Posts Tagged ‘king james’

Which Bible Should I Read?

February 9, 2009


If you visit the local Christian bookstore or other book retailer you are likely to find several different translations of the Bible. The most popular are the KJV (King James Version), NKJV (New King James Version), and the NIV (New International Version). Others include the ASV (American Standard Version), RSV (Revised Standard Version),  and somewhat newer in this same line of translations, the ESV (English Standard Version). So which one do you choose?

First, let me say that all of the translations above are valuable in my opinion. None of them are heretical and the same is true for some other versions not mentioned above, so don’t freak out if yours wasn’t mentioned. The test for any good translation is does it faithfully translate from the original languages: Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. I know that some of you reading this are well versed in one or more of these languages and could find fault with any or all of the versions I have mentioned, but for those that aren’t you should know that those versions are widely used by very conservative theologians and you can trust them too. The variations between them are mostly instances of either using the word “boat” or “ship”. This isn’t to say that there aren’t bad versions out there because there are, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the above.

The KJV is by far the most popular and wide spread, but sadly it is also the most intimidating to read. Seventeenth century British English is not the easiest to read for most people and although there are many Christians and churches who fear a modern English version and claim that the KJV is somehow blessed beyond others ignore the fact that it is only a translation written six centuries after the fact. If we really wanted to be a stickler for absolute authority we’d all have to learn at least three ancient languages and even then we would fall short because we don’t have an original letter inked by Paul, just copies. I will give the KJV some credit in spite of its archaic language and admittedly poor translations at times (unicorn – look it up). It is the most beautiful to memorize.

The NIV came around in the 70s and does a pretty good job. You just have to realize that it translates using a method called dynamic equivalency. It translates the originals idea for idea and not quite literal word for word, which means that it interprets as it goes. Still, as I said, it isn’t awful or filled with heresy.

The “standard” versions, ASV, RSV and ESV are written in modern English and are very easy to read. For my personal devotions and study, I use the ESV. The precedent for reading the Bible in the current language comes from Jesus himself, who often quoted the septuagint, a Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Within each version there are numerous types, such as devotional, study, men’s, women’s. These attributes merely reflect the extra bottom or side margin commentaries. The best advice I can give is find something you are comfortable with and read it.