Bible Translations: Comparison

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Comparing: the King James Version, the New King James Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the New American Standard Version, the Living Bible, and Today's English Version (the "Good News" Bible).

Sometimes you hear reference made to a "Protestant" Bible, or a "Catholic" Bible or an "Orthodox" Bible.  This is technically incorrect: there is only one Bible.  What is actually meant is that there are different translations (or Versions) put out by these different groups.  

The actual texts of these different Versions are essentially the same: it is in any added "footnotes" or Commentaries, if there are any, where the differences will be found (and these "footnotes" can be enormously different!). 

We think it is good for anyone to read from several translations...   

There are many fine translations of the Bible, all with differing strengths and weaknesses, so we here at The Prayer Foundation use several different translations, depending on what it is that we are using them for.  We think it is good for anyone to read from several translations, because this gives you greater insight and perspective into Holy Scripture.

The King James Version: Strengths & Weaknesses

The King James Version is our favorite translation---we think on most key verses it is often more succinct and to the point, with more "punch."  Pretty much everyone agrees it is the most beautiful and poetic of all the versions.

We also use (and prefer) it for memorization of individual verses, and also memorization of Psalms---we prefer the King James Version of the Psalms for use in our Daily Worship Services (Daily Prayer: Praying the Hours).

Too "Old English" for witnessing?

That said, when witnessing, it can be too "Old English" for the average person with no familiarity with some of its terms.  We will often "convert" it to modern English when witnessing.  

For example, with John 3:36:"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the son shall not see life..." we change when witnessing to: "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life, and he that believes not the Son shall not see life..."

 Harder to read?

Also, we find that the King James Version is harder to read (it can take longer to read) than other Versions.  Surprisingly, we do not find this to be true when listening to the King James Version on CD or MP3.  

The King James Bible is generally to us as easy to understand when listening to it being read, as any modern Version is.  

The exception would be that when you are first reading it, once in a while it will use a term that you might not be familiar with, and that you must look up.

The New King James Version 1

Another option for those who like the King James Version

One solution for witnessing and easier reading is to use the New King James Version

We had never really looked into the New King James Version, but with the recent production of the: Word of Promise New Testament: NKJV On CD Audiobook (Dramatic Audio Theater) we have found it to be easy to understand.  In fact, we have come to realize that we like it a lot! 

 It eliminates the "thees" and "thous" and changes difficult words to modern, more easily understood words, but otherwise retains much of the King James Version's original words and cadence.  

We have memorized large portions of the King James Version, and appreciate the general familiarity of the New King James Version.  We have noticed that where some words have been changed, they seem to always be a good choice as to conveying the meaning of the text.

The NKJV translation project was inaugurated with two meetings of 68 interested persons, most of them prominent Baptists but also including some conservative Presbyterians.  The men who were invited to these meetings prepared the guidelines for the NKJV.

The aim of its translators was to update the vocabulary and grammar of the King James Version, while preserving the classic style and beauty of the 1611 version.  

Although it uses substantially the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the original KJV, it indicates where more commonly accepted manuscripts differ.  

Interestingly, considering who produced it, it has been chosen as the modern English text used for the new Orthodox Study Bible's New Testament.  

The Eastern Orthodox in North America wanted a modern English version to use, and they felt that the NKJV was closer to the text in the original Greek.

Of course, many of the Eastern Orthodox commentaries and notes that they have added to the NKJV text would undoubtedly not be approved of by the original Baptist and Presbyterian translators!  

For the Old Testament, the Eastern Orthodox have done a new translation of The Septuagint, (their preferred Version, because of their familiarity with the Greek language, and they contend that it is based on an older version of Hebrew than the Masoretic Text which is used for most modern Translations, and which was compiled by Jewish scholars after Christianity had begun---Eastern Orthodox contend some verse texts were chosen because they could be translated less in favor to common Christian interpretation). 

The Septuagint was the Old Testament translation into Greek (made by Jewish scholars before Christianity existed) that was used by the earliest Christians and by the early Church Fathers.  It is often quoted word for word in the original of the Greek New Testament.  

In fact, many times when an Old Testament quote appearing in the New Testament seems to differ slightly in wording from the same text as seen in the Old Testament, this is why.  

The New Testament often gives the exact word-for-word quote from the Septuagint, which the Greek-speaking early Christians (and the Jewish people of the time) were highly familiar with, while the Old Testament verse in all other versions (other than the Eastern Orthodox version) is translated into English directly from the Masoretic Hebrew text.

Almost all modern translations (other than the NKJV) are based on New Testament manuscripts discovered since the time of the King James Bible (1611).  Are these necessarily better?  That is exactly what is debated.  

Since most new versions use the more recently discovered manuscripts, apparently most scholars feel these to be the better ones.  But there are also some opposing scholars who disagree with this view.

Textual Basis of the NKJV: New Testament - High Correspondence to the Stephanus 1550 edition of the Textus Receptus, similar to the Byzantine text-type.  Old Testament - Masoretic Text with Septuagint influence.

By maintaining much of the Elizabethan structure and syntax of the KJV (an intentional effect on the part of the revisers, who intended for a reader to be able to follow along in one version as the other version is read aloud---we personally really like and appreciate this feature), the NKJV at times has been criticized for putting modern words into archaic orders.  

This, in the opinion of some, perhaps makes it slightly more difficult to read than some of the other modern translations, but also retaining more of the beauty of one of the most poetical compositions in the English language.  Only the works of Shakespeare have ever even been compared to the King James Bible for beauty in, and influence on, the English language.

The best way to compare different Bible Versions is to read the same passage in the different Bible versions you're comparing---preferably a passage that you are very familiar with, or even one that you have memorized.  Which version do you prefer?

Many churches and Evangelical groups have embraced the NKJV as an acceptable compromise between the original KJV and a Bible with more contemporary wording.

The Living Bible and the Good News Bible

The easiest Versions to read and understand are the Living Bible and the Good News Bible (Today's English Version).  But neither of these versions are considered to be as accurate as either the King James Version or two other very popular versions.

The New American Standard Version

In the middle; more modern in language than the King James Version, but not as easy to read as either the Living Bible or the Good News Bible; fall all of the other versions (dozens of them); and of all of the other versions one stands out.  It is considered to be more accurate than than the three Versions mentioned above (KJV, Living, and "Good News")

The NIV (New International Version) was also considered to be in this category, only easier to read than many of them, until it was recently "re-done" to be "politically correct" with gender-neutral language.  In order to do this they had to actually change the original Biblical text in many places.  If you have an NIV edition before 1997, it is an excellent version.  Copies produced from 1997 on, are considered by us and many others, to be inaccurate in many places.

Note: The King James Version is not in any way considered to be an inaccurate translation, but only that more recent findings in ancient manuscripts were available when the newer translations were made.

The New American Standard Version (This is a "Word for Word" translation).

"After the New American Standard Bible was published (in 1963 for the New Testament and 1971 for the entire Bible), it received a mixed response. Some critics applauded its literal accuracy, while other sharply criticized its language for hardly being contemporary or modern.

On the whole, the New American Standard Bible became respected as a good study Bible that accurately reflects the wording of the original languages yet is not a good translation for Bible reading." (Comfort, pp. 77-78).

The Holman Christian Standard Bible 2

This version of the Bible was planned and sponsored by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (renamed "LifeWay Christian Resources" of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1998).  

The publisher, Broadman & Holman, is that agency's publishing house.  

The Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB) was conceived as a replacement for the NIV, which the SBC Sunday School Board had been using in its curriculum materials under a license agreement.  

The NIV became controversial after the International Bible Society acknowledged in 1997 that it was revising the NIV with "politically correct" gender-neutral language, and so in 1998 the Sunday School Board entered into an agreement with Arthur Farstad (formerly the editor of the New King James Version) for him to oversee the production of a new version that would be under its own control. 

Soon afterward, Farstad died, and Edwin Blum was appointed general editor in his place.

The version was produced by a large team of translators and stylists, and a smaller editorial team meeting in Dallas, Texas.  About a third of the team members are Southern Baptist.  Other team members are Plymouth Brethren, Presbyterians (PCA), Congregationalists, Church of England, Church of God, Evangelical Free Church, Methodists, Evangelical Mennonites and Episcopalians.

The motivation behind the version was explained by David R. Shepherd, vice president of Bible publishing for Broadman & Holman, in an article which appeared in the SBC's Baptist Press while the New Testament was under preparation:

"Some recent translations have reinterpreted the Bible to make it consistent with current trends and their own way of thinking...Current trends in Bible translation have been a real wake-up call for everybody who's concerned about preserving the integrity of Scripture.  The CSB will be under the stewardship of Christians who believe we should conform our lives and culture to the Bible - not the other way around."

The first edition of the completed New Testament appeared in June 2001 as the text for the "Experiencing the Word" New Testament, with devotional notes by Henry Blackaby.  

The Old Testament was first published in electronic form on the internet in December 2003, and the first printed edition of the complete Bible was published in the Spring of 2004.

Interestingly to us, they have come out with a smaller witnessing size in three different Celtic style covers.

Textual Basis

The Introduction states that the Greek text used by the CSB translators was the Nestle-Aland text, but advises the reader that:

"in a few places in the NT, large square brackets indicate texts that the translation team and most biblical scholars today believe were not part of the original text. However, these texts have been retained in brackets in the Holman CSB because of their undeniable antiquity and their value for tradition and the history of NT interpretation in the church."

Four Other Recommended Aids to Bible Reading & Study:

aball1i.gif (324 bytes) 1. We recommend getting either the New Testament or the entire Bible on CD or MP3

We cannot recommend too highly getting either the New Testament or the entire Bible on CD or MP3---this is an enormous blessing!

Best CDs: We like Alexander Scourby's reading (King James Version)---available in regular or dramatized versions, and the Word of Promise New Testament: NKJV On CD Audiobook (Dramatic Audio Theater---with 120 Actors/Performers).

aball1i.gif (324 bytes) 2.The Thompson Chain-Reference Study Bible

The best Study Bible in our opinion is The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible Book Review: "Thompson Chain-Reference Bible" (it uses only Scripture to interpret Scripture---no opinions of men).  It is available in several different Scripture versions.  It was the best-selling Study Bible for over 75 years.

aball1i.gif (324 bytes) 3.Great Christian Radio Programs We Recommend

For Bible Study we also recommend to all Christians to listen to two Christian Radio Programs: J. Vernon McGee (Thru The Bible) (Find out stations and times in your area at their website: www.ttb.org) and the Bible Answer Man (Find out stations and times in your area; or access their extensive "Apologetics" and "Cults Information" at their website: www.equip.org).  We also recommend D. James Kennedy (now gone home to be with the Lord), Charles Stanley, and Michael Youssef

See additional Recommended Christian Radio Programs and Recommended Christian Television Programs on our "Links" to Other Websites webpage.  

This list includes Christian radio and television programs put out by truly excellent and scripturally sound Bible teachers such as:

  • Thru the Bible With Dr. J. Vernon McGee (Radio).

  • Charles Stanley ("In Touch": Radio & Television).

  • Michael Youssef ("Leading the Way": Radio & Television).

  • Dr. James Dobson ("Focus On the Family": Radio).

  • Billy Graham ("Hour of Decision" Radio).

aball1i.gif (324 bytes) 4.Our Own "Growing In Christ" Training Course

For growth in the Christian life, we also recommend to all Christians our Growing in Christ Monastic Training Course, which is recommended to all Christians, and posted free to all on this website.

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  • 1 Source for NKJV: Wikipedia-New King James Version.

  • 2 Source for CSB: BibleResearcher.com

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The Bible does not contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God.  It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in value, infinite in scope, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in application, inspired in totality. _________