Bible Translations

Why are there so many English translations of the Bible?

The English language is a spoken language which continues to change. Between 1993 and 2003, Merriam-Webster made 100,000 changes and added more than 10,000 words and phrases to its collegiate dictionary.

To aid you in making a Bible selection we have compiled information on the different English Bible translations available.   (View Bible Translation Chart )

King James Version (KJV, 1611)
Reading Level 12.0
Difficult to read due to 17th century English vocabulary and word order.
Number of Translators: 54
Translation Philosophy: Word-for-word
Distinctive: Traditionally loved and accepted by all Christians. Purpose in translation was “to deliver God’s book unto God’s people in a tongue which they can understand.”

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

New King James Version (NKJV, 1982)
Reading Level 9.0
Easier word usage, but somewhat choppy because it maintains 17th century sentence structure.
Number of Translators: 119
Translation Philosophy: Authors used the original KJV as a benchmark, while working to produce an accurate and modern word-for-word translation
Distinctive: A modern language update of the original KJV. Purpose was to update and modernize the original KJV but preserve the KJV as much as possible.
New American Bible (NAB, 1970)
Reading Level 6.6
A clear and straightforward translation that reads smoothly. Written in basic American English.
Number of Translators: 55
Translation Philosophy: Word-for-word
Distinctive: Published under the direction of pop Pius XII, this Catholic version of the Bible represents more than 25 years of effort by the Catholic Biblical Association of America. All editions include the Deutercanonical/Apocryphal books.
New American Standard Bible (NASV, 1995) – Reading Level 11.0
Formal style, but more readable than the KJV.
Number of Translators: 54
Translation Philosophy: Word-for-word
Distinctive: A revision of the American Standard Version of 1901. Incorporates recent discoveries of Hebrew and Greek textual sources and renders the ASV into more current English.
New American Bible (NAB, 1970)
Reading Level 6.6
A clear and straightforward translation that reads smoothly. Written in basic American English.
Number of Translators: 55
Translation Philosophy: Word-for-word
Distinctive: Published under the direction of Pope Pius XII, this Catholic version of the Bible represents more than 25 years of effort by the Catholic Biblical Association of America. All editions include the Deutercanonical/Apocryphal books.
New American Standard Bible (NASV, 1995) – Reading Level 11.0
Formal style, but more readable than the KJV.
Number of Translators: 54
Translation Philosophy: Word-for-word
Distinctive: A highly respected, formal translation of the Bible. Purpose of the work was to update the American Standard Version, published in 1901, into more current English. Published in 1971, updated in 1995. The most literal is now more readable.
New International Version (NIV, 1978)
Reading Level 7.8
A highly accurate and smooth-reading version in Modern English.
Number of Translators: 115
Translation Philosophy: Balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought.
Distinctive: Widely accepted by evangelical Christians. Purpose in translation was to “produce an accurate translation, suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and liturgical use.
Today’s New International Version (TNIV, 2004) – Reading Level 8.0
A highly readable, accurate translation written in Modern English.
Number of Translators: 115
Translation Philosophy: Balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought.
Distinctive: Based on the NIV, this translation combines uncompromising accuracy with the clarity of contemporary language.
New International Reader’s Version (NIrV, 1994) – Reading Level 2.9
Very easy to read and understand; uses simple, short words and sentences.
Number of Translators: 11
Translation Philosophy: Balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought, an emphasis on meaning when necessary for simplification.
Distinctive: A thorough, scholarly simplification of the NIV, the NIrV was specifically designed to help young children and new readers understand the Bible for themselves. The NIV for kids – published in 1994 and updated in 1998.
English Standard Version (ESV, 2001)
Reading Level 8.0
Literal style, but more readable than the KJV.
Number of Translators: 100+
Translation Philosophy: Word-for-word
Distinctive: A literal update of the Revised Standard Version, seeks to produce a word-for-word correspondence.
The Message (MESS, 2003) – Reading Level 4.8
An easy-to-read, modern-language paraphrase.
Number of Translators: 1,  Eugene H. Peterson
Translation Philosophy: Thought-for-thought. Converts the original languages into the tone and rhythms of modern-day American speech while retaining the idioms and meaning of the original languages.
Distinctive: This paraphrase was translated using the rhythms and tone of contemporary English to communicate to the modern reader.
New Jerusalem Bible (NJB, 1985)
Reading Level 7.4
Highly literary, inclusive, modern language.
Number of Translators: 36
Translation Philosophy: Balance between word translation and meaning.
Distinctive: An updated version of the 1966 Jerusalem Bible. The NJB is the official English language text used in Catholic liturgy outside the United States.
Good News Translation (GNT, 1976)
Reading Level 6.0
Very simple, readable version without jargon. Uses a limited vocabulary.
Number of Translators: project of the American Bible Society
Translation Philosophy: Thought-for-thought.
Distinctive: “A translation intended for people everywhere for whom English is either their mother tongue or an acquired language.”
Contemporary English Version (CEV, 1985)
Reading Level 5.4
Clear, simple English that a child can understand, but with a mature style that adults can appreciate.
Number of Translators: 100 +/- Project of the American Bible Society
Translation Philosophy: Thought-for-thought.
Distinctive: A translation that aims to make complex concepts understandable and accessible to young and old including first-time readers. Designed to be read easily and understood upon first hearing it read.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV, 1989)
Reading Level 10.4
Contemporary, dignified with generic language with reference to humans.
Number of Translators: 30
Translation Philosophy: Balance between word-for-word and thought-for thought.
Distinctive: A widely accepted translation in the tradition of the KJV. Purpose was to “make a good one better.”
New Living Translation (NLT, 1996)
Reading Level 6.3
A readable translation; uses vocabulary and language structures commonly used by the average person.
Number of Translators: 90
Translation Philosophy: Translators were involved in bringing the classic Living Bible from it’s status as a paraphrase to a thought-for-thought translation of Scripture.
Distinctive: Scholars and stylists went back to the original languages and sought to produce the equivalent of the message in natural contemporary English.