Which Bible Translation Do You Read?

There are dozens of English translations and versions of the Bible.

There are formal equivalency versions (word-for-word) and dynamic equivalency versions (thought-for-thought).  On the far end of the thought-for-thought variety is a particularly concerning type of translation called paraphrasing.  A couple of versions exist on that end, the Living Bible and the most extreme, The Message.

Delight in Truth highly recommends the English Standard Version for older children and adults.  It contains sentence structure at the 8-9th grade level, it is very easy to read, and it is very adequate for Bible study because it is close to the word-for-word approach.

The New International Version (NIV) is also suitable for reading, but much less suitable for Bible study due to a more thought-for-thought approach.  It is written closer to the 7th grade level of competency.  This is one the reasons many recommend the NIV for younger children or new converts.

I would still recommend the ESV for middle school children because of it is true to the original text and easy to read.

Traditionally, the most popular version is the King James Authorized Version (KJV), a beautifully translated Bible in 1611 which has stood the test of time.  However, its archaic language places it at the 12th grade level (or perhaps college level).  It contains the thous, thees, and medieval English verb conjugations.

Are any of the translations in mainstream use today bad?

John Piper was asked that question and he said that any translation is better than no translation.  While that may be correct, one needs to know that extreme thought-for-thought and paraphrase translations insert the translator’s theology and perspective into the Word of God.  That is not a good thing because it dilutes and even changes the message.

I will provide one passage from the ESV followed by the same passage in the Message to illustrate the contrast

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (ESV)

“Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.” (The Message)

What a difference! 

The Message does not mention homosexuality and the other sinful lifestyles, but it inserts the environmental agenda in there.  So, the word of God is twisted to fit the flesh and liberal agenda of progressive Christians.

Examine the chart below and see where your translation of the Bible falls.

15 comments on “Which Bible Translation Do You Read?

  1. That Message Bible is a mess. “May the God of green hope fill you with love…” Green hope? Mr. Peterson definitely had his own agenda. One of the churches I attend uses the KJV although not exclusively, and the other uses the NASB. I don’t have an ESV bible, but I have access to Bible Gateway and I will check it out in the future. I’ve been aware that this is your favorite for awhile now. It sounds like a very good translation. I will use it on my blog the next time I have an opportunity.

    God’s blessings, Delight.

  2. I don’t see any mention of the NKJV, I was looking forward to getting the Jeremiah study Bible, but it’s only available in NKJV not ESV.

    • There may be literary qualities in the NKJV that make it sound more pleasing. It may be superior in that…

      However, I wanted to be able to go deeper into Bible study, and for that purpose there are mainly two modern versions: the NASB and ESV, simply because they are more true to the original word-for-word text. They may sound a little more choppy because of that, but I really don’t find that to an issue at all…

      Now… the interlinear on biblehub.com, that is choppy 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on The Narrowing Path and commented:
    A great article from Delight in Truth…I may have to confess my bias however. I am rather partial to the ESV, and rather nauseated by The Message (which I personally cannot refer to as a Bible). I have recently been enoying some writing that uses the Homan Christian Study Bible. Either way, the arrow diagram gives a pretty good idea of what to stay away from.

  4. Eek, came across this looking for another version of Hebrews 12:

    From The Message:

    1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

    4–11 In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

    Wow, need I say more? Here is the ESV comparison:

    1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and xlet us run ywith endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, awho for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and cis seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

    Do Not Grow Weary

    3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

    No wonder there are entire churches blinded to the truth. “The Message” is indeed a spiritual message, but it doesn’t appear to be from God, or in fact be a Bible.

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