to be the Christ coming to rule the world that will go unopposed. Revelation calls that Christ the Anti-Christ because he will be deposed by the true Christ who will dethrone him. Muslims are looking for a Mahdi to come who sets up a forever kingdom unoposed as well. The Shepherd of Hermes is a gnostic book that was provably authored in the fourth century. Why was it attached to the Sinaiticus? Is it not a sign that the Sinaticus is a heretically altered manuscript?

  13. Ray T Luff says:

    The argument against Metzger is that the Bible indeed was copied from one source in diverse locations such as Russia while at the same time in Ethiopia. Never the twain met for over a 1000 years and yet their manuscripts match each other and are a part of the Majority (Vast Majority 5000+ vs 2) manuscripts. And it is precisely this argument that verifies their accuracy and proves the inaccuracy of the Alexandrian documents that most Modern Bibles have as their basis.

  14. Paul O. Wendland says:

    While I agree that using more than one kind of translation is good, this analysis completely begs the question (especially regarding the so-called Verbal Equivalence type of translation) whether or not it is even possible to find a strict one for one correspondence of a single word in the original with a single word in the target text. Since this is utterly impossible, the assumption that a word for word approach is more "precise" falls to the ground. Precise with regard to what? Any schoolboy, for example, knows that the vocable "word" is by no means the exact equivalent of LOGOS as a mere glance at any Greek-English dictionary will demonstrate. It's just this kind of faulty linguistics that has muddied the waters in discussing the relative merits and demerits of various versions.

  15. Reb Bacchus says:

    I've lost count of how many translations I have read or own. The MOST important translation is the one you will read! Assuming of course that it is recognized as an honest attempt to portray the Word accurately.

    I don't read Greek, and I stopped trying to read Latin in the 10th grade when Caesar proved beyond me. Thus I depend on scholars to have an understanding and insight into the message of the text. If there is a major difference in the text, such that would produce changes in the way I see Christian life… then I want it addressed. But I haven't encountered that sort of dilemma yet. I have however found that different translations of the same verse speak to me. In one case I might receive new insight in another miss it altogether. I've been involved in Kairos Prison ministry for 17 years and I've seen much too much fighting over what scripture means… sorta like the mote and the beam in most cases.

    Don't get me wrong, I love to hear the scholarship on correct translations… but I want a version that will be read.. one that give the Spirit the opening to change people's lives.

  16. Oscar A Williams Jr says:

    I did my undergraduate studies at two different bible universities and my graduate studies at one bible university and one seminary. It tires me to hear all this banter about one translations accuracy over another and which one is closer to the original. it seems like everybody is trying to out shine the other in there knowledge of the Bible. The only and real translator is God himself. I am positive, without a doubt that God has preserved a copy of His word to us today. No one is going to get any closer to God by trying to squeeze every little drop out of the text by coming up with new translations. God said what he said and left no uncertain terms to us. Read your Bible prayerfully (talk to God) and you will not go un answered in your quest to know the truth.

  17. Ray T Luff says:

    Do some more homework. You will discover that Arthur Farstad introduced his own variant Majority text now properly called the Farstad Majoiryt text upon which the NKJV was based. The Farstad Maj uses one of the two rogue Alexandrian texts (The Sinaticus also called the Tischendorf). It introduces about 1/3 of the errors that the ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, MESSAGE, NLT, ESV and others introduce. (They introduce over 6000 errors to the New Testament text wheras the NKJV introduces 2000 or so.) NO the NKJV cannot be considered as a TR translation. Read the introduction of the NKJV it gives credit to the MAJ. It should say the FARSTAD MAJ. Do some research you will find the FARSTAD MAJ disagrees with the TR in many places.,

  18. Ray T Luff says:

    Do some more homework. You will discover that Arthur Farstad introduced his own variant Majority text now properly called the Farstad Majoiryt text upon which the NKJV was based. The Farstad Maj uses one of the two rogue Alexandrian texts (The Sinaticus also called the Tischendorf). It introduces about 1/3 of the errors that the ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, MESSAGE, NLT, ESV and others introduce. (They introduce over 6000 errors to the New Testament text wheras the NKJV introduces 2000 or so.) NO the NKJV cannot be considered as a TR translation. Read the introduction of the NKJV it gives credit to the MAJ. It should say the FARSTAD MAJ. Do some research you will find the FARSTAD MAJ disagrees with the TR in many places.,

Speak Your Mind

*