This New Testament won’t fit in my shirt pocket

I used to think my mom’s “Parallel Four Translation New Testament” was pretty extreme. It included the King James Version, New American Standard, New International Version, and Amplified, with all four versions laid out on facing pages. When Mom and Dad died, I ended up with Mom’s parallel bible, and I decided to read through the gospel of John. Well, I decided that I liked the concept, but it would be nice to have versions in modern English. The upshot is that I’ve purchased myself a copy of a parallel New Testament with … get this … not four but EIGHT versions.

The “Evangelical Parallel New Testament” is put out by Oxford University Press, and includes these translations:

  • New King James Version;
  • New International Version;
  • English Standard Version;
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible;
  • Today’s New International Version;
  • New Living Translation;
  • New Century Version; and
  • The Message.

An introduction, plus a couple of articles on translation approaches and source manuscripts, are very well written. The layout of the pages uses a continuum from the more literal, word-for-word “formal equivalence” translations on the left to the informal, thought-for-thought “dynamic equivalence” translations on the right.
John 3:16 in eight translations

My main study bible has been the New International Version (NIV) for more than 25 years, and I think this will be a good way to decide on which version to adopt next.

The problem is that reading through the New Testament will take eight times as long as it did before.

UPDATE: Someone emailed me with a question about where they could find more information about this NT. My answer was to click on the hyperlink in the post. Several of my posts have included hyperlinks, and they might not always be obvious, but I don’t want to always specify “click here”. Meanwhile, for this post only, for more info please click here.

9 Responses to “This New Testament won’t fit in my shirt pocket”

  1. Marc says:

    Wow. You mean to say you read all 4/8 translations at once as you read through the NT?

  2. Phil says:

    Marc, That’s my goal. I’m finding that reading the same paragraph in eight translations forces me to slow down and think about the meaning. I started on John with my mom’s old parallel NT, and proceeded through the first half of Acts. Now that I have this new “parallel eight” NT I’m nearing the end of Acts. I find that I’m taking a couple of days to read a chapter, so it may take awhile to hit Revelation. Or I may decide that I like one of the translations so much that I’ll run out and buy it and put the parallel NT on the shelf.

  3. Marc says:

    Well done, Phil!

    I bought a pocket ESV last year. In most places it appears to be more or less identical to the NRSV. Believe it or not, even though it is a newer translation, I find the ESV a little more awkward reading than the NRSV, but it’s not bad.

    Of course, there is often very little difference between translations of the same type. It sometimes seems like the NKJV and NIV are very similar as well.

    In terms of reading, the International Bible Society is publishing a Bible this month which omits all verse numbers, chapter numbers, chapter/section headings as well as the columns. I guess the idea is to remove as much of the additional material which colours/modifies a person’s reading/interpretation of the text. I’ll be checking that one out, I think. It’s TNIV.

  4. Shirley says:

    I should get a parallel. I have a lot of translations but all seperate so it’s a pile of books if you get into comparing.

    Last year I did my “read through the bible in a year” with the Message. It makes for easy reading and I enjoyed it but I miss the seperate verses for general study. If you want verse 7 it might be in a section labeled 5-9 so you guess where 7 starts.

    I would like to get the New Living as well, but I always go back to my old NIV study bible.

  5. Phil L says:

    Shirley: Janet has the New Living Translation, and it is very readable. I’ve read through The Message NT before, but it is one man’s translation, so the original Greek has been “interpreted” quite alot with his theological positions. I think both the “dynamic equivalence” approach and the “formal equivalence” have their places.

  6. Marc says:

    It’s worth noting that interpretation is unavoidable when translating—there are no purely objective/neutral translations that I’m aware of. A little bit of every translator’s theological position goes into the process and that happens even in a group translating setting, although in that context it would probably be less pointed. It’s simply par for the course when one considers that most Greek and Hebrew words, if the lexicons are any indication, have all sorts of nuance and variations in meaning. Choices have to be made while translating and an individual’s biases have an influence on those choices. (And our own biases influence which translations we prefer or consider more accurate.)

    As an example, we all refer to “evangelical” and “more liberal” and “more conservative” translations.

    This is probably a good reason to use a parallel Bible as Phil does—it would offer you a taste of a variety of possible translations.

  7. Phil L says:

    Marc: Good point about the inevitability of interpretation. However I think theological bias is somewhat less likely when the work is overseen by a committee of 50 scholars representing different denominational backgrounds than if it’s the work of one man. I’m not trying to trash Eugene Peterson’s The Message, but I wouldn’t use it as my only bible.

  8. Marc says:

    Agreed. Actually, it was always my understanding that the Message was a paraphrase (based on the original languages) rather than a translation. But these days people refer to it like any other translation. Was my original understanding mistaken?

  9. Shirley says:

    I believe Marc is right about the Message being a paraphrase and I agree I would not use it as my main Bible. Have you ever checked out You can find the reference you want in your choice of many translations. I have used it a few times.