Depending on how one distinguishes a different Bible version from a revision of an existing Bible version, there are as many as 50 different English versions of the Bible. Is there really a need for so many different English versions of the Bible? The answer is no, there is no need for 50 different English versions of the Bible. This is especially true considering that there are hundreds of languages into which the entire Bible has not yet been translated. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with there being multiple versions of the Bible in a language. In fact, multiple versions of the Bible can actually be an aid in understanding the message of the Bible, providing these translations are precise. To be clear, translations are NOT inspired by God, just the original text is. Translations often have an etymology problem. The most important thing to do when reading any translations is to ask the Holy Spirits guidance and do the homework on context.
There are two primary reasons for the different English Bible versions. (1) Over time, the English language changes/develops, making updates to an English version necessary. If a modern reader were to pick up a 1611 King James Version of the Bible, he would find it to be virtually unreadable. Everything from the spelling, to syntax, to grammar, to phraseology is very different. Linguists state that the English language has changed more in the past 400 years than the Greek language, (which the New Testament is written) has changed in the past 2,000 years. Several times in church history, believers have gotten “used” to a particular Bible version and become fiercely loyal to it, resisting any attempts to update/revise it. This occurred with the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, and more recently, the King James Version. Fierce loyalty to a particular version of the Bible may be illogical and counterproductive. When the Bible was written, it was written in the common language of the people at that time.
(2) There are different translation methodologies for how to best render the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into English. Some Bible versions translate as literally (word-for-word) as possible, commonly known as formal equivalence. Some Bible versions translate less literally, in more of a thought-for-thought method, commonly known as dynamic equivalence. All of the different English Bible versions are at different points of the formal equivalence vs. dynamic equivalence spectrum. The New American Standard Bible and the King James Version would be to the far end of the formal equivalence side, while paraphrases such as The Living Bible and The Message would be to the far end of the dynamic equivalence side.
The advantage of formal equivalence is that it minimizes the translator inserting his/her own interpretations into the passages. The disadvantage of formal equivalence is that it often produces a translation so woodenly literal that it is not easily readable/understandable. The advantage of dynamic equivalence is that it usually produces a more readable/understandable Bible version. The disadvantage of dynamic equivalence is that it sometimes results in “this is what I think it means” instead of “this is what it says.” Some argue that neither method is right or wrong.
Bible is translations attempt to translate into how a people/language group speaks/reads at that time, not how it spoke hundreds of years ago. However, the most important thing a translator can do, is use literal translations, “formal equivalence.” To do anything else is to attempt to act in the gap of understanding under the auspices of offering clarity. The problem with this thinking is that it places man in the role of the Holy Spirit.
“These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:25-27
Example: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3
The word Meek in English today means “quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive.” When God used this word in Hebrew about Moses, it meant power under control. If you use the same words during a translation without consideration to the original meanings or context, you will get a different understanding of the text. For this reason, translations are not inspired by God, just the original text, translations often have an etymology problem.
Despite the irregularities, most Bible translations attempt to balance the two methodologies of formal and dynamic equivalence. This discipline inserts personal interpretation into scripture and creates massive confusion among those who study the Bible, and creates schisms within the body of Christ.
Listed below are the most common English versions of the Bible. In choosing which Bible version(s) you are going to use/study, do research, discuss with Christians you respect, read the Bibles for yourself, and ultimately, ask the Lord for wisdom regarding what you read.
King James Version (KJV) New International Version (NIV) New American Standard Bible (NASB) New King James Version (NKJV) English Standard Version (ESV) New Living Translation (NLT) Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) New Century Version (NCV) What is The Voice translation of the Bible? New English Bible (NEB) American Standard Version (ASV) Good News Bible (GNB) / Today’s English Version (TEV) Amplified Bible (AMP) Today’s New International Version (TNIV) New English Translation (NET) Lexham English Bible (LEB)? Revised Standard Version (RSV) Contemporary English Version (CEV) God’s Word Translation (GW) Common English Bible (CEB) What is the Recovery Version of the Bible? New International Readers Version (NIrV) Easy-To-Read Version (ERV) Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) Bible in Basic English (BBE) Berean Study Bible (BSB) 21st Century King James Version (KJ21) What is the Modern King James Version (MKJV)? What is the Modern English Version (MEV)? World English Bible (WEB) Revised English Bible (REB) Jerusalem Bible (JB) New American Bible (NAB) The Living Bible (TLB) The Message (MSG) Pure Word Bible (PWB) Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) Wycliffe Bible Tyndale Bible Coverdale Bible Matthew Bible Great Bible The Bishops' Bible Douay-Rheims Version (DRV) What is the Luther Bible? Geneva Bible