Empowering You to Make a Wise Choice
Choosing a bible translation is often the number one priority or area of concern of any Christian who wants to read and study the Word of God. Knowing your bible translation is trustworthy and reliable is essential. It can lay to rest many worries or insecurities about the scriptures when proper understanding, interpretation, and application become difficult.
There are a plethora of bible translations available in the English language today, which can cause confusion. It is important to understand how these translations are conceived, as not all are translated in the same manner or with the same integrity. Knowing how a bible version has been translated; being able to clearly identify that process, knowing who is authoring it, and by what authority, are all keys to making a wise choice in what version you read or study.
With this reference guide we have outlined seven key points categorically that will help you choose a bible translation that is right for you. We have also listed the various translations that are popular today and where they fall within those categories. We trust this will help you in your search.
We take biblical literacy very seriously. If you have questions and would like assistance, we are happy to help. Please contact us for more information.
Seven Keys to Bible Translation
Translation is a broad term involving the process of how the words, phrases, syntax, and structure of the language of origin are ultimately rendered into the target language of the reader.
The Translator’s Note
A bible translation is explained in what is commonly known as The Translator’s Note which prefaces the formal biblical text. Translator’s Notes should give a comprehensive explanation in laymen’s terms of how the translation was ultimately rendered; most notably in the following:
a. processes employed
b. manuscripts used
c. goals and objectives
e. individual contributors
f. authors, writers, and editors
g. purpose for the specific translation as it relates to public or clergy use
h. obligations, rights, and permissions
i. official copyrights (should they exist)
Translator’s Notes will also address areas that could not be properly reconciled with the original texts and tongues and how these areas were handled, substituted, abridged, or if they were omitted.
Bibles that do not include a translator’s note should be avoided, or in the very least read or used with caution.
When we understand that Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, and that the Holy Spirit authored every jot and tittle of the scriptures which will never pass away, the spirit with which the Translator’s Note is written becomes equally as important as the explanations given for the translation process. The Translator’s Note should reveal the integrity with which the translation process occurred. It should offer reverence to God, be submissive to Him in its explanations, use scriptural references to legitimize or authorize the translator’s process, the specific decisions executed, and ultimately give credence to the absolution and authority of the scriptures.
I. Formal Equivalence (Word-for-Word or Literal): (i.e. New American Standard, King James Version)
Every word is rendered from the language of origin in a manner that is equivalent to the common target language of the reader. This process preserves accuracy, rendering the scriptures in their purest most unadulterated form. Such translations are commonly more difficult to read, and sometimes fail to make sense, precisely because they adhere to a very strict literal fidelity.
When the language of origin does not have a direct equivalent, those areas are bridged only with the most appropriate substitutions, which are noted in italics so as to make a clear distinction from the literal portion of text. This is common with ancient languages in regard to the cultural rhetoric, idioms, and diction of their time.
Literal translations are noble in their efforts. Their downside however, is the reality that bridging them with modern languages can leave gaps and holes, many times which are critical to the language of origin. This accounts for common misinterpretations, frustrations, or the lack of understanding of scripture. Literal translations are therefore more difficult to understand, as bridging these critical areas in ways that truly benefit the reader do not always conform to readability, but rather adhere to accuracy. Further contextual and cultural study is sometimes necessary if proper understanding is to be attained. The reading levels are generally higher, being that of 12th grade high-school or collegiate.
II. Dynamic Equivalence (Paraphrase or Parallel): (i.e. New International Version, Good News Version)
Phrases, rather than words, are used to translate the language of origin into similarly understood thoughts and concepts. Emphasis is placed upon readability, or understandability, rather than accuracy. Dynamic equivalence is more liberal in its translation process in that it embraces the nuances of the language of origin with respect to its idioms, diction, and rhetoric by using similes or metaphors when no literal equivalence is found. In an effort to preserve readability it is also known to omit words, sentences, or portions of scripture that cannot be rightly interpreted, which may otherwise be critical in the language of origin.
Dynamic equivalence struggles to maintain the balance of scriptural accuracy against its objective for readability. Such translations could be construed as “compromised” versions of God’s Word, as they do not adhere to strict literal fidelity. In that, some say a lack of integrity could be justly awarded. In the end, they ultimately adhere to readability that is relative to their target audience. Some would argue these make acceptable versions for young children and non-native English speakers. Reading levels for these version vary.
III. Optimal Equivalence: (i.e. Christian Standard Version, English Standard Version)
Optimal equivalence is a blend of formal and dynamic equivalence with the goal of achieving a balance of accuracy and readability. These versions often claim to offer greater “clarity”. However, clarity, is not the same as accuracy. In theory optimal equivalence sounds good, but in reality is nearly impossible. When working with ancient and modern languages of differing origins, there are always areas where equivalents, although sought, do not exist. Bridging those areas appropriately can be linguistically grueling, to which several translator’s notes openly admit.
Translations claiming optimal equivalence should be met with some measure of caution. They may achieve greater clarity, but accuracy is usually compromised to do that. These versions are also known to highly favor a contemporary rendering of the scriptures. Reading levels vary.
IV. Functional Equivalence (Idiomatic, Forged, or Rogue): (i.e. The Living Bible, The Message, The Passion)
Functional equivalent translations are thought-for-thought renderings which prioritize making the scriptures work for a modern audience with modern language in a modern culture. The original texts and tongues may be of little to no regard, are improperly used, or even eliminated, resulting in a translation that is purely subjective to its author(s), who may not have proper accountability or oversight. Regardless of intention, these translations are products of literal infidelity, both in commission and omission.
Sources used are often a smattering combination of other translations, which may or may not be accurate. Words are not literal translations, and meanings are skewed toward cultural relativism, being a product of the author’s independent thoughts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs. Meaning is contrived to be what the author interprets, rather than what the original scripture is actually saying. Omissions are commonly practiced, not only in word, but with entire segments of scripture. Some even omit specific books or chapters.
Such works are considered a forgery of the holy scriptures. Although some may have noble intentions, these are an adulteration of God’s Word, and are commonly condemned among orthodoxy as libelous works, meaning they quote God as saying something He did not author. Such are an abomination to God by His scriptural standards and are rightly considered an anathema (cursed).
Forged versions of God’s word are to be strictly shunned.
The objective(s) of the translation will factor into, and ultimately determine the manner in which it is translated. Common objectives for translations include the following:
a. Accuracy: Whether or not literal fidelity will be factored into the translation process. If so, how that will be accomplished, and to what degree.
b. Literacy: Literacy relates to a translation’s readability, also known as understandability. Readability is key for any project with respect to the target audience. Making a translation readable for the masses means it will need to meet particular linguistic criteria that is appropriate for the determined age group or reading level. Word choice, sentence structure and length, syntax, etc. are just a few examples. A children’s bible, for example, will be translated much differently than an adult version.
c. Relativity: Whether or not the translation will conform to modern times or maintain its original cultural context will determine its relativity. Cultural relativity will determine a reader’s scriptural interpretation and thus, their life application. Modern relativity is commonly seen with the use of newer more modern words, idioms, metaphors, similes, and cultural slang or phrases specific to a group or subgroup of people. A literal version will stay true to the cultural relativity of the language of origin, irrespective of modern cultural progressivism.
d. Profit: Funding is necessary for any project. But not all funding includes profit. However, when monetary gain is factored into the translation it can heavily determine its process, who can contribute, and to what degree. Individual contributors are paid accordingly, as most translation projects have been known to take years. It will also determine copyrights, permissions, royalties, and the level of mass production and distribution. Some publishers have a wider distribution than others, yet limit royalties. If that bible translation is to have a global distribution or reach, the chosen publisher and how they handle profits, is of express concern.
e. Notoriety: If the translator (individual, organization, or group) will be recognized, receive accolades or profits, and how that recognition will be displayed or communicated to the masses. For example, some ministers have had their bible version of choice published in their own name or ministry by adding notes, studies, or prayers. Not only does this gain them profit, it also awards them notoriety if they can obtain copyright.
Original texts and their tongues:
The original autographs of scripture no longer exist. What we have today are copies, which were hand-written by scribes throughout the centuries known as the Extant Tanakh. These manuscripts are the oldest hand-copied versions of the scriptures available. These are protected and secured in various places throughout the world.
a. Ketef Hinnom scrolls – Paleo Hebrew writings in amulets with the Priestly blessing written in the book of Numbers. Dates 650-587 BC.
b. Masoretic Texts – (i.e. Aleppo Codex, Leningrad Codex) a complete compilation of the Hebrew Old Testament from 10th Century AD
c. Septuagint – (i.e. Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus) a complete compilation of the Old Testament in Greek from the 4th Century AD
d. New Testament – The earliest New Testament copies are the Papyrus, dating approximately 125 AD. These are fragmented portions existing in about 140 distinct papyri. One of the most revered copies of the four Gospels is the Latin Book of Kells, also known as the Codex Cenannensis, which is housed at the Trinity Library in Dublin, Ireland. Its date is approximately 800 AD. It is the one of the most beautiful, revered, and treasured copies of the Gospels we have to date. Since the original penning of the New Testament, more than 5,800 Greek manuscripts, both fragmented and complete, have been catalogued.
e. Dead Sea Scrolls – Fragmented copies of the most ancient Hebrew religious texts found in various caves in Israel. These date from 150 BC to 70 AD, and are currently held at the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum.
f. Vulgate – (Codex Amiatinus) The earliest Latin manuscript of the Christian Bible produced by the Benedictine monastery in northern England. Dates approximately 700-800 AD. It is currently housed in Florence, Italy at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. It weighs approximately 75 pounds.
g. The Apocrypha – Various Hebrew historical books of various dates written by numerous authors that did not achieve canonization. Referenced within scripture by the Apostles, such as the Book of Enoch.
As previously noted, not all bible translations use the original texts in the translation process. Some translations merely use previous translations to accomplish the objective (i.e. King James to New King James).
The degree to which original texts are referenced, and how they are used can vary widely in a translation process. This is a key factor in determining a translation’s integrity. For some the original texts are merely referenced, while others regard them as the fundamental plumb line by which the entire translation process is incumbent.
Translators can be (1) one person, (2) a common group of people, or (3) divergent groups of people(s) who come together for core objective(s) of the project. Translators can include biblical scholars, theologians, professors, researchers, archaeologists, linguists, historians, writers, editors, and yes, even laity of exceptional skill, experience, or talent (i.e. missionaries, pastors, etc.).
Let it be understood that translators can be, but are not always, the writers or editors for a particular translation. Writers and editors often have distinct roles. It is important to note that a writer is defined much differently than an author. Authorship is attributed to those who are the sole originator or creator of what’s written (a cumulative work), while a writer is entrusted with the task of penning whatever the author has designated to their trust — which may not necessarily include the creation of private intellectual property (as with ghost writing). Proper bible translation should recognize God as the supreme Author of the scriptures, which the writers have made legible for the reader by means of the translators. The editors ensure proper grammar, spelling, format, and the fine details surrounding the presentation of the written work, making sure they meet literacy standards for biblical text with regard to the language used.
Bible translation, when done properly, is a massive undertaking. The most credible translations are completed by the collaborative efforts of the aforementioned individuals who lend their expertise, mastery, knowledge, or experience to the project. Accurate translations commonly include the efforts and contributions from a great number of people, sometimes hundreds, over a broad timeline. Such individuals are usually accountable to one another under an umbrella organization, company, or singular authority who provides oversight, both in the translation’s funding and for the sake of its integrity as a whole.
Independent translators who author a translation by themselves, apart from any accountability, oversight, or governing body, should be met with caution. However, in dire circumstances there have been missionaries who have attempted to honorably translate God’s Word into rare languages among people groups in remote unreached areas where no previous bible translation is available. In such cases, they often used the most trusted English version available to them. These projects are rare exceptions to the rule, but are honorable and widely accepted achievements.
Accuracy is known as literal fidelity in the world of bible translation, and is commonly evaluated as it relates to readability. Accuracy is best afforded by the Formal Equivalence translation process. The further away from Formal Equivalence, the more a translation is compromised.
Culture, as it relates to bible translation, is critically important if we are ever to understand the scriptures as God intended and designed. First, we must understand that the Bible is a Jewish book from cover to cover. It was written by Jews of various names, ages, and times — thousands of years apart — from Moses to the Apostles; from Genesis to Revelation. Secondly, we must also understand that God created the Jewish nation and their inherent culture. It is expressly from Him.
True biblical culture is Hebraic (Jewish). Culture, by definition, includes the following with respect to translation: societal norms as it relates to demographics, law and order, government, industry, economics, the arts, architecture, textiles, agriculture, cuisine, language, government, social and family relations, family structures, marriage, worship, beliefs, dogma, trade, war, and international relations. These are all very important when considering how any language is properly translated. For context to be accurate, culture must be carefully considered and weighed.
For biblical text to be accurate, it must adhere to the culture in which and for which it was written.
An accurate translation should include those of Jewish faith and orthodoxy, whenever possible. Unfortunately, this has not always been possible, especially with respect to the New Testament, as Jews have traditionally shunned it completely. For centuries it has been abhorred by them. Only in recent years has the New Testament been successfully translated with the assistance of Jewish individuals with respect to their culture.
Jesus Christ said, “Salvation is of the Jews,” (John 4:22, KJV). The Apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek,” (Romans 1:16, KJV). The Gospel is for the Jew first, and then the Gentile. As Gentiles, we must be willing to read the Word of God through a lens that honors the Jewish people and their God, through whom our Messiah came.
Transcription and transliteration, with respect to linguistics, are two distinct means or processes for translation. These can be confusing for some. Not all translations practice these, as some do not translate from the original texts or tongues. Simply stated, they are defined as follows:
I. Transliteration: one script is translated to another by use of an equivalent character. The emphasis is spelling. Transliteration can be limited, as there are not always equivalents found between different alphabets. When transliteration cannot be justly accomplished, it is often abandoned in favor of the transcription method or process. With that said, transliteration is often best used among languages of like alphabets.
(i.e. the Greek letter Ω (Omega) is O in English)
II. Transcription: one script is translated to another by use of a phonetic equivalence. The emphasis is pronunciation. The transcription process is nearly fail-safe, being based upon the International Phonetic Alphabet which is exhaustive, allowing for a full spectrum of various and complex phonetic sounds.
(i.e. the Greek letter Ω (Omega) is a long ō in English)
III. Translation: one script translated to another representing equivalent meaning. The emphasis is comprehension.
(i.e. Omega = Last)
Transliteration and Transcription are necessary for bridging two languages which use very different alphabets, such as Russian, Japanese, Hebrew, or Greek. Transcription is easy among Latin alphabets such as English, French, Italian, and Spanish. While transliteration provides an equivalent spelling, transcription is what provides the ability to pronounce the word correctly. Yet even with correct pronunciation, proper meaning may be missing. That is where translation comes into play, which ultimately renders understanding and comprehension. However, in each translation process, equivalents are necessary if proper meaning is to be conveyed in the target language from the language of origin. As you can see, translating the Bible from its languages of origin to English is no trite matter. It’s a daunting task that deserves enormous integrity if accuracy is to be achieved.
Both the King James Version and the New American Standard are two versions which have faithfully used transcription in areas where proper nouns could not rightly be translated with an equivalent in English. The proper names of people and places are rendered through use of transcription, providing phonetic equivalents for the proper pronunciation of Hebrew names.
Ideally, translators will use both the transliteration and transcription processes to achieve accuracy for the reader. However, the reader may never see this hidden process in the final manuscript.
Accurate Bible Translations
Measuring Criteria for the Seven Keys
These are trustworthy translations for both reading and study, listed in order of preference. For reference information on translations we endorse and how to obtain them please visit our Toolbox. The following versions rank the highest of any with respect to the seven qualifying criteria:
1. Translation: Strict literal fidelity.
2. Accuracy: Accuracy is consistently prioritized above readability.
3. Texts: Original texts and tongues are the primary resource.
4. Objective: Translation is performed in reverent fear of God making it known to the masses as He intended: in its purest form, as unadulterated as possible.
5. Translators: Various scholars and theologians unite in an attempt to translate the texts credibly. These are God-fearing individuals beholden to God first, and accountable to each other, with no pretense for gain or profit.
6. Context and Culture: Biblical context and culture are preserved.
7. Transcription: Commonly offered to the reader with respect to proper nouns.
Formal Equivalent Translations
• King James Version (KJV) — The Authorized King James Version of 1611 (KJV) is the most time-trusted version of the English Bible available. For centuries it has been renown among scholars worldwide for its accuracy and literary precision, being meticulously translated word-for-word from the original Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Chaldean texts. To this day it remains the standard.
Reliable variations in the King James Version are available for readers who prefer updated or modern English (King James Version of 1987, and the New King James Version of 1982). The King James Version of 1987 (standard) is a public domain work in the United States of America. The Authorized King James Version of 1611 is copyrighted by Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, England with rights and permissions granted by the Crown’s Patentee.
• Geneva Bible (GNV) — The Geneva Bible predates the King James Version by more than half a century with its first printing in 1560, and was the bible used by the Puritans. Its conception was during the Protestant Reformation which experienced intense and radical persecution. This word-for-word translation was written in Geneva, Switzerland in a combined effort by Protestant reformers who escaped the tyrannical reign of “Bloody Mary”. Its translation was from the original Greek and Hebrew texts, containing extensive marginal notes by early reformers, making it the most unique English translation of its time. Through the Geneva, the Holy Bible freely reached the masses, very literally turning the religious world upside down and threatening the royal monarchy. As the hallmark of reform, its final printing was in 1599, and was soon succeeded by the Authorized King James in 1611. However noble its achievement, its literary style and language were rough, having contained many phonetically misspelled words and other lexical errors which have been corrected in this latest release. After centuries of replacement by the Authorized King James, this timeless and very special version has finally reappeared for the masses in these last days, fully preserved with its original notes.
• New King James Version (NKJV) — The New King James Version was released in 1982 with the goal of preserving the purity of the King James Version while updating its word and phrase order. The simple objective was modernization. The New King James can indeed be trusted. It’s a wonderful solution for those who earnestly hold to the purity of the King James, as the translators have maintained, yet require a modern rendering of the English language.
• American Standard Version (ASV) — The American Standard is a public domain work published in 1901, which was a revision of the Authorized King James Version undertaken by protestant theologian Philip Shaff, who organized the project in 1871 with the help of 30 other scholars and theologians from various protestant backgrounds. The most notable change from the Authorized King James Version is the use the name Jehovah in the Old Testament when referencing the Almighty (the Hebrew Tetragrammaton) instead of the name LORD as found in the King James Version. The reverence with which this version was completed is highly acclaimed. The ASV is associated with four subsequent releases: The Amplified Bible (1965), The Revised Standard Version (1971), The New American Standard Bible (1995), and the Recovery Version (1999). The ASV was also used for Kenneth N. Taylor’s paraphrase, The Living Bible (1971).
• New American Standard Bible (NASB) — The New American Standard Bible was released in 1995 with the goal of easier reading and greater comprehension while preserving the accuracy of the original American Standard Version of 1901, which rivaled the King James Version as a literal translation. The focus was on rendering grammar and terminology in contemporary English, which is believed to accomplish an even greater accuracy. That goal was attained by giving special attention to verb tenses and updating archaic words. The New American Standard Bible has been heralded as “the most accurate translation”. This version maintains a fidelity to the original texts in a manner that is a literal. It translates what the manuscripts actually say, instead of what the translator believes them to mean.
• Lexham English Bible (LEB) — The Lexham English Bible (LEB) is a new word-for-word translation of the English Bible, recently released in 2010-2011. The Lexham is unique in that it shows the reader how translation occurred by revealing the intricate translation process in a word-for-word, step-by-step format. Its readability in comparison to the King James or Geneva is considerably easier, using modern English words and literary style. As a new English translation it provides both accuracy and readability, making it a friendly and desirable version for both study and daily reading. Its uniqueness is marked by the revelation of the translation process to the reader, giving insight to the Greek and Hebrew like never before.
• Contemporary English Version (CEV) — A credible exception. The CEV was a massive and lengthy project of noble cause, being borne of more than 100 people worldwide from divergent backgrounds with a singular goal: making the Word of God understandable to all who read it, including grade school children. It took more than 10 years to complete. Despite it’s word-for-word translation, it’s objective was readability instead of accuracy. Because it meets all other criteria, we’ve chosen to list it here, although it’s use would be limited. We believe the CEV is an accurate version that could potentially serve children, beginners in the faith, non-native English speakers, simple readers who require basic English, the underprivileged, and the otherwise illiterate in their endeavor to read God’s Word without compromising the integrity of the scriptures (source). However, we do not recommend it for study.
Compromised Bible Translations
Dynamic Equivalence and Optimal Equivalence
Measuring Criteria for the Seven Keys
The following versions are compromised to varying degrees and for different reasons. In the very least they are considered “questionable”. We do not endorse the versions listed here. While most have referenced the original texts and tongues, risks and liberties were taken with transcription and translation. Some have even omitted certain scriptures altogether. While many individuals adhere to these for their readability, they should not be used for study. These translations may be compromised in any of the following ways:
1. Translation: Paraphrased; possible literal infidelity.
2. Accuracy: Readability is prioritized above accuracy.
3. Texts: Original texts and tongues may be referenced, but not strictly adhered to, or the translations are simply made from other translations.
4. Objective: The ultimate objective can be based upon relativism, and conformity to modern mankind.
5. Translators: Translation may be performed by one person, a select few, or a panel of individuals. These can be a body comprised of those beholden to a company, denomination, or organization, namely the publisher or financier.
6. Context and Culture: biblical context and culture may or may not be regarded, to the extent that it either supports or fulfills the objective.
7. Transcription: Transcription is uncommon.
• New International Version (NIV) — The New International Version was spearheaded by Howard Long in 1965 and completed by a large trans-denominational group of more than 100 scholars in the span of approximately 3 to 5 years. In 1968 the project was funded by the New York Bible Society. The goal of the NIV was readability for the masses. The translation process was lengthy and scrutinizing, being taken from the original texts and tongues in a modern paraphrase. However, the NIV has omitted numerous yet various verses and passages of scripture, making it a compromised version that is disturbing for many. In 2011 the NIV underwent its latest update to stay current with modern English.
• The Tree of Life Bible (TLV) — The Tree of Life Bible is Jewish-friendly, speaking specifically to those of Jewish faith. Its goal was to properly introduce the New Testament to Messianic and Jewish believers, as it had been shunned and abolished for centuries. What followed was an entire bible project that merged both New and Old Testaments. It uses common Jewish terms and proper names for G-d and the Messiah. It has also rearranged the books in chronological order. Various Messianic, Jewish, and Christian scholars contributed to the project. Little is disclosed or known about its specific translation process, hence its placement here.
• Good News Translation (GNT) — The Good News bible is a paraphrase version first published by the American Bible Society in 1966. It was faithful to translate from the Hebrew, Koine Greek, and Aramaic texts. With respect to its simplicity, it is surprisingly accurate. It is perhaps one of the most simple versions available. It is a widely trusted version, especially for children and those who are non-native English speakers. It is prized for its readability with drawings which have accompanying snippets of text. We do not recommend it for study, but it would be a good choice for very young children who need to cut their teeth on a starter bible.
• English Standard Version (ESV) — The English Standard Version was published in 2001 by a team of more than 100 scholars. It claims to be an “essentially literal”¹ translation, landing somewhere between the formal equivalence (literal) and the dynamic equivalence (paraphrase). It adopts the “functional equivalence” translation term, prizing itself for using a word-for-word approach with adaptations to contemporary English that preserve the original style of the bible writer. It attempts to carry the delicate nuances of meaning, rendered as truly as possible, instead of branding the translation as the thought or belief of the interpreter. Many well-known pastors and preachers of notoriety have eagerly endorsed the ESV as a wonderful version that is equally as accurate as it is readable, which is a difficult balance to achieve. The ESV reports using a blend of previous versions for its translation such as William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526, the King James of 1611, the English Revised of 1885, and the New American Standard of 1952 and 1971 to name a few. The ESV offers a modestly thorough Translator’s Note, which we find obligatory, and is published by Crossway.
• The Amplified Bible Classic Edition (AMPC) — Based on the American Standard Version of 1901, The Amplified Bible was the first bible project of the Lockman Foundation published in 1965. It is a literal translation that uses words and phrases to amplify the meaning for the reader, affording a greater understanding of what the scripture truly says. Multiple English word equivalents are used for each Greek and Hebrew word to achieve this depth of understanding. Cognate languages, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, and many other Greek and Hebrew versions, as well as lexicons were used in comparison. Original tongues were used for translation, but original texts were not consulted, hence its placement here.
• Amplified Bible (AMP) — The Amplified Bible of 2015 has taken the classic and refined the literary terms in the Old and New Testaments for clarity of meaning. Some have complained this has dampened the accuracy of the AMP, as meanings for words can be various and subtle in their differences, in so much that it changes context with respect to the language of origin. The AMP was the first project of the Lockman Foundation published in 1965. See details for the classic version above.
• BRG Bible (BRG) — The BRG bible was adapted from the King James Version of the Bible by entrepreneur Louis Klopsch, published in 1901 by BRG Bible Ministries, which is a private label owned by Louis Klopsch. It color codes the text in accordance with the Trinity: the words of God are in blue, the words of Christ are in red, and the Holy Ghost is rendered in gold. The details surrounding this translation are vague at best, and are branded by its founder Louis Klopsch. We do not endorse this version, as there is no suitable disclosure for how these highlighted passages were determined or chosen, and if there were any changes ultimately rendered to the King James Version. Color-coding the most time-trusted bible version under a private name and creating a brand label for its publication is indeed consistent with the practice of an entrepreneur — if they want to gain a lucrative profit. The BRG is not a common version today, but it can still be found if sought. For the sake of the King James Version we have placed it here.
• New Living Translation (NLT) — The New Living Translation, a revision of the Living Bible (see below), was published by Tyndale in 1966, using both formal equivalence (literal) and dynamic equivalence (paraphrase) to render a very concise English translation that provides both readability and accuracy. The result is reported to be, “exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful”.² The NLT committee has openly stated that they could not render a perfect translation, which is nearly impossible to do. The Translation Note for this work is thorough. It notably strives to overcome barriers in history, culture, and language that have kept people from reading and understanding God’s Word. The NLT used original texts and tongues to compare and translate this version by various trans-denominational scholars, lifting it far above the status of the Living Bible, its counterpart.
• Christian Standard Bible (CSB) — The CSB’s translation philosophy is one of “optimal equivalence”³, which pursues both linguistic precision and readability in contemporary English. They believe faithfulness to the original text and clarity do not have to be compromised. The CSB was adapted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible by over 100 scholars from 17 denominations to achieve a work that would stay faithful to the original scriptures with clarity anyone can understand. It was translated from the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts. It was published in 2017 and is copyrighted by Holman Bible Publishers, a division of Lifeway.
Forged Bible Translations
Measuring Criteria for the Seven Keys
1. Translation: Freeform independent thought and expressions (e.g. idioms)
2. Accuracy: Spiritually libelous; conforming to modern language and culture.
3. Texts: Translation may not reference or consult the original texts or tongues, and may omit specific scriptures or entire passages.
4. Objective: Usually cultural conformity, enjoyment, and/or readability, and can include a lust for profit.
5. Translators: It is written by one man or a few men who may not hold appropriate accountability for their authorship.
6. Context and Culture: May have little or no regard for biblical context or culture. Stresses modern cultural relevance.
7. Transcription: Deferred.
We condemn the following versions without apology for the reasons aforementioned and further elaborated upon below:
• The Message (MSG) — The Message was authored solely by Eugene Peterson, a Presbyterian minister, author, scholar, and poet, as a purely idiomatic translation. It has no direct correlation to the original texts or tongues whatsoever. It is a purely laissez-faire translation rendered thought-for-thought based upon the idioms and rhythms of modern English in a poetic flow. Peterson grew frustrated when his congregants didn’t respond to his message in Galatians. What followed was a reflexive interpretation from the pulpit to get their attention. When it worked Peterson devoted the next two years to the entire New Testament. Peterson claimed the bible to be “old hat” and wanted something fresh. It was published by NavPress in segments beginning in 1993, and was completed in 2002. It has been both widely received and condemned.
• The Living Bible (TLB) — The Living Bible is a personal paraphrase — admittedly not a translation, written solely by Kenneth N. Taylor. His idea began when devotional times with his children were misunderstood. He took it upon himself to write out the scriptures thought-for-thought. He soon found they understood them. What followed was an entire version published in 1971 based upon the New American Standard. It has been equally well-received and shunned. Some regard it as a forged version of God’s Word. Taylor assigned the copyright to Tyndale House Publishers, ensuring all profits went to charity. It is one of the most common bibles translated into foreign languages, and is a favorite for children and non-native English speakers.
• The Passion Translation (TPT) — The Passion translation is a functional equivalence translation authored by Brian and Candace Simmons, who are veteran missionaries. They claim their authored work to be a heart-translation which uses the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts as its basis. Brian is reportedly a linguist. However, the actual translation process is vague in its description, being unclear. Their goal is said to express God’s heart to the present generation relying heavily upon an emotional translation of His love which also includes their personal revelation. Brian claims such revelation is not necessarily found in God’s original words. Deity pronouns are not capitalized. The endorsements for this version include Christian leaders of notoriety who are connected with several well-known cults such as Bill Johnson, Lou Engle, and Chuck Pierce, among others. BroadStreet Publishing holds the copyright. The Passion translation is not yet complete, but has a target date of 2027.
• The Voice (VOICE) — The Voice is a very different bible translation, admittedly so. They have chosen functional equivalence rendered by musicians, poets, and artists who worked alongside scholars. The Voice has changed the deity names of God and Jesus Christ throughout the text. It also renders its format in a poetic style removing certain punctuation such as quotations. It claims to hold true to the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts yet does not disclose how this was done or to what degree. The Translator’s Note, authored by David P. Capes, PhD, reads like a New Age thesis, stressing how the translation is one of artistry using the bible as a storyline which is written similarly to a screenplay. This script is meant to speak to the modern Church who is reportedly in great transition. The Voice is used in place of The Word in scripture, hence its title. This version has been strictly condemned by many clergy as a New Age work. The Voice was finally completed and fully published by Thomas Nelson in 2012.
• New Testament for Everyone (NTE) — The New Testament for Everyone was authored by N. T. Wright who is an Anglican Bishop, Pauline Theologian, and New Testament scholar. He focuses heavily upon questioning the Word of God and has endorsed the re-evaluation of the scriptures. In the Translator’s Note Wright says every generation should essentially be translating the New Testament. He claims previous translations are like old bread or manna. With that said, no specifics are given to the means for its translation. The script is written in individual books or letters, being completed in 2011. The publisher is The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
¹The English Standard Version website: https://www.esv.org/translation/
²New Living Translation website via Tyndale Publishers: https://www.tyndale.com/nlt/translation-process
³Christian Standard Bible website: https://csbible.com/about-the-csb/
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