If you are over 60 and raised in a Spirit-filled Christian denomination, chances are you have been raised around the King James Version of the Bible (KJV). (Spirit-filled combines charismatics, pentacostals, and most others who refer to themselves as ‘full gospel’). A bit younger and you may have seen the NIV or the New International Version of the Bible more around the church or home. Other groups use the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the Revised Standard, or one of many other translations. There are so many versions out there in English that you may have a hard time selecting a version/translation for you. How do you select an English Bible translation for you? Let me give you a quick summary of the translations.
KJV (King James Version)– A translation commissioned by the government of King James of England in 1611. Using old English, but very common throughout the world. Out of copyright and therefore royalty free to print (pardon the pun). The KJV is the number one selling version of the Bible in the world and has contributed to why the Bible continues to be the best selling book in the world.
NKJV (New King James Version)- A revision of the English KJV done by scholars most in the United States. Very common among the younger generations of Faith churches or people wanting to move away from the old English and insufficient translations in the King James Version.
NIV (New International Version)- Published in the 1970s and written in US 8th grade level English. The best selling modern-translation. Used in both evangelical, traditional, and spirit-filled denominations.
NASB (New American Standard Bible)- Very similar to the NKJV of the Bible. Held under copyright by the Lockman Foundation in California. This translation works to translate the words and phrases as closely as possible to the original languages. Great translation but for more advanced readers. Well used by scholars around the world. Update was published in 1995 removing the thee and thous of old English. Based on the American Standard Version (ASV).
Amplified Bible (AMP)- Another translation under copyright of the Lockman foundation in the 1970s. Excellent for study as it amplifies the English to bring out the meanings from the original Greek and Hebrew. Commonly used by spirit-filled folks.
Living Translation (LIVING)- A KJV paraphrase written by Ken Taylor in Chicago Illinois when working to compose something that would be easier for his children to comprehend.
New Living Translation (NLT)- Was a reworking of the Living with the intent of getting back to the original languages around 2007. Less emphasis on literal and more emphasis on modernizing the translation.
English Standard Version (ESV)– Published in 2001, the ESV must be a good translation, but it is very close to the NKJV version from my comparisons. As we understand it, part of the idea was to have a newer translation for Christians that would also appeal Catholics.
There are many other versions of which we cannot cover. Wuests, Moffats, the list goes on…but the question remains, which Bible translation should you use?
Personally, growing up on the NIV we found that to be good and understandable. However, sometimes it seems strained and at loss from the original languages. We migrated to the the NASB and found it’s literal translations and footnotes very insightful. However, for public reading the New King James Version is definitely the best version in our experience. The NKJV and the NASB hardly differ for most scriptures.
For study, the NKJV and an Amplified bible are a musts. You can really see the intentions of the writers. If you are tired and want a light read, then the NLT probably tops the NIV for a bed stand Bible.
Finally, if you haven’t got a Strong’s Concordance, this is a must for any believer. You can look up any word in the Bible and see the original word in the original language. The Strongs helps you to see where the Amplified is getting their amplifications of the words and much. This is a great tool for Bible study.
There is much more to say about English Bible translations, but we hope this will get you a good start. Any comments, suggestions, or insights? Please feel free to share below.