Many Versions or Translation of the Bible

Are there many versions of the Bible?
Or many translations?

If you cannot read Hebrew or Greek in which the original manuscripts were written, you’ll need a translation from those texts. In order for your pastor to teach you from the Word of God, he also
must use a translation. In order to live for Christ, you’ll need a translation so you can read what He said, and what’s been written about him.

The English language has changed dramatically over the years. In fact, it has changed so much only with great difficulty could you read any of the Bibles translated a mere 600 years ago! Because the English language is a living language – constantly changing – there is a continual need to translate frequently from the original text, as old words loose their sense of meaning, and new words come into being.

As new manuscripts are discovered, more understanding and accuracy is given to the texts we presently have. Since the King James Version has been translated, there have been 3 very important discoveries. Since 1611 we have found more evidence that lends to a more accurate translations, these are:

1. The Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph), discovered in 1844 in the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai peninsula by Tischendorf. This was written in the 4th century and contained most of the New Testament.

2. The New Testament papyri in 1895, discovered in Egypt, though fragmented, have proved to be valuable.

3. The Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 near the Dead Sea, provided nearly all of the Book of Isaiah, and many portions of the Old Testament. These are hundreds of years older than previously known texts, and confirmed much of the Old Testament we already have. These were also duplicated BEFORE the birth of Jesus Christ.

Translation techniques, and Biblical Scholarship have tremendously improved in the last 100 years. We can have a more precise and accurate translation now – than our forefathers ever dreamed of! Other languages we previously knew little about, now can be understood and help us see the greater meaning of certain difficult words and phrases.

Today we need an easy-to-read translation – for those of us that are not linguistic scholars and stumble over those 27 letter words. Think about it … since the MESSAGE contained in the Bible is so important, then we MUST be able to give it to the poorest reader in a text they can read! This is not re-interpreting the text, it’s giving an accurate rendering from the Hebrew & Greek in a language they can simply read and benefit from. For this reason alone, we need the BEST possible translation we can get…consequently, it must be readable.

List of English translations


Bishops Bible Church of England 1568
Rheims-Douay Bible Roman Catholic 1582-1610
King James Bible Church of England 1611+
Youngs Literal Translation (Robert Young) 1863
English Revised Version Church of England (KJV revised) 1881-85
American Standard Version American Revision Committee 1901
Weymouth’s Modern Speech NT.(R. F. Weymouth) 1903+
Twentieth Century Inter-Denominational 1904
Jewish Version of 1917 (OT) 1917
Moffatt’s New Translation (James Moffatt) 1924, 1935
Smith-Goodspeed Version (Edgar Goodspeed & HM Powers Smith)1931
Charles B. Williams NT (Charles B. Williams) 1937
Ronald Knox’s Catholic Vs. Roman Catholic 1944-50
Revised Standard Version (KJV revised later Catholic) 1946-52
Confraternity Version (Rheims-Douay-Challoner revision) 1948
New World Translation Watchtower Soc.(13% more words) 1950-60
NT in Modern English J.B. Phillips 1958
Berkeley version 1959
Wuest’s Expanded NT (Kenneth Wuest) 1961
NT in Plain English (Charles Kingsley Williams) 1963
NT in Language of Today (William F. Beck a Lutheran) 1964
Amplified Bible 1965
Good News American Bible Society 1966
Jerusalem Bible Roman Catholic 1966
New English Bible 1970
New American Standard Lockman Foundation (ASV revision) 1971
Living Bible 1972
New International Version New York Bible Society 1978

These are the English translations only. There are thousands of translations in other languages, and still thousands of languages without the Bible in their own tongue.

Some of these are word-for-word translations (each word is translated individually), some of them are paraphrased (someone ‘interprets’ the meaning of a passage and then translates the passage into the second language), which is important in knowing which Bible to study!

Some are easy to read, some are difficult; some are majestic in vocabulary, and some are plain and simple. Some are precise in meaning, and some loosely translated.

But sadly, some are unfaithful to the Original Text and some have added or subtracted certain words to reflect their own doctrine. Some were translated by well known scholars, and some by people who could
not read a sentence from the original manuscripts!

The King James Version, a word-for-word translation, is an excellent place to start for study. It holds true doctrinally as well as giving reverence to the Word of God with its majestic style, it is still the Standard in the majority of the churches today.

The New American Standard Version, also a word-for-word translation, is translated in more modern english, and very accurate in verb tenses that are difficult to understand in the KJV.

The New International Version is a paraphrase – but by far the best of its kind. Paraphrases can convey easily the meaning of certain texts, and can reflect doctrinal viewpoints of the translators. The NIV is an excellent paraphrase, easy to read, and a good supplement to helping understand word-for-word translations.  It would take too much time to describe the good and bad points in all the rest of the translations, and anyone who’s really a serious student of the Bible, will sooner or later learn to use word studies, lexicons, concordances, or even the original languages themselves.

A concordance is simple to use, and can by comparison give quick insight into the meaning of a particular word and how it’s used. Youngs Analytical Concordance and The New Strong’s are easy to use. Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words is also excellent and simple for any one to use.

With the wealth of Bible knowledge at our disposal, no one has any excuse not to daily read and study God’s Word for themselves. Many men have already given their lives so that you DON’T have to live
in IGNORANCE of what God has said. You personally are responsible for reading and studying the Bible – relying on another person is a sorry excuse for LAZINESS, not to mention the BLESSINGS of having God speak to you personally through the study of His Word!

Bill Bennett
S.O.N. Milwaukee (414) 281-6497