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Bible Translation Comparison: The Top 10 Most Accurate Bible Translations

November 21, 2018
Bible Translation Comparison: The Top 10 Most Accurate Bible Translations
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Are you looking for a Bible but the overwhelm of all the choices is leaving you confused? 

Been there.

Throughout this post I provide a Bible translation comparison of the top 10 most accurate Bible translations so you can compare them all and make the best choice for you. 

After reading this post I am confident you will be able to choose an excellent Bible translation that is perfect so you can start reading and understanding God’s Word. 

Bible Translation Comparison: The Top 10 Most Accurate Bible Translations

Bible Translation Spectrum

Part of the confusion when it comes to reading the Bible is that the Bible wasn’t originally written in English. Instead, the original translations of the Bible were written in mostly Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament, and Koine Greek for the New Testament.

So why is this confusing?

Well, the English versions of the Bible that we are reading are mere translations of the original text.

It’s best to think of the different translations of the Bible along a spectrum from literal translation that’s word-for-word, (formal equivalence) to concept translation that’s more thought-for-thought (dynamic equivalence).

 

You’ll find that as the accuracy of the translation increases (word-for-word), the readability decreases. A few examples of this are the King James Version (KJV) and the English Standard Version (ESV) which we will discuss more in-depth below.

 

The flip side of this is as the accuracy of a translation decreases (thought-for-thought), the readability increases. A few examples of this are the The Message version of the Bible that is written in contemporary English, and even slang and the New Living Translation (NLT), which we will also discuss more in-depth below.

There are Bibles that land right in the middle that are a nice sweet spot between accuracy and readability which includes the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and the New International Version (NIV).

 

Bible Translation Comparison Chart PDF

Below is a chart that is a great representation of this Bible translation spectrum. 

Save the chart by clicking the below button!

Bible Translation Comparison: Bible Translation Spectrum

Source

At the end of the day, what is most important is choosing a Bible that best helps you understand what is being said. If that’s best done with a word-for-word translation, then go for that. If it’s best done with a thought-for-thought translation, then go for that one.

 

Literal Translations of the Bible

1. Interlinear Bible

If you are really wanting to stay as close and as accurate to the Greek or Hebrew text of the Bible as possible, I would highly recommend checking out an Interlinear Bible.

What interlinear Bibles do is create a way for any student of scripture to examine the Greek or Hebrew words directly in comparison to the English translations.

Even if you do not know the Greek or Hebrew language, you can still get quite a bit out of the experience. With interlinear versions, you’ll see the verses in the English language first, with the Greek or Hebrew text directly underneath. Click here for details and price of Interlinear Bibles.

The Interlinear Bible

2. New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) was first published in 1963, with the most recent edition published in 1995. It holds the reputation for being the “most accurate” Bible translation in English. It is a literal translation which holds to the word-for-word school of thought mentioned above.

Because of the NASB’s very literal interpretation, it’s not as easy to read as other literal or dynamic interpretations.

The NASB also uses the critical text from Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece and as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Read More

If you are unsure of the difference between critical text and received text, check out my post 

Bible Translation Guide: Which Bible Translation Should I Use? for more info!

If you are interested in the New American Standard Bible then click here for details and price.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Many people appreciate that the NASB distinguishes verses that are not clearly scripture and place them in footnotes rather than the main text. These translational notes are invaluable for those worried about getting the most accurate translation possible.

3. Amplified Bible (AMP) 

The Amplified Bible (AMP) is a literal translation of the Bible and was published in 1965. It was largely a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901. The Amplified Bible was designed to “amplify” the text by using explanatory alternate readings to assist the reader in understanding what the Scripture really says.

The AMP also uses the critical text as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. If you are interested in the Amplified Bible then click here for details and price.

Amplified Bible (AMP)

4. English Standard Version (ESV)

The English Standard Version (ESV) is honestly not much different than the NASB. It was published in 2001 and is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) with about 6% of the text being revised to create the new English Standard Version.

The ESV is also a very literal interpretation of the Bible and tends to use some gender-neutral language. It 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.

English Standard Version (ESV)

Because of the popularity in the ESV translation, an edition was published in 2009 with the Apocryphal books included as well.

5. King James Version (KJV)

The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is an extremely popular literal interpretation Bible translation, and was the only Bible people read for many years.

In 1604 King James I of England commissioned a new translation 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 completed in 1611.

The wording is definitely archaic because of the date it was published; however, many are devoted to the King James Version 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.

Holy Bible King James Version (KJV)

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 of the Bible 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 is The King James Only Controversy by James White. Definitely check it out if you would like more information.

The King James Only Controversy by James White

Another resource you might be interested in is the below video to learn more about the King James Version verses other modern translations of the Bible. 

6. New King James Version (NKJV)

The New King James Version (NKJV) might also be of interest to you, which 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.

New King James Version

The translators refer to the NKJV as a “complete equivalence” translation instead of a formal equivalence (literal, word-for-word translation) or dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought) translations that we already discussed.

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Thought-for-thought Translation 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 is “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.

It uses the dynamic, thought-for-thought translation but has been considered too dynamic for most literal translations, while too formal compared to other dynamic translations.

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) was translated by 100 scholars from 17 denominations and was released in March 2017. It is largely a revision of the 2009 edition of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

This Bible is also a good translation, and it’s easier to read than the literal translations already mentioned. The Christian Standard Bible translators like to categorize it in the “optimal equivalence” category because of its contemporary English readability. If you are interested in the English Standard Version then click here for details and price.

Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

9. New International Version (NIV)

The New International Version (NIV) is considered a dynamic, thought-for-thought translation that took ten years to complete and involved a team of over 100 scholars.

It was first published in 1978 and aimed to translate the Bible in broadly understood modern English. It has been recently updated in 2011 and has become one of the most popular and best-selling modern translations. The 2011 publication also dropped some of the gender-neutral language such as “human beings” instead of “mankind”, or “people” instead of “man”.

The NIV also 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.

 New International Version NIV Translation

10. New Living Translation (NLT)

The New Living Translation (NLT) is a dynamic, thought-for-thought translation of the Bible published initially in 1996. It originally started as a revision of The Living Bible, which is considered to be a “paraphrase” Bible translation.

The translators of the NLT aimed to translate the message of the Bible into clear, natural English. Their goal was to be both faithful to the ancient texts but also easily understandable to the modern reader.

Another factor for translating the text by readability was that more people are more likely to hear the Bible read aloud in a church service than they are to read it or study it on their own. This is why you hear the NLT version quoted or read frequently during church sermons. However, if you are wanting to do a more detailed study of the Bible, a more literal translation might suite you better.

The NLT also uses the critical text from Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece and as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The New Living Translation is the translation I gravitate towards the most for my daily reading, and I thoroughly enjoy this version. If you are interested in New Living Translation then click here for details and price.

New Living Translation (NLT)

I hope this Bible translation comparison of the top 10 most accurate Bible translations was helpful for you! Which version of the Bible do you like to use? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Read More

Bible Translation Guide: Which Bible Translation Should I Use?

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Bible Translation Comparison: The Top 10 Most Accurate Bible Translations Bible Translation Comparison: The Top 10 Most Accurate Bible Translations

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Gail Agnor
    March 14, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Excellent article. I’ve used most of these translations and have worked in several Christian Bookstores, assisting people in selecting Bibles for themselves and others. You might want to revise the NIV section, as the 1973/1978/1984 version used the gender-specific terms and the 2011 revision does not.

    You asked people to add their comments regarding the translations they prefer. Here are mine: 1. For general use, reading, church, and Bible study I like the NIV. 2. For comparison in Bible study and when I require a more strongly worded passage, I use the ESV (I’m a writer). 3. I also use the New Living Translation, the New King James, and the Tree of Life Version.

    • TIFFANY NICOLE
      Reply
      TIFFANY NICOLE
      March 18, 2019 at 9:36 am

      Hi Gail! thank you so much for your comment and for letting me know about the change in the 2011 NIV revision, I will definitely be updating accordingly. 🙂 I love your translation choices! I’m the same way, what I use usually depends on what I’m doing. I also like the NLT for casual reading, and ESV for more in-depth studies. Again, thank you so much for the information and I hope you have a wonderful day! Xx

  • Avatar
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    baldari
    April 12, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Hebrew is my language. Only 10 years ago I began to understand its depths. Most Hebrew speakers do not enter its depths. Hebrew is a sacred language, no less. Every word is encoded in essence. The meaning of the “Hebrew ” is “}to convey”. Hebrew conveys in every word a variety of potentials. Each word is a kind of divine dictionary and each letter has infinite depths, from the form of the letter to the letters name. The Torah is not a collection of children’s stories and it has depths. These are movements of consciousness. The Bible can not be translated into another language because when you do that you left with a hollow story without its true essence. The essence is revealed and changed, as you rise in consciousness. Ten years ago, my wife began to receive direct information about Hebrew, a knowledge that was hidden up until now and is amazing! She wrote a book on the subject.The New Testament was also translated from Hebrew, the language in which Jesus spoke.Even the name of Jesus was distorted. Jesus’ name in translation to Hebrew is “salvation”, “yeshua” “ישוע” that is his Hebrew meaning and in English or Latin you only get a hollow name. Hebrew validates every word . The combinations that come from every word are ingenious, it is divine complexity

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    Caffeine, Chaos and Grace
    April 12, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    This article was a fabulous read! I have always been partial to the King James Bible, using the NIV and ESV as a comparison. After reading your article I am seriously thinking about purchasing an Interlinear Bible as well as the Aramaic original scripts for my comparisons. Thank you for your hard work and research!

    • TIFFANY NICOLE
      Reply
      TIFFANY NICOLE
      May 6, 2019 at 3:15 pm

      Hi girl! I am so glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 I am so happy this is helpful for you, it certainly was for me as I researched everything. And yes, once you know so much about Bible translations, it’s hard to not want to go right to the source and look at the original text. It’s sooooo revealing when it comes to the meaning behind God’s powerful and mighty Word!! Love and Blessings!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    yolindaindrawan
    April 28, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    thanks for putting this useful info together

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Watchmen News (@watchmennews911)
    May 17, 2019 at 7:24 am

    Thank you for a very thoughtful and objective comparison of these often used Bible Translations. Your efforts are appreciated. God bless you.

    • TIFFANY NICOLE
      Reply
      TIFFANY NICOLE
      May 17, 2019 at 10:04 am

      Thank you!! Staying objective is important to me and something I appreciate when researching information 🙂 I hope you have a great day!

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