Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

“What's The Best Translation?”

Categories: GRAB BAG
Which Bible "translation" do you recommend out of the dozens out there?  So I understand the KJV to be the "authorized translation", and I do have and read it but more for the poetic language than to actually be able to read and understand it.  I understand the difference between the NIV and TNIV which uses simple, more gender-inclusive language.  Then there is the paraphrase language used in The Message and the Recovery version that one church (Living Waters Ministry) puts out to emphasize what they believe which, to me, seems wrong to do.  Then there is the ESV, the NASB, the Amplified (which to me seems to put words in God's mouth), the... you get the point.  I have been collecting different versions and have read them all (which in itself is good, because at least I am reading it, right?), but I don't know how to choose the "right" one, so I can do consistent Bible study (not to mention lighten the heavy book bag, LOL).  Is it right to choose a translation because I like the language used?

Sincerely,
The Reader

Dear The Reader,

There are two things to consider when choosing a Bible translation:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Readability

As you have noticed, the easier a translation is to read, the less accurate it becomes – and the more accurate a translation is, the more difficulty you will have in reading it.  The key is to find the right balance between readability and accuracy.  There are three types of translations: word-for-word translations, thought-for-thought translations, and paraphrase translations.

Paraphrase translations don’t even attempt to be accurate; all they want to do is make the Bible easy to read.  We never recommend a paraphrase translation.

Thought-for-thought translations try and take the original language and translate it using what the translators think is the same idea or concept that the Greek and Hebrew languages were trying to convey.  The NRSV, NIRV, and TNIV are all though-for-thought translations.  The NIV (currently the most popular version) is a mix between a word-for-word and a thought-for-thought – we have a lengthy article on the NIV translation that will give you more insight into that particular translation (click here to go to that post).  Thought-for-thought translations are better than paraphrasing, but they still remove the exact words of Jesus and His apostles and replace them with someone’s best guess at what they might have said if they had spoken in English.

Last, but not least, we have word-for-word translations.  Word-for-word translations are exactly what they sound like – they do their best to directly translate every word from the Greek and Hebrew into English.  There are currently five major word-for-word translations available: King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), American Standard Version (ASV), New American Standard Version (NASB), and English Standard Version (ESV).  God tells us that every word was directly conveyed from God to the original Bible writers (1 Cor 2:13).  Since God made a point of divinely inspiring every word of the Bible, we here at AYP only feel comfortable using a translation that keeps those words intact.  Personally, we find the NASB and NKJV to be very readable and highly accurate.  Having read the New Testament in both the Greek and English (a couple of our AYP writers can read Koine Greek), we have found those two versions to be very sound.

To sum up, if you really want to make sure you are reading what God authored, make sure to ask for a word-for-word translation.