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My Top Bible Translations

Some of the Bible blogs I frequent have posted their top 10 Bible translations. So I thought I would do the same for the fun of it. My only problem was that I could not come up with 10 that I like or use. So, here are my top 7:

1. English Standard Version (ESV). I would have never believed that I would come to use this translation so much when I first purchased one a few years ago. Up until the release of the ESV I was using the NKJV. The ESV is easier to understand than the NKJV, built on better manuscripts, but maintains some of the formal readings that I am familiar with from growing up on the NKJV. As with any translation, I have some dislikes. Sometimes the sentence is awkward in the attempt to present the literal text. Otherwise, I simply love using the ESV.

2. Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). I do not understand why people do not like this translation. I guess it has a bad rap like some others. I find it to be very accurate, but more readable than the ESV. I would use the HCSB more if the Old Testament used “declares the Lord” rather than “This is the Lord’s declaration.” That sentence really ruins the force of the prophets’ message. I would also use the HCSB more if the conversations recorded in the New Testament were not broken by the narration. For example, Matthew 19:7 in the HCSB:

“Why then,” they asked Him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?”

Breaking the sentence with “they asked Him” is fine when reading to yourself but terrible for the public reading of the scriptures. The audience needs to know who is speaking before the sentence is read for comprehension. If I read from the HCSB, I always change the location of the speaker to the front of the sentence (e.g. “They asked Him, ‘Why then did Moses command…”). I hope these changes are made in the 2009 update. But I recently preached from the book of Ecclesiastes with the HCSB and found the translation to be excellent.

3. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). This is a forgotten translation that never really made it off the ground. Only a few denominations seem to really use this translation, along with the universities. I think the NRSV would do much better if there were some nice editions to choose from like the NIV and ESV have done. The choices for the NRSV are very limited. There are some strange readings for time to time. But overall, I still like it, use it, and study from it.

4. New American Standard Bible (NASB). Very useful for Bible study. It is hard to read aloud or to yourself because the sentences are frequently awkward. The translation is too wordy for me, with the translators often adding unnecessary words. There are times when I use the NASB, but I can usually find another translation that does an equal or better job. But still a good translation.

5. New Living Translation (NLT). The 2007 revisions were really good and the NLT is a very useable translation. In fact, I am finding many places where the translation is more literal than the NASB or ESV. I have not spent much time in the NLT, so it must stay low on the list. But overall, I like what I am reading. I plan to do more reviews of the NLT texts in the future. But if the NLT is not the 2007 revision, then I do not like it.

6. New King James Version (NKJV). I suppose everyone is partial to the version given to them by their parents. I still have the burgundy genuine leather bound NKJV Open Bible given to me on my 16th birthday (making the Bible 17 years old…side point… always buy genuine leather and not bonded leather when possible. It will last a long time.). I still use the NKJV from time to time and always use it for comparison when studying. The concise nature of the translation is still refreshing to me today. Unfortunately, it is built upon the Textus Receptus which lends itself to some inferior readings. But the NKJV is still good and trustworthy.

7. New International Version (NIV). There are a lot of passages I like in the NIV. The Old Testament is really good. But there are a number of spots where the NIV failed. I posted last month about 1 Corinthians 7:1 as a failure in translation by the NIV. I use the NIV for reference and preach from it on occasion. But the NIV is really the least used of the major translations I have.

Now, some of you will ask about the TNIV. I simply have not used the TNIV. A couple of weeks ago I received a gift certificate and I decided to purchase the TNIV Reference Bible (no genuine leather offered…blah). So I have committed myself to try the TNIV again when I finish my examination of the NLT. I plan to write about that trial in the future and some reasons why I have avoided the TNIV until this point. So, I have to leave the TNIV out because I do not use it. I don’t think anyone in my congregation uses the TNIV either. I wonder if the TNIV is going to successful, or simply be left to a small shelf in bookstores next to the NCV and GNT.

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