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English Bible Translation Comparison


The goal of Bible translation is be transparent to the original text – to see as clearly as possible what the biblical authors actually wrote.

—Leland Ryken 

THE ENGLISH
BIBLE

Frequently Asked Questions

English Bible Translations

In the Middle Ages, books were expensive, copied by hand, and took months to produce just a single copy.

No complete English Bible existed until the 14th century. Most Bibles at the time were translated into Latin, which only the clergy could read, because illiteracy ran high among laypeople. Fragments of the Bible existed here and there in English, but the Roman Catholic Church forbade translating the Bible into the common language, and even threatened death for doing so.

Examples of Anglo-Saxon/Old English portions of the Bible, however, include the 8th-century Lindisfarne Gospels and the 10th-century Wessex Gospels.

Driven by the conviction that everybody should have a copy of the Bible in a language they could understand, John Wycliffe (1330-1384) produced the first translation of the complete Bible into Middle English (the language of Chaucer) in 1382, from the Latin Vulgate.

In 1526, William Tyndale translated (and printed) the first Modern English Bible (although incomplete) directly from the Hebrew and Greek of the Old and New Testaments. He was executed under the command of Henry VIII for his “crimes.”

Then in 1535, Myles Coverdale (1488-1569) produced the first complete Bible translation into Modern English.

The Geneva Bible was published in 1560, complete with study notes and cross references, becoming the dominant English Bible translation of the 16th century, used by notable people such as William Shakespeare, John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress), and Oliver Cromwell.

But the translation that dominated the English-speaking world for nearly four centuries was the third English translation sanctioned by the British monarchy after the Great Bible (1539) and the Bishops’ Bible (1568)— the King James Version, published in 1611.

All or part of the Bible has been translated into thousands of languages around the world, but English Bibles are by far the most abundant. Over the centuries, over 400 different English Bible translations have been produced.

Today, there are dozens of modern English translations. To be clear, when we say English translations, we mean whole new translations (e.g., NIV), not the same translation put into different forms (e.g., NIV Study Bible, NIV Life Application Study Bible, NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible).

While there are many English Bible translations, most Bible readers (English as their first language) prefer one of the eleven most popular English translations, as listed in FAQ #3.

This is a difficult question. It depends on what’s meant by “popular.”

This could be measured in terms of sales in just the last month, or past year, or previous decade. Or, it could be measured in terms of surveys of Christians and what they prefer to read.

Older Christians, for example, might prefer the translation they grew up with, most likely the King James Version, while younger believers may opt for a more modern translation.

While the King James Version dominated the English-speaking world for nearly 400 years, the New International Version (NIV), originally published in 1978, has become the most widely distributed modern translation.

Regardless of how you determine “popularity,” a list of the most popular English Bibles would include the following translations. More than 90% of Bible readers (English as their first language) prefer one of these (in no particular order):

  • King James Version (KJV)
  • New King James Version (NKJV)
  • English Standard Version (ESV)
  • New Living Translation (NLT)
  • Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • Common English Bible (CEB)
  • Amplified Bible (AMP)
  • The Message (MSG)
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The main difference between the Catholic and Protestant versions of the Bible is that the Catholic Bible includes seven additional books not in Protestant versions.

This difference stems from how early Christians treated books that were written during the inter-testamental period (those years between the Old and New Testaments). Often called “deuterocanonical” books, there is a debate as to whether or not these books should be considered as authoritatively on the same level as the Old and New Testament books.

The seven deuterocanonical books are:

Catholic Old Testaments also have additional materials added to Esther and Daniel.

The two main reasons why Protestants do not include the deuterocanonical books in their Bibles is because the Jews did not include these books in their holy Scriptures, and because Jesus never quoted from them when speaking about God’s Word.

However, Catholics point to a tradition wherein these books were often included with the biblical books in early manuscripts and translations.

Because we do not have the original manuscripts of the Bible, all translations are attempts at recovering the original text as best as possible. This is done by poring through ancient manuscripts, copies and translations of biblical texts, and allusions and quotations from the Bible found in the writings of dozens of church fathers through the early centuries of Christendom. From this wealth of information, scholars piece together modern translations into what they believe is an accurate reflection of the original writings.

Given this process, it’s easy to anticipate disagreements along the way. Translators debate which manuscript sources and streams are the most reliable.

For example, do this quick exercise: Go to Biblegateway.com, where you can type in a verse and see dozens of translations. Look up Matthew 18:11 in the English Standard Version (ESV), one of the most popular modern English translations. It will return “no record found,” which is strange since Matthew 18 has 35 verses in it. How is it possible that verse 11 is not included?

Type in Matthew 18 and the entire chapter will appear. You can see that verse 11 is skipped, but a footnote is included that states that some manuscripts include this verse. If you do this with the New International Version (NIV) something similar is produced.

Now look up Matthew 18:11 in the King James Version (KJV) and the verse appears with no problem. Why?

Simply put, the KJV was published in 1611, but in the past four centuries we have discovered more manuscript evidence for the Bible than the KJV translators had at their disposal in the early 17th century. From these new discoveries it is believed that the KJV translators used less reliable sources than modern scholars utilize today. Thus, the ESV and NIV don’t include Matthew 18:11 (other examples include Acts 8:37; Romans 16:24; there are roughly two dozen in total).

Fortunately, in none of these cases is a key Christian doctrine affected, and modern translations almost always identify the missing verses in footnotes so readers can spot the issue.

Some Christians, known as “King James only-ists,” claim that modern translations purposefully omit Bible verses, thus doing the work of the devil. The problem with such an accusation is that it is usually said by people unfamiliar with the process used in producing the Bible, as discussed in FAQ #5.

The KJV was nicknamed the “Authorized Version” because, leading up to its publication, there were scores of different “unauthorized” translations floating around Europe. The British monarchy determined to have one translation that would be the official one for the Empire, thus it was dubbed the “Authorized Version” for the English-speaking world.

There were many Bible translations in numerous languages before the KJV (keep in mind, this is specifically an English translation), and hundreds of translations after as well. However, the KJV dominated the English-speaking world for nearly 400 hundred years. So, in the minds of many Christians, it is the “official” Bible. However, the KJV is simply one translation among many.

If you are an English-as-a-first-language reader, then your options for English Bible translations are varied—see FAQ #5.

As with any translation from one language to another, the reader for whom the text was translated may lose the original structure and nuances of a passage that were present in its original language. For example, there is no punctuation in New Testament Greek, and its sentence structure and word construction are different than in English (e.g., one word in the Greek will combine both a noun and verb). Scholars must work around these and other limitations as they produce a modern translation of Scripture.

English Bible translations vary widely on reading level, with some produced specifically for those who do not speak English as a first language (e.g., Good News Translation, originally published in 1966). Scroll down to see the infographic below that gives a rough estimate of English reading level for some of the most popular translations, or consult the chart here.

Among the most popular translations, here is a rough estimate of English reading level for each (based on the American school system):

  • King James Version (KJV) – 12th grade
  • New King James Version (NKJV) – 7th grade
  • English Standard Version (ESV) – 10th grade
  • New Living Translation (NLT) – 6th grade
  • Christian Standard Bible (CSB) – 7th grade
  • New International Version (NIV) – 7th grade
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB) – 11th grade
  • Common English Bible (CEB) – 7th grade
  • Amplified Bible – 11th grade
  • The Message – 4th grade
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) – 11th grade

No. Inspiration and inerrancy only refer to the original writings of the Bible, as its authors were guided by the Holy Spirit to write documents that were protected from human error (Proverbs 30:5; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

This means that every Bible we have today is an attempt to discern the original writings of Scripture from ancient copies, manuscripts, fragments, translations, and quotations from early church scholars. In comparison to other ancient writings, the Bible has 1000 times more manuscript evidence than the average classical work. We know that this process can produce errors, but this doesn’t mean that we don’t trust the English translations we have!

There is an abundance of material from which to cross check in reproducing the Bible, so modern translations have a very high degree of accuracy (99+%). Where we are unsure if modern translations are accurately reproducing the original biblical writings…

  1. We know where all those potential problem areas exist (usually identified in modern Bible translations in the footnotes).
  2. None of them affect any cardinal Christian doctrines. They usually deal with issues like how many chariots an Old Testament king had.
  3. These potential problem areas are less than 1% of the Bible.

To learn more, read this article from Got Questions Ministries, “How Does the Translation Process Affect the Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Infallibility of the Bible?

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PUBLISHER PAGES

Get to Know Each Translation

Learn about the following Bible translations these reliable publishers have labored over. Discover their translation philosophies and the heart behind their work. 

COMPARING ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS

Learn About the Translations

King James Version

Publish Date:
1611
Project Length: 1607-1611 (4 years)

Translation Team: Nearly 50 leading scholars in the Church of England.

Translation Concerns: When King James ascended to the throne of England, he met with Anglican and Puritan leaders to discuss issues affecting the Protestant church. The Church of England could not agree upon one translation of the Bible for both public worship and private devotion. Backing a new authorized English translation seemed in the best interests of all.

The translators of the KJV balanced a concern for readability with a commitment to representing the original texts as closely as possible. For example, they Anglicized Greek and Hebrew names while at the same time working hard to reproduce the rhythm and style of Hebrew poetry in English. In addition to these concerns, the translators strove to create a translation that was beautiful, memorable, and well-suited to the public worship of the church.   

Revisions: In order to correct printing errors, Cambridge University scholars revised the KJV in 1762, and Oxford University scholars in 1769. The Oxford edition was more widely received.

Main Sources: Based upon the 1602 edition of the Bishop’s Bible and influenced by other existing English translations including William Tyndale’s work. It was translated from the Hebrew Bible and Erasmus’ Greek translation of the New Testament later known as the Textus Receptus.

Target Audience: The KJV was translated for a broad audience, because it was intended as the authorized Bible of the Church of England. However, the language has become archaic after several centuries and can be challenging for a modern reader to understand.

Distinctive: The KJV remained the primary English translation for more than 200 years and profoundly influenced the English language. It is also the only translation to be based upon the Textus Receptus rather than Greek texts discovered after the 17th century.

English Revised Version

Publish Date: 1885
Project length: 1871-1885 (14 Years)

Translation Team: More than 50 scholars from the United Kingdom and North America.

Translation Concerns: The ERV was the first translation authorized by the Church of England after the publication of the King James Version in 1611. Church leaders and biblical scholars believed the church needed a new translation for several reasons:

  • The English language had evolved, so the KJV was increasingly difficult for 19th century readers to understand.
  • Older Greek and Hebrew manuscripts had been discovered since the 17th century helping scholars better reconstruct the original writings.
  • Scholars better understood the languages, allowing them to translate Greek and Hebrew more accurately into English.

The goal of the ERV was to adapt the KJV, taking into consideration contemporary scholarship and current English usage.

Revisions: The ERV was revised fifteen years after publication for the church in the United States and was published as the American Standard Version.

Main Sources: The ERV was the first translation to be based upon the Westcott and Hort Greek text for the New Testament (rather than the Textus Receptus).

Target Audience: Churches in the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world

Distinctive: The ERV was the forerunner of English Bible translation efforts in the 20th and 21st centuries. It opened the door for many of the translations we have today.

American Standard Version

Publish Date: 1901

Project Length: North American Bible scholars had been invited to contribute to the translation of the ERV via correspondence. Though most of their suggestions were overruled by the English translators, the suggestions appeared as endnotes in the ERV. Publishers agreed to wait 15 years after the publication of the ERV to publish an American revision. The American Standard Version included many of these earlier suggestions as well as Americanized spelling and word choices.
Translation Team: 30 American scholars, led by Phillip Schaff, contributed to the translation of the English Revised Version. Their suggestions were incorporated into the American Standard Version.

Translation Concerns: The American Standard Version was a revision of the English Revised Version for the church in the United States. It was the “American cousin” of the ERV and shared similar concerns to accommodate advances in biblical scholarship and changes in English usage. The KJV, ERV, and ASV are all “literal” translations, attempting to translate the words of the ancient manuscripts as directly as possible.

Revisions: The ASV later became the basis for several new translations including the RSV, the NRSV, the Amplified Bible, the NASV, and the TLB.

Main sources: Like the ERV, it was based upon the Hebrew Bible and the Westcott and Hort Greek text for the New Testament.

Target audience: Churches in the United States of America and the English-speaking world

Distinctive: The ASV was especially popular in American seminaries where it came to be known simply as the “Standard Bible.” It is also notable for its use of “Jehovah” rather than “Lord” for the name of God (YHWH).

Revised Standard Version

Publish Date: 1952
Current Publisher: No longer under copyright (available online). Originally published by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.
Project Length: Due to the Great Depression and World War II, the translation and publication of the RSV stretched over more than 20 years.

Translation Team: The team was comprised of 32 scholars assembled by the International Council of Religious Education (ICRE), a branch of the National Council of Churches.

Translation Concerns: Translators wanted to produce an essentially literal translation that would also restore the beauty and elegance of the KJV that many felt had been lost in the English Revised Version.

Revisions: The RSV was revised in 1962, and a second edition of the New Testament was published in 1971 incorporating more significant changes. The RSV also formed the basis for two new translations: the New Revised Standard Version and the English Standard Version.

Main Sources: Based upon the American Standard Version. Translated from the Hebrew Masoretic text and the United Bible Societies’ text critical editions (Nestle-Aland). The RSV was the first translation to use the Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Target Audience: The RSV was well-received by mainline Protestant denominations and was particularly popular among scholars and seminary students.

Distinctive: The RSV adopted some changes that proved controversial. Most notably, translators changed Isaiah 7:14 from “a virgin shall conceive” to “a young woman shall conceive.” This was perceived to be a concession to liberal scholars who rejected the virgin birth of Jesus. The NRSV later preserved this translation, while the ESV rejected it in favor of “virgin.”

New American Standard Bible

Publish Date: 1971
Publisher: Zondervan. Originally published by the Lockman Foundation.
Project Length: 1960-1971 (11 years)

Translation Team: A team of biblical scholars assembled by the Lockman Foundation.

Translation Concerns: The translators of the NASB emphasized fidelity to the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts and sought to create a translation that would be as close as possible to the original wording, grammar, and structure of Scripture. The NASB claims to be “the most literally accurate English translation” (quoted from the Lockman Foundation). The NASB was created to provide an alternative to the RSV which was considered theologically liberal.

Revisions: Revised in 1995 to update the English for clarity and readability.

Main Sources: Based upon the American Standard Version. Translated from Kittel’s Biblica Hebraica, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the United Bible Societies/Nestle-Aland Greek texts of the New Testament.

Target Audience: The NASB was created to provide a highly accurate, word-for-word translation for English speakers. 

Distinctive: The NASB strives to be the most “literal” translation making it particularly suited to those who want to study the text closely, but who do not read Greek or Hebrew.

The Living Bible

Publish Date: 1971
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Project Length: Published over ten years as portions of Scripture (Living Letters, Living Prophecies, Living Gospels, etc.) 1961-1971

Translator: Dr. Kenneth N. Taylor

Translation Concerns: The Living Bible began in the home of Kenneth Taylor who started retelling Scripture so that his children could more easily understand it. It has been described as a “thought-by-thought” paraphrase of the Bible that conveys ideas in a more accessible manner.

Revisions: No major revisions. Later inspired the translation of the New Living Translation.

Main sources: Paraphrased from the American Standard Version.

Target Audience: Written for children and for anyone who struggles to understand the content of the Bible.

Distinctive: The Living Bible is considered a paraphrase rather than a translation of the Bible. When the first installment, Living Letters, was published in 1962, the Billy Graham Association distributed millions of copies through their evangelistic outreaches. The Living Bible is easy-to-understand, and well-suited to young readers.

New International Version

Publish Date: 1978
Publisher: Published by Zondervan in the United States and Hodder & Stoughton in the U.K. Originally published by Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society).
Project Length: 1965-1978 (13 years)

Translation Team: Comprised of 15 biblical scholars from various evangelical denominations.

Translation Concerns: During the 20th century, scholars uncovered more biblical manuscripts and gained a better understanding of the ancient languages of the Bible. The translators of the NIV wanted to create an English translation that reflected these resources. They went back to the Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts and then translated them into English as it was widely used. These translations went through several revisions and were tested by readers from the general public to ensure that they were simple to read and to understand. The goal was to produce an accurate translation in everyday English. The NIV tries to balance a literal approach with the need to accurately convey ideas. This approach is sometimes called “dynamic equivalence.”

Revisions: Because of its dual emphasis on incorporating the best textual resources available and rendering them in contemporary English (two things that change over time), the NIV has undergone several revisions (1984, 1995 in the U.K. only, 2005, and 2011).

In 2005, a revision called Today’s New International Version was published. This version included gender-neutral language (for example, changing “man” or “mankind” to “human beings” or “people”) which proved controversial. A 2011 revision reversed some of the gender-inclusive changes and made other translation edits making the 2011 edition more similar to the widely-read 1984 edition.

In addition to revisions, there are also derivative versions of the NIV including the New International Reader’s Version which is written at a third-grade reading level for children or reluctant readers.

Main Sources: Based upon the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Masoretic Hebrew text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, other ancient Old Testament manuscripts, and the United Bible Societies/Nestle-Aland Greek texts of the New Testament.

Target Audience: The NIV is intended to be easily read and understood by all English speakers.

Distinctive: The NIV was the first “new” English translation since the Reformation in the sense that it did not use a specific previous English translation as its base or starting point. 

New King James Version

Publish Date: 1982
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Bibles
Project Length: 1975-1982 (7 Years)

Translation Team: Dr. Arthur Farstad served as the General Editor leading a team of 130 Bible scholars from across Protestant denominations.

Translation Concerns: “The purpose of the New King James Version is to preserve the authority and accuracy, as well as the rhythm and beauty, of the original King James Version while making it understandable to current readers” (quoted from Thomas Nelson Bibles).

Main Sources: Based upon the King James Version. The NKJV relied on the same sources as the KJV (most notably the Textus Receptus), but included footnotes identifying where those sources differ from the Greek Majority Text and the United Bible Societies texts.

Target Audience: Translated for 20th and 21st century readers.

Distinctive: Seeks to retain the familiarity and beauty of the King James Version while making it more accessible to contemporary readers.

New Revised Standard Version

Publish Date: 1989
Publisher: Zondervan/Harper Collins. Originally published by National Council of Churches.
Project Length: The National Council of Churches authorized work on a major revision to the RSV in 1974. The NRSV was completed fifteen years later.

Translation Team: An ecumenical team of scholars representing Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches were led by committee chair Bruce M. Metzger of Princeton Seminary. Jewish scholars were also involved in the translation of the Old Testament.

Translation Concerns: The translation committee set out to create a translation that would serve all Christian churches, including Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox. Their stated objective was to be “as literal as possible, as free as necessary” (from the NRSV page of the Zondervan website).

Major Revisions: Currently undergoing a three-year updating process under the leadership of the Society of Biblical Literature. The new revision will be published as the New American Standard Version, Updated Edition (due in 2020).

Main Sources: Based upon the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Masoretic Hebrew text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, other ancient Old Testament manuscripts, and the United Bible Societies/Nestle-Aland Greek texts of the New Testament. The apocryphal books were based upon the Septuagint and other ancient deuterocanonical texts.

Target Audience: The NRSV was created to be used in the corporate worship of the entire Christian church and in the private devotion of all Christians.

Distinctive: The NRSV is published in Protestant and Catholic editions as well as The Common Bible, an edition containing Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox canons. It was widely accepted by mainline Protestant denominations and is a popular translation in seminaries and academic circles. The NRSV diverged from the RSV in several ways, most notably in its use of gender-inclusive language (the first translation to do so) and in is less formal style (for example, replacing “shall” with “will”).

*Note: Bibles.net does not endorse the Apocrypha as being the Word of God, but rather deuterocanonical.

New Living Translation

Publish Date: 1996
Publisher: Tyndale House
Project Length: 1989-1996 (7 Years)

Translation Team: A team of more than 90 biblical scholars from a broad spectrum of evangelical denominations.

Translation Concerns: The NLT “renders the message of the original texts of Scripture into clear, contemporary English” which is easy to understand and natural to read aloud (from the publisher’s website). It’s a “thought-for-thought” or dynamic equivalent translation which focuses on clearly conveying the meaning of the text.

Revisions: A revised second edition was published in 2004. Minor revisions were made in subsequent publications in 2007, 2013, and 2015.

Sources: Based upon the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Masoretic Hebrew text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, other ancient Old Testament manuscripts, and the United Bible Societies/Nestle-Aland Greek texts of the New Testament.

Target Audience: Written to “be easily understood by the typical reader of modern English” (from the publisher’s website).

Distinctive: The NLT shares the concern of the Living Bible to provide a clear and accessible rendering of Scripture that everyone can read and understand. The NLT, however, is not a paraphrase, but a thorough translation rooted in the ancient texts and accomplished by a diverse team of biblical scholars.

English Standard Version

Publish Date: 2001
Publisher: Crossway Books
Project Length: 1997-2001 (4 Years)

Translation Team: Translation of the ESV was led by the fourteen-member Translation Oversight Committee on which J.I. Packer served as the General Editor. More than fifty biblical scholars from across Protestant denominations contributed to the translation process. 

Translation Concerns: While the RSV was widely used (particularly among biblical scholars) because it was a formally equivalent translation, many felt that there was a need for a thorough revision of the text. Crossway Books requested the rights to the 1971 edition of the RSV and established a translation committee to complete this task. The committee set out to create an “essentially literal” translation, meaning that the English words would reflect the original Greek and Hebrew words as closely as possible. The translators of the ESV also sought to preserve the beauty and memorability that characterized the KJV and was passed down through the ERV and RSV.

Revisions: About 500 revisions were made to the text of the ESV in a 2007 edition and fewer than that were made in a 2011 edition. In 2016, editors made 52 revisions and initially announced that this edition would be the “permanent” text of the ESV (in keeping with the tradition of the KJV which stood unchanged for more than 200 years). The publisher later reversed this decision and expressed a commitment to update the ESV text as necessary given advances in scholarship and changes in English usage.

Main Sources: Based upon the 1971 text of the Revised Standard Version. Translated from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Masoretic Hebrew text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, other ancient Old Testament manuscripts, and the United Bible Societies/Nestle-Aland Greek texts of the New Testament.

Target Audience: The ESV is translated for every reader, but a high priority was placed on making the translation suitable for public reading and for in-depth study.

Distinctive: The ESV is committed to translating every nuance of Scripture as literally as possible while maintaining an English style worthy of the dignity and beauty of God’s Word.

The Message

Publish Date: 2002
Publisher: NavPress
Project Length: The Message was published in segments between 1993 and 2002 (9 years).

Translation Team: Eugene Peterson (the publisher, NavPress, later assembled a team of biblical scholars to review Peterson’s translation).

Translation Concerns: The Message has been described as a “highly idiomatic” translation or as a “paraphrase from the original languages” of the Bible (from the publisher’s website). Pastor and professor Eugene H. Peterson translated from the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic sources into contemporary, American English using common metaphors, allusions, and colloquialisms. He sought to convey the essence and tone of the original texts in English. The Message is on the extreme end of the equivalence spectrum representing the most dynamic and least literal of the translations.

Revisions: No information available.

Main Sources: Translated from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Masoretic Hebrew text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, other ancient Old Testament manuscripts, and the United Bible Societies/Nestle-Aland Greek texts of the New Testament.

Target Audience: Translated for every reader. The style is particularly suited to a North American audience.

Distinctive: According to the publisher, The Message was designed to be a “reading Bible” providing a “fresh perspective” on Scripture. It was not intended to replace other translations but to come alongside them offering readers new insight into how the original recipients of the Bible might have heard it.

Christian Standard Bible
Formerly the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Publish Date: 2017
Publisher: Holman Bible Publishers
Project Length: 1998-2004 (HCSB, 6 years), 2016-2017 (CSB, 1 year)

Translation Team: The HCSB translation was begun by Dr. Arthur Farstad who had also served as the General Editor for the NKJV. After his death, Dr. Edwin Blum led the translation committee and a team of more than 100 translators and proofreaders. Tom Schreiner and David Allen later directed a ten-member Translation Oversight Committee to produce the CSB.

Translation Concerns: In 1998, LifeWay Christian Resources agreed to fund and to publish the translation project which eventually became the HCSB. One of the motivations behind the translation of the HCSB was to provide an alternative for the Southern Baptist Convention to use in their curriculum. They had previously purchased rights to the NIV, but copyright fees were costly, and many were uncomfortable with the move toward gender-inclusive language in the TNIV.

The publishers of the HCSB describe their translation goal as “optimal equivalence” or a balance between formal equivalence (word-for-word translation) and functional or dynamic equivalence (meaning-for-meaning translation). The translators sought to convey a sense of the original text as clearly as possible.

The CSB made several significant revisions to the HCSB. These revisions include:

  • Translating the divine name (YHWH) consistently as “Lord” rather than “Yahweh” (following the widely accepted tradition in English translation after the ASV’s use of “Jehovah”)
  • Removing capitalization for divine pronouns (following standard practice in English grammar)
  • Replacing “Christ” with “Messiah” in cases where that rendering better captures the implication of the name
  • Replacing “slaves” with “servants” in 128 cases
  • Revising gender-related language to be non-specific in English (for example, “man” or “mankind” is rendered “people,” and when appropriate to the context, “brothers” is translated “brothers and sisters”).

Revisions: The Holman Christian Standard Bible was published in 2004 by Holman Bible Publishers. The HCSB was revised and a second edition was printed in 2010. The Christian Standard Bible is a 2017 revision that officially replaced the HCSB.

Main Sources: Dr. Arthur Farstad, the General Editor for the NKJV, began a new translation using the Greek Majority Text instead of the Textus Receptus (KJV/NKJV) or the United Bible Societies’ texts (most other English translations). Farstad’s work formed the basis for the HCSB/CSB. After Farstad’s death, Dr. Edwin Blum took over leadership of the translation project and switched to the United Bible Societies’ critical texts for translation of the New Testament. The Old Testament is translated from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Masoretic Hebrew text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, other ancient Old Testament manuscripts.

Target Audience: Although originally motivated to meet a need expressed by the Southern Baptist Convention, the CSB was translated by an interdenominational team and is intended to reach all readers of the Bible.

Distinctive: The CSB seeks to strike a balance between literal and dynamic approaches to translating the Bible. It’s more literal than the NIV, but less so than the NASB or ESV.

New English Translation

Publish Date: 2005
Publisher: Biblical Studies Press
Project Length: 1995-2006 (11 years) (Beta editions released in 2001 and 2003)

Translation Team: Hall Harris III served as the Project Director leading a team of 25 Bible scholars from across denominations.

Translation Concerns: In 1995, an online ministry called Bibles.org recognized the need for a Bible translation that could be quoted extensively on the internet without accruing copyright fees. They commissioned a team of translators to create a completely new translation of the Bible from the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic sources. This translation would be made available free of cost online.

The New English Translation, also known as the NET Bible, attempts to mediate between a literal translation and a functional or dynamic translation by including extensive translators’ notes. The translators give a functional translation in the text while including the literal translation in the notes along with explanation of the translation process. In this manner, they strive to be accurate and transparent while also conveying clearly the thought and meaning of a passage.  

Revisions: A second edition was released in 2016 with an updated Strong’s Hebrew/Greek to English mapping of the entire translation.

Main Sources: Translated from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Masoretic Hebrew text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, other ancient Old Testament manuscripts, and the United Bible Societies/Nestle-Aland Greek texts of the New Testament.

Target Audience: Originally translated for use in online environments.

Distinctive: The key distinctive of the NET Bible is the 60,000+ translators’ notes included with the translation. These notes make the translation process transparent to all readers.

The NET Bible was also the first Bible ever to be beta-tested on the Internet. In 2001 and again in 2003, Beta versions of the translation were published online for public comment. The Beta versions received extensive feedback from biblical scholars as well as lay readers. This information was valuable to the editorial team as they finalized the translation.

Bible translation comparison
Video: 4 Min
by Rob Plummer at Southern Seminary
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