- I realize Voices published a post on this several years ago, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss this topic again. This week on his blog Thom Rainer published the list of best-selling Bible translations as of 2020. This list came from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.
Rankings as January 2020 (numbers in parentheses are 2011 rankings)
- New International Version (NIV) (1)
- King James Version (KJV) (2)
- New Living Translation (NLT) (4)
- English Standard Version (ESV) (5)
- New King James Version (NKJV) (3)
- Christian Standard Bible (CSB) (6)
- Reina Valera (RV) (not ranked)
- New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) (9)
- The Message (Message) (8)
- New American Standard Bible (NASB) (7)
Our senior pastor and I both preach from the New King James Version. We do that because we have lots of older folks who carry the King James. The NKJV is close enough to the KJV that they don’t get lost. The senior pastor often quotes from the NLT, and he told me he would prefer to use that, assuming personal preference was the only factor.
Drs. Steve Gaines (Bellevue Baptist) and Robert Jeffress (FBC Dallas) both preach from the NASB. Steve Gaines often quotes from the NLT, and Bellevue gives copies of the NLT to new members.
The Christian Standard Bible is a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The new Tony Evans Study Bible uses the CSB. When the Holman Christian Standard Bible was published, I read it some. It seemed very similar to the NIV to me. I wonder if our Voices readers have opinions about the CSB, compared to the HCSB.
If someone told me I could use what I please, I would use the English Standard Bible. I’ve used that a lot in my personal devotions, and I really like it. The professors and students at Southern Seminary seem to prefer the ESB. The ESB Study Bible is a great study Bible. The ESV is published by Crossway. That company purchased the rights to the Revised Standard Version from the National Council of Churches. Then, they employed a number of evangelical Bible scholars to update and modify the RSV. The result was the ESV.
As a missionary and professor of missions, I’ve experienced and taught about Bible translation. There are two primary approaches to translation: literal and dynamic. Literal translations try to stay as close to the original languages as possible. Sometimes, this is called a word for word translation. It is never possible to do word for word exactly because the word order is different in every language. Dynamic translation seeks to translate thought for thought; or, to put it another way, those translations seek to prompt the same response. You could place the Bibles above on a scale from very literal to very dynamic. The NASB is the most literal Bible on the list. Folks often ask me about which English Bible is closest to the Greek and Hebrew. The NASB is the one I mention. Of course, Eugene Peterson’s The Message is a paraphrase. So, it is absolutely dynamic. The NIV is a good example of a dynamic translation. The NLT is dynamic, while the NKJV and ESV are literal. The CSB occupies a middle position, in my opinion.
As a youth, someone gave me a copy of J. B. Phillips’ paraphrase of the New Testament—The New Testament in Modern English. I read that again and again with great enjoyment and profit. I suggest to my seminary students that they periodically change the translation they read for their personal devotions. I believe that keeps Bible study fresh. Finally, if you go walking or jogging or work out regularly, you might think about downloading the Bible onto a device. That way you can listen to the Bible while you exercise.
Well, what say you? Which translation do you prefer?