Bible Versions

For English-speaking people there are lots of versions of the Bible available. This document comments on various popular versions.

John Robertshaw  

English Bibles

Some are careful translations by a team of scholars, others are free paraphrases by individuals. Some are useful for careful study, others are better for reading to get the gist of the Bible story. They can conveniently be divided into these types:

Word-for-Word Translations

These formal equivalence versions  attempt to translate a word from the original Hebrew or Greek with an equivalent English word. They are literal translations.

Feature of these translations are:

  • Good for detailed Bible study.
  • Can be quite formal and awkward to read.
  • You feel near to the original language.
  • You can use with a Strong's Concordance which enables you to quickly find which Hebrew or Greek word is being used.
  • You can also use an interlinear New Testament which has the original Greek above the English text.


  • KJV King James Version or AV Authorised Version (Traditional English Bible)
  • NKJV New King James Version (Updated KJV)
  • NASB New American Standard Bible (Sometimes considered to be the most accurate word-for-word translation but a little old-fashioned)
  • RSV Revised Standard Version (Traditional translation)
  • NRSV New Revised Standard Version (Updated RSV with inclusive language)
  • ESV English Standard Version (Very readable and modern word-for-word translation)

Thought-for-Thought Translations

These dynamic equivalence versions attempt to translate the ideas more than the precise words.

Features of these translations are:

  • They are easy to read and understand.
  • Good for personal Bible study, reading and church use.


  • NIV New International Version (Very popular translation in straightforward modern English. It falls between word-for-word and thought-for-though. There are many Bible study resources available for the NIV.)
  • NLT New Living Translation (Modern, readable translation in simple English)
  • GNB Good News Bible or TEV Today's English Version (Uses a limited vocabulary and useful for non-native English speakers and children. Well known for its line drawings.)


These are loose translations for getting the general gist of the Bible. They often use modern expressions.

Features of these paraphrases are:

  • They are suitable for general reading but not for close Bible study.
  • Sometimes gives you a new angle on a Bible passage.
  • Can be fun to read.
  • Sometimes more like a commentary than a translation.
  • Paraphrases are often criticised by scholars for being too loose in translation.
  • Best not to use as your only Bible!


  • TLB The Living Bible (A personal paraphrase of the Bible)
  • MSG The Message (A very loose personal paraphrase)
  • TPT The Passion Translation (Although it is called a translation, it is more a paraphrase by one person with an agenda to emphasise God's fiery heart of love to this generation.)
Last Edited: 2018-12-30   

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