Choose Your Bible Translations Wisely

Have you ever wondered why there are so many Bible translations? Do you want to know the translations available today that you can choose from? Are you curious to know how related or different they are from each other?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you make the right decision about which translation of the bible you may choose. Ready? Let’s start…

The Bible is the most translated book in the world. It has been translated into more than 3,000 languages! Of these, the Bible has been translated into:

• 75 languages in North America

• 230 languages in Europe

• 680 languages in Latin America and the Caribbean

• 680 languages in Africa

• 590 languages in Asia, and

• 420 languages in Oceania.

Enough of the numbers…

The first thing you should bear in mind is that the Bible was originally written in 3 languages - Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. This means that all the Bibles we have today are translations of the original languages.

No matter the language, translations of the Bible can be divided into 3 groups:

Word for Word Translations : Also called Literal translations, these translations try to keep to the original languages by presenting their exact words and phrases. Examples of word for word translations are King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB, Revised Standard Version (RSV).

Thought-for-Thought Translations: These translations tend to restate the Bible’s message in an understandable way. Thus, they change the word order and phrases in order to better match the original language e.g. New International Version, New King James Version.

Paraphrases: These versions translate the ideas from the original text without being constrained by the words of the original language. A paraphrase of the Bible is different from a translation in that a translation communicates as “word-for-word” or as “thought-for-thought” as possible.

But a paraphrase takes the meaning of a verse or passage of Scripture and attempts to express the meaning in “plain language” essentially in the words of the author. E.g. The Message.

Modern Translations of The Bible

Now you know the 3 major categories of Bible translations. The modern translations of the Bible we have fall under those groups. Some of the modern Bible translations are:

• Revised Standard Version (RSV) – 1952

• New American Bible (NAB) – 1970

• New American Standard Bible (NASB) – 1971

• New King James Version (NKJV)- 1982

• English Standard Version (ESV) – 2001

Word for Word Translations

• Revised Standard Version (RSV) – 1952

• New American Bible (NAB) – 1970

• New American Standard Bible (NASB) – 1971

• New King James Version (NKJV)- 1982

• English Standard Version (ESV) – 2001

Thought for Thought Translations

• Good News Translation (formerly Good News Bible and Today’s English Version) - 1976

• New International Version (NIV) – 1978

• New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) – 1986

• New Century Version (NCV) – 1987

• Revised English Bible (REB) – 1989

• New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) – 1990

• Contemporary English Version (CEV) a.k.a The Promise – 1995

• New Living Translation (NLT) – 1996

• New International Readers Version (NIRV) - 1996

• Common English Bible (CEB) – 2001

• Holman Christian Standard (HCSV) – 2004


• The Living Bible (TLB or LB) – 1971

• The Message – 1991

Choose Your Bible Translations Wisely

You can now identify which Bible belongs to which group of translations. Obviously, we focused on English Bible translations. Even at that, we could not include all translations because of space. One of the translations we didn't discuss is The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

There are actually thousands of translations of the Bible in various languages. For some of these translations, click here

One of the most interesting of such translations is the Pidgin translations of the Bible. The Nigerian Pidgin Language Bible (NPLB) is an interesting on-going translation in this regard. You can read more about it here.

Tips on Making Your Choice

Here are tips to help you choose a good translation:

1. The best translation for you should be one which you understand clearly. Why? Because the Bible was written in the common everyday language of the average people, such as farmers, shepherd or fishermen. And they understood it.

2. The Bible you choose must accurately convey the original message that God inspired. 2 Tim 3:16.

3. It should translate the meaning of words literally when the wordings and structure of the original text allow for a rendering in target language.

4. It should communicate the correct sense of a word or a phrase when a literal rendering of the original language expression would distort or hide the meaning.

5. It must use natural, easy-to-understand language that encourages reading.

You are now armed with the information to make the right decision. So you can wisely choose your best Bible translation.

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