I have examined and reviewed most of the major English translations and have my findings on this site for you personal edification. 

  • English Translations (HTML)   This is not a work which requires you to begin reading on page 1 and continue on to page2 and then page 3.  Quite likely, you may want to skip over much of this and go directly to the Summary Table (which is followed by some very important tables.  At a glance, you will learn what you need to about your translation and about the others which are out there.  Once you have looked over some of the tables, then you may have an interest in reading about a particular translation or two.  Because of this, I moved the hyperlinks to the very beginning of this document to provide you easier and quicker access.
  • English Translations (PDF)  You will want to right click this document and save as on your own computer, and then open it with Acrobat Reader.  For some reason, I am unable to open this directly on the internet.
  • Summative Table (HTML)  (PDF)  (this will give you quick and dirty information on the various translations; probably more information than you expect) 
  • Bible Translation Chart with Reading Levels (HTML)  (PDF)  (WPD)  This is a work in progress; but much of the basic information is there, including the reading levels for about 30 Bible translations.
  • Greek and Hebrew References (HTML)  (PDF)  A list and evaluation of the various resources that I depend upon and my appraisal of them.

Preface: This is an examination of the many translations of the Bible into English.  As you read through this, I think you are going to be rather surprised.  Generally those interested in which translation of Scripture is best are often conservative, fundamental, evangelical Christians.  You will be surprised to know that one of the more modern translations, which has very conservative, evangelical leanings, is also one of the most inaccurate translations available.  You may be surprised to know that one translation which is both in modern English and yet remains quite faithful to the original text is a translation that you very likely have never even seen.  You will be surprised to note that the version which has the best footnotes dealing with textual criticism is a version that you have never heard of before (Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible).  The most literal English translation is also a version that you have never heard of before (Young’s Literal Translation).  You will be surprised to know that one of the very best of the modern translations (of the Old Testament) was not made by a Christian or a group of Christians, but was translated by the Jewish Publication Society.  One of the surprising weaknesses of most translations is a serious lack of consistency (consistency is the quality of rendering the same Greek (or Hebrew) word with the same English word time and time again).  However, there is one very consistent translation available to you, and yet, you probably have never heard of it (again, Young’s Literal Translation).

What is the best English translation of Scripture?  When I began this study, I already knew the answer to this; by the time I finished, I changed my mind—several times.  In fact, I came to conclusions that surprised me (and I’ve studied the Bible for several decades).

Selecting the right Bible (or Bibles) is one of the most important decisions that you will make, yet few give this decision much thought.  You might use the Bible that has been laying around your house unread for several decades; you might use the Bible your church uses, or you simply pick up a pulpit copy.  Maybe a Christian friend suggested this translation or that.  At best, you may glance through a quarter page comparison between a dozen choices, and select a translation based upon that.  One thing which will surprise you, when you read this book, is that the best translation for Timothy is not necessarily the best translation for Paul.

What you will find out when you read this book is that there are more issues at stake then you first realized; I expect that you will change your mind once or twice, even though friends of your might not use the word open-minded when they describe you.

If you do not want to wade through a lot of reading, then your are welcome to go immediately to the  Summative Table (HTML)  (PDF) .

To the Reader: You obviously have an interest in the Bible, which is why you are reading this book right now.  You might have one or two Bibles that sit in the trunk of their car, at a pew at their church, on a shelf, or you might even carry it around with you.  Someone might say something—a friend, a television or radio preacher, your pastor—and you will reach for the Bible to confirm or negate what they have said.  There are occasions when you might find yourself in a theological argument, and you will reach to your Bible for support.  There are times when you need guidance, times when you study, and you reach for your Bible.  You might even be a pastor or a deacon, giving thought to what Bible should be read from, or distributed, or placed in the pews.

More than likely, you know at most a handful of Greek or Hebrew words.  You may or may not be familiar with the history of the Bible, and it is likely that your understanding of textual criticism is sketchy at best.  These are topics which are generally the domain of the clergy, and not those generally taken up by the man in the pew.  But those who translated your Bible—they (ideally) know the Greek, Aramaic and /or Hebrew; they know about how the Bible was transmitted from generation to generation; they are aware of the manuscripts which are in existence at this time and their relative importance and significance.  It is their job to make certain that all of these things have been taken into consideration while they produce yet another modern English translation of Scripture.  What you need to know, as a consumer, is, how close is my Bible to the original languages?  Were the Dead Sea Scrolls considered?  Should they have been considered?  How much confidence can I place in the Bible that I own?  If I am holding to any particular belief, is it based upon an accurate rendering of Scripture, or does it simply reflect the theological bias of those who translated my Bible?

The first thing that you will do is turn to the section which deals with your translation of the Bible—that is what you should do.  Find out if your Bible is any good.  Find out if the translators carefully weighed the nuances of the original languages; find out if they examined the various extent manuscripts; find out if the thrust of their work was producing a Bible that was accurate or readable (which are not necessarily mutually exclusive goals).  If your Bible appears to have a few shortcomings, then browse this book to find another translation which might be more suited for you (yes, given your background, theological training and formal education, one translation may be better suited for you in particular).

You may have an older version of the Bible—a KJV, the ASV or the RSV—and you want to get something that is easier to read.  What exactly will be sacrificed in order to find a more readable version?  You may have been raised on the KJV and you want a more modern version—should you turn to the NKJV?  Will it simply be more of the same old, same old?  Should you purchase a TEV, CEV or an NIV?

In fact, let me say a word about which is the best translation that you can acquire: when I began this project, I thought that I would be able to provide a list of the translations in order from best to worst—you know, a top ten list for the best translations of the Bible.  I was wrong—after spending considerable time on this project, I decided that choosing a Bible can be a fairly individual thing, and rightfully so.  Now, I will certainly be able to group various translations—there are a half-dozen which are clearly the best and a smaller handful that you do not need to own.  But, as to which translation you personally should choose?  You will answer that question for yourself, I will only help facilitate that decision.

I expect that this book will perform two primarily functions: First, this book will allow you to examine your primary Bible critically, to note its strengths and weaknesses.  Secondly, this book will help you to make a reasonable selection for a second or third Bible; or it will help you to choose another primary translation to use.

I should also mention that you don’t have to read each and every page in order to make an informed decision.  I have intentionally summarized each translation at the beginning and have grouped the translations into various categories at the end, so that you can skim through this book, and stop and examine it more carefully when you need more detailed information.  Do you want to know which translations are approved by the Catholic Church, but you don’t want to read through each and every section of this book?  I took care of that for you.  It’s at the end of this book in the summary.  Do you want to know which translations took into account the manuscripts found in the Dead Sea Scrolls?  Summarized at the end of this book.  Let’s say you are going to buy a Bible for a friend or family member with limited reading skills—I’ve placed those recommendations in the summary.  In other words, what I expect is that you might read through a few of the summaries, then you will find yourself going back to the individual sections to get more information.  My point is, this book lends itself to skimming or perusing; to reading from front to back or back to front.

And one more thing: this book changed my mind, the author, about many of these translations.

That being said, I should admit to certain prejudices (which I believe to be Biblically based).  First of all, I do prefer a more literal version over a less literal version.  If a particular phrase is an idiom, then I would rather see the gist of the idiom revealed in a footnote rather than attempted in the text itself.  Secondly, I am not a sympathizer of the charismatic movement.  I disagree with several key points of their theology (notably, their modern take of speaking in tongues, healing and the possibility of losing one’s salvation).  Thirdly, I would prefer to capitalize the pronouns which refer to any of the members of the Godhead (in fact, I would prefer capitalizing many things associated with God’s Word and various things which have been ordained by God).  These predispositions being admitted to, still I believe I was able to present a very objective examination of the various texts.  With regards to these points of doctrine, I simply will point out which translation holds to this doctrine, and which does not; which capitalizes those words associated with the Godhead and which does not.  Interestingly enough, the translations which seem to have been influenced by the charismatic movement also tend to be the translations which do not capitalize pronouns which refer to any member of the Godhead.  These translations also tend to be those which are more of a thought-for-thought translation, as opposed to a word-for-word translation.

Preface: What follows is a rather lengthy comparison of the various common English translations which I personally use.  I originally expected this to be about 20–30 pages long; it is now in excess of 180 pages.  Please do not mistake this for the tripe which I have run across on a regular basis where some old guy puts forth a half dozen arguments as to why we should all use the King James Version.  There was a time period, particularly for the middle of the 20th century, that each time some translations came out, that there would be this set of pastors on the sidelines railing against each new translation, simultaneously touting the virtues of the authorized version.  In many cases, these were simply traditionalists with little to say, their best argument often being that, when it comes to memorizing Scripture, we need one version so that everyone will memorize each verse in the same way.

On the other hand, there were a handful of men who did give some reasonable arguments against some of the modern translations.  A fellow named Moser put out several pamphlets disparaging many of the modern translations.  Sometimes his arguments were petty; however, many times he criticized them with good reason.  In fact, it was through reading his pamphlets that I became much more discerning in my examination of the modern English translations.

When I began this project, I really assumed that I would be able to come to the conclusion, “Everyone ought to purchase such and such a translation.”  And, if I was to lay money on it, I would have initially bet that I would strongly recommend that everyone purchase the NASB.  I have since discovered that there are a great many factors involved when purchasing a Bible.  Most people should have at least two translations, and it is almost impossible to give a blanket recommendation as to which translations these should be.  However, if you do not want to wade through all of this information, then feel free to go to the Summative Table, where I will sum up the strengths and weaknesses of the various translations.  Now that I have come very nearly to the end of this never-ending project, I would probably make a blanket recommendation of the NIV Study Bible, even though I believe the NASB and the NKJV to be better translations.  However, I do not necessarily mean that you, individually, should purchase that particular translation.  As I said, there are a great many factors involved.

Interestingly enough, there are some translations, such as the NLT and the Good News Bible that I was predisposed to dislike; and some that I was predisposed to like (Complete Jewish Bible).   However, as I used these various Bibles and began to look at them with a critical eye, I often changed my mind.  After examining what the translators did, their viewpoints, and the resulting product, I was very often swayed toward liking many more translations than I expected; and there were a small handful which I would not recommend at all to anybody.

Now, will we ever return to a King James-only usage?  No; not in this world nor in the next.  We have several generations of people who have been raised on versions other than the King James Version, who, if they picked up a KJV, would not understand it.  Given that we must accept that there are other translations out there which are not going to go away, the best we can hope for is that those who obtain a Bible for themselves actually give some thought as to which translation would most suit them.  An important point that I want to make, which will cause some of you to grind your teeth, by the way, is that choosing one or two translations can be a very personal choice.  That is, for me, if I had to choose between the NASB, the NIV or TEV, such a choice would be easy—I would select the NASB.  However, there are others who, for various individual reasons, would be better off choosing the NIV or the TEV.  Prior to my examination of these translations, I would never have thought that I would come to a conclusion like that.  My original intent was almost to list these translations in descending order from best to worst.  Having examined them in detail, I no longer feel that is appropriate.

About four years after I began this project, I noticed that my examinations of the various English translations were becoming longer and longer—some of them exceeding ten pages.  It was then that I realized that I needed a synopsis of each translation at the beginning.  Now you can go from translation to translation and get a brief synopsis of each.

When someone chooses to write about any particular topic; especially when comparing and contrasting different things, there are two things which are true: (1) the writer feels passionately about that which he writes; and, (2) he has an opinion already.  Unless it is his job, a writer is not going to write about something that he cares little about.  Just like any other artist, a writer is practically forced by his soul to express himself.  And no one is going to start writing about topics that he is ambiguous about.  So, certainly, I had biases prior to beginning this project, yet I promised myself that I would approach this project with a relatively open mind (and, as a matter of fact, I did change my mind about certain translations—in fact, I changed my mind several times as I examined these various translations).  And, interestingly enough, the more I studied the various translations, the more open-minded I became about this topic.  For instance, there were translations which I eschewed at the beginning, that, when I began to study them, I became less convinced of my original position; and, near this project’s end, I could see where such a translation would have a proper place in this world.  To be more specific, when I began this project, I had a decided prejudice in favor of literal translations and I repudiated that which was a paraphrase.  Now, a year and a half after beginning this project, and even though I prefer a good literal translation for most of my own work, I acknowledge a real need for those translations which are less than literal, but which convey the original ideas more clearly.  However, I have also noticed, as I looked more carefully, that many of the newer, modern-English translations tend to have become more liberal in their theology.  It is not that the essential doctrines of the faith are completely lost in some of these translations; however, some are more obscure and more difficult to uncover than they are in the older, more word-for-word literal translations.  My point being that, certainly you should own a modern-English version which is easier for you to understand; however, you may want to choose that version carefully, and, for personal, in-depth studies, use a more literal translation (e.g., the KJV, NKJV, NASB, Young’s Literal Translation or The Emphasized Bible).

Now, when I began this, was I out to come up with as many reasons as I could to disparage this translation or that?  Not really.  As mentioned, I had some personal prejudices which I believe I shed.  What I have attempted to do is as follows: (1) I want you first to have a general feel for each translation which I cover; (2) I want to give you an idea as to how close to the Greek or Hebrew that each translation is; (3) I want to let you know if there is any discernable slant or prejudice in the translation itself; (4) and finally, I want to give you enough information to make an informed decision when buying your next translation.  I can almost guarantee that, if you are reading this, that you will end up buying another translation or two.

I found out soon enough that all modern-English translations were not equal.  This certainly seems like a fairly obvious point.  However, the types of inequities quite frankly surprised me.  The CEV, which is one of the most fundamentalist-leaning translations, is also one of the least literal.  It is as though the translator examined the original passage in the Hebrew or Greek, took a nap, and then woke up and wrote down from memory what might be a reasonable paraphrase.  The result is that the CEV is littered with words and phrases which have no actual counterpart in the original language.  God’s Word™ struck me as having a rather presumptuous name and I originally just tossed it into my pile of here’s another modern English translation.  Well, it turns out that they offer probably the most literal of the modern English translations, their accuracy being very close to that of the NASB or the NKJV.  However, once and awhile, they insert a few important words which are not found in the original languages.  Two charismatics pointed me in the direction of The Open Bible, which is the New Living Translation.  I automatically assumed that this version would lean toward a charismatic interpretation.  Wrong.  In terms of the theological leanings, this is a very accurate Biblical translation.  On the other hand, the NRSV, which I assumed would be fundamentalist in all regards, leans toward the charismatic point of view, something that I would have never guessed prior to entering into this study.

Are there versions you should avoid?  Absolutely—there are several modern translations of the Bible out there that you should avoid at all costs.  They are inaccurate and slanted.  There are others out there which, on the one hand are reasonable, but get way too imaginative at times.  Once you have read through most of this, you will know where your translation stands and whether or not you need another translation for your own personal study.

Now my purpose is this: If you have read this far, then you have some interest in the translations which you have or you are interested in picking up a couple of additional English translations to add to your theological collection.  Let’s say you are looking for a more obscure translation, and you cannot decide between Young’s Literal Translation or Moffatt’s Translation (a very easy decision, by the way); I am hoping that you will benefit by the work that I have put in here as to determining what translation or additional translation that you will seek out.  Just owning these Bibles and making occasional reference to them actually is not enough.  When I began this project, I owned about 25 different translations and/or flavors of translations.  At that time, I could not have told you which translation had a more liberal bend, which held to orthodoxy, which was sympathetic to the Catholic Church.  As I continue in this study, I have found these things out and am passing them along to you.

I need to point out that this is a work in progress, and not all of the translations listed above will be found below.  Bear in mind that I am working on them as we speak.  Because of a kind word said by Titus in his links (when I posted this on the web several years ago), I went back to work on this and this is much improved over what I had here before.  Furthermore, if you would like to cut to the chase and go directly to the conclusions, bypassing all the excess, then click on this.

I should also mention that there are often partial and extended quotes and paraphrases from the prefaces of these Bibles which are not so identified.  You may assume that any phrase of more than three words which is italicized came from the Bible which is being reviewed.  The primary purpose of this is to provide an easy comparison between the Bibles herein discussed.  It appears as though the dark green type refers to a fairly literal translation and that the blue type is a much freer translation.  Those in black are somewhere in the middle.

One important consideration is from what manuscripts are these translations taken?  Many of you possibly even think that there is some perfect set of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts out there upon which a translation should be based.  Wrong!  In the Old Testament, although there are several Hebrew manuscripts, our oldest dates back to the end of the first millennium a.d. (and the reason is that, when a new manuscript was copied, the old one was destroyed).  The vowel points for the Hebrew were not added until thousands of years after the original manuscripts were written (there were no vowels whatsoever in original written Hebrew).  There are clearly mistakes and problems with the Hebrew manuscripts, and there are clearly places where words were left out, words are unintelligible, and words whose meanings are long gone.  What a translator does at this point is a key to his philosophy as both a translator and as a scholar of the original manuscripts.  The ancient Koine Greek is a better known language which is much easier for us to crack.  The Hebrew Bible, around 200 b.c., was translated into the Greek.  Therefore, this Greek Old Testament provides us invaluable helps in determining the meaning of some words and verses.  However, this was a very uneven translation.  Most of the Law was well-translated from the Hebrew to the Greek; however, several books, e.g., Kings, was very poorly translated.  Furthermore, there was no careful consensus on what type of translation was to be done then (it was the first translation of an ancient book ever done).  Therefore, some books and passages are rendered very literally and some are given a very free translation.  It’s kind of like half of the Bible was translated by Robert Young (a staunch literalist) and the other half was done by the Good News Bible people.  And then these versions were shuffled together.  So, what a translator does with the Greek manuscripts is very telling.  Do they depend upon it too much?  Do they use it wisely?

This leads me to say a few words about Textual Criticism.  Some believers think that there is one accurate Hebrew manuscript and one accurate Greek manuscript that we follow in order to get our English translation.  To be more precise, many Christians don’t really give much thought at all to the original language source for our English translations.  With regards to the New Testament, there are 24,000 ancient Greek manuscripts which are employed.  Some of these manuscripts have the entire text of the New Testament; some are only fragments of the New Testament.  Some of these texts were copies made less one century after the original writing was done.  Some were made several hundred years later.  However, these 24,000 manuscripts are not in complete agreement.  The science of textual criticism is to come up with a manuscript which will reflect what is believed to be the most accurate Greek text with respect to the original writings.  Quite frankly, the New Testament can be pinned down to a fairly exact rendering of the original text.

However, the Old Testament is something else again.  First of all, for centuries, our best Hebrew manuscripts were copies made a millennium after the closing of the Hebrew canon, and which had the addition of chapters, verses and vowels, none of which were present in the originals.  Furthermore, we only had a handful of these Hebrew manuscripts.  What we had in addition to these few Hebrew manuscripts were Greek translations of the Hebrew.  Even though the Greek translation (called the Septuagint) was made within 200 years of the closing of the canon, it was a very uneven translation—some portions of Scripture were carefully and literally rendered, and other portions were a paraphrase.  And there isn’t just one Greek manuscript, but there are many versions of the Septuagint and many revisions of same.  In addition to this, there are translations of the Hebrew made into other languages, as well as paraphrases from the Hebrew into other ancient languages.  So, the job of the Old Testament textual critic is much tougher than that of the New Testament textual critic.  The Old Testament manuscripts are in a variety of languages, some portions of which are careful translations, some portions of which are paraphrases; and the time between the closing of the canon and the manuscripts which we possess is a matter of hundreds of years rather than tens of years.  What has been helpful is that the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has given us some additional manuscripts which are closer in time to the original Old Testament writings.

The more that you know about textual criticism, the more important an issue it will become to you.  Personally, I don’t want a Bible which simply footnotes this is how this verse should read; the Masoretic text is somewhat different.  I would like to know upon which manuscripts these deviations are based.  So far, no translation is completely satisfactory in this regard (although two translations might be classified as good when it comes to substantiating their choice of readings).  There are many modern English translations which render the text as they see fit and do not footnote a passage which is based upon a variant reading.

You will notice, as you read portions of this book, that I have spent more time examining the Old Testament than the New with regards to these various translations.  There are several reasons for this: (1) The Old Testament is where there is the most disagreement and there are two primary source manuscripts which are followed: the Hebrew text (which is what the Old Testament was originally written in) and the Septuagint (the Greek text, a translation of the Hebrew into the Greek)—which are followed.  Which translation leans toward one or the other is important.  (2) Our knowledge of ancient Greek is far superior to our knowledge of ancient Hebrew; therefore, the Old Testament Greek text is extremely important for this reason. Also, the Greek translation is based up manuscripts which are over a millennium older than the manuscripts which we have.  (3) Now, in contrast, there are simply Greek texts which are our concern with the New Testament.  There tends to be a greater agreement between the various Greek texts.  (4) Finally, most of my own personal exegetical work is in the Old Testament, so most of my illustrations and comparisons will come from the Old Testament.

Not only are there many different translations of the Bible, but there are many flavors of various translations.  I personally own (as of this writing) around 40 different translations of the Bible, versions of translations, and compilations of translations.  For instance, there are many flavors of the King James Bible.  If one must own and work out of the KJV, then I see the only reasonable choice as being Scofield’s Reference Bible.  If you want to go with the NIV, then by all means, pick up the NIV Study Bible (or The Narrated Bible).  The included features are certainly worth the extra few dollars.  As I go through these various translations, I will also comment on the versions which I own and the extras which come with them.

I cannot over-emphasize that for your primary Bible, buy the expensive binding.  In retrospect, I have never regretted picking up the Bible with the expensive leather binding; however, I also own several Bible’s which are now held together by tape—Bibles whereby originally I saved a few dollars by purchasing cheaper binding—those purchases I regret.  If you ever have to transfer the notes that you make in the margins from one worn Bible to the same translation, you will recognize the importance of getting a Bible with a good binding (although such an exercise is not a waste of time).

I have recently discovered some lengthy pamphlets (about 80 pages each) dealing with very, very negative reviews of Today’s English Version, The New English Bible, and The Living Bible.  They are all written by the same person (M. L. Moser, Jr.).  Now, having admitted to some predisposition toward the literal translations, I have also been won over, in part, by some of these thought-for-thought translations as being reasonable versions of Scripture to own.  As I perused Moser’s books, I must admit that he had some very valid points.  I had first dismissed him as a KJV-only preacher who was only justifying his position.  However, upon a closer examination of the passages which he had problems with, I was forced to admit that many of the new translations veer both in theologically and in translation from the KJV.  In most cases, their translation reflects a theological predisposition rather than upon a more accurate rendering of the original language or a more up-to-date rendering of the original.   There are certain theological areas where some of the modern translations have gone soft (e.g., the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, and the cross).  In this age of sloppy theology, such things demand a careful examination.  In several instances, my examination of some of these translations was both superficial and too accepting.  I have attempted, in some of the Bible translations which I have re-examined, to be more critical of what they have done with regards to orthodox doctrine.  I must herein give credit to Moser for causing me to more carefully examine these various translations than I had previously.

It is important to recognize that we are in a spiritual war.  I have spoken to believers who attend churches whose doctrines are wrong, but the atmosphere and the fellowship feels right to them.  I have seen outstanding ministries become worthless over a short amount of time.  I have seen believers sue one another, despite the clear teaching of God’s Word.  I have met believers whose personal experience is more important to them than the Word of God.  So we should expect that there will be some serious theological problems with some translations.  Although I did not think much of Moser simply from the titles of his pamphlets, I must admit that he brought home some important points concerning the translations of God’s Word where some orthodox doctrines are carefully watered down by the wording of the translation.  The discovery of Moser’s pamphlets has caused me to go back and to re-examine many of the translations in the light of particular passages.