What Bible Translation Is Best?
What Bible Translation Is Best?
(AOReport) -- Periodically, readers ask me what English Bible translation I would recommend. The answer is that I don’t really recommend any translations per se.
I do however recommend different options for different purposes. It just all depends on the situation and the person's abilities and background.
The problem with translations is actualy the dilemma that translators face when attempting to convey word meanings from one language to another, especially when the languages differ wildly in grammatical structuring, especially the verbs.
It is not necessarily that the words of an English translation are translated incorrectly. They may be translated correctly but simply not able to provide the more subtle nuances and meanings of certain key words and still maintain a smooth flow of casual reading.
The issue is that no translation can precisely and perfectly carry over the subtle nuances and meanings of some words in a way that can necessarily be incorporated into a smoothly flowing and readable translation. This is particularly true in the grammatical verb tense differences between Greek and English.
In English we have 3 basic verb tenses. Greek has many more that simply cannot be easily translated because there is no English equivalent to translate it to. There fore to express some Greek words properly might require as much as an entire sentence or more for a single word. Translations are written to be easily readable. Trying to incorporate some of those Greek concepts (or even Hebrew) simply violates one of the main tenets that makes a translation which is easy readability.
It is with that in mind that we proceed to further answer the question of Which Bible translation is best.
Versions For Light Devotional Reading:
If someone is looking for an English version for purposes of light devotionally-oriented reading, perhaps an New International Version or a New American Standard Version or King James Version. Choose whichever translation that you feel the most comfortable with for just reading for general comprehension. I am not sure I would recommend any of the other “newer” versions as some are radically changed for the worst. I certainly would not recommend the “newer New International Version with its new “politically-correct” terminology. The same holds true for any other version.
Versions For Light Reference Work:
For light reference work, it depends on the application. If it is for following along in a church or class teaching, consider using whatever the speaker/teacher is using of the above 3 versions. If for such meetings you know that textual usage is confined to either the New Testament or just the Old Testament you might want to merely pack along an “interlinear” of either Testament that also features a parallel translation of either the KJV, NASV or NIV or a combination thereof.
For Serious In-depth Personal Study:
For serious personal study, especially for in-depth understanding, I always recommend the “interlinears” with a parallel column of either KJV, NASV or NIV, preferably the KJV. Some interlinears such as Zondervan offers a KJV combined with either an NIV or NASV(B) plus the Greek text with a literal English rendering underneath.
I personally prefer recommending the Zondervan Greek Interlinear Parallel NT that features the KJV and the NASV, but that may not be available. Next choice would be the KJV and NIV parallel combined with the Greek and literal English rendering on an opposite page.
There are some “study” Bibles, which feature on of the translations and Strong’s concordance reference number’s printed over or under key words. Some of these come in the KJV or the NASV(B) or the old NIV. The weakest of the three is the NIV.
NASV(B) is somewhat better than the NIV. Probably the best of the 3 is the KJV, in part because it is so well coded to Strong’s concordance, which one should also have for serious Bible Study research and for understanding the finer points of doctrinal issues.
Study Bibles: The Ryrie Study Bible – KJV is probably the best choice for more serious study than others in this field. The Ryrie Study Bible can also be found in the NASB(V) but again, the KJV is superior if for nothing else than its better referencing with Strong’s Concordance.
I personally avoid anything by MacArthur, Dake or LaHaye whether it be Study Bibles or anything else connected with their names. The Scofield Reference Bible is so outdated and for prophecy work, Scofield’s notes are simply not acceptable anymore because they are so badly outdated. For study purposes, I would personally also avoid the Life Application Bibles.
Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bibles is what I referred to earlier. I believe that the only one still available is the Spiros Zodhiates Hebrew-Greek English Study Bible.
The BEST Choices For In-Depth Serious Bible Study
Still, the very best way for someone with little or no original language knowledge of the Hebrew or Greek language is to use an Interlinear.
If you want a Old Testament and New Testament interlinear combination, there is only one option. It is the Jay Green Interlinear Hebrew-Greek Interlinear Bible. It’s big and bulky, but its all-in-one. Green has only one competitor in the Hebrew Interlinear field and that is the interlinear edited by Kohlenberger with only an NIV paralleling it. Green is superior in that regard. Green’s whole Bible is on sale at
www.christianbook.com for $29.99 + S/H. Link.
However, Green, in my opinion is inferior to Dr. Alfred E. Marshall’s Greek-English Interlinear New Testament. Ideally get both Green’s full Bible Interlinear and Marshall’s KJV-NASV interlinear or if its not available, the next best is the Marshall’s KJV-NIV Interlinear.
Here’s Green’s NT Interlinear – $15.99 on sale. Link
The Marshall Greek-English Parallel NT is limited in options. Once upon a time it was available just as a KJV-Only. But Zondervan dropped it in favor of a 2 translation, parallel approach linking the KJV with either the NASB(V) or the NIV.
The NASB(V) version is out of print, I think. I know its not available at Christianbooks.com. Here are your current options:
Marshall’s Greek-English NT with KJV/NIV - Christianbook.com no longer lists it. My guess is that it is temporarily out of stock. Amazon.com however does have it available as we post this – for the sale price of $31.49, Reg $49.95.
I personally do not think much of George R. Berry’s interlinear nor any others listed at either Amazon.com or at Christianbook.com , other than Jay Green as an alternate to Marshall’s Greek-English N.T. Interlinear.
For Really Serious Bible Students - English-Only
So what are the basic tools, I recommend for serious Bible Study for serious English-only Bible students? You’re not really a serious student of Bible study until you are working in some way with the Hebrew and Greek texts. If you don’t know how to read and translate Hebrew or Greek by sight, then use an “interlinear” edition along with a Concordance (Strong’s is best – but also Young’s too if you can afford both) plus at least one Greek-English Lexicon and one or two Hebrew Lexicons . Make sure they’re all coded with Strong’s concordance numbers so you can easily find the words in the Lexicon based upon the Strong’s numbering system. Even better is if you can learn the alphabets of Hebrew and Greek alphabets by sight. If you do, you can use the lexicons more easily but as long as they have Strong’s numbers, you’ll be able to get by.
NOW, some of the best Greek-English Lexicons out there have no Strong’s numbering system. Therefore, to use those, you really, have to either know the Greek alphabet by sight, or have a listing of the alphabet nearby for reference PLUS you’ll at least need an “Analytical” Greek-English Lexicon to find the various ending words that refer you back to a basic root word to get the definition. We’ll list the different ones in the category separately at the bottom of the following listings.
Old Testament Interlinear: Either Jay Green’s OT Hebrew Interlinear or Kohlenberger’s OT Hebrew to NIV Interlinear.
New Testament Interlinear: Marshall’s KJV-NASV(B) or KJV-NIV.
Strong’s Exhaustive KJV Concordance: Get the old version – not the new versions. The old version is only available through Hendrickson Publishing Company and sold at Christianbooks.com at deep discounts. Last I saw pricing was $12.99 and included the CD-Rom version also.
Young’s Analystical Concordance (optional but not first choice).
Gesenius’ Chaldee-Hebrew-English Lexicon. It is usually coded with Strongs #s
Brown-Driver Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon. (often referred to as B-D-B) Usually coded to Strong’s numbers.
Gesenius’ is the first choice but get both if budget allows, or get B-D-B later
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon coded to Strong’s. Despite Thayer’s being very old and Thayer’s “new-age” Unitarian theology, the definitions themselves, 99% are good definitions and give extended meanings and background.
H.K. Moulton’s ANALYTICAL Greek-English Lexicon of the NT. If you know some basic Greek alphabet and early first year Greek grammar – this analytical lexicon is the next step up to get after Thayer’s. Moulton’s is NOT coded to Strong’s.
Mounce’s Analytical Greek-English Lexicon – Mounce uses his own coding system which is not the same as Strongs.
Next are the 2 BIG BOY Greek-English Lexicons:
B-A=G=D is the abbreviation for the following:
Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich & Danker’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian Literature. This one is a biggie and is published by the University of Chicago at a hefty price tag of $139.99 – but worth it for really serious students who first of know the Greek alphabet, know a little bit about Greek word structure and have an analytical lexicon for reference and also get the BAGD Index as further help. Here’s a link to Christianbooks.com page for BAGD
Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon. Also a biggie and also very expensive, but it is a 2-volume work. Like BAGD – you need the pre-requisites although there is no index to this work, that I know of. It is $145.99
Here is a link.
A word of caution about electronic versions. The electronic versions of any of these aforementioned works are “abridgments” meaning the CD-Rom version does not carry all of the details of the printed versions. They supply only the main generic definitions. So anything electronic, including software even like Gramcord or others is unsatisfactory, at least in my mind.