Which Bible Version Is Best?
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Bible version should I buy?
- Has God protected the King James Version from
- Is the King James Version the only Bible I should read?
- Is the King
James Version more accurate than modern translations?
- Why are some verses left
out of modern Bible translations?
- Why are Bible publishers allowed to copyright
- Have modern Bibles changed God's Word?
The Old Testament
The Old Testament (OT) of the Bible was originally written in the Hebrew language
with a few sections written in the Aramaic language. The OT contains the sacred
writings of the Jews and contains books of the Law, history of Israel, wisdom,
and prophecy. The events of the OT (excluding Genesis 1-11) occurred roughly between
1800 B.C. and 400 B.C. A Greek translation of the OT, called the Septuagint, was
produced between 200 and 100 B.C. for the benefit of Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria,
The Apocrypha, a group of fifteen late OT books, was written during the period
170 B.C. to 70 A.D. These Jewish books were included in many versions of the Septuagint
in circulation as the New Testament was being formed, but they were excluded
from the official canon of Judaism, established about 100 A.D. Today, the books
of the Apocrypha are included in Catholic versions of the OT, but not in most Protestant
versions. These books are also known as the deuterocanonical books.
The New Testament
The people of first century Palestine, including Jesus, spoke the Aramaic
language. However, early Christian writings were written entirely in Greek, the
universal language of the Roman Empire at that time. The books of the New
Testament (NT) were written during the period 50 A.D. to 100 A.D. The early church leaders gradually
assembled these writings into what is now known as the New Testament. They included
books they believed were written by eyewitnesses to the events narrated, while rejecting
many other early Christian writings. Eventually, the 27 books which form the present
New Testament, along with the OT books, became the Christian Bible as we know it
today. The New Testament canon was formally adopted by the Synod of Carthage in
During the early centuries A.D., Latin replaced Greek as the language of the
Roman Empire. In 405, a Latin translation of the Old and New Testaments was completed.
This version, known as the Vulgate, became the standard Bible of Christianity
for many centuries.
Bible ManuscriptsNone of the original writings of the OT or NT still
exist. They have long since been lost to decay, fires, wars and other causes.
However, they were copied and recopied many times over. Bible copies were made
entirely by hand until printing was invented in 15th century. As a result, there are many small variations among the many
ancient Bible manuscripts still in existence.
Many additional ancient Bible manuscripts
and fragments have been discovered since the late 1800's. The scientific
methods of paleography and radiocarbon dating can now determine approximately when
the thousands of different manuscripts were written. This new knowledge has
enabled newer translations based on the oldest and best ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.
The complete Bible has been translated into over 500 languages, and portions
exist in almost 3000 languages and dialects.
The first English language version of the full Bible was John Wycliffe's translation of
the Vulgate in 1384. Several other English versions followed,
including the Great Bible (1535) and Bishop's Bible (1568).
The King James Version
King James I of England commissioned a new translation in 1604. The work was
done by 47 Bible scholars of the Church of England and completed in 1611. It was
officially known as the Authorized Version (AV), but it was also known
informally as the King James Bible or King James Version (KJV). The KJV is considered a masterpiece
of English literature, both scholarly and stylistically. The KJV, itself, has been
updated several times: in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769.
Quotations from the KJV are found throughout English literature and music. The
archaic language and unfamiliar syntax of the KJV sound
majestic and give an impression of authority and originality.
Is the KJV the Best Version?
Some people believe the KJV is the most accurate or only authentic version of
the Bible. Some believe the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts the KJV translators
used were faithfully preserved by God or are the most accurate for some other reason.
Others say the translators of all later versions were biased or incompetent in one
way or another. Still others say the KJV is a literal and accurate translation while
later versions were rewritten to suit the biases of the publishers. Despite
some sentiment favoring the KJV, the
great majority of Bible scholars and Christians reject all these objections as being
based on faulty facts and reasoning, and they do not consider the KJV to be more
accurate or more sacred than other translations.
The team of 47 scholars who translated the KJV did an excellent job.
However, the English language has changed a lot in the more than 400 years since it
was published. The vocabulary is outdated. Pronouns and verb tenses have changed
since then. Many KJV words and phrases, such as Lord of hosts, sabaoth,
emerods and concupiscence, would not be meaningful to
today. Worse, many other KJV words, such as charity, trespass,
profit, cousin, and remission, have different primary meanings
today than they did in 1611, and could mislead the reader. As a result, many
people find the KJV quite difficult to read and understand.
Modern Bible Versions
Twentieth century developments in archaeology,
scientific dating methods and Biblical scholarship have yielded new knowledge
about the Bible. Modern Bibles are translated from a set of ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts
that is believed to be older and closer to the originals than those that were
used as the basis for the KJV.
Advantages of Modern Translations
Although the newer translations are believed to be more accurate than the KJV,
the differences are minor. No significant changes of belief or interpretation would
result from the many minor corrections. The main advantage of the modern translations
is that they are written in modern English so the reader will not be mystified or
misled by the archaic English of the KJV. The mainstream modern Bible versions have
been translated by teams of highly qualified Bible scholars who have diligently done their
very best to convey the true meaning of the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts
to the modern reader. These modern translations have been adopted by many churches,
both Protestant and Catholic, for use in worship.
It is often pointed out that modern translations omit a few of the verses found
in the KJV, and this is sometimes believed to be an attempt to distort the Bible's
teachings. However, the real reason is that certain verses are not found in the oldest
and best Bible manuscripts. Thus, they are omitted to accurately preserve the original
Bible text. (The chapter and verse numbers were added to the Bible in the Middle
Ages; they were not part of the original Bible manuscripts. Thus, an omitted verse
does not mean that something was omitted from the original writings.)
Some of these extra verses were added to certain manuscript copies as margin
notes or as prayers for use in public worship. Those manuscripts were then copied
and recopied without making it clear that the extra verses were later additions.
The most famous example is the doxology, "For thine is the kingdom, and the
power, and the glory, forever. Amen." that the KJV adds to the Lord's Prayer
in Matthew 6:13. That phrase is not found in any of the oldest manuscripts of Matthew.
Another objection to some modern versions, such as the New Revised Standard
Version (NRSV) and the 2011 New International Version (NIV), is the use
of "gender-neutral" or "gender-inclusive" language. The change in translation is because of a change
in the way English is commonly spoken. It is traditional in English to use
masculine words ("a man," "he," "him") as a generic form to include both sexes,
but the modern trend is to use a gender-neutral expression ("a person," "he or
she," "him or her," "they," "them") when both sexes are included.
Thus, Romans 3:28 has traditionally been translated into English as "… a man is
justified by faith …" However, the original Greek word
anthropos means "human being" and applies equally to both sexes.
So, the NRSV and NIV have translated this verse as "… a person is justified
by faith …" to convey the inclusive nature of the original Greek
The KJV translates John 13:20 as, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth
whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent
me." The NRSV changes the "he" to "whoever" to show that
the original text applied equally to men and women, but the "him" that
applies to God is left as masculine: "Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives
one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me."
Publishers of gender-neutral Bibles are quick to point out that these are not "politically
correct" or "feminist" Bibles. They have used gender-neutral language
only where it would have been understood that way in the original Hebrew and Greek
Most of the modern Bible versions are protected by copyright law.
Some people question whether it is right to copyright God's Word. However, the experts who do the work have bills to pay
and families to support like everyone else. Their salaries are paid from sales
of their work. Without copyright
protection, unscrupulous publishers could copy and sell a Bible version without
paying any of the proceeds to the men and women who did the work.
Here is a list of some excellent modern translations, in
The New American Bible (NAB) is the official Catholic version
of the Bible in the United States, and it is written in very modern English.
The books of the Apocrypha are incorporated into the Old Testament of
Catholic Bibles. Otherwise, this translation does
not differ significantly from modern Protestant Bibles.
The New American Standard Bible (NASB), published in 1971,
is a scholarly update of the 1901 American Standard Version. Sponsored by the
Lockman Foundation, the translators used the best available Greek and Hebrew
texts as a guide.
The New International Version of the Bible (NIV), a completely
new translation of ancient Greek and Hebrew texts sponsored by the New York
International Bible Society, was published in 1978 and revised in 2011. Its clear, direct modern
English makes it easy to read and understand. The 2011 edition incorporated
The New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), published by
The National Council of Churches in 1989, is an update of the highly regarded
Revised Standard Version of 1952. The language is very modern, but the style
is more traditional than the NIV. The NRSV uses gender-neutral language in
places where it would have been understood that way in the original
NRSV is also available in Catholic editions and Anglicized Editions.
The Revised English Bible (REB) is a British edition published
by Oxford University Press in 1989. The translators have written in a style
suitable for use in worship, while maintaining intelligibility for people of
a wide range of ages and backgrounds.
In addition to the translations above, there are a number
of paraphrased Bible versions which were translated "thought-by-thought"
instead of more literally. The translators have written in a style that is thoroughly
modern and these Bibles are suitable for all ages and very easy to understand. By
nature, though, these paraphrased versions involve some interpretation that is subject
The Living Bible (TLB), published in 1971, is a popular paraphrased
version written by Kenneth N. Taylor, who began this version to help his own
children understand the New Testament Letters of Paul.
The New Living Translation (NLT), published in 1996, is a thought-by-thought
translation by 90 Bible scholars from various theological backgrounds and denominations.
It is similar to The Living Bible, but the language is more traditional.
There are also several Bible editions that include helpful study
The Catholic Study Bible Second Edition contains the complete NAB Bible plus
a Reading Guide for each book, study notes and short essays to help with
Life Application Study Bible is available in NIV, NLT and NASB editions.
It contains the complete Bible plus extensive study notes emphasizing application
to everyday life.
NLT Study Bible contains the complete NLT Bible plus extensive study notes
to help with understanding.
How to Study the Bible,
Summary and History of the Bible,
What Is the Difference Between Protestant and Catholic Bibles?