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Which Bible Translation is Best?

The following e-mail is commenting on the items listed at Bible Versions Controversy. The e-mailers’ comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

>I just want to know what the best translation is to read and why. I use a Thompson Chain Reference Bible. Also what is wrong with the other versions: i.e. KJV & NIV.


It would depend on what is meant by "best." Some would consider the version that is the easiest to read to be the "best." Personally, I think accuracy is the most important point, with readability second.

So as to which is "best" I would say for general Bible reading (i.e. public reading, evangelism, casual or devotional reading, and the like) a version with a good balance between accuracy and readability would be best. But for more in-depth Bible study, accuracy is the most important point.

That said, I would recommend the New King James Version (NKJV). It provides a good balance of accuracy and readability . Similar to it is the World English Bible (WEB). It would probably be somewhat more readable than the NKJV but only slightly less accurate.

For a "study version" the Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV) is excellent. It is more accurate than the NKJV but a little less readable. My own translation, the Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT), is similar to the LITV.

As for the King James Version (KJV), it is an accurate translation (along the level of the NKJV); but it is simply too difficult to read due to the archaic English. I would say it is even more difficult than the LITV or my own ALT. So with the KJV you're sacrificing readability without an increase in accuracy.

The New International Version (NIV), conversely, is easy to read but is not as accurate as the NKJV. It deviates from the Hebrew and Greek texts (which the Bible was originally written in) in far too many places. It adds thousand of words that have no basis in the original texts, while leaving thousand of original words untranslated.

To summarize, the NKJV and the WEB provide good balance between accuracy and readability. So using one of these for general reading purposes would probably be best. For more in-depth study, the LITV or my ALT would be best.

Probably using one of the first two and one of the second two would make for a good combination. Use one of the former for general reading, then compare one of the latter for more in-depth study.

Now I should mention, both the NKJV and LITV are available in hardcopy format and in digital form on the Web and in Bible software programs. The NKJV is readily available in many places, such as from Books-A-Million . The LITV and the WEB are also available from Books-A-Million. The ALT is now finished and will be available in hardcopy form sometime in the spring of 2001 from the publisher AuthorHouse.

My Bibles Online page provides links to various online Bible sites and the Web sites for Bible software programs I personally use.

And finally, for more details on all of the above, see the articles listed at Bible Versions Controversy. You might be particularly interested in the first article listed, My Bible Versions Experiences.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

Bible Versions Controversy: Introduction
Bible Versions Controversy

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