Best Bible Versions
This discussion has not yet been rewritten or presented in the updated multi-part format. That will occur as God wills to provide me the time and energy to do so.
This article is primary aimed at those who suffer from what I call TAD, “Translation Anxiety Disorder.”
First let me state with complete confidence that there are good Bible translations that reliably transmit God’s eternal truths. Despite what many “chicken little” harsh doubters say, a person can confidently rely on translations (if chosen properly) to grasp God’s teachings. I feel it is necessary to state this due to my observations over the years. I often hear from people who suffer from extreme worry and anxiety because they have come under the wicked influence of people who wrongly condemn virtually all available translations as being worthless or too full of error to be reliable. On the SHeMA (Scriptural Hebraic Monotheistic Alliance) bulletin board that I once administrated I was forced to terminate the membership of a person who wished to promote his opinion that translations are worthless. In my opinion those who promote such evil ideas are, whether they know it or not, doing Satan’s will. Satan is the author of confusion, and there is nothing that creates more spiritual confusion and damage than does the idea that Bible translations cannot be trusted.
One of the primary reasons for translation doubt among those who wish to be children of the Most High God can be traced to those I call “Hebrew language enforcers” or, as in this case, Hebrew language “terrorists.” They “terrify” people by causing their listeners to suffer extreme, fearful anxiety about whether or not translations can be trusted. I discuss the issue of “Hebrew Language Enforcers” in a separate article; however, I bring it up here because those who “enforce” the Hebrew language are, by far, the ones most guilty of causing the anxiety I see among those who doubt their translations. There are of course others who sow seeds of doubt; however, my experience from email correspondence, personal conversations, and simple observation has convinced me that the “language police” who promote a “Hebrew only” world-view are the dominant promoters of doubt among those who suffer from translation anxiety disorder.
Are translations perfect? No. But it could be argued that not even the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts we possess today are perfect. I do not believe they are, especially the Greek manuscripts. And guess what? They do not have to be! Yes. Absolute, word for word and letter for letter “perfection” is NOT necessary for a person to understand all that is required to grasp God’s eternal teachings. Also, the most important teachings are repeated by example, necessary inference, or direct commandment all throughout Scripture, which means there are “checks and balances” all throughout Scripture to insure that the important truths are properly understood.
In this article I will list some English translations that I feel VERY reliably transmit God’s truths. “Reliability” does not require “perfection.” As you will see in the following material, I firmly believe that as long as teams of translators sincerely strive to translate in a literal, word-for-word manner and provide alternate rendering notes, the reader can be confident that what he/she is reading is a reliable transmittal of God’s teachings. I say “teams” because I STRONGLY oppose translations made by a single individual and feel individuals who produce such translations in today’s modern era are among the most self exalting arrogant people on planet earth! It is FAR more likely that bias will enter in when only one person is doing the translating. Also, there is far LESS likelihood that the translation is accurate if only one person is deciding which of the many alternate renderings should be used. If a team of scholars is used the internal debate and discussion within the team results in a better chance of a correct rendering from the original language.
I want to emphasize that all sincere Bible students should have more that just a “Bible.” They should also have Bible study aids such as Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Hebrew and Greek lexicons, and even some Judeo-Christian history books. Of course when obtaining history books remember that authors of history books are often biased; therefore, it is useful to consult more than one “history” opinion. I have found that some of the best books for grasping the history of Christianity are those written by NON-Christians and Jews.
Do you really believe in God? Do you believe He is ALL powerful, loving, just, and eternal? Then how can you or anyone else doubt that He has the power to insure that His word is accurately transmitted to mankind? Those who doubt all translations lack the most basic aspect of true faith and need to do some intense soul-searching. God is not as powerless as translation doubters think.
Oh well, now that I have tried to calm the fears of those in doubt, let me share with you my opinion of what constitutes a good translation.
There truly are significant – I would even go so far as to say redemptive – differences in Bible versions. I was somewhat naive about how truly horrible many of the modern Bible versions are until I obtained a Parallel New Testament that included 8 separate versions. I was shocked! The irreverence given to the original manuscripts of what is supposedly God’s Word by some of the publishers of the modern versions is alarming. Of the 8 versions included in that Parallel New Testament, only 3 actually followed the original Greek. Five of the 8 seriously departed from the Greek in critical verses; opting instead to “clarify” the the meaning of the Greek to reflect strong bias. One, The Message, was particularly biased; however, it was not alone. If you or anyone you know has a copy of The Message you should immediately burn it, shred it, or rip the pages out for use in case of an emergency shortage of toilet paper! Don’t simply trash it since it may end up in someone else’s hands. DESTROY IT!
My obtaining the Parallel Bible was an important event in my recognition of why so many Christians are practicing a faith that departs enormously from Scripture. I had long since avoided certain Bibles; thus, I had forgotten how horrible some of the modern “Bibles” are. I still feel the primary reason for the false doctrines in Traditional Christianity is because most “Christians” rarely take the time to read their Bibles. Bible study is boring to most Christians and is either no priority or a very tiny priority in their lives. (A primary reason for this lack of interest is Satan’s success in removing ALL fear of God or motivation to study from the average believer using his wicked teaching of “once-saved-always-saved”.)
I now realize, more than ever, that failure to read the Bible is not the only reason for the state of ignorance existing today. Even if someone does sincerely prioritize time for daily Bible study, they will still be lead into a false faith if they use one of the error-filled, biased versions being unwisely purchased by innocent victims of biased translators. It is very apparent that in addition to failure to study Scripture, another major cause for all the error is the worthless Bible Versions that populate Christian Bookstore shelves. Bible study is only worthwhile if the actual Bible is being studied, and many – possibly even most – of today’s versions have become so biased that they can no longer be reasonably called the “Bible”.
Some of you reading this may be thinking all versions say pretty much the same and that they accurately translate the original Hebrew or Greek. You are more wrong than you can imagine. There really are enormous differences, with some of the versions seeming to ignore the original language altogether! Many of these versions are a complete rewriting of Scripture usually by individuals or groups that wish to present the reader with a “cheap grace”, “license to sin”, or anti-Hebraic message. And every single one of the “dynamic equivalence” versions I have yet seen transform passages to “read into” the English what is simply not there in the Greek in order to make it appear passages present “clear proof” of Yeshua’s deity. All one need do is take an objective look at the lifestyle of the common Christian and it is clear that the message of false Bibles is being accepted as they joyfully and ignorantly cruise along in carnal, hedonistic lifestyles.
Philip Wesley Comfort, Ph.D., the author of the book The Complete Guide to Bible Versions made the following statement. His comment helps illustrate why we have a plague of false teaching and ignorant, profanely sinful Christians.
“When I give my lectures, I am often asked, “Which translation is the best?” Invariably I respond, “Best for what? For reading? For studying? For memorizing? And best for whom? For young people? For adults? For Protestants? For Catholics? For Jews?” My responses are not intended to be complicated; rather, they reflect the complexity of the true situation. Whereas for some language populations, there is only one translation of the Bible, English speaking people have hundreds of translations. Therefore, one cannot say there is one single best translation that is the most accurate. Accuracy of translation must be assessed in terms of the kind of translation being judged. The same criteria cannot be used for a literal translation and an idiomatic translation.”
I would love to ask this guy the following questions: Excuse me Dr. Comfort, but where does adherence to the literal Words of the Living God enter it? Is that not the only way the “accuracy of translations” should be assessed? Where does adherence to Truth factor into your recommendation of which are the best translations? Why do you decide on a Bible using criteria that has nothing to do with whether or not the translation is following the actual Hebrew or Greek? Why do you negate the importance of understanding what the Bible (Hebrew or Greek) is actually, literally saying?
This guy works with Tyndale House Publishers who are responsible for the notoriously poor Living Bible paraphrase version. From viewing Dr. Comfort’s comments it seems Tyndale House isn’t concerned with translation accuracy. Instead, it appears they simply want to make money selling “bibles” and, therefore, create versions to target specific market niches. Go into any Bible bookstore and you will see shelf after shelf of targeted versions. True respect for the accurate rendering of God’s Word – the most important writing in the history of mankind – is now gone.
Why would anyone pick-and-choose a Bible based upon the socio-religious bias of the reader? What ever happened to concern for accuracy? Dr. Comfort’s last sentence, “The same criteria cannot be used for a literal translation and an idiomatic translation.”, is very telling. He is implicitly admitting that the “criteria” of judging which Bible to use has nothing to do with the accuracy of the translation. Where has true fear of God and deep awe for His Word gone? Why do so many flippantly decide to water-down the Word or replace God’s Words with man’s using “dynamic equivalence”? The current indifference towards the purity of God’s Word is symptomatic of the worldliness and false doctrines that have consumed the Christian religion. The TRUE teachings of God are no longer desired. Christians want their ears tickled.
2 Timothy 4:3,4
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers (or Bible versions) in accordance to their own desires;4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.
The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
The current flood of horrible Bible versions is a serious problem. Most Christians have no idea how serious it really is and are blindly believing the versions they read truly represent the original Word or are “close enough”.
I will not get into the endless discussion of exactly which translation is best; however, I will provide what I feel are essential rules one should follow when deciding upon a Bible Version. Before mentioning them I want to describe the 2 basic types of translations available today.
- Literal Translation or “Formal Equivalence”
- In these translations the translator attempts to render the exact words (hence the word formal – form for form, or word for word) of the original language into the receptor language. Frankly, I have never been able to understand why anyone would want anything other than a literal translation. Why would you want to buy a version that openly states it does not follow the original Biblical language?
- Dynamic Equivalence Translation
- These translations attempt a “meaning for meaning” translation instead of “word for word”. Some refer to these as “Idiomatic” translations. The potential for translator bias should be obvious. The translators read the original Hebrew or Greek then determine what they believe its meaning to be. They then rewrite in their own words the original to reflect “meaning” as they define it. By its very definition dynamic equivalence translations are ultimately founded upon the bias of the translators! If you are so naive or apathetic that you prefer to put your eternal destiny in the hands of some translator you do not even know – fine. I prefer to determine the “meaning” of Scripture myself and don’t need someone else to tell me the “meaning” of a word or phrase that I can easily read!
What is your reason for reading the Bible? What is it you hope to grasp? Hopefully you hope to grasp the eternal teachings of God. The very reason we have the Bible is so we can search and know what is required of us by God! Therefore, if the ultimate goal of Bible reading is to obtain the pure, unadulterated, Truth, why would you choose a version that doesn’t transmit that Truth as literally as possible? If it is a “dynamic equivalence” translation how can you know if it is Truth? At least the literal translations attempt a word for word rendering. As stated before, I can not understand why anyone would even think about purchasing anything other than a literal version.
So, here are some basic facts to consider when buying a Bible translation.
- By ONLY word-for-word, “literal” translations.
- Do not by “dynamic equivalence” translations.
- NEVER, I repeat NEVER buy a “paraphrase” which is the extreme example of the dynamic equivalence translation methodology. The Message and The Living Bible are examples of this.
Before going any further I must address the issue of “readability”. There seems to be a general feeling that literal translations are harder to read. I suspect this comes from the common perception among many that the King James Version with its antiquated “King’s English” is difficult to read. From this possibly true assumption the potential Bible buyer jumps to the conclusion that ALL literal Bibles are difficult to read. Well, this is absolutely wrong! The New American Standard Bible or New King James Version are extremely easy to read. In fact, they are often less wordy and more precise than the ridiculous “thought for thought” (dynamic equivalence) bibles. I urge you to pick up an NASB, Updated NASB, or NKJV and read a few passages. They are VERY “readable”; thus, there truly is no reason to choose anything other than a literal translation. If you feel there is, you or whomever is suggesting you buy a “dynamic equivalence” version have become victimized by the marketing guys at the companies that publish the trash bibles on bookstore shelves.
I hasten to add that the literally translated King James Version is NOT difficult to read, especially after you have a little experience with it. It’s classic English is also beneficial for memorization and retention. And there is NO translation for which so many study tools are available. With a King James Version and available study tools, one can obtain almost as much information as if they were reading the original Hebrew of Greek. This is my main reason for opposing many that wish to erect new “walls of partition” by implying one must be able to read Hebrew or Greek to fully comprehend truth. Unfortunately, this Hebrew “language worship” is common in Messianic circles and can be very harmful to the faith of those that cannot read Hebrew. It causes them to seriously doubt their Bibles, since they are told explicitly or implicitly that ALL English versions are false translations. In their minds they are left with no way to independently find absolute truth because they grow to believe their Bibles do not present that truth. Of course, those knowledgeable of Hebrew within the Messianic world love it, because it elevates them to a “special” status, really strokes their egos, and makes them “revered” Sages to the poor folks that think Hebrew knowledge is required. I VERY much oppose those that elevate Hebrew to a divine level and that imply one MUST know Hebrew or Greek.
I will stop now, because this topic can really get me mad. I’ve seen many have their faith seriously harmed by this. I’ve also seen many become puffed up with arrogance over their knowledge of Hebrew. If knowledge of the Hebrew language is so useful for one to understand truth, why do so few Hebrew speakers recognize Yeshua as Messiah despite the evidence that he is? Additionally, why do so many Hebrew literate “Messianic” leaders still cling to the pagan notion that Yeshua is God despite the OVERWHELMING evidence that he is not? Finally, why do so many Hebrew speaking Jews live lives that are as sinful as any other human? I have other arguments, but this is all that is needed to prove how knowledge of Hebrew does not necessarily translate into knowledge of Truth. The intent of one’s heart is of infinitely more importance in deciding their eternal fate than is the languages they speak or know.
In the aforementioned book Dr. Comfort presents a list of Bibles and the translation method that was used. I found it odd that he avoided mentioning the standard King James Version in his list. He also added a category he calls “Strictly Literal”. I have eliminated that category and lumped the literal versions into one category into which I placed the King James Version. I also added some versions he did not list into the category I feel they belong. Finally, I simplified his list to reflect the 2 methods of translation. Using this list, you may be able to get a flavor for how far from the actual word-for-word translation various Bibles are.
- NET (New English Translation) Bible version (This is the best Bible version to date. Excellent! This is, in my opinion, the translation you should use as your primary study Bible.) It is technically not a purely literal translation, but tries to be with deviations only where necessary to convey the proper meaning. Basically faithfulness to the original intent is the goal.
- New American Standard Bible (Original and Updated)
- King James Version
- New King James Version
- Revised Standard Version
- New Revised Standard Version – (This version actually falls somewhere between a Literal and Thought for Thought.)
- The Scriptures, published by The Institute for Scripture Research. This translation surpasses that of a mere translation since it properly utilizes the true names for G-d (YHVH) and Messiah (Yeshua). It also presents some excellent Hebraic based commentary scattered throughout the Scriptures.
- THOUGHT FOR THOUGHT (Dynamic Equivalence)
- The New International Version (NIV)
- New Jerusalem Bible
- Revised English Bible
- Today’s English Version
- The Living Bible
- New Century Version
- The Message (Possibly the very worst translation in existence. Of little use except as spare toilet tissue.)
- New Living Translation
- Contemporary English Version
Note that I suggest that the best Bible version available is the NET. I say this for a couple of reasons. First, though you can obtain printed copies just as with any other Bible version, there is a website (http://bible.org) which contains the entire NET bible along with the translator notes. Notice that I said “notes”. Yes, the NET Bible staff wisely decided to provide the very notes used by the translators during the creation of the NET. There are almost 61,000 translator notes included from the 25+ scholars who generated this translation. Therefore, a reader can view the various alternate renderings for words as well as historical and contextual comments that apply. The Bible.org site also contains an online and powerful Bible study environment. It is an outstanding site and, thus, anyone with access to the Internet can now have within their reach a powerful Bible study tool.
Secondly, copyright privileges have been waved by the NET publishers. It is all explained on their site, but basically the NET Bible can be copied, quoted, and even distributed without worrying about copyright infringement so long as those to whom the NET is given do not have to pay for it. In other words, the NET Bible staff believes the Word of God should be provided for free and not for profit. Virtually all other Bible versions are copyrighted with the exception of the King James version – a sickening fact that shows the greedy intent of those other publishing companies. Technically, if you copy and distribute material from those other versions you are subject to legal punishment. Basically, in my opinion at the present time the NET Bible is by far the best Bible translation available.
You can read all the various things about it on the website I mentioned. It should be realized that the NET translators are general evangelicals; therefore, Christian bias is bound to be present. I do not agree with some of their notes or the way certain things are translated; however, it is still an outstanding version that clearly eclipses virtually all other translations available. Also, the NET scholars truly have tried to provide a Bible that is as close as possible to the Creator’s intent; nevertheless, they are human and, therefore, may unintentionally allow their bias to factor into the translation. The reality of translator bias is unavoidable for any translation of either a Christian or Judaic “Bible”. All we can hope for is that such bias is limited and unintentional.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB) doesn’t really fit into either of the two categories. It was difficult to determine into which category this translation should be placed; therefore, I separated it from both. Though it does utilize a form of “Dynamic Equivalence,” it appears to be closer to a “literal” translation than any other I list in the “Dynamic Equivalence” category. The publisher, Holman, labels this Bible as an “Optimal Equivalence” version. I have a copy of this version and consider it to be a rather good version, at least I do so far. Since I only recently purchased this version I have yet to fully scrutinize it.
The CSB includes “alternate renderings,” which I feel are a must for any good translation. With the exception of the original published copies, the CSB Bible includes extensive center column references. I feel any version you purchase should be packed with cross references, preferably the center column style of references. I particularly disliked the LACK of New Testament references to the Tanakh (Old Testament) in the early editions of the CSB. It has been my experience that failure to compare the teachings of the New Testament to the fundamental teachings of the Tanakh is one of the main reasons for Christian error, and the CSB originally failed miserably in this area. It also had fewer cross references listed within the Tanakh than it did in the New Testament. Thankfully, the more recent editions correct these problems, which makes the CSB a good translation (in my opinion). I could be wrongly accusing the publisher about the original issue of a lack of references. The Bible stores I visited earlier only carried the “pocket size” or smaller versions of the CSB, and in general the smaller versions lack the cross references of larger versions. The small versions of CSB still appear to lack the additional references. It could be that the Bible stores simply did not provide the larger versions early on even though they may have been available.
Some people may be turned off by the term “Christian” in the “Christian Study Bible” from Holman publishers. Well, if that is the case then all I can say to people like that is GET OVER IT! Anyone who lets the title of a Bible version determine what they use for study is missing the point and needs a dose of common sense.
One of the most horrifying aspects of this list is how popular the NIV is. Years ago when I first discovered how bad the NIV was I actually filled a small garbage can with all the ones I had and conducted a little personal ceremony as I destroyed them! NIV = BAD TRANSLATION The NIV is NOT a literal translation and often deviates into the realm of bias at critical passages. Nevertheless, it seems to be unwisely popular. As bad as the NIV is, the others in the Dyn. Equ. list are even worse. My recent checking out of the various versions has convinced me that Satan is alive and well in the world of Bible publishing. Unfortunately he has succeeded in filling Christianity with his personally edited versions. I do not even allow in my home many of the Bibles on this list. I keep spare KJV, NKJV, and NASB versions around for guests. When the Bible is read in my home at least it will be from translators that presumably attempted a literal translation of God’s Word. No version is perfect; however, anyone that dares accept into their minds Scripture that is knowingly biased is lacking common sense and/or reverence for Truth. True – these bad versions may accurately transmit much of the original Hebrew and Greek; however, the many places where they do not are often in critical passages that can determine one’s foundational beliefs.
This article would not be complete without mentioning the “Sacred Name” versions that are now being published. Bluntly speaking, I do NOT recommend them and here is why. Most of those who purchase these version do so for one, and ONLY one reason: they are obsessed with using the allegedly correct “Name” of God (Yahweh, YHWH, or YHVH), and demand a Bible that uses the “Sacred Name.” I do not differ with their preference for using the “Sacred Name;” however, those who utilize these versions forget that just because the “name” may be correct, that does not mean the rest of the version is! In my opinion, correct translation overall is FAR, FAR more crucial than specific use of the “Sacred Name.” I have serious differences with “Sacred Name” extremists. Those with whom I have come into contact are, indeed, extremists who implicitly, and often explicitly, consider use of the “Sacred Name” to be an issue that determines a person’s eternal destiny. Such thinking, in my opinion, is utterly ridiculous, harsh, unloving, elitist, and shows ignorance of God’s mercy and Scriptural priorities.
One “Sacred Name” version I do like is the one listed previously, The Scriptures, published by the Institute for Scripture Research. I feel it is an excellent version; however, the publisher is plagued by “pagan phobia,” and thus, in my opinion, somewhat confuses the reader. For instance, the term “Kingdom of God” is replaced with “reign of Elohim.” “Holy” is replaced with “Set apart.” There are LOTS of word replacements made by the publisher because of what I feel is an extreme, fanatical form of “pagan phobia.” Nevertheless, The Scriptures has some excellent study notes and does make a great companion version; however, I personally do NOT consider it a good primary study Bible.
Bottom line: If you want a good version buy a Literal version using the list above as a starting point. Personally, I would recommend the KJV, NKJV, NASB or Updated NASB, and possibly the CSB. If I had to choose one it would be the KJV, but ONLY because there are far more study tools available for verification of its renderings. I personally prefer the NASB (original) or NKJV if all I was to have was just the Bible without any study aids; however, there are also some study aids available for them. I think there is a Strong’s Concordance now out that follows the NASB. It is actually pretty much a toss up as to whether the NKJV or NASB is better. They are both extremely readable AND about as true to the original language as one can get today. One of the best attributes these 2 versions have – particularly the NASB – is their presentation of alternate renderings. Many, especially the KJV-Only people, will very much disagree with me on this. I know all their reasons since I was among them at one time. Such people are living in their own world of make believe, and I will not waste any time debunking their claims. I actually took the time to check most of the “errors” the KJV-Only people scream about being in my NASB and NKJV Bibles and found these “errors” to actually be either BETTER renderings of the original Hebrew and Greek or renderings just as valid as what is in the KJV.
Alternate renderings are absolutely essential since they present other legitimate readings from the original Greek or even alternate evidence from other manuscripts. The opponents to alternate renderings and translator’s notes simply don’t like the “alternates” and thus try to keep them from being shown. Frankly, those that attack the validity of alternate renderings are openly promoting censorship and wanting to force their own biased interpretation on everyone! By scare tactics and other biased measures they attempt to prevent truly unobstructed, unbiased study of Scripture. It is not uncommon for these people (again, primarily KJV-Onlyist) to literally condemn to “hell” anyone that dares choose a version other than the KJV.
I personally utilize the KJV more than any other version because of all the study aids I have at my disposal that are based upon it. However, the extreme tactics used by the KJV-Only crowd seriously injures the efforts of those of us that attempt to steer people away from the numerous horrible translations since we are perceived as being “like those KJV fanatics”. Believe me, I do NOT agree with those that claim the English of the King James Bible is “the pure Word of God”. Such people definitely don’t have both oars in the water.
In summary, buy a Literal translation, preferably one that presents alternate renderings, and any Dynamic Equivalence or paraphrased version you have should be shredded and fed to pigs. My bet is that the pigs may choke on it.
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