Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bible Version Preferences

     I  am  frequently  asked,  which  version  of  the Bible  do I  prefer for general
reading, and sermon or  Bible  class  preparation? Actually,  no  single version is
"perfect" for each of  these  categories.  It is often the case that a translation that
reads smoothly is not  the  best text for "technical"  study. It is likewise true that
a translation that is good for study may not read smoothly.

     I  do  have some 'Bible version preferences," and I will briefly indicate what
they are and give the reasons for my choices.

     For  general  reading  I  prefer  the  2011  edition  of  the New International
Version. It is second to none with regard to readability. It strikes a good balance
between readability and overall accuracy. It is not a paraphrase as some of its
critics often allege! It strives to be an idiomatic version, that is, it tries to say in
modern  English, what  is  stated  in  the  Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. It
succeeds most of the time. There are times that the NIV-2011, like all other
translations, uses paraphrase, but it is not a paraphrase. The 1984 edition of the
NIV is good, but it is no longer widely available. I believe, based on my own
research, that the 2011 edition is as readable as the 1984 edition and that it has
a good degree of overall accuracy.

     For study purposes  I  prefer  the  1901  American  Standard Version. I am
aware that it often uses  archaic  English, but  I  mentally  or orally update the
language as I work through it . I am also aware that it is very "literal" and often
reflects the "form" of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. But that is what
I expect when I  am  studying  an  English translation. And that is what I love
about the old ASV. It isn't without its faults, but I am convinced that it is the
best English version for study purposes. Star Bible in Fort Worth, Texas has
recently begun republishing the ASV. It would, in my judgment, be worth the
investment to obtain a copy at least to compare it to the version you currently
use. Charles Spurgeon's assessment of the ASV New Testament still holds true,
"Strong  in  Greek,  weak  in  English."   Many  of   the   modern   exegetical
commentaries still use it as a point of reference. The New American Standard
Bible is also useful though it is not as modified-literal nor as accurate as the

     There are a few versions that stand between the NIV-2011 and the ASV.
I call them "mediating" versions.  They  tend  to  be  good  for  both general
reading and study. The Revised Standard Version,  New Revised Standard
Version,  and  the  English Standard Version are in this category. The "best"
of the three is the ESV. The ESV is generally an excellent translation. The
NRSV finds greater acceptance in academic circles. Many of the translation
choices made by the NRSV are outstanding. The main problem with the
NRSV is its tendency to butcher English in order to avoid masculine oriented
language. It is an "inclusive" version, and this sometimes leads to inaccurate
translation choices. The NIV-2011 does a far better job with gender accurate

     Based on my personal research, I am currently convinced that the NIV-2011
is, generally speaking, a good idiomatic version, and the ASV is a very accurate
modified-literal  version. They  approach  translation  method  from  different
perspectives, and this is what makes them great companion texts. I also believe 
the ESV is an accurate version in part because it is based on the RSV, which
was not nearly as bad as many allege. The NRSV is also worthy of study and
the translators used excellent Hebrew and Greek texts for their work. The
student of the scriptures can learn Yahweh's will by using any of the versions
I have mentioned, if they will diligently think through the text and obey it. 
                                                                                                      R. Daly
Copyright 2015