Author: Jonathon Welton
One of my most frequently asked questions is “What Bible Translation do you use or recommend?”
I get this question in my inbox at least once a week. So here is some helpful info.
All English translations of the Bible are wrong. They are just wrong in different ways.
When I speak in Mexico, I could have 50 different translators and each one would translate what I am saying in English into Spanish with a different choice of words, inflection, tone, flare, animation, etc.
The same is true of Bible translations.
Keeping this in mind, we must hold our “favorite” Bible version loosely; otherwise we idolize the translation over the original manuscripts, which is foolish.
Also people seem to be looking for the “perfect” translation, which there is no such thing.
The Classic: KJV
The Good ole’ classic, now available everywhere, literally my local dollar store carries KJV Bibles. Since 1611 these have been the standard and can be found placed by the Gideon’s in every hotel across America and every pew bench in the deep South (i.e. Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi). We are all familiar with this Bible, it is the one our grandparents used. It is the one that sounds like Shakespeare wrote it.
The KJV should be honored for its contribution to Church history. It also is not a good Bible for study and those that claim it is the best or only true translation of the original manuscripts are very misinformed. If you are coming out of that form of bondage and need more help see: Living and Dying with the KJV by Harold Eberle (Amazon.com).
The slightly updated: NKJV
Personally I grew up reading and memorizing from the NKJV. It is fundamentally a cultural update to the original KJV. It has removed lingo that we no longer use in common speech: Thee, thou, shalt, wilt, etc. It is a helpful step in the right direction, but contains many of the same translation errors as the KJV.
Congregation/Reader friendly: NIV, ESV, NLT
Nowadays, I preach using the NIV, as it has become the third most dominant Bible used behind the KJV and the NKJV. The Idea behind the NIV and the ESV is that they are very user friendly. They are some of the best for easy/accurate reading. The NIV translates the Greek sentences “Thought for thought” rather than “Word for Word.” This gives it a smooth feel because you are getting the thought that the original author was trying to convey (hopefully).
CORRECTION:* I have moved the NLT to this section, rather than having it under the “Paraphrase” section. Apparently I was mistaken regarding this translation. I received the following email:
“I would suggest that the New Living Translation is in fact a thought-for-thought translation, created by over 90 Greek and Hebrew scholars working together. I don’t believe it fits the description of a “paraphrase” – which is why we did a matchup to the Greek and Hebrew (see http://NLTinterlinear.com for the New Testament for now).”
– Sean H. Member of the NLT Editorial Team
Paraphrase: The Message, God’s Word, Cotton Patch Gospel
By far the easiest Bibles to read are paraphrases. These are not translations. Essentially if I said, “What Jesus is saying here is He loves everybody in the whole world and if you believe in Him you will be saved” then I would have just paraphrased John 3:16. It is the “Impression for impression” version of the Bible. This can be helpful but is rarely useful for in depth study.
The long edition of the Bible: The Amplified
The concept behind the Amplified is that many English words could be used to convey the meaning of the Greek root word. Rather than picking just one English word to convey the meaning, Amplified includes multiple options, this gives a richer and fuller sense. It can be very helpful in study situations.
The Watchman Nee/Witness Lee Bible: The Recovery Bible
I used to be the biggest Nee fan, yet I have come to understand how much his writing is influenced by Gnostic Dualism and I no longer put as much weight upon his perspective. I don’t use this version and would recommend against it.
Big Name Bibles: CI Scofield, Darby, Dake, MacArthur, Ryrie, Hagee
These versions of the Bible have study notes from the aforementioned “big names”. This gives people a sense of authority and accuracy. The problem is that the commentaries in these version have as many errors as there are words! Being filled with Dispensationalism and Cessationism, I would absolutely not use such a distorted commentary for real study. (Come on Jonathan, tell us what you really think?)
Verb Tenses: NASB, Kenneth Wuest
One of the largest flaws of all the previously mentioned translations so far is the inaccurate verb tenses. There are places in the New Testament that speak of how Christ has accomplished certain things on our behalf (past tense) which the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, will all use present tenses which cause it to seem like Jesus didn’t accomplish it yet.
NASB and the Kenneth Wuest translations are very careful to get the verb tenses correct. They are excellent for study use.
Literal Translation: Youngs, Weymouth
Although these are very choppy, they are extremely useful for in depth research. When you want to see how the most literal translation of the greek would read in the English, it is time to consult a Literal Translation. By far the most known are the Youngs and Weymouth Literal Translations.
So I preach from the NIV, but I consult many when I am studying. If I am going to study out a passage in multiple translations, I don’t have a shelf full of Bibles like many pastors do. I simply go to www.Bible.cc and use their “Parallel” program to look at 20 Bibles in a matter of seconds for free.
I hope this has been helpful. Bless you.