How to Choose a Bible Translation

There are many translations. Is one of them the best? Actually there are a number of very helpful English translations of ancient Hebrew. Aramaic, and Greek texts of the Bible. Your personal choice will depend on some of your particular needs and purposes in reading the Bible.

If you look at several Bibles in a library or bookstore it may be helpful to:

  • Look at a few verses that may be familiar to you such as Genesis 1:1; Psalms 23; John 3:16; or Romans 8:28. How does this translation’s arrangement of words convey something in God’s Word that is old and steady and something that is new and fresh?
  • Look at the flow of a whole passage that takes five minutes to read, like the story of the Creation, Adam, and Eve in Genesis 2:4 – 3:24, or like the seven letters of challenge and hope in Revelation 2:1 – 3:22. How does the wording and style of the whole passage bring God’s Word into your own world as you see it and know it every day?
The following are examples of some popular translations as they apply to the Scripture passage, Psalm 23:1-3
King James Version (KJV, 1611)
1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want
2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3. He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
New King James Version (NKJV, 1982)
1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside the still waters.
3. He restores my soul:
He leads me in paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
New American Bible (NAB, 1970)
1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2. In verdant pastures He gives me repose;
Beside restful waters He leads me;
3. He refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
For His name’s sake.
New American Standard Bible (NASB, 1995)
1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside quiet waters.
3. He restores my soul:
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.
New International Version (NIV, 1978)
1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quite waters.
3. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.
Today’s New International Version (NIV, 2004)
1. The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quite waters,
3. he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
English Standard Version (ESV, 2001)
1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
The Message (MESS 2003)
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quite pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
New Jersalem Bible (NJB, 1985)
1. Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2. In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
3. To restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice
As befits his name.
Revised English Bible (REB, 1989)
1. The Lord is my shepherd; I lack for nothing.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me to water where I may rest;
3. He revives my spirit;
For his name’s sake he guides me in the right paths.
Good News Translation (GNT, 1976) (also known as Today’s English Version)
1. The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
2. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and
leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
3. He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised.
Contemporary English Version (CEV, 1995)
1. You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need.
2. You let me rest in fields of green grass.
You lead me to streams of peaceful water,
3. And you refresh my life.
You are true to your name, and
you lead me along the right paths.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV, 1989)
1. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he
leads me beside still waters;
3. He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
For his name’s sake.
New Living Translation (NLT, 1996)
1. The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
2. He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3. He renews my strength.
He leads me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Conclusion
Which translation would provide the best focus for your Bible reading? Would simple, direct language, or richly elevated language style be more helpful for you? Each of these translations can bring God’s Word into a very diverse world that needs God’s message today. Depending on your particular needs, your choice of translations can help your Bible reading to be more fruitful.   Download a copy of Bible Translation Chart.