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Monday, April 02, 2007

recommending English Bible versions

Michael Pahl has blogged today on "recommending english bible versions." It's a good post. He counsels those asking about English Bible versions:
  • to use multiple versions for more detailed study of a passage;
  • to use a committee-produced version that makes sense to the person for personal reading of Scripture; and
  • to use a committee-produced version that employs good and ear-pleasing English for public reading of Scripture
Michael concluded:
If I have to nail down a specific English version, I'd recommend the NASB, NIV, TNIV, or NRSV. Others are no doubt as good as these, but these are the ones I'm more personally familiar with.
Unfortunately, IMO, it is difficult to find a committee-produced version which makes good sense overall and also "employs good and ear-pleasing English." I commented on Michael's post:
I have found it difficult to find English translations that satisfy the second two of your three points of counsel:


I've been evaluating English versions for quite a few years and have a fairly high standard for wordings to make sense. Of course, each of the versions you recommended do make sense in many passages. But I'm concerned about making sense most of the time. Right now the only committee translation that does for my ears is the NLT.
What committee-produced versions have you found that make sense overall and also have good English and are pleasing to the ear?


At Tue Apr 03, 06:11:00 AM, Blogger Jungle Pop said...

I've found the CEV and the NLT the best natural-sounding translations. I noticed that NLT, in particular, state that they want their translation to sound good read aloud. Makes sense, since the Bible is read aloud so often.

I've just bought a brand new Bible for our next term overseas (I had been using NIV exclusively for the past 20 years) and it's an NLT (2nd edition).

I would be curious to see a review of the 2004 NLT vs. the 1996 version. I'm frankly ignorant of what the major changes were.

At Tue Apr 03, 09:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jungle pop... check out Rick Mansfield's comments on the '04 NLT here:

I'm very impressed with the revised NLT and have enjoyed reading it this year.

At Tue Apr 03, 10:09:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

elshaddai, I think the link you provided to my review is too long for the column to be seen.

So I created a "tinyurl" for it. Anyone can read the NLT review by going to:

At Tue Apr 03, 12:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Rick. By the way, probably old news, but I received some emails from Tyndale along the lines that they're preparing a new NLTse Reference Bible, but that it's a slimline edition with center column references and no wide margins. Grr. They also explicitly said that they were not planning a new Notemaker's Bible based on dismal sales of the original.

At Tue Apr 03, 03:47:00 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

I actually find that NKJV sounds very natural and "ear-pleasing" to me, but there are probably two reasons for this: (1) I read it for years; (2) I'm used to reading, writing, and even speaking stilted academic English. Right now I use the HCSB more than anything else, but it bothers me when it says things like "who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to?" (Isaiah 53:1 - splitting the preposition and its object) or other similar grammar "mistakes." These things don't bother me when people say them - I even say them myself now and then; certainly they are part of my vernacular - but when I read phrases like this it bothers me. The same would be true if I heard them spoken in a church where sermons were given in a more formal, less conversational style. This is, of course, an issue of linguistic register; the NKJV is in a higher register, it sounds better to me. Part of the problem with the style of the HCSB, though, is that it sounds like it is in at least a minimally literary, rather than conversational, register most of the time, but I would avoid phrases like this anywhere except in very casual, familiar conversation, so there's some incongruence there. (The HCSB is still, I think, my favorite overall.)

The only translation I've found that sounds consistently unnatural to me is the NASB. All the other modern translations I'm even minimally familiar with (in addition to those above, the NIV, ESV, and NLT) sound good to me a fairly large percentage of the time, though none of them all the time.

At Tue Apr 03, 04:09:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I should add that the CEV and TEV sound even more natural to my ears than the NLT, but I wasn't sure whether or not to consider them committee translations, even though they weren't simply one person translations either. And the GW (God's Word) translation also sounds pretty good. I believe that it was designed for good sounding public reading, as was the CEV. But I don't know how much the GW was a committee translation in the sense that the NLT clearly was.

At Tue Apr 03, 06:38:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

God's Word Translation, from what I understand, is a committee revision of the New Evangelical Translation, which was a revision of William Beck's American Translation. I haven't spent a lot of time with any of them, but in some basic comparisons, the GWT is dramatically different from the earlier editions.

Incidentally, my copy of Beck's original American Translation was published by Holman.

At Tue Apr 03, 06:42:00 PM, Blogger reGeNeRaTe said...

The NLT hits the spot for the ear, although I study primarily from the TNIV, NASB, ESV, and KJV. I work in youth ministry and the students I've come across love the NLT because it sounds natural to them and makes plain sense.

At Thu Apr 05, 04:58:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

R. Mansfield wrote:
God's Word Translation, from what I understand, is a committee revision of the New Evangelical Translation, which was a revision of William Beck's American Translation.

That is essentially correct. The NET was a smaller committee work. I have both the 1988 and the 1992 editions and I like them much better than the GW translation. I was disappointed when the 1992 was changed as much as it was.

I have the first edition of Beck's whole Bible published by Leader Publishing 1976. I had received a first edition of the NT when it was published in 1963, but lost it in a fire 9 years ago.

Anyway back to the topic, to my ears GW is a much better oral translation than others that have been listed.


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