Which Bible translation do you prefer, and why?

I’ve asked this question in the past but since new readers have come on board here at DefCon, I thought I’d pose the question once more: Which Bible translation do you prefer and why?

Please take our poll below and if you want to explain why you use a preferred translation, feel free to leave a comment.

If you choose “Other,” please take a moment and let us know what your “Other” is. And yes, I know . . . The Message isn’t a “translation” but I thought I’d just throw it in there to see what happens.

66 thoughts on “Which Bible translation do you prefer, and why?

  1. I prefer the NAS or the ESV since I prefer a more literal translation closest to the Hebrew and Greek texts. Personally, I like the NAS the best although the new ESV Study Bible has got me thinking seriously about switching to the ESV as my main translation. :-)

  2. I only use and teach from the KJV, but I hate being called a KJVOnlyite, a Riplingerite, or a Druckmanite, or any other -ite I can think of. I don’t agree with their positions, but I simply believe, after MUCH study, that it’s the best translation for English-speaking people.

    (And, no, I’m not one of those people who say, “If it was good enough for Paul and the Apostles, it’s good enough for me.”)

    I don’t mean to sound so defensive on this issue, but I’m used to getting called names when I gently try to pry away someone’s camo-colored, mini-sized NIV “study” Bible, and calmly explain what “thee” and “thy” mean.

  3. Ministry Addict: I whole-heartedly agree with you on every letter. The KJV is based on the received text (TR) which I have come to understand and believe is the most true and pure source from which to translate the Word of God. I believe that the KJV is the best line of defence and the sharpest sword of the Lord.

  4. I find that the NIV has the most accurate word usage of all the translations, without delving into paraphrasing(if that comment makes any sense…..)

  5. I would have voted for the ESV and NASB both if I could have. Both are very good translations; I find the ESV to be the more readable of the two but there are many times where I find the NASB to be the more accurate and have the better translation.

  6. My personal Bible is a NKJV just because the particular one I have has wide margins that allows lots of notes. Nevertheless, I refer to all the above versions for serious study and comparison through my computer. Normally, I post using KJV, to not be overly offensive to others. My Husband uses all, but writes his material in NIV since most of his classes he has taught have had NIV as the most common version.

  7. Born-again on NIV, but got saved out of that and started using the ESV. (chuckle) But there are some translations that I think do a better job on some verses than others. (Keep in mind I’m an interpreter so I guess you could say I’m a bit more open-minded on translating than some.) But the Message… Yeah… (cough, cough)

  8. NKJV
    Says the same thing as KJV without the thees and thous. We just started attending a church that uses the NASB so I’ve been using both.

  9. I prefer NKJV but I’m reading through the Holman Christian Standard it is almoat word for word with the NASB. It wold seem they wasted time, but I’m not a scholar so I really don’t know. Haven’t found any problems yet.

  10. It’s been one month since I published this post and so far the results as of today are:

    NASB: 46 votes
    ESV: 45 votes
    KJV: 34 votes
    NKJV: 31 votes
    NIV: 6 votes
    NLT: 2 votes
    Other: 5 votes

    All I can say is “fellow NASB’ers unite!”

    – The Pilgrim
    P.S. Gratefully no one voted for The Message

  11. I prefer the NKJV although I would have voted for both NKJV and NASB. I still read from NIV, KJV, ESV, and NLT translations. I have just found the NKJV to be easier to memorize and remember plus it is pretty close to the KJV which I like as well.

  12. I do like to read from the NKJV but I tend to memorize from the KJV because that’s what I used growing up. I don’t want to have to re-memorize the verses again and I still do like the style of the KJV!

  13. I have memorised a lot of verses from NKJV which I have always used. I know where things are. I have a NIV which I don’t like. I find it very different.

  14. I have tried many different versions and continue coming back to NASB. Sometime reading is a bit choppier, sort of stac cotto

    For whatever reason, I continue to return to the NASB. I grew up on KJV and NKJV, but became an NASB convert later on. I cannot stand some of the newer “modern language” translations, especially when, in the NT, I come across translations like God’s law is now called God’s instructions. I think that is a significant shift from the original text. The problem I see with the modern language xlate is it is difficult to separate modern language from modern thought and culture. I do not like the way many of these newer translations read. NIV is my second choice.

  15. I prefer the KJV to everything. I’m sure it’s mostly because that is what I grew up reading and hearing from my pastors. I will admit that I used to be a bit “snobby” about it and have had to reign in my attitude. In the last few years I have branched out quite a bit as far as what I read when I’m studying. I sense animosity towards “The Message” however, I love reading it in addition to the KJV. There have been many times a verse or story has absolutely come alive to me in a way like never before. I just don’t see how that could be a bad thing. With that said, like I mentioned…I read it in the KJV also just to make sure it’s speaking the same truth.

    I still bring my old KJV with me every time I go to church. At this point that Bible is a part of me and I would never want a different one. I’m still made fun of in my SS class because whenever I read a passage they have to re-read in a different translation :)

  16. The NIV: It’s clear, accurate and beautiful. Its mild “dynamic equivalence” is not that free at all — whenever I’ve seen it depart from a strict literal translation it serves only to make the translation more accurate and clear.

    KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV are all good also. And even NLT doesn’t seem to bad (although I haven’t looked at it that much).

    The Geneva: why?

  17. KJV. Why? Really long story involving the history of the Bible, textual history, MSS evidences, church history, etc. For instructing the young in Christ and for preaching the Gospel I sometimes use the KJV, sometimes the NASB or NKJV.

  18. I was born and raised in the RCC, so the only bible I knew was the Jerusalem Bible. When I was saved, the first Bible I had was the KJV, but I found the language a little too tough to wade through. Now I use the NASB as my primary Scriptures because I find it easiest to follow. I also use the NKJV as an additional resource, and am considering the purchase of an ESV.

  19. Total toss up w/ me between NASB and NKJV. The NAS is accurate and a little easier to read to me (I never really agreed w/ the “wooden” description). I like the language in the NKJ; it just seems a little more authoritative, if that makes sense to anyone.

  20. KJV allow me to learn more about GOD and his plan through His Son by forcing me to do word study since it was written in 16 century English. I wouldn’t have to do that with other translations. So my study to me, is more intense and I spend more time “Seeking God and His Truth”. Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little there a little. I don’t want the easier way to learn about God, because I heard and read in His Word that “He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him”. Diligent means showing painstaking effort. I wish I understood Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Grace and Peace!

  21. I consider the ESV to be my primary Bible, but I have a habit of buying whatever others I can find cheap, usually in thrift stores. I like comparing different translations and formats (study Bibles, especially), and while E-sword and Biblegateway.com are great for that, I also love the feel (and smell!) of an actual book.

    I tend to read through the Bible about twice a year, and I like to rotate through different versions to keep from getting so familiar with the text that I stop paying attention. I prefer more literal translations, but I can’t deny that people are getting saved and growing in faith through reading some of the less literal ones.

    THE MESSAGE still annoys me to no end, though … ;)

  22. Whilst we are the topic – does anybody know a site that can give me an Alexandrian text Greek rendering.

    Ie. Biblos and other sites have the Greek from Westcott and Hort {KJV} but I am looking for a site that will give me “NASB Greek”

    Any help?

  23. Matthew:

    You will not find one Alexandrian text per se, as it is a textual family. I hope you don’t find an Alexandrian Greek text in association with the NASB. Codices B, Aleph, and others of the Alexandrian family bore heavy Arian influences, which cast doubt on the deity of Christ. Yet I know W & H used Alexandrian texts heavily in their ecclectic Greek which was primarily used in their 1881 English Bible version. It is my understanding that the NASB relied primarily on the 26th edition of Eberhard Nestle’s NOVUM TESTAMENTUM GRAECE. Hope that helps.

  24. I prefer the NASB because of the beauty of the language coupled with the fantastic accuracy of the text. Indeed a good tree is known by it’s fruit. Studying versions, texts, his- tory of the Bible etc for many years ( since 1989) has strengthened my adamant stand that this version will never be surpassed in any shape or form when it comes to faithfulness and accuracy to what the Holy Spirit has written in the Holy scriptures. This and no other deserves a such praise. I believe that all versions are the WORD OF GOD and all will get you saved and cause you to grow, but for Accuracy. the NASB is unsurpassed!

  25. question – werent all of the versions and “per-versions” of the bible based or “translated” with “someone” with “individual motives” behind them?

    we are so far from the truth – the time of Jesus – and satan has twisted and distorted most things of this earth – things that were good, pure, righteous.

    it is the END DAYS and satan is running out of time – running scared – and doing all he can, with what he has whether it be music, materialism, vanity, or even BIBLES…….!!

    everyone i know in my small world “believes” that “ALL BIBLES” are the same – they are all good…. God can speak through any of them (okay, God can do anything He wants, but………….lets not go there.)

    i guess i lean on the KJV – but then i ask what your opinions are of the apologetics bible? i just purchased one a few months ago and like it (but havent had a lot of time with it)

    just curious…???

  26. I use The Message for my day-to-day reading, but for detailed study the ESV or NASB. I have been giving the REB some thought as of late but not a taker yet. Ironically though I have a friend of mine who has worked on tranlation teams (i understand language is one of his specialties) and he is an avid fan of The Message for reading and even clarification purposes for those who are primarily English Bible readers only. He quickly points out that The Message appears to have alot of changes or modifications from other English translations but that was the point- to bring about the “way of thinking” or “what was understood” by the original audience of the text. Additionally Peterson’s paraphrase is really a translation. It was tranlated from the original text and languages; passed through a series of respected “checkers or proofers” from various conservative denominations; but was ONLY considered a paraphrase b/c of the freedom within the adaptations to common English.

    BTW…My friend has worked on a couple of the previously mentioned translations or modernizations of translations.

  27. Here’s a sample from The Message “translation”

    How well God must like you–you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.

    If you have trouble recognizing this verse, it’s from Psalm 1:1. I’ll stick with the NASB.

    – Pilgrim

  28. I think it is a peculiar thing about The Message either you like it or hate it- not really much in the middle. I can say The Message has been a wonderful tool for me to encourage reading among my students. I’m a public school teacher who makes a point of ensuring my students know my priorities in life. A couple of years ago I started using my planning period for my daily reading and decided I would keep my Bible out by my computer to hopefully prompt a student to ask a question or even pick up and read. Orginally I began using my NASB but when students would pick up and look in it their eyes would swirl and they would gently put it down. So I decided to go with a very modern translation. I looked at The Message, NLT, God’s Word, CEV, and TNIV. The TNIV was ruled out quickly based on some of the translaters own comments. I discussed the matter with my friend who has worked in translation, and he adamantly said he would recommend The Message over the others. In fact his belief is that the NLT may be the worst of the bunch but he wasn’t willing to commit to it- yet. For the record it has been a good choice for what I wanted. In the last few years I’ve been able to give out many New Testaments to kids who just want something that makes sense. I’ve seen them use my own Bible to look up stuff and more importantly ask me to help them find stuff, and several teachers in my school who have started doing the same. Bigger yet a couple of students have become believers. Would this have happened with the NLT or GW maybe- maybe not? I can say this The Message really invites people to read- whether it’s the language or “no verses” or the narrative structure I’m not sure- but people read it. It intoxicates them to read more. Ironically this is exactly what Gutenberg desired when he refered to the Bibles printing from the press as an “intoxicating liquor”.

  29. I really like the Amplified bible. It is very literal but also includes explanatory words (in parenthesis or brackets) which help to give the full meaning of the original Greek, Hebrew, etc. It really helps drive home what may not come across in other translations.

    For example, the NIV renders Galations 5:16 as:

    So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

    The Amplified renders Galations 5:16 this way:

    But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).

  30. I almost threw up reading the Message’s butchering of Psalm 1.1…yeesh, and people actually read that junk?! No wonder the church is so sickly. I study with two version personally. The KJV and the NASB with Strong’s Concordance. You have to learn to use the Concordance if you want to understand the Bible. You can’t take the Bible at face value, because our language is so different from the original manuscripts. The Concordance opens up a well-spring of life to the reader and gives you a glorious opportunity to understand what was being said back then.

  31. Hi Matt,

    Not sure about the Alexandrian text Greek reading, but this site has a ton of tools you might find interesting. It has a lot of annoying ads though, but with ABP from Firefox, it takes them all away. This sight has some “teachers” in its library that are less than respectful, at least from a Reformed point of view, but check out this link: http://www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/

    You might find something you like.

  32. I like the KJV because that’s what I grew up reading, I love the beauty and poetry of the English used, and I think it is the most accurate translation from the Greek and Hebrew. However, my church uses the NASB and I have read through the NASB, and I think this is a good translation also. It’s not as poetic as the KJV, but I think it’s about as accurate and easier to read and understand. Random verses that I looked up between the NASB and KJV didn’t really change the meaning of the verse.

  33. I prefer the Douay Rheims Bible (not the Rheims-Challoner or Haydock which many get confused) as my English Version. The Douay Rheims is Extremely Literal translation of the Latin Vulgate, yet confers the Greek and Hebrew and other Text, and gives great detail of specific verses e.g.,

    [Joan. xxi. 15-17]
    15. Therefore when they had dined, JESUS saith to Simon Peter, Simon of John, lovest thou me more then these? He saith to him, Yea Lord: thou knowest that I love thee. he saith to him, FEED MY LAMBS.
    16. He saith to him again, Simon of John, lovest thou me? he saith to him, Yea Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him, (a)FEED MY LAMBS.
    17. He saith to him the third time, Simon of John, lovest thou me? Peter was stroken sad, because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said to him, Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him, FEED MY SHEEP.
    (a) ποιμαινε to feed and rule. (the other two feeds, βοσχε)

    I also prefer to look through the Greek Orthodox Bible, the Septuagint, The Latin Vulgate (Biblia Sacra iuxta Vulgatam Clementinam), and the Hebrew Text (According to the Masoretic Text).

    Oremus pro invicem.

  34. I voted for the NASB. I grew up with the KJV, memorizing beaucoup verses that are still with me to this day. I walked away from my faith during my military service years and wrestled with GOD for 40 years. When the HOLY SPIRIT brought me back, it was while reading the NIV, which put more things in line for me. Nowadays I read the NASB and my trusty interlinear with greek and hebrew lexicons in hand. I don’t read the KJV much, now. The original KJV is translated from the Latin Vulgate translation, and so, is a translation of a translation. So, for me I would rather stay as close to the original language as I can while I diligently seek the LORD and wrestle with HIM less and less.

  35. I believe the ASV-1901 is the most “literally-accurate” version currently
    available in the English language. It is archaic in phrasing, uses old
    English forms, and is not easy to read, but its precision is excellent.
    The NASB-77 stands a relatively close second to the ASV in that it strives
    for “form accuracy.” The ESV is probably better than both in that it
    combines readability with good exegetical choices most of the time.
    The NIV-2011 is also an very useful translation. It is readable,
    understandable, and does a good job with gender accuracy most of
    the time. The NRSV is generally good but some of its renderings are
    inexcusably clumsy. Each has strengths and all of them have weaknesses.
    All could be better and some are more useful than others. Interestingly,
    the NIV-2011 has moved ever so slightly in the direction of modified-
    literal translation theory. I predict that if it can overcome the hurdle
    of what some see as non-traditional gender accuracy, it will be the most
    used version among “conservative evangelicals.”

  36. Ronnie,

    Dr. Greg Bahnsen used the ASV-1901, and as far as appeals to human authority go that man is a pretty reliable barometer for textual fidelity. Thanks for your comment!

    In Christ,

  37. Nah… The folks who think the ESV walk on water I’d encourage you to read “Why the ESV should not become the standard English version.” by Mark Strauss

    I like the ESV, but there is nothing to fancy about it, it’s a revised RSV and that’s that. In my life group we have the NIV, NLT, NKJV, ESV, and the NASB all represented. God uses his word despite translation to bless people.

  38. Have moved to ESV to preach. I find the leaning towards literalness, but also readability make it a good choice. I end up spending less time explaining archaic language and more time focused on the Word. With so little real Bible literacy amongst seekers these days it seems, I choose the ESV to try and stay true to original and help with clarity. For study I compare a bunch of them, none are perfect. Just my thoughts.

  39. “How well God must like you–you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon,”

    I had NO idea the message was THAT bad. Yikes!

    NKJV but Youngs and Geneva also.


  40. Hello, One of the reasons I stayed away from the Lord as a kid was because of all the different versions. Growing up Liberal Catholic/Liberal Protestant in a Spanish/English home was just as confusing. And I figured IF God wanted me, He’d speak in a language I could understand, that would reach my heart. So once He did save me (10/10/81), I didn’t trust any Bible or church. Imagine that. But through a Godly friend, the Lord led me to a verse by verse, chapter by chapter, Bible teaching church that used the NASB. Later I also started using NIV. I have learned the KJV is translated from the Textus Receptus and that it is supposed to have the most copies without any variations. Have any other versions been translated from the TR? Because frankly, I’ve never quite figured out the KJV. Every time I hear it, I have to “translate” what it is saying into something I can comprehind…sort of like translating from one language to another…sort of like listening to Yoda of Star Wars. And to this day, I still struggle with exact connotations of some of the words. So what version(s) is/are closest to the TR other than the KJV?
    My email is n3507g@yahoo.com. Thanks and God Bless!

  41. Bernardo,

    I also hold to the Received Text which was the predominant Text in the faithful churches until Westcott, Hort, Tischendorf and their ilk came along and changed the very manner in which Scriptural manuscripts are analysed and “rated”. So I am not aware of any “modern” versions which holds faithfully to the Received text more than the KJV. Admittedly, the archaic English can be a tongue twister at times (speaketh, heareth, etc.), but I found that when I made the decision to choose accuracy to the MEANING of the words, over readability which wasn’t as accurate, the decision to stay with the KJV paid off in learning to see the words for what they mean, rather than how they are spelled. Would be nice, though, to find an accurate modern English version that remained faithful to the Received Text. I’d be the first to go out and buy it, and recommend it to others. .

  42. i heard that this version, 21st Century KJ, only updates the archaic language of KJV so it is better to understand for the modern reader. i don’t have this version, so i cannot verify, but here is the website in case anyone is interested: http://www.kj21.com/

  43. I prefer ESV because of the smoothness of reading and its’ word for word closeness to the original Greek and Aramaic.

  44. DavidW said:

    “So I am not aware of any “modern” versions which holds faithfully to the Received text more than the KJV. Admittedly, the archaic English can be a tongue twister at times (speaketh, heareth, etc.), but I found that when I made the decision to choose accuracy to the MEANING of the words, over readability which wasn’t as accurate, the decision to stay with the KJV paid off in learning to see the words for what they mean, rather than how they are spelled.”

    ThI think if we were really to follow this principal we should go back to one of the versions KJ copied 90% of his text from before perverting the other 10% by destroying the ecclesia and servant leadership of Gods sheppards. Geneva, Wycliff, Tynndale are all better choices if we really get down to it and want to put in the effort. One you get the U and V thing straight in Geneva its as simple to read as KJV. Just some thoughts. This is coming from soneone who still uses NKJV and is just sharing some thoughts. In Christ -jim

  45. As the 6th most popular by unit sales, HCSB seems to be a glaring omission. Personally it is the one that I prefer because I like that it is slightly more literal than NIV but is still readable, and I’m attached to my study Bible with it’s concordance and illustrations. Recently, I was given an NIV Life Application Bible as a gift. I tried using it for a while, but eventually switched back to my HCSB, mostly because I disliked the Life Application notes. Most interpretations were glaringly obvious, and the rest gave an opinion on a controversial matter which, even if I agreed with it, didn’t seem proper to have in the Bible text

  46. KJV, closet to representing the heart of God. Did comparison years ago, and threw out my NASB.

  47. I still prefer the RSV. Yes, probably because it was one of the earliest “replacements” for the KJV and it was the version used when I joined the Lutheran church in college. But I still like it because it’s word-for-word and yet still retains much of the beauty and the flow of the KJV.
    A secondary comment – it’s really hard to figure out HOW to leave a comment since this box is a L-O-N-G way down. Be nice if your web designer moved it to the top.

  48. I am unapologetically a KJV preferred reader and studier of the Word of GOD.

    The absolute wonder – in my understanding – is that despite mans meddling, the power of GOD still saves men’s souls – despite the many changed words in various ‘versions’ of His Holy Word in the English language. Please think very carefully and pray earnestly about what JEHOVAH says in His Holy Word “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Prov 30:5-6 – KJV) Please also prayerfully read ,study and meditate on what GOD says in His Holly Word in Deut 4:2; Deut 12:32; and Rev 22:18-19 in the KJV!!! How sincerely and in reverential fear of GOD do we take Him at His Word about the adding to – or the deleting from the Holy Word of GOD!!!

    The simple statement “Things that are different are not the same.” applies to the Holy Word of GOD!!! Seriously think about the many-many differences – changes of words, deletion of words, sentences, entire verses, and paragraphs from the over 200 various ‘versions’ of GOD’s Holy Word since the KJV.

    I talked to a fellow believer several years ago and he told me what his barber, who was a Moslem, asked about the Holy Bible – why should he read ‘the bible’ when the various ‘versions each say different things in different parts? Again – “Things that are different are not the same!”

    A comment about people saying that the KJV is difficult to understand – I’m only a High School graduate, yet praying sincerely to GOD “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out thy law.” (Psa 119:18 – KJV) and sincerely meaning it has helped me greatly – and will help all who are a truly ‘converted’ believers in the LORD Jesus Christ.

  49. Bro Nick: Let me throw this at you. What is your basis for assuming that the KJV is the translation that is correct? And more specifically, which KJV?

    Shall we discuss Moses’s horns? In the 1st printing, there was a mistranslation that said that Moses raised his horns. The 2nd printing corrected that.

  50. Bro. Nick: “Things that are different are not the same.” This is true, but the Holy Spirit Himself guided inspired translation of the Old Testament Hebrew into the New Testament, and He didn’t always direct that translation to be done in the same way. And this can easily be seen in the KJV (which I use). http://mindrenewers.com/2012/11/08/bible-translation-the-only-one-way-to-translate-fallacy/

    Was the Holy Spirit wrong to translate Old Testament verses in different ways in the New Testament? Of course not.

    I believe the KJV is a superior translation (for many reasons), but the “things that are different are not the same” argument against other translations is not supported by Scripture, and I encourage you not to use it.

  51. I like using the KJV because it is a translation and not a paraphrase. Also in my study I realized that I have to look up certain words to make sure of the meaning because word meanings changes over time. This book challenge me to really study using all tools at my disposal. ( dictionary, bible dictionary, concordance, commentaries, thesaurus, the web, etc.)

  52. When I was a young boy, I grew up learning and memorizing the KJV. This has carried on into my adult life. But I have become more of a scholar and student of the Bible now. I like to keep to the literal translation, as I have observed and experienced that the thought translations are too broad to the application of life. The NIV translation is one that I have been using for about 12-years, but I was always leery of it, when I compared it to KJV verses and chapters that I memorized. I have just started the ESV translation and I enjoy it more. So I will purchase an ESV Bible, along-with the MKJV and NLT which I enjoy studying and reading.

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