Posts Tagged ‘versions’

Elderly Bible by Billy AlexanderThe following is a list of Bible versions that are easily available, either in normal bookshops or in Christian book-stores.

There is no intention to promote one Bible ahead of another, or to discredit any of them. They all have up-sides and down-sides, and they depend on your own reading level, your comprehension ability and your understanding. The best Bible for you is the one that you understand the most clearly. And there’s nothing wrong with having more than one version!

There are brief comments about each version, the publisher’s website (you can often read bigger chunks of that particular translation there) and the date the translation was released. Since most versions of the Bible come in many different formats, shapes, sizes and presentations, I’ve tried to limit my comments purely to the translation itself. There are two exceptions – the Study Bible editions of the New International Version and the English Standard Version.



zz-NIV4    NIV – New International Version: (1984, various publishers)

The New International Version is currently the best-selling Bible translation in the English-speaking world. It has pretty well become the default Bible of most Protestant churches and preachers, and is very widely used as a pew Bible. It is a Bible aimed halfway between word-for-word and thought-for-thought, designed to be accurate and readable at the same time. Largely, the translators succeeded; it is freely used by Scripture teachers and academics alike. It has been produced in a huge range of sizes, with many different study aids available; the Zondervan publishing group has gone to great lengths to “produce a Bible for everybody”. An update is also available – the Today’s New International Version (TNIV) is almost identical, except for a decision to replace some gender-specific words with gender-neutral words (for example, “man” and “men” have been replaced with words such as “people” and “everyone” – but only in places where the original languages allow for this). (the International Bible Society – the original publishers)


The NIV Study Bible was released in 1985. Twenty-five years later, it is still a benchmark for Study Bibles.  Throughout the text of the Bible itself there are 20,000 small study notes which provide extra information. These provide readers with helpful guides to context, background, how passages act as markers to other passages, and can provide an explanation to odd terms (such as Biblical jargon). There are also several essays, a 35,000-entry concordance, timelines and a very extensive cross-reference system. It is very thorough without being overly technical, and is an excellent device for people who wish to start digging more deeply but don’t know where to start. (the largest publisher of the NIV)


 zz-NLTlogo             NLT – New Living Translation: (2004, published by Tyndale)

This is a Bible that is quickly gaining popularity, mainly because it is a very easy-to-read translation. Originally intended as a simple update to another version called the Living Bible, it became a fresh translation in its own right. It is very much a thought-for-thought translation, with the aim to make the language of the Bible as easy to understand as possible. Often its sentences take a rather different form from “traditional” Bibles. Care has still been taken to ensure that the NLT is still a translation with integrity, although it doesn’t have the pin-sharp accuracy that a scholar would require. The NLT is highly recommended for people who struggle with the text of other Bibles they have tried to use. The publisher, Tyndale, has recently introduced a fresh range, including a good study (Life Application) edition.


zz-ESV_logo_LG               ESV – English Standard Version: (2002, Crossway)

One of the most recent all-new Bibles on the market, the ESV aims more toward the “word-for-word” accuracy. It is partly based off a 1952 translation called the RSV (see below). So, although it is a thoroughly modern Bible, it certainly has the “feel” of a much older one – the style of English can often feel like it was produced fifty-eight years ago instead of eight. That can be a minus or a plus. If you are not a very confident reader, it’s easy to get a little lost in it. If you are comfortable with a “high” level of written English, it’s one of the very best translations available. The ESV is rapidly becoming the Bible of choice in many churches – particularly among the conservative evangelical churches, who value as accurate a Bible as possible.


 The publisher, Crossway, has recently released an ESV Study Bible, which is worth a mention in its own right. It’s heavy (2,750 pages!) and it’s not particularly cheap, but it’s one of the most thorough Study Bibles yet released. It utilizes a system of helpful notes throughout the text, and supplies introductory notes at the beginning of each book, extensive concordance / cross-reference system (80,000 entries), over 200 maps throughout, and explanations of Greek and Hebrew words that have importance. Additionally, there is a series of articles which give a very good overview of biblical and systematic theology, Christian ethics, the major doctrines of the Bible, summaries of the major doctrines of the various Christian denominations, and an overview of other religions of the world. These articles provide a condensed introductory theological course in its own right. It is far more in-depth than the NIV Study Bible, but is more of a “working Bible” for preachers, study leaders and readers who require in-depth study. There is also a companion online edition with further resources for the serious student.


CEV - Poverty Justice coverCEV – Contemporary English Version: (1995, American Bible Society)

The CEV is quite similar style to the NLT; it’s an easy-to-read, thought-for-thought translation. One of the advantages with this Bible is that the American Bible Society has produced the core Bible text, and then allowed other Bible Societies to add their own notes and packaging to it. This makes it a very versatile book, with a wide range of readers in mind. Several are geared specifically toward teenagers – and often to specific groups within teen culture (surfers, skaters etc). One other advantage is that the CEV is quite often one of the least expensive, most accessible Bibles on the market. It usually comes with a range of helpful notes and articles.


KJV2KJV – King James Version: (1611, various publishers)

This is the traditional “thee, thou, thine” version of the Bible that, despite the archaic 400-year-old language, is still enormously well-regarded. It’s a sentimental favourite of older people who grew up memorizing its verses. It has a rich history, is one of the most influential books to ever be published, and, right from its release, has had a massive impact on the English language and culture. Passages have carved their way into the consciousness of Western society and its traces are still very much evident in this day. Strangely, it still carries the status of the  authorized version of the Church of England, and British printers do so only with a licence from the Crown. Outside Britain the text is considered a public domain document.

Having noted that, it is important to realize that – aside from the famously popular passages (like the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm) – the KJV is not an easy version to follow at all. Unless you are very comfortable reading Shakespeare or other literature of a similar age, the text is far less accessible than other translations. English words have often changed their meaning over the course of years, and unless one is familiar with older English some phrases may not make themselves clear. Additionally, improvements in scholarship and more recent document discoveries mean that the King James Bible does not benefit from the most accurate textual base. Keeping all this in mind, it is still a beautiful work, is an absolute classic, and has earned its place in the hearts of millions for many years to come.


nkjv1            NKJV – New King James Version: (1982, Thomas Nelson)

The NKJV is very popular in the United States, is often used by Pentecostal preachers and writers, and shares much with the KJV. The New King James Version is primarily based on the same manuscripts as the original 1611 version. Because of this, it also shares the same disadvantages – a lack of access to the most modern scholarship. The aim was to update the grammar and vocabulary whilst still capturing the characteristic “voice” of the older KJV. To this end, it has succeeded. Indeed, it still has that majestic quality of language, which is this version’s biggest strength. The “thee, thou and thine” expressions have been deleted or replaced with their modern equivalents, but the phrasing still holds to the “old classical” feel. The NKJV is, again, not the easiest version to follow unless you are comfortable with an older, more formal style of language.


NASBNASB – New American Standard Version: (1995, Lockman Foundation)

The NASB is arguably the most accurate reproduction of the original languages into English. This, then, is a very literal version – in many places, it works to the limits of English grammar in its pursuit of translational purity. It will attempt to closely follow the sentence structure of the original, and notes where changes in tense have been made to the original (Koine Greek often moves from past-tense to present-tense in ways that make no sense in English), which certainly adds to its accuracy. It is frequently the translation that commentators use as the benchmark for translations, and is often cited in academic-level theological publications. But this level of razor-sharp accuracy comes with one cost; it can make the NASB one of the hardest versions to simply open and read.

Outside of America or academia, this version is not nearly as widely-known, and as a result the range of available Bible types is very limited. In short, it’s not the most accessible Bible, either linguistically or in availability – it would be rare to find the NASB for sale in a bookshop that isn’t Christian-specific. But it is a brilliant reference Bible, an excellent scholar’s tool, and one of the most respected translations.


HCSB logoHCSB – Holman Christian Standard Bible: (2004, Holman Publishers) Again, the Holman is more familiar to Americans while remaining almost completely unknown outside the US. The translators have taken a broadly similar in approach to the NIV and have sought an optimal equivalence approach. The result is said to be slightly more accurate, but the translators also went to great pains to keep the Holman relatively easy to read. As a result, it has become highly regarded by many theological scholars, lecturers and students, and more frequently appears on their “recommended” list.  Like the NASB, there is only a small range available (due to its relative obscurity), but most have excellent foot-notes and cross-references as standard. It would be surprising to see this Bible outside a large Christian bookshop.

Cross and Bible by Billy Alexander