chnbible2I received the following question:

I was wondering what you think of versions of the Bible in English.  The top three that I have come to find would be the ESV, NASB, and possibly the KJV.  They seem to be the most literal versions, of which I like over non-literal versions, but they definitely aren’t perfect in themselves.  I currently use the ESV.  What do you think about the English versions?  Would you consider there to be one that is the “best”?  Which is your primary version?

Which version is, indeed, a difficult thing to say. I cannot recommend any version as being perfect, as the Divine English Version has not been written. I could point to errors with any version.

That said, I absolutely agree that I prefer more literal translations. I have used the KJV quite a bit, but its language is rather archaic. This does not bother me, though I know it does bother some people. If you don’t care about the antiquated English, this is a great version to use.

I have heard good things about the NASB, but have not really used it much myself. I have thought about getting one.

I have not considered the ESV much. In a brief check against the NASB, I could not find it better than the NASB.

The version I use when I want more modern English than the KJV is the NKJV. This is for several reasons. One is that in most cases I prefer the Received Text of the Greek New Testament, which most of the modern English versions do not use, but the NKJV does. That is not to say that I don’t think the more modern text is not right a few times, but I usually end up siding with the Received Text. The NKJV does fix some of the textual errors in the Greek used by the old King James.

Secondly, I think that the NKJV is very honest with the text in a literal way. The few passages I checked now, I liked the NKJV better than either the NASB or the ESV. It corrects some problems in the translation of the old King James as well. Once in a while it introduces a problem that the old King James does not have, but I think it fixes more than it introduces. That is not to say that it does not have some poor translations of its own, because it does. Personally, I have found it to be more honest to the text in some passages that I think are important. Finally, it has, to me, a very understandable language. Some claim it is harder than other versions, but I am not always certain that “hard” is a bad thing when it means more accurate.

Ultimately, when doing a serious study, going back to the original languages is going to be a key. Yet for an English version, this is the one I prefer, along with the old King James. Another method of study is to compare various translations. If you compared the ESV, NASB, KJV, and NKJV, you could combine them sometimes to get a better idea of what the text could be talking about in a difficult passage.