History of Bible Translations
The Bible was originally written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Unless you were fluent in those languages, the original text needed to be translated into the English language in order to understand the Bible.
Here's a brief history of Bible translations. The first translation of the New Testament into Middle English was completed by John Wycliffe in 1384. In 1526, the Tyndale Bible was the first New Testament printed in the English language. The Geneva Bible added numbered verses to each chapter and was printed in 1560.
In 1611, the King James Version (KJV) was printed and became the most popular and widely used English Bible ever published. However, the KJV's use of Elizabethan-era English makes it difficult to comprehend today.
In 1901, the American Standard Version (ASV) became the first major American revision of the KJV. Using the ASV as the base text, the Living Bible was published in 1971 and continues to be one of the most popular paraphrase Bibles. In 1973, the New International Version (NIV) was published as a "Modern and Accurate Phrase for Phrase English Translation" and is currently the most popular Bible translation. In 1996, finding its roots from the Living Bible, the New Living Translation (NLT) was published and was based on Hebrew and Greek original texts.
The NIV, KJV and NLT consistently are the most widely used English Bible translations. According to Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), the top Bible translations for 2020 are as follows:
- New International Version (NIV)
- King James Version (KJV)
- New Living Translation (NLT)
- English Standard Version (ESV)
- New King James Version (NKJV)
- Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
- Reina Valera (RV) (Spanish)
- New International Reader's Version (NIrV)
- The Message (Message)
- New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Bible Translation Categories
Word-for-Word (Formal equivalent): The focus is accuracy. These translations focus on being as close as possible to the wording and grammar of the original text. This is a good choice for people who want to read in the form of the original text.
Thought for Thought (Dynamic equivalent): These translations are less literal from a word-for-word perspective. The primary goal is understandability, focusing more on the idea and the meaning of the original text while trying to maintain accuracy. Many new readers find these translations easier to read and understand.
Paraphrase: Created from the authorâ€™s interpretation of the Bible rather than an actual translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek original text. For example, one of the most popular paraphrase Bibles, the Living Bible, used the American Standard Version as the base text and was written to be readily understood by a typical reader without any theological background.
So, which Bible should I choose since there are so many different translations? Here is John 3:16 in the top 4 Bible translations. NIV, NLT, ESV and KJV
- New International Version
- King James Version
- New Living Translation
- English Standard Version
- New King James Version
- Christian Standard Bible
- New International Reader's Version
- Reina Valera
- New American Standard Bible
- The Message