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English Versions
of the Bible


Richard Ascough

Associate
Professor
of New
Testament
and Greek

Queen's
School of Religion


Theological Hall
Kingston, ON
Canada, K7L 3N6

(613) 533-6000
x78066

fax: (613) 533-6879

rsa@queensu.ca

http://
post.queensu.ca/~rsa


This resource page has been compiled by me from a variety of resources. Please let me know if you have other suggestions that I could add to it. A number of English (and other language) versions of the Bible are available online through The Bible Gateway at http://bible.gospelcom.net.

A more complete overview of the history of English versions of the Bible can be found online at http://www.bible-researcher.com/versions.html.

Translation Methodologies


Formal-equivalence: The translator attempts to render each word of the original language into the receptor language and seeks to preserve the original word order and sentence structure as much as possible. The best choice for study purposes.

Dynamic-equivalence: The translator attempts to produce in the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the message expressed by the original language text -- both in meaning and in style. It attempts to have the same impact on modern readers as the original had on its own audience. Easier to read and understand than the formal-equivalence translations.

Paraphrase: Technically, it means the restatement of a message in the same language but in different words than were used in the original text. It is used for any edition of the Bible that has been produced by one individual, that emphasizes freshness in style, and that seems to take substantial liberty in translation.

English Versions (alphabetical order)


NEW AMERICAN BIBLE (NAB)

Catholic. A translation from the original languages by a group of Roman Catholic scholars done in the 1970s and revised in the 1980s. Also includes helpful reading notes. A good study Bible.

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (NASB)
In 1901 the American Standard Version was produce by American Protestants who reworked the Revised Version (not the RSV), which was a revision of the KJV done by British Scholars on the basis of available mss. It used readings preferred by the Americans and with "American" English and weights and measures. In 1963 a conservative revision of the NT became the NASA, to which the HB was added in 1971. They used the most up to date critical editions of the biblical texts and attempted to be as literal as possible in terms of translation and sentence structure. A good Bible for close textual study.

CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH BIBLE (CEV)

A rendering of the intent of the Hebrew and Greek text published in 1995 by the American Bible Society. It uses inclusive gender language and is sensitive to concerns over Jewish sensitivities. There is some controversy over this version's claim to contain no anti-Judaism since there are biblical texts which seem, in the original, to express such sentiments. The interpretive translation strategy eliminates these and sometimes masks the language of the original writer. Although this is done to help modern readers avoid drawing wrong inferences about Judaism, this version is sometimes less of a translation and more of a commentary (see further Bible Review 12/5 (Oct 1996) 42-43). A readable version but should be used with caution and checked against other versions.

 

ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION (ESV)

An "essentially literal" translation that seeks to capture the precise wording and personal style of the original writersProduced by an international 100-member team of many denominations who share a "committment to historic evagelical orthodoxy, and to the authority and sufficiency of the inerrant Scriptures." "Its empahsis is on 'word-for-word' correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original" (www.esv.org).


NEW ENGLISH BIBLE (NEB)

British Protestant churches set out to produce a completely new translation of the Bible, based on the Greek text, under the general directorship of C.H. Dodd (1961/70). It shows excellent scholarship and vigorous modern British style. The translators had access to all the important Greek manuscripts, including the major codices. It has recently undergone a thorough revision. It is good for general reading but is not literal enough for detailed study. Now revised as the REVISED ENGLISH BIBLE (REB).

NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV)
Evangelical. A translation of critical editions of the biblical texts by conservative, protestant biblical scholars published in 1973 (NT) and 1978 (HB), and periodically revised, the latest being 2011. It is based on a dynamic equivalence model and thus the text is very readable. It is recommended for reading large blocks of material. There is also a New International Readers Version (NIrV) which is for readers of English as a second language. In England a gender inclusive language edition was produced but has generally not caught on as well as the original NIV. In North America a gender inclusive language edition of the NIV - Todays New International Version" (TNIV, 2005) - is quite controversial among the conservative evangelical community (www.tniv.info/index.php).

JERUSALEM BIBLE (JB)
Catholic. 1966. Originally a French translation of the original languages. The English translation of the French was checked against the original languages, but sometimes the French is followed more closely than the original languages. It includes an abbreviated form of the original French notes. Although the English is a translation of a translation, it is still thought to have captured well the sense of the original. It is good for study and reading purposes.

NEW JERUSALEM BIBLE (NJB)
Catholic. Published in 1985, it is a completely new translation into English of the original Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible. It is a more literal translation than the original JB. The introductions and notes are revised and expanded to take account of recent advances in scholarship. Where some aspect of an interpretation of a text is involved in the translation, the interpretation chosen by the editors of the JB has generally been followed by the NJB. It reflects consistency in translation of similar synoptic passages and in using the same English word for a particular Greek or Hebrew word. Primarily a study Bible but it also reads well.

KING JAMES VERSION (KJV)
Also called the Authorized version, this text dates from 1611. It is a revision of the Bishop's Bible (which was somewhat based on the original languages) by a commission appointed by King James I. It was favourably received by the authorities and authorized to be read in the churches. It has had an important influence on English literature. However, it is based on III CE (or later) Byzantine Greek texts, which have subsequently proven to be fairly unreliable from a text critical perspective. The New King James Version (NKJV) updates the language of the KJV while preserving its basic literary structure. There is also The 21st Century King James Version (KJ21). None of these versions are recommended for study purposes due to the poor quality manuscripts upon which the translations are based.

THE LIVING BIBLE (TLB)
Fundamentalist. 1971. A paraphrase of the Bible done by one man, Kenneth Taylor, between 1962 and 1970. His sources were the English versions of the Bible available to him. He took many liberties in his modernization of the English text which often alters and distorts the biblical message. It has a fundamentalist theological bias and betrays a certain anti-semitism in places. Although it is a very popular version it is not recommended at all for study or general reading.

NEW LIVING TRANSLATION (NLT)
Conservative Evangelical. 1996. A translation of the original languages based on a dynamic equivalence model done by a large group of American evangelical scholars. Although marketed as a revision of the Living Bible (to capitalize on the earlier version's popularity) it represents a fresh, easy to read translation. It is better used for reading large amounts at a time than for detailed study of a text.

THE MESSAGE
Published in 1993, this is a loose paraphrase of the New Testament undertaken by a single person, Eugene Peterson, rather than a committee, that seekes to capture the expressiveness of the original languages. It is quite idiosyncratic and is not recommened for serious study of the Bible, despite its popularity for general reading.

REVISED STANDARD VERSION (RSV)
Commissioned in 1937 an authorized by the National Council of Churches, this American work is the best of various attempts to revise of the KJV and was published 1946 (NT) and 1952 (HB). It stays faithful to the KJV where possible, but uses modern scholarship, especially from textual criticism, and a good sense of English. Its two problems are that its loyalty to the KJV prevents the full play of modern critical knowledge and it retains much "Bible English." It was able to employ better Greek mss than its predecessor, particularly some that are both early and important. It is a fairly literal translation and thus good for study purposes.

NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION (NRSV)
True to its name, this is a revision of the RSV, taking full account of the most recent papyrological finds. The committee of scholars was able to break free from adherence to the KJV. It attempts to use inclusive gender language. It is somewhat quirky in its translation in a few places but generally it is a good choice for reading and study.

TODAY'S ENGLISH VERSION (TEV) = GOOD NEWS BIBLE (GNB)
Published in the 1966 (NT) and 1976 (HB) by the United Bible Societies. A translation of the original texts which does not use the traditional vocabulary and style found in English versions but "attempts in this century to set forth the Biblical content and message in standard, everyday form of English." A few "cultural" or "historical" notes are supplied to explain aspects of the texts. Available with or without the Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha. In some editions line drawings attempt to illustrate various aspects of the text. In 1990 a revised edition was published which attempted to use inclusive language and correct passages in which the translation was seen to be problematic or insensitive from either a stylistic or an exegetical point of view. Good for general reading and to supplement more literal translations for Bible study.



Revised Dec. 19, 2011