What Are The Best Bible Translations?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

There are so many different Bible translations out there, so which one is best?

Variety

If you look at nature, you can see that God loves variety. Hardly any two species are the same, and even humans are like snowflakes in the sense that no two of us are alike, and that’s good, but what about the hundreds of Bible translations out there? Which are the best? What gives the reader the best grasp of the original manuscripts of the authors of the Bible? Is one better than another? Which ones should we steer clear of? The idea that some are “King James Only” believers troubles me a bit, because even the King James Bible has mistranslations and omissions from the original manuscripts, so the argument that the King James is the best and only translation we should use is false, and I hope to show you why. Don’t get me wrong. I love the King James Version, but no version is without error, but those errors are less than one half of one percent in most translations, and these errors do not affect biblical doctrine. For example, some translations have it read, “Jesus Christ” instead of “Christ Jesus,” and even though both are correct, no two translations are exactly the same and no translation is perfect, so these minor differences should not be a problem for us.

King James Version

I tend to preach out of the King James in most cases, however, there are exceptions. When I want to make it a bit easier to understand, I use the English Standard Version (ESV). This translation reads more smoothly in some cases and gives a better definition of the original Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic than does the King James. In the New Testament, the King James often translates the word “dulous” into “servant,” when the original word means “slave,” so that is a significant difference, but it’s not a difference enough to affect the gospel of Jesus Christ. A servant can quit or get fired and goes home after work, but a slave is owned by their master and they live there, and work there, and sleep there, but they are also provided for. In many cases in the ancient Roman Empire, slaves became like a family member, and many were adopted after they had gained their freedom, but again, no two translations are alike. There are however, some Bible translations we must avoid.

A Heretical Bible

There is such a thing as bad Bibles out there, but what I mean is, there are bad translations that do a disservice to the Word of God. They change meanings, pronouns, definite articles, and so on, and that drastically altars biblical doctrine. For example, the New World Translation (NWT) used by Jehovah Witnesses is a heretical Bible and here’s why. The best manuscripts say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (ESV, John 1:1), but the NWT inserts an indefinite article to make it “and the Word was “a” god,” not even capitalizing Jesus’ name as the Word and as God. What an insult to His deity, and by the way, there is no indefinite article in the Greek language (which they have used!), so this shows that this cult is actually reading their theology into the text and making the text fit their beliefs.

Other Bad Bibles

Other Bible translations that I do not recommend include the New Century Version (they take too much liberty), The Message (to conversational), and The Living Bible (too much paraphrasing). Some would include the NIV in this section because some texts found in other Bibles are missing in the NIV, but that’s because they are either not included in most manuscripts, or they were only found in later manuscripts (meaning, later copies), so the NIV did a good job in translating the Bible, so I disagree that the NIV is satanic and evil. If anything, the New World Translation (NWT) is satanic because it brings Jesus Christ down to being a mere man and not God, and associating him as a brother of Satan or Lucifer, but Jesus is God and has always been God, so I believe the NWT should be burned. There are deadly serious warnings that “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:19), so “You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deut 12:32b). Jesus Christ Himself says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book” (Rev 22:18).

Best Translations

I use the English Standard Version (ESV) for most of my studying and reading, and more often than not, I use it during Sunday messages, but if I need a bit of help with the Hebrew or Greek, I turn to the New American Standard Bible (NASB) because it may be the very best Bible in translating the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic words. For accuracy, it is nearly second to none, and is close to the ESV for accuracy, but of course the King James Version is good too, and as I wrote, no Bible translation is without error. It’s just that some are much better than others. I do keep a variety of translations around for reading and studying similar passages, but I stick to the King James, ESV, or the NASB (in fewer cases) in most cases. These are all good Bible translations, so if you avoid the ones mentioned above, I think you’ll be fine, and a good ESV or NASB study Bible will broaden your understanding and reading of Scripture. I recommend both.

Conclusion

If you’re using the King James Version, please don’t toss it or some of your other translations, but if you have a NWT or similar Bible translations (like a paraphrase), I would toss them. They just take too much liberty with the manuscripts. If I find that the integrity of the gospel is violated, as with the NWT, it is not going to be in my house for long…at least until trash pickup day. I stick to what I know works, and for me, the King James Version, the ESV, the NASB, and even the New King James Version are worthy of our attention and should be in every believer’s bookcase. You may have other Bible translations that you don’t like and others that you do like that I have not mentioned here. If so, please leave a comment. I’d love to read your thoughts on this subject. We can all learn from one another about what the best Bible translation is.

Here is some related reading for you: Five Tips for Picking the Best Bible Translation

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



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