What’s the difference between the various Bible translations?

One of the most asked questions about the Bible is ‘what is the best translation?’

Many people find that they need more than one Bible and use different ones for different occasions. With the rise of the internet and virtually unlimited access to online resources, there are literally dozens of translations available online – for free.

More than 60 English-language versions are available. We can divide them into three broad types: word-for-word, meaning-to-meaning (also called thought-for-thought) and paraphrased. Usually a particular Bible version will explain, on its introductory pages, which approach was used in preparing it.

However, no translation will ever be exactly the same as the source material (Hebrew for the Old Testament, Greek for the New Testament) it attempts to represent. A “good” translation is one that remains as faithful as possible to the literal meaning and the spirit of the original texts and of course that means some are better than others. Specifically, the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New International Version (1984 Edition), The English Standard Version, and the New American Standard Bible are some of the most ‘true’ Bible translations available in that they’ve done the best job, in our opinion, of putting the original words of Scripture into clear, understandable English.

In general, a good rule of thumb is “the more translations the better.” If you take the time to compare and contrast a variety of modern versions, you’ll have a much better chance of grasping the sense of the original text!

Here’s a helpful chart that lists a number of the more popular translations. It also takes a sample verse (2 Corinthians 10:13) and shows how it’s been translated (download):

If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to speak with you further.