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Are you looking for the most accurate Bible translation but the overwhelm of all the different translations and choices is leaving you confused?
That is why I put together this post.
I am going to provide a Bible translation comparison of the top 10 most accurate Bible translations so you can compare them for yourself and make the best choice for you.
After reading this post I am confident you will be able to choose the best Bible translation for you so you can start reading, and more importantly start understanding, God’s Word.
Bible Translation Spectrum
When it comes to choosing the best Bible translation for you, it really helps to have a general understanding of why there are so many Bible translations in the first place.
That is why we should really begin by explaining the Bible translation spectrum.
Part of the confusion for why there are so many translations of the Bible comes from the fact that the Bible wasn’t originally written in English. Instead, the original translations of the Bible was written in mostly Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament, and Koine Greek for the New Testament.
So why is this worth mentioning?
Well, the reason is because the English versions of the Bible that we read today are mere translations of the original text.
If you’ve ever spent time learning a foreign language, you’ll find that translating sentences word-for-word from one language to another isn’t exactly as easy as it might seem. That is why we have so many different translations of the exact same text.
This is where the Bible translation spectrum comes into play.
However, if any of this confuses you, no worries because next we’re going to take a look at it visually.
I’m a visual learner, so viewing the Bible translation spectrum on a Bible translation chart is super helpful for me.
Bible Translation Chart
The above image is the Bible translation chart.
To the left side of the chart, you’ll find the Bible translations that are translated as word-for-word translations.
To the right side of the chart, you’ll find the Bible translations that are translated as thought-for-thought translations.
You’ll find that more word-for-word translations of the Bible tend to be more “accurate”, however the readability of the text will become more difficult. So as accuracy increases, readability decreases.
PS: I explain why I have the word accurate in quotations in the next few sections
A few examples of word-for-word translations are the King James Version (KJV) and the English Standard Version (ESV) which we will discuss more in-depth below.
On the flipside, you’ll find that more thought-for-thought translations of the Bible tend be less accurate, however the readability of the text is much easier.
A few examples of thought-for-thought translations of the Bible are the New Living Translation (NLT) and The Message version, which is written in contemporary English and even slang.
Then there are Bible translations that land right in the middle and are a nice, sweet spot between accuracy and readability which includes the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and the New International Version (NIV).
Next we’re going to do a Bible translation comparison, breaking down the top 10 most accurate Bible translations so you can choose the best Bible translation for you!
Want to reference the Bible translation chart later? Click the below button save this post and the chart as a PDF!
Word-for-Word Translations of the Bible
Let’s start with taking a look at the best word-for-word translations of the Bible.
1. Interlinear Bible
To be honest with you, the Interlinear Bible is hardly a Bible translation – however it’s definitely still worth mentioning! The reason it’s amazing is because it’s simply a direct word-for-word translation of the original text of the Bible (whether Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic) into English.
This means it does not include the work of Bible scholars translating it into understandable English.
So, Interlinear Bibles do not make sense, nor are they supposed to.
With Interlinear Bibles, what you get are the verses of the Bible in their original Greek or Hebrew language, with the English word-for-word translation directly underneath.
The reason why I personally love Interlinear Bibles is because you simply can’t get a more accurate translation that the exact word-for-word translation.
I find Interlinear Bibles to be great for in-depth word studies when you’re really wanting to dig in there and extract as much meaning as possible from a specific word or verse. It creates a way for any student of Scripture to take one specific Greek or Hebrew word and receive a direct English translation.
So, if you are wanting to stay as close and accurate to the Greek or Hebrew translation of the Bible as possible, I would highly recommend checking out a Greek interlinear Bible.
Click here for details and price of Greek interlinear Bibles.
2. New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The New American Standard Bible (NASB) holds the reputation for being the “most accurate” Bible translation in English. This translation was first published in 1963, with the most recent edition being published in 1995.
Because the NASB is the most accurate Bible translation, it is also the most literal, word-for-word translation of the Bible. This means the NASB is the most difficult to read, even more so than other word-for-word translations.
What many people appreciate about the NASB translation is that it distinguishes verses that are not clearly scripture and places them in footnotes rather than the main text.
These translational notes are invaluable for those worried about getting the most accurate translation possible. The NASB is translated using the critical text from Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece, and as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
If you are interested in the New American Standard Bible, then click here for details and price.
3. Amplified Bible (AMP)
The Amplified Bible (AMP) is a word-for-word translation of the Bible that was designed to “amplify” the text by using explanatory alternate readings to assist the reader in understanding what the Scripture really says.
It was published in 1965 and was largely a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901. Like the NASB, the Amplified Bible also uses the critical text, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls in its translation.
If you are interested in the Amplified Bible, then click here for details and price.
4. English Standard Version (ESV)
The English Standard Version (ESV) is a very popular word-for-word Bible translation choice, and the one I find most people gravitate towards when wanting to buy a literal translation of the Bible.
However, to be honest with you, it’s not much different than the NASB. The biggest thing worth mentioning regarding the ESV is it tends to use gender-neutral language in its translation.
It was originally published in 2001 and is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) with about 6% of the text being revised to create the ESV. Because of its popularity, a second edition of the ESV was published in 2009 which included a translation of the Apocryphal books.
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Lastly, the ESV translation also uses the critical text from Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece, and as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
If you are interested in the English Standard Version then click here for details and price.
5. King James Version (KJV)
The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is an extremely popular word-for-word Bible translation and was the only Bible people read for many years.
However, let’s talk about how the KJV came about.
In 1604 King James I of England commissioned a new translation of the Bible based upon the Textus Receptus because the critical text that all other modern translations are based upon had not been discovered yet. The work was done by 47 Bible scholars of the Church of England and was completed in 1611.
Despite the wording used in the King James Version being archaic, many Bible readers are extremely devoted to the KJV and the idea of switching to a more modern version is unthinkable.
If you are interested in the King James Version then click here for details and price.
Some people believe the King James Version is the most accurate, and the only authentic, version of the Bible. They claim that later versions were rewritten to suit the biases of the publishers or are incomplete in some way.
Despite this, the vast majority of Bible scholars and Christian reject this and do not consider the King James Version to be any more accurate or sacred than other translations.
I personally love the King James Version for its poetic and literary beauty, but I in no way consider it to be the most accurate, or most reliable, Bible available.
If this topic is of interest to you, a great book that goes further in-depth on this is The King James Only Controversy by James White. Definitely check it out if you would like more information.
Another resource you might be interested in is the below video which gives an in-depth explanation of the King James Version of the Bible verses other modern translations.
6. New King James Version (NKJV)
The New King James Version (NKJV) might also be of interest to you if you are a fan of the King James Version but want a more modern feel.
The NKJV was a project started in 1975 by 130 Bible scholars aiming to update the vocabulary and grammar of the original King James Version while preserving the classic style and literary beauty of the original 1611 version.
Throughout the process they remained faithful to the Textus Receptus text while also including the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls.
If you are interested in the New King James Version, then click here for details and price.
Thought-for-Thought Translations of the Bible
Now we’re going to take a look at the best thought-for-thought translations of the Bible.
7. New English Translation (NET)
The New English Translation (NET) is a free online English translation of the Bible first made available in 2005. It’s completely “new” in the sense that it is not a revision or update of an already existing translation, but instead is a revision of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.
The project had a vision of creating a digital version of an English version of the Bible that could be placed on the internet, downloadable for free, or used around the world for ministry. It was actually the first Bible ever to be put on the internet.
This translation is most notable for its near 61,000 lengthy footnotes and its open copyright permitting free downloads and use for ministry purposes.
Although it is considered a thought-for-thought translation, it’s probably more accurate to place it right in the middle between a thought-for-thought translation and a word-for-word translation.
Many people considered it too literal to be a thought-for-thought translation, and too conceptual to be a word-for-word translation.
So, what we have here is a goldilocks situation where perhaps we’ve found a Bible translation that’s “just right.”
I guess you can be part of the jury for that one.
If you are interested in the New English Translation, then click here to be directed to the website to download.
8. Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is a fairly new translation only released in March 2017. It’s largely a revision of the 2009 edition of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), translated by 100 scholars from 17 denominations.
The CSB translation is a solid Bible translation choice, however it’s worth mentioning that CSB translators like to categorize this translation in a different category called the “optimal equivalence” category because of its contemporary English readability.
However, regardless of its translation category you can rest assured that this translation will be easier to read than the word-for-word translations already mentioned.
If you are interested in the Christian Standard Bible, then click here for details and price.
9. New International Version (NIV)
The New International Version (NIV) is one of the most popular and well-known thought-for-thought translations of the Bible, not to mention one of the best-selling modern translations.
The NIV translation was quite the undertaking because its translation took ten years and a team of over 100 scholars before finally being published in 1978. The goal was to translate the Bible in broadly understood modern English, which it has succeeded at.
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Since then, it was recently updated in 2011 with the major change being opting for more gender-neutral language such as replacing “human beings” for “mankind”, and “people” for “man”.
The NIV translation uses the critical text from the United Bible Societies and Nestle-Aland, as well as other ancient texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls.
If you are interested in New International Version, then click here for details and price.
10. New Living Translation (NLT)
The New Living Translation (NLT) is another widely popular Bible translation with the objective of translating the message of the Bible into clear, natural English. The NLT version we read today was initially published in 1996, and is actually a revision of The Living Bible, which is a “paraphrase” Bible translation.
Their goal in the revision was to creation a Bible translation that is both faithful to the ancient texts while also being easily understandable to the modern reader.
Their thought process was more people hear the Bible read aloud in church than read or study it on their own, so they wanted to create a version of the Bible that is easily remembered and quoted.
That is why you hear the NLT version quoted or read frequently during church sermons.
Like many other translations mentioned above, the NLT also uses the critical text from Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
This is the translation I gravitate towards the most for my daily reading!
If you are interested in New Living Translation, then click here for details and price.
The Best Bible Translation
Dun dun dun. We’ve come to the question of all questions…but which translation is the best Bible translation?
For some of you, you might already be thinking, “Well that’s easy! I want the most accurate Bible translation, so I’m going to choose one from the left side of chart (aka word-for-word translations).”
However, remember what I said happens as you move to the left of the Bible translation spectrum? As accuracy increase, readability decreases.
This means the translation might very well be the most accurate to the original text, but you’ll most likely struggle making sense of what you’re reading.
So, although I applaud you for wanting to read the most accurate Bible translation, that might not actually be the best translation for you if you are going to struggle reading it on a regular basis.
However, saying this makes it sound like a word-for-word translation of the Bible is superior to a thought-for-thought translation of the Bible, and I have to say I don’t agree.
The thought-for-thought translations of the Bible are translated by highly educated Bible scholars whose job is to intensely study the original language of the text in order to develop a high proficiency in the language.
Because of this, these scholars are able to not only understand and correctly translate the original text into English, but also translate the meaning behind the author’s intent within the writings.
So, although a thought-for-thought translation might not be the most “accurate” translation, it does accurately express the meaning behind the author’s original intent.
Read More: Who Wrote the Bible?
Furthermore, is it definitely worth mentioning that it is actually impossible to perfectly translate one language into another.
The reason for this is because every language has different grammar, words, and cultural idioms that do not always have an equal equivalent in a different language.
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Sometimes reading a word-for-word translation of a language doesn’t necessarily make it more accurate simply because it doesn’t make sense.
A perfect example is translating the question, “What is your name?” from Spanish to English.
FYI, the Spanish way of asking, “What is your name?” is “Como se llama?”
- Example 1: If you were to translate “Como se llama?” word-for-word you would get, “How do you call yourself?”
- Example 2: However, if you were to use a more thought-for-thought translation you would get, “What is your name?”
As you’ve probably guessed, the second example is the translation we use on a regular basis.
The reason for this is because although the first example is a more “accurate” translation, it simply doesn’t make sense when speaking to modern day English speakers.
To say, “How is it called?” when asking someone their name doesn’t make any sense because that’s not how our culture asks each other their names.
So even though example 2 is not the most “accurate” translation, it accurately communicates what the Spanish version was trying to convey.
That is why many translators consider accuracy to mean paying careful attention to the words of the original text, and then finding the best possible way to capture its meaning in natural, readable English.
So, when it comes down to it, the ESV (a word-for-word translation) and the NIV (a thought-for-thought translation) are both good translations.
But choosing which Bible translation is the best for you comes down to personal choice.
Some good questions to ask yourself regarding which translation to choose is:
- Is this translation easy to read?
- Will I understand this translation?
- Will I be motivated to read this translation on a regular basis?
However, if you’re like me, you will likely have more than one translation, and use different translations for different purposes.
For example, I gravitate towards a word-for-word translation for more in-depth word studies, and use thought-for-thought translations for more easy, everyday reading.
For example, I own this ESV journaling Bible and I love it! But I also own this NLT Study Bible, which I also love to read from.
From this perspective, you can see why it’s actually a blessing to have so many wonderful Bible translations to choose from!
More Bible Study Resources
There are so many resources available to help you in your quest to reading and studying the Word of God. I want to share with you a few of my favs:
Bible Study Tools:
- N.T. Wright’s Commentaries (New Testament for Everyone)
- Strong’s Concordance
- Basic Theology by Charles C. Ryrie
- Logos Software (Bible study software that pastors and seminary students use)
- The Bible Project (YouTube)
Bible Journaling Supplies:
- Dual Tip Brush Highlighters (they don’t bleed!)
- Colorful Sticky Notes (I’m a big fan of the color scheme in their Bali Collection)
- Bible Tabs (Rose colored)
- Washi Tape
- Bible Journaling Collection Set
Bible-Based Books and Devotionals to Help You Study the Bible
If you want to pair your Bible study time with a good book or devotional to help you in your quiet time, here are some great ones all by Christian authors:
I hope these resources have helped you in finding the best Bible translation and Bible study tools for you! Click below if you want to learn more about other resources I provide that will help you in your walk with the Lord. 🙂
Bible Overview: Summary of the Entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation
What Does It Mean to Be Fearfully & Wonderfully Made?
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What do you think of this Bible translation comparison? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below!
I thought the Bible comparison I have just read was good, it held my interest and I read it to the end. I think this website is very well set out and readable. Keep up the good work.
Thank you so much!
Great job Tiffany, simple and right to the point. Keep up the good work!
Thank you so much, Herbie!
Excellent review. Thank you for your simple explanation of the nuances between these translations and how they each have their benefits. I agree that for every day reading at thought for thought translation provides the most benefit since pondering the intended message after reading is vital in order to truly benefit yourself reading the Bible. I also choose a translation that has not removed God’s name which can really narrow your search. Thanks again.
Thank you so much, I am so glad it is helpful 🙂
I have the 1526 William Tyndale translation of the New Testament. 84 per cent of which was appropriated for the King James New Testament. I believe that a true understanding of the word of God is revealed by the Holy Spirit to individuals through their faith in Jesus. If God wants to speak to you from these many translations, he will do, and it is the Holy Spirit that will lead you to the truth.
I’ve gone through several of the translations you mentioned, and never felt compelled to share my observations. I’m currently reading through one that is often described as a mix between ESV and CSB. The Berean Study Bible (BSB) is both accurate and easy to read, and is one of four translations. They also have an interlinear (BIB) and a linear (BLB) version available. Having the Literal translation allows you to see where the Study version originates from. They are all free to download and have very open licensing. I’ve not completed reading this one, but have found I’m slowing down and really enjoying the journey!
You can find these three translations on the Bible Hub, and I believe YouVersion just added the BSB.
Thank you so much for your feedback and what you’ve discovered, Heather! Have a wonderful day!! <3
I thoroughly enjoyed the Bible Translation Spectrum and the dynamics that are involved in it. I have used literally all of the versions mentioned when studying and taking a deep dive it is very important for me to gain clarity, and each version gives me a different perspective and glance at the sphere. Some studies I can glean clarity in several versions, but when I have a specific question concerning the scriptures I tend to stay away from the thought for thought versions because they tend to be a distraction to me. Thank you so much for this precious tool.
You are so welcome!
So good to read a clear comparison of Bible translations. Years ago, I went to a KJV Bible Church Bible study when the preacher stumbled over a Bible text. When he got thru, he explained what he just read. I was able to follow him word-for-word in the Living Bible. I have many versions. My favorite is CSB or NIV. Been involved in jail ministry for over 48 years, mostly one-on-one. Many in jail have no understanding of the Bible or never had one. Never forget the time an inmate who caressed the Bible I gave him like you would caress a newborn baby. He was so glad when I told him it was his to take home. God’s word is so precious that we should want people to understand it. Thank you.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing! Yes, it’s so important to be able to understand what you are reading, which is why it’s so great to have the Bible translation options available to us that we do. Thank you for reading, I hope you have a great day!
That was exactly the summary I was looking for. Very helpful. Thank you!
YAY, so happy to hear!
This is a phenomenal breakdown of the different translations. I have a few different ones. I prefer to casually read the NLT and use it for verse memorization, but I like to study the ESV with the Hebrew and Greek concordance. It makes the Word just come alive! I’ve heard great things about the New English Translation and enjoy the amplified at times. Now I want those two and a linear Bible! Perfect analogy with the Spanish translation of como se llama, what a difference maker! Thank you for sharing this. 😊
YAY, I am so happy this was helpful! Thank you so much for your comment! Have a wonderful day!
Why is it that the New Revised Standard Version is not even listed, when it is the version used as the reference by more biblical scholars than any other version?
Hi there! I didn’t list it because the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of 1989 and the English Standard Version (ESV) 2001 are the two main revisions of the Revised Standard Version (RSV). I decided to go with the one that is more recent, the ESV. I hope this helps!
Thank you for creating this list, it was helpful to have the descriptions and interesting to hear your personal experience with the different versions. The list of “most accurate” does feel incomplete without the NRSV but this is a great introduction to the included translations.
Hello Tiffany. This is a really great comparison. I really like the NET Bible, but I think the NLT is best for casual reading. It reads just like a novel in my opinion, but for pure accuracy would love to see mention of the newer Literal Standard Version (LSV), which I think is as accurate as you can get without reading an interlinear. It came out last year. John MacArthur church is also working on a new translation called the Legacy Bible.
Thank you so much for letting me know! I hadn’t heard of the LSV but I will look into it. 🙂
I have been on the hint for a new Bible for over a year. I’ve probably researched far too much. The truth is I am extremely hesitant to ‘replace’ my Life Application Bible that I’ve had for 20 years. One of the issues has been deciding on translation. I am so thankful for your article. It spells it all out and equips the reader with what is needed to make a decision. I think I can move forward now! Many thanks!
I am so happy to hear this, Robin! I know exactly what you mean about letting go of your old Bible, I am in that place at the moment. 🙂 I hope you have complete peace in purchasing your new Bible! All my best, Tiffany
I was given an NIV Book of John in 1976 and it was a treasure to me. Later, I found an NIV where the the text is not in column form and goes all the way across the page. I found when my eyes were steady on, the long lines kept me from being distracted mid-thought and greatly enhanced my comprehension. I’m on about my 3rd or 4th one. They’re somewhat hard to find. You may want to blog about Bible on video like CHOSEN in the future. God bless your doings. r
Thank you so much for your recommendation! I love that about the non-column form Bible being less distracting. 🙂 And that would be a great blog post idea, thank you!
This is very insightful and this is exactly what I have been looking for
Awesome, I am so glad!
I enjoyed reading your comparison but I must point out one small error in your commentary. The phrase, “¿Cómo se llama?” which you translated, “How is it called?” would be more properly translated (word for word) “How do you call yourself?” This is because it is in the usted form, the formal type of address, which uses the third person singular form. The familiar address would be, “¿Cómo te llamas?” (second person singular form). But your point is still clear. Nobody says, “How do you call yourself?” when they want to know a person’s name.
Thank you so much, Vicki for your insight! I have updated the post! Thanks again!
fantastic article…may I have a critique about contemporary English Version…I use the US Version..amongst others
I would say this topic fairly subjective. What you might find the most helpful translation, may not be helpful to others.
I also think that to say the most accurate translations are those that are word-to-word is not correct. You put “accurate” in quote marks. Why? Are you using some other meaning for the word “accurate” other than the typical one someone would find in a dictionary? You never define what you mean by “accurate.” How is a word-to-word translation more accurate? A translation that slavishly translates a particular word from Hebrew or Greek with the same word is not accurate. I can read a verse in the NASB that is word-to-word and comes out sounding like nonsensical English. Is that more accurate? All the translations you list in the chart above are accurate. All were done by Greek and Hebrew scholars who have studied this stuff for most of their lives, more than you, me and your readers. I would suggest that the meaning based translation is the better translation because they are translating the meaning which is what we all want to know, true? Greek and Hebrew are not like English, so it is important to get the meaning across. So if you mean by accurate that they used words that are somewhat equal to the Greek and Hebrew words, I would say that is an incorrect assessment. According to what you wrote above, your idea of translation theory is odd at best. Again, isn’t the point in translating something to make it possible to understand the meaning? I would think so.
Furthermore, isn’t the purpose of a translation to be understandable to the reader? Word-to-word translations often are not as understandable. There actually isn’t a true word-to-word translation or literal translation. If I rendered a Greek passage into English and did it literally, you would most likely have a difficult time understanding it. I personally would suggest that people by the translation they are most likely going to read. In fact, I would suggest they read a free translation and a more literal translation to compare.
A person should choose a translation based on what they want to get out of it. I personally like using a translation that has “Yahweh” instead of “the LORD” since the latter obscures what is actually in the Hebrew. But that is my preference. Others may not like to say or see it written that way, or may not even understand what “Yahweh” is. Every one is different and each should look at various versions on line comparing different verses to find out what they find easiest to read and easiest to understand. Personally, I don’t think there is a better translation or a bad translation. Each one has a target audience. The difference comes in how well they communicate the meaning of the original text. So choose the one that is most understandable to you.
So glad I clicked your link! This is just what I needed; I have allowed myself to be misinformed about different Bibles and had no idea about the different Types, “Word-4-Word”, “Thought-4-Thought”, etc Bibles.
I’m an NLT reader and am researching which “Word-4-Word” I’m going to get. That “Online Only” version is intriguing, I’ll research it as well.
The other major bonus of your article is it gives me a resource to send my Bible Study students and congregants to so they can form their own opinion and make an informed decision!
Thank you so much for your comment! I am so happy my resources have helped you!