Update on those eight bible translations

Way back in the summer of 2007 I posted about a parallel New Testament containing eight translations that I had recently started reading through.

Well I finished the book of Revelation some time ago, but hadn’t got around to posting an update.

However today I noticed that Marc has a post on the subject of bible translations, so I figure this is an appropriate time to give my top picks.

1. For a “reading” bible, my next purchase will be the New Living Translation (NLT).   A couple of the other “dynamic equivalence” translations were close, but I thought the Today’s New International Version (TNIV) wasn’t quite as readable, and I found “The Message” somewhat annoying after awhile … it seemed to be trying too hard to be colloquial.

2.  For a “study” bible, my next purchase will be the English Standard Version (ESV).   I agree with Marc and a couple of commenters on his post that the average reader is in no position to really know how close a translation is to the original (I can’t read Greek), but the fact that it’s been criticized as the translation favoured by “conservatives” endears it to me.


Reading through the eight translations simultaneously was a worthwhile experience.  I might even do it again some year.

4 Responses to “Update on those eight bible translations”

  1. Marc says:

    In my defense (if you were referring to me), I didn’t say that the ESV was preferred by conservative types. The named I dropped may have implied as much. That wasn’t my intention. I just have found that the ESV is defended with an incredible amount of quite negative passion. Whether it should or not, I tend to find that a bit off-putting.

    I have nothing against the ESV. I have a pocket edition I use quite often. In some places I find it awkward reading. In other places I find it no different than the NRSV (they are, after all, cousins). In other places (such as the Psalms) I like it a lot.

    The NLT is gaining a lot of respect these days, even for study purposes. They’ve done a couple of revisions since I tried it out. At the time it seemed like it editorialized a bit, but maybe that has changed with the revisions.

    I’ll probably flip-flop between translations for a while yet. I’m leaning towards the TNIV because it falls somewhere between more readable and more literal. I like the balance.

    Plus, as I said in my post, I get the sense that the ECC is using the TNIV more and more.

  2. Marc says:

    Not to hog the comments here, but I’m curious to know how you approached this parallel reading. Did you just read page by page, so you’d read the same series of verses back to back in eight translations?

  3. Marc says:

    Me again, sorry. Having a conversation with myself, I guess. I just went back to the 2007 post and I asked the same question there and you answered it there.

    However, I’m curious to know what you thought of the Holman Christian Standard Bible? It appears to be a new translation of note, but I’ve not heard or read about a single person that uses it.

    Also, I’m curious to know how you think the Esv and Tniv compare. They aren’t that far apart on the translation philosophy spectrum. You found the tniv less readable than the NLT; did you find it more readable than the esv, but less literal? Is it too much like the NIV to be your next bible? Just curious.

    Again, sorry for the multiple comments. If it was possible I would have edited them all into one.

  4. Phil L says:

    On the “conservative” word … I think it was Toni who used it when commenting on your post. I’ve read that elsewhere, for example J.I. Packer is considered a conservative bible scholar, and was a driving force behind the ESV. However it was said tongue-in-cheek because the translation team had a great cross-section of scholars from a range of denominational backgrounds.
    I would have to say that I didn’t note much difference between the Holman Christian Standard Bible vs. the ESV. I would say the Holman is easier to read. To be honest, one problem with the ESV is that it tends to have long paragraphs. For example, Matthew 17:24-27 (The Temple Tax) is a single paragraph in the ESV but five paragraphs in the HCSB. Guess which would be easier for someone raised on sound bites and Internet sites to read?
    If I were picking a single “compromise” version I’d probably choose either the TNIV or the HCSB. However I’ll be buying two versions, and my choice of NLT for readability is subjective but my choice of ESV is based on my understanding (which may or may not be true) that it is the most literal – not knowing Greek I admit that I am at the mercy of certain experts.