My 13 Favorite Translations

I have to confess that I love the insights the use of different translations can offer to a student of the Bible. All good translations offer their own strengths to the English-reading world. Some translations make reading the Bible easier. Some translations make studying the Bible easier. Some are better at helping you understand the meaning of individual words, while others are better at helping you understand the meaning of paragraphs. Some have unique features that help you understand grammar or definitions. Some offer a unique perspective from the translator(s). Some are more traditional and familiar in the way they translate passages, while others are willing to diverge from traditional renderings occasionally to present insightful perspectives on perhaps-confusing passages.

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Below is a list of my favorite translations and a brief description of why I think they are handy for "training in righteousness." (in random order):

      Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT)

attention to word-for-word literalness; Majority Text base; in-text notes for clarification, alternate translations, and figurative expressions (which are frequently insightful); in-text elements to denote the plural "you" (asterix), the strong "but" (underline), emphasized pronouns (underline); individual translator (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); evangelical translator.

      Complete Apostles' Bible (CAB)

attention to word-for-word literalness; Majority Text base; Septuagint base; individual translator (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); evangelical translator.

      King James Version (KJV)

attention to word-for-word literalness; Received Text base; useful grammatical clues (such as "ye" and "you" to show plurality, rather than "thee" and "thou" to show singularity, and "will" to show future intention or conditionality, rather than "shall" to show future certainty or obligation); beauty; committee translation (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); familiarity; tradition; reliable.

      Wuest's Expanded Translation of the Greek New Testament(WET)

attention to word-by-word explanation; verbose; accompanied by excellent translational and exegetical commentary; frequently insightful; individual translator (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); scholarly evangelical translator; paragraph formatting.

      Today's New International Version (TNIV)

healthy balance between word-for-word literalness and thought-for-thought literalness; not quite as bound to popular renderings because of tradition as most popular translations; frequently insightful; literal treatment of Greek neuters; case-by-case treatment of gender neutrality; very natural reading for contemporary vernacular; committee translation (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); evangelical; reliable.

      Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

healthy balance between word-for-word literalness and thought-for-thought literalness; frequently insightful; not quite as bound to popular renderings because of tradition as most popular translations; individual original translator; committee review and revision; evangelical; reliable.

      Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

healthy balance between word-for-word literalness and thought-for-thought literalness; frequently insightful; not bound to popular renderings because of tradition; some terms presented as Hebraisms; Old Testament especially dynamic; unique Messianic Jewish perspective; accompanied by translational, exegetical, and historical commentary Hebraic, rather than Englishized names; Jewish feel; individual translator (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); evangelical translator.

      English Standard Version (ESV)

word-for-word literalness without becoming wooden; familiar feel due to traditional renderings and style; trusted history (from Tyndale's Bible and the Great Bible, to the KJV; then the RV, the ASV, the RSV, and to the ESV now) of committee review and revision; evangelical; reliable.

      New Living Translation Second Edition (NLTse)

attention to thought-for-thought literalness without becoming paraphrastic; frequently insightful; very natural reading for contemporary vernacular; reliable.

      J.B. Philipps' New Testament in Modern English (JBP)

paraphrastic; frequently insightful; unique renderings; individual translator (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); often refreshing reading; paragraph formatting.

      Richmond Lattimore's New Testament (RLNT)

attention to the literary style of each book; individual translation (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); unique translational approach, accentuating the writing styles of the various New Testament writers (when Mark writes, you can really tell it's Mark; when Peter writes, you can really tell it's Peter—the translation doesn't read like it was written by the same guy from book to book); unique perspective—a secular Greek expert and literary scholar without an agenda or a theological axe to grind; paragraph formatting;

      New English Translation (NET)

healthy balance between word-for-word literalness and thought-for-thought literalness; committee translation (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); reliability due to unprecedented accountability in translation; accompanied by copious, lengthy translational commentary and textual notes; evangelical; reliable.

      International Standard Version (ISV)

healthy balance between word-for-word literalness and thought-for-thought literalness; committee translation (can be either a benefit or a drawback, depending on the passage or word); attention to literary elements, style, and genre; evangelical; reliable.

DEVOTIONAL READING

My favorite translations for devotional reading:

  • TNIV — especially when my College Devotional Bible is handy. It contains lots of stirring personal testimonies and real life stories for illustration and application. That aside, the TNIV is currently my favorite translation for devotional reading. The TNIV reads so naturally and comfortably to me that my brain sighs with surprise whenever I read at length. (This is the best way I have discovered to express the feeling.) I find myself understanding more of what I'm reading with much less mental effort. In technical terms, I suffer from significantly less cognitive dissonance when I read the TNIV. The fact that I can't stand the NIV, but love the TNIV goes to show that the latter is much more than just an edition of the NIV.
  • NLTse — for the same reasons as for the TNIV. There are particular portions of Scripture in which the NLT is much more enjoyable to read devotionally. I often find myself going to the NLT when I need something explained a little more.
  • HCSB — especially when reading through a New Testament book. I like the introductions in my Holman Student Bible. Plus, the HCSB often gets things right where other translations drop the ball, and it is often fun to read it to see this happen, especially in passages that are more familiar to you in other translations than the HCSB. I also can't deny my bias, that it gives me some assurance to know that the proprietors of the translation committee (the Southern Baptist Convention and Broadman & Holman Publishers) were solidly evangelical and Baptist, even though only a third of the translators were.
  • JBP — on a case-by-case basis in the NT. Frequently, just plain fun and insightful to read. Other times, I don't like the way ol' J.B. renders some passages, but that's the nature of a paraphrase anyway.
  • CJB — on a case-by-case basis in the OT. Stern makes the Old Testament cool again just by bringing out that wonderful Jewish perspective which is so needed in English translations. And let's face it: it just doesn't make sense that Greek minds like ours can convey the Hebrew sense as well as a scholarly Hebrew mind can. The Bible is a Jewish book for all ethnicities. So, it's logical for all ethnicities to get a Jewish read on a Jewish book.

FINAL THOUGHT

The saying is true: The best translation is the one you'll read. So, even if you aren't a translation junkie like me, pick up a Bible, read it, believe it, and you'll be the better for it, because "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." ... "The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of his work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT and JBP respectively).


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