Bible Translations

I grew up in a denomination that was pretty much King James Only (KJO). I don’t think we were as militant about it as some groups, the King James Version (KJV) was simply the preferred/accepted Bible translation. (Of course, many of the modern translations started being published around the time I left the denomination, although there were certainly some newer translations available.)

But as a seminary student in the early 1990s, I started reading other Bible translations. Today, my favorite translations are the New Living Translation (NLT) and Contemporary English Version (CEV). They’re particularly good for readability, which is vitally important in teaching/communication! There are many other good translations as well and I usually read several when doing sermon prep. I also do most of my daily Bible reading online at Bible Gateway where I can read a number of different translations (see my recent post, Online Bible Study Tools for more).

Interestingly, though, even today, around 17 years after immersing myself in the KJV of the Scriptures for 3+ years, I still often remember wording from the KJV and have to go to Bible Gateway to look it up in a another translation. 🙄

When I stopped reading the KJV in the early 1990s, I felt a bit like a rebel (which didn’t really bother me too much). In fact, I felt that way for years, even after becoming a United Methodist pastor of small, rural congregations (who seemed to prefer the KJV), even though United Methodists generally prefer the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), another good translation, particularly for its use of inclusive language.

I am grateful for the translations that have come before us, including the KJV. It served the world well, especially when its language was the language people spoke (that’s no longer true). I don’t think that the people who gave their lives so that Bible translations like the KJV could be printed hundreds of years ago gave their lives for us to be dedicated to any one translation; I believe they gave their lives so that people could read God’s Word in their own language!

I express my appreciation and gratitude for the Scriptures and for those who labored to translate God’s Word — its Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words — into languages people can read, understand, and, ultimately, be transformed by!

2 thoughts on “Bible Translations”

  1. I wonder you thoughts about the English Standard Version. The NLT I haven’t tried as in the past I have heard some not so good things about that version.

    Mike Hughes

  2. I’ve not used the ESV too much, so it’s hard to say.

    Re: the NLT, there was a first version, then a revised version a few years later. My understanding is that the earlier version was a bit looser and that the latest version was something of a correction.

    I think a key thing, though, is that there are different kinds of translations: 1) word-for-word, and 2) thought-for-thought. The thought-for-thought translations (CEV, NLT, etc.) tend to be more readable while the word-for-word tend to be more wooden (NASB, etc.). In my book, both have value. Word-for-word is particularly good for study and thought-for-thought is good for devotion and communication, for its readability.

    Some people distrust translations (especially “modern” translations), fearing the theological agenda of the translators. But I’m not too concerned about that; that’s one of the good things about reading multiple translations!

    YMMV 🙂


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