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.
In a rush? Click the below button to save this post as a PDF!
It’s best to think of the different translations of the Bible along a spectrum that goes from a literal, word-for-word translation of the Bible (aka formal equivalence), to a more conceptual, thought-for-thought translation of the Bible (aka dynamic equivalence).
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.
Both of which we will also discuss more of below.
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).
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
Above is a Bible translation chart that is a visual representation of what I explained above regarding the Bible translation spectrum.
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.
I like comparing the different Bible translations visually because it allows you to quickly view which translations are word-for-word translations (thus harder to read), and which are more thought-for-thought translations (thus easier to read).
Want to reference the Bible translation chart later? Click the below button save this post and the chart as a PDF!
However, as helpful as this chart is, it doesn’t answer the question of which Bible translation is the best Bible translation?
That’s what we’ll be discussing in the next section.
The Best Bible Translation
Dun dun dun. We’ve come to the question of all questions…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.
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 is it called?”
- 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 NASB (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.
From this perspective, you can see why it’s actually a blessing to have so many wonderful Bible translations to choose from!
In a hurry? Click the below button to save this post as a PDF!
However, you might still need some help deciding which Bible translation is best for you. That’s what we’re going to cover in the next section.
Below 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is this a lot of information? Click the below button to save this post as a PDF!
Lastly, the ESV translation also uses the critical text from Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece, and as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Want to reference this list later? Click the below button and save this post as a PDF!
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.
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!
What do you think of this Bible translation comparison? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below!
Like this post? Pin it for later!