Bible translation comparison chart.

The following is a chart comparing the different English translations of the Bible. I hope this helps you in selecting a translation.

It was another chart similar to this one that led me to purchasing (and later embracing) the New American Standard (NASB) as my preferred translation.

And don’t forget to click here to vote for your preferred translation.


60 thoughts on “Bible translation comparison chart.

  1. I see pro’s and con;s throught all of the worthy translations. By worthy I mean the more predominantly solid translations ie. NASB, ESV, RSV, NIV, KJV and NKJV.

    I much prefer to read the NASB for everyday reading and study. Yet there are. as I said, some verses that are rendered better in other of the ‘worthy’ translations.

    Pick and choose, amongst those!

    ps. as for The Message….that is just a commentary, not a Bible :)

  2. John W says:

    I discovered the excellence of the NASB nearly 30 years ago, as being the most accurate English translation (apart from a word-for-word one).

    I also wholeheartedly recommend The Complete Jewish Bible (not shown on the above chart! Shame!!!) as being without equal in showing the real meaning of parts of the Bible, especially what we (but not the CJB) call the New Testament.

    The Massage is the worst, most (deliberately?) inaccurate ‘version’ around – half the time it doesn’t even pretend to be anything other than the author’s very misguided (and plain wrong) interpretation of what he thinks the Bible ought to mean. It contains a quote from a George Harrison song about being free by chanting the name of Krishna (Col 2:8, for the record), and an occult quote in his rendition of the Lord’s Prayer (‘as above, so below’). Avoid it more than you would the plague!

  3. tinybeetle says:

    Personally I have never found issue with the NLTse (Second Edition). It may not be exactly word for word, but I have found that it does the best job of making biblical concepts readable and understandable. On no occasion have I found any rendering in it to be unsupported or wrong when I compare what the NLTse translators did vs. the original Greek or Hebrew.

  4. Yup, this type of chart is exactly why I went with NASB over 10 years ago. When my current Ryrie NASB gets completely worn out, I was going to consider the ESV as a replacement. But I’m not there yet so I’m sticking with my NASB for now.

  5. Amy Reardon says:

    I can’t get along without my NRSV! Very accurate, very readable. My husband loves TNIV, but soon it will be out of print. I think that’s a shame.

  6. jude newman says:

    I started with the KJV and all the verses I have memorized are from this version. The songs I know are also from the KJV. I tried the NIV and eventually went back to NKJV. My current Bible is falling apart and I’m not looking forward to getting another one, as I know where everything is and have made heaps of notes in it. So sad

  7. So far, I prefer the KJV because it has a stronger support for the Deity of Christ, His Virgin Birth, and the Trinity.

    I am currently considering the manuscript debate as part of my choice (as far as I know so far, KJV uses one set of manuscripts, NKJV uses another set, and all other translations uses yet another.) This may explain why KJV has some verses and sections of verses (compare 1 John chapter 5 with other translations) that others do not (they are inserted, or put with the footnotes.

    I grew up with the KJV, and tried other translations for several years ( have some NIV and NASB verses and passages memorized), but now I am back to KJV unless I learn otherwise.

    I’m not not “KJV only”, but I don’t think I would ever be. “Masoretic/Texus Recepts only” maybe in the future, perhaps.

    Some interesting info about the NIV from those who translated the NIV.

    http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/life/20090902/bibletrans02_st.art.htm?loc=interstitialskip

    “And we’ll make sure we get it right this time,” says Keith Danby

    http://www.nivbible2011.com/

  8. Yes, this chart is a little off.

    The NKJV should actually be further to the left than the ESV and the NASB (at least the 95 update). The old NASB was on par with the NKJV for literalness in translation, but the 95 update moved more toward a thought for thought on certain passages. The ESV is not literal, but rather “essentially literal”. It puts the NIV and the TM in the right place, though!

  9. Dear Tyler:

    Thanks for your comment.

    If you have a more accurate chart, would you mind sharing it with us? You can link to it in your comment.

    Thanks.
    – The Pilgrim

  10. I was reading this post because I’m beginning to look for another bible. I had an NIV Life App, and it fell apart (front and back pages). The company replaced it with another of the same…and it has finally done the same.

    Now, I’m beginning to look for a Bible that I’ll be teaching from. Our church tends to use NIV translation, but people have been using lots of other translations personally.

    I’ve been looking at the following options, I guess…

    Another NIV (sigh)
    A Holman Christian Standard
    An NASB

    Your thoughts above were interesting to read. Feel free to give me advice. A Bible has always been a hard choice for me, and I’ve tended to “default” on this. I’d rather have a really good choice!

  11. Matthew, I’ve been trying to find a good NASB study bible. I hesitate to get a Zondervan because I’ve had them fall apart. Of the NASB study bible publishers, what would be a good place to start?

    Jeff, I’ve been looking at that ESV study bible that’s been out. Not sure of it, though.

  12. Well, the best NASB Study Bible you can easily get your hands is the MacArthur Study Bible. As in John MacArthur.

    Try Grace To You online [gty.org] or a good Christian bookstore.

    I get my stuff of amazon, as right now the Aussie dollar is quite strong.

    Hope that helps.

  13. I’m not familiar with MacArthur’s theology, I guess. The reason I ask is that there seems to be a “theological flavor” in these study bibles. Sometimes they lean conservative…liberal…or try to be biblical and balanced. I realize that the commentary in these study bibles isn’t the infallible word in itself…the Bible is. So, I’m hoping to avoid getting something that I can’t possibly investigate in a brief manner (the commentary portion), and then find I’m not happy with the “leanings”.

  14. Right. I can assure you that you will never find a Study Bible that you agree with wholeheartedly. I do not agree with MacArthur in every aspect of his theology however he really is a great theologian. Many on this site will testify to that.

    I would recommend his Study Bible above all available today.

  15. DavidW says:

    Jennifer:
    I’ve found “study bibles” to be generally of two basic types:

    1) Subject oriented
    2) Commentary oriented

    Both can have advantages and disadvantages. Both do generally promote the “flavor” of the author or publisher. MacArthur’s is basically his theological commentaries in the foot and marginal notes. Personally, I very much appreciate MacArthur’s stand in defense of God’s truth, especially in today’s theological climate. But he, as with all men, myself included, are still subject to error. So along with such “helps” come man’s inherent deficiencies in understanding the depth of God’s word. I have a MacArthur study bible (along with a bunch of others study bibles), but I use such helps only as sources of documentation.

    For actual study of God’s word, I would recommend a basic bible with cross references (with no commentaries) in comfortably readable type. And a Strong’s Concordance, (with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries) keyed to the particular bible version you get. I would go to Borders, Barnes and Noble, or the equivalent large bookstore in my area, looking personally at the quality of the binding (and whether you get bleed through of the text from the backside of the page or not).

  16. Jeff H says:

    Jennifer, I would highly recommend the MacArthur Study Bible as well.

    John MacArthur’s theology is rock solid (as Matthew Johnston has stated), and his study Bible is very helpful.

  17. What helped transform my life was this: A few years ago I stopped looking for the perfect Bible study and just began reading the Bible. Without aides, helps, commentaries, studies. Just the plain Word of God.

    I looked for one of the most accurate word-for-word translations available and discovered the NASB. I have not looked back.

    I did dabble with the ESV when my wife got me one, but I did not like it for two main reasons: It was not red-letter and it did not capitalize pronouns when referring to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.

    Just my two cents.

    :o)
    – The Pilgrim

  18. I actually have the MacArthur NKJV study Bible and I love it but then I grew up memorizing out of the KJV. I learned so many verses that I really don’t feel like going to any other Bible for memorizing but I do read from the NKJV. It still says much the same as the KJV just in our vernacular instead of old English!

  19. Pilgrim–

    I just got an ESV (the Study Bible) and noticed the same “issues” you had w/ it. Then I thought…well, what makes Jesus’ words more important than anything else in the Bible? After all, it’s ALL God’s words (and His Word)…right? Also, I have used other editions of, say, the NASB that didn’t have red lettering, so that’s not particular to just the ESV.

    The pronoun thing is kind of big with me, though; it is an accurate rendering of the text, however, so I *try* to overlook that. Hard when you want to type a quote from it and want to make that “he” a “He” but can’t to stay true to the translation.

    Good chart nonetheless. Very informative for those who don’t know which version is “best” so to speak.

  20. Man of Dust says:

    What about God’s name? Names are so important in the Bible shouldn’t the most important character in the Bible have his name rendered? It occurs nearly 7,000 times and there are numerous scriptures that point to the importance of God’s name. Lord is not a name nor is god or God.

  21. Rev Steve says:

    For serious Bible study, instead of trying to find the one “best” translation, I always advise people to use at least two translations of different types (i.e. NASB and NLT, NKJV and NIV, etc.) There are too many things in the original languages that simply can’t be perfectly translated into English for any one Bible to give you a completely accurate sense of what was written by the author. If you’re REALLY a stickler for accuracy, you need to buckle down and do the work to learn Greek and Hebrew. Then you can compare and contrast the English versions based on your own translations and see where you agree and disagree with them.

  22. Tim says:

    Regarding the earlier reference to ‘Red Letter’. I really dislike ‘Red Letter’. Is not the whole of the Bible God’s word? Is what he said while here on earth any more important than anything else he said in his word. ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16,17.

  23. Pat Sullivan says:

    I think that we should look at which Bible was translated from the original text. I am working on as much research as possible in that area to ensure I have the inspired word of God in my hand. I think to often we forget that the Holy Spirit will help us understand the Word not another translation. Even the men who walked with Jesus did not always understand Him and they were standing right there.

  24. austen says:

    I’m personally a big fan of the HCSB. Its a little more PC than I usually like having grown up with the KJV. However it remains very accurate and easy to read. I like the KJV but it seems to do one of two things when I try and teach with it, it either grinds people the wrong way, or goes way over their heads.

    The NASB is very accurate but it does get confusing for some. The NIV is way too PC and its one of those “feel good” translations. Its the same deal with the NLT.

  25. Rick Lilly says:

    I appreciate everyone’s view points here. I extensively read the NIV over the years. The past year I have read the ESV. With Zondervans ”new age” direction, especially with gender bias in the current NIV, I will be looking into the NASB. I do whole heartedly agree with the comment on going to the Greek and Hebrew and studying it out. Putting it all on the plate though, being led by the Holy Spirit and being immersed in prayer and the word daily is where you need to start.

  26. Stuart Klenk says:

    I love me my ESV. I’m not a huge fan of the KJV because for evangelism it really doesn’t communicate effectively for me. The NASB is sweet, and as the most accurate version it certainly has its merit, but I have to stick with the ESV for the balance of readability and accuracy. Though you can’t beat the originals.

  27. Joe Thomas says:

    I’m not sure how the author came up with the NASB as more word for word than the KJV. In any event, the most important thing we can do is to read SEVERAL good translations. No translation is perfect.

    I use NIV the most, and find it the best overall translation, in spite of some faults. I also find KJV useful because most good reference books are keyed to KJV words. I also like NRSV, which I think is a good balance between literal and dynamic equivalent. For an occaisional change of pace, The Message is nice for a devotional reading, even though it is not really a translation at all. Remember, it is NOT a study bible! I like to reference Young’s Literal Translation and my Greek Interlinear as well. All in all, I own about 15 translations, and I use them all.

    I also like the CB Williams NT, because he did a great job on rendering greek verbs.

  28. Robert Anderson says:

    “Well, the best NASB Study Bible you can easily get your hands is the MacArthur Study Bible. As in John MacArthur. I have it and I too think it is a good. The ESV study Bible is good also. I also keep my NLT handy if I just don’t understand a passage, or if I am not sure of my understanding. I say that it does a person no good to read the Holy Bible if he doesn’t understand what he is reading. Understand what the Bible is saying and then dig deeper into the meaning and word for word translation.

  29. Robert Anderson says:

    I hate to tell you KJV lovers, but mistakes have been found in the KJV! I too grew up with the KJV and I love it, but Jesus Christ did not speak in the 1811 Old King James English. When the KJV was publish it was the greatest Bible in the world for the English speaking people and it has been the back bone for many a Christian, but if a person living in 2012 cannot understand Old English, it would be better for him to get a NLT to read for his daily Bible reading and pleasure and get a NASB or ESV study Bible to help him dig deeper. I don’t care for the NKJV because they didn’t make changes in the KJV that should have made to update it and correct mistakes. They only took out some of the old english and made the KJV more readable. After years of studying the Bible, I have a better understanding of what the writers of the Holy Bible are saying, I love to pick up my KJV and read from it. I love the old English. I love the Christmas story read from the KJV because that is how I first heard it as a boy. I hate the new translations where “swaddling clothes” is replaced with” strips of cloth”. Why didn’t they change “manger” to, they laid him in “a wooden feeding trough ” where the animals ate …? That ruins the Christmas story for me. If you can find an ASV 1901 (only) it too is a good “word for word” translation, if you can’t read Greek and Hebrew. Even you can read Greek and Hebrew and don’t understand what you are reading what good is that to you? God’s love to you.

  30. Jay Rennemeyer says:

    Though I respect the KJV because of its place in history, I find reading it tedious. And forget about talking to unchurched friends using it — they look at you like you just spoke Klingon.

    I tried the NASB for a while, but it’s a tough read too. Also, I realize that the original Greek writers used the equivalent of “and” to begin 1 out of 3 sentences, but for some reason, it drives me nuts — probably because that’s not the way I speak. I’m really trying to convince myself to switch to the ESV. It’s a little easier to read than the NASB, but it has the same “and, and, and” thing going, so I’m not quite sold on it.

    About 8 years ago my wife received an HCSB as a gift. It sat on a shelf for 7 1/2 years. I pulled it off the shelf a few months ago and read the introduction. It piqued my curiosity, so I started reading it and, to my surprise, I like it! It uses the more traditional theological words of the NASB/ESV sort, but it is much easier to read. It capitalizes pronouns that obviously refer to deity. It uses Yahweh when the speaker is talking specifically about the name of God, and uses LORD in all others situations. It also has extensive footnotes on alternate renderings and differences in ancient texts.

    Right now I’m vacillating between the ESV and the HCSB. It might just come down to which one gets published in a wide-margin format with larger-than-normal text and decent paper — though I’m rooting for the HCSB.

  31. It’s a pretty decent chart, but ignores the text question. If you hold to a traditional text position (either textus receptus or majority text), then both the KJV and NKJV are much more literal word for word than the NASB. Likewise, if you hold to an eclectic / critical text position, then the KJV / NKJV aren’t all that great for word for word translation, because they aren’t translating the same text. The NASB is excellent in that case.

    The usual term for “word for word” is “formal equivalence”. Every translation engages in dynamic equivalence to some degree. I personally strongly advocate formal equivalence to the greatest degree possible while A) making sense and B) being readable. This is because I believe in verbal inspiration — every word is given by God.

    I hold to the traditional text. The KJV has stronger formal equivalence than the NKJV, I wouldn’t have put them together. The KJV is and was a masterpiece, I don’t believe any translation we have compares, but I recognise it is getting harder and harder for today’s English speakers / readers. I still use it — I consider the benefits to much outweigh the drawbacks. If I didn’t hold to a traditional text position, I would have dumped it long ago. If I was looking for easy or entertaining reading, rather than serious study, I also would have dumped it.

    As to study Bibles, I tend to agree with Pilgrim’s comments above. But if someone asks me about a study Bible, I like to check the following:
    1. What does it say about the crossing of the Red Sea? If if tries to make it out to be the Sea of Reeds, or is fuzzy on that at all, I’m very suspicious.
    2. What does it say about the date of the Exodus? 1440 B.C. is a winner, 1260 B.C. is a loser. What does 180 years matter? It’s reflective of their view on inerrancy — I won’t get into it here.
    3. What does it say on Isaiah 7:14? If it ignores Matthew 1 and tries to tell us it should be translated “young woman” and this is simply a prophecy about Isaiah’s wife having a son, it’s rubbish. If they talk about double fulfilment, I’m not so bothered, but if they leave Matthew 1 out of it, forget it.
    4. What does it say on tongues in I Cor. 12-14?
    5. What does it say about the role of women in I Timothy 2? Does it water down the qualifications of I Timothy 3 to allow women to be pastors, or at least try to claim that this is an acceptable view? Is it clear on controversial issues, or intentionally fuzzy?
    6. How does it handle the faith-works discussion in James 2? Does it either water down what James is saying or teach works salvation?

  32. Jon – good points to consider. Also, does it use the word, “propitiation”? Any translation that avoids this (and similar rich theological words) is to be avoided.

  33. Tim says:

    I Have a ton of study bibles. But I picked up a plain text NASB ref. Bible today, originally got an NIV one today that was a plain ref. Bible but i took it back and got the NASB one. I thought to myself, ” if I ever plan on going through Bible school that I should read something that has all the proper theological terms and packs a punch..” I may be in my young 20’s and I do love the NLT and NIV don’t get me wrong. But sometimes you’ll read a verse from the KJV or NASB that just blows yours spiritual socks off like BAMMM!!! Thats why I think it’s so important in one the most bible illiterate generations there has ever been to not ever let the original literal translations be forgotten. I’m not saying to evangelize in the KJV but the NASB really isn’t as bad as its made out to be when it comes to understanding what its saying. Most bibles have a concordance and dictionaries to help explain words you don’t understand. I’ve actually found that where the NASB may be slightly difficult to understand at times, it still stays steady and powerful all the way through as to where I’ve had some spots in the ESV and NIV that it seems that a verse had been translated completely differently and the NASB or KJV actually explained it better.

  34. cassie says:

    im getting a kjv. do the sell it with study helps? i worry about nkjv becaus it has a symbol bastardized of witchcraft on it that actually represents the trinitarian godess of the celts

  35. RS says:

    cassie:
    Yes, various KJV bibles come with study helps. Might I recommend the Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible in the KJV. That will give you references to the meanings of the actual Hebrew and Greek words, as well as the entire bible text. I’ve been a Bible student for decades, and I still use it.

  36. abidingthroughgrace says:

    Cassie, I recommend you get a NASB Study bible, especially the MacArthur Study Bible. Or the ESV study Bible, which is very well respected. I personally would recommend against purchasing a KJV study Bible for your daily Bible for reading and studying. It is very valuable to have and occasionally read a KJV, NIV, NASB, NKJV, and ESV if you can do it…but it is comes down to one for daily reading and studying as your main Bible for every day, make it the ESV or NASB.

  37. I use various paraphrases and find them very helpful, including 26 Translations of the Bible. However, for the beauty and majesty of language, I still prefer the King James. I also prefer the King James for memorizing because the wording sticks in the mind. A book on Bible translation that some may find interesting is The Multilingual God: Stories of Translation. It offers fascinating stories of how translators render the Bible so that every culture imaginable can understand the Word of God. If interested, check out http://www.bibletranslatorstribute.com.

  38. LaVell says:

    @Cassie – I worried about that at one point, but most of them do not have that symbol. Mine does not.

    The NKJV is the best for me, so far, as some other versions omit words that were present in the KJV and, to me, have significance. I cannot find the charts I looked at a few years ago, but the following site has a chart with examples of changes and omissions: http://av1611.com/kjbp/charts/various.html. I compared my NKJV with the listed KJV scriptures and there were no omissions :)

    There are other versions that are very helpful to some readers, I just prefer a word-for-word translation. Parallel bibles are also a great resource :)

  39. LaVell says:

    I also understand that the KJV is not necessarily the standard against which all translations should be evaluated. I am open to learning about other translations and the original texts they are based on.

  40. Mark says:

    So many opinions. I love many translations. I tend to use either my Ipad or computer with the programs, e-sword, olive tree and logos for study. I am liking olive tree with my ipad allot recently. My main go to translations are NASB, ESV (about equal) KJV and Interlinear, with strongs along with other lexicons and dictionaries. I have others but find I tend to use the three, most of the time.
    Let the power of The Holy Spirit teach and guide you always.

    Thanks so much for the chart and discussion.

  41. D. says:

    I’ve been truly enjoying reading the HCSB. I can see the otherwise unfamiliar “optimal equivalence” they went for because it’s both very understandable and very accurate when I compare it to standard formal equiv. Bibles.

    I also find myself using the old Berkeley/Modern Language Bible. If you can find one you’ll be surprised by it. Now it and the HCSB are my two main swords for reading and study.

    PS Weymouth’s can be somewhat stiff and unfamiliar but the man came up with some good (but accurate) turns of phrase that nail down concepts that don’t always come across clearly in more common translations.

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