FAQ: What are the best English translations of the Bible?
The following are a dozen of the best English translations of the Bible. The comments that follow will provide some help in understanding the value of each one. The translations are listed in two groups. The first group lists six translations that we especially recommend. The second group lists six good translations with which students of the Bible may want to be familiar but that we do not think are the best for regular reading and study purposes. Within these two groupings the versions are listed in alphabetical order, not ranked by preference.
HCSB Holman Christian Standard Bible. Solid, conservative version, notable for its frequent (but not consistent) use of Yahweh for the divine name in the Old Testament.
NASB New American Standard Bible (updated edition). Probably the most literal translation and therefore especially useful for English word-searches and the like.
NET New English Translation (NET Bible). The first online Bible, generally excellent, with informative footnotes throughout.
NIV New International Version. Readable Bible, popular in evangelical churches; arguably better for reading in large portions than for careful study of the text.
NLT New Living Translation. Very readable, accurate paraphrase; nearly as readable as the old “Living Bible” (which we do not recommend) but taking far fewer liberties with the text.
KJV King James Version. Still the standard for many fundamentalist Christians, the KJV (400 years old this year) remains one of the greatest Bible translations in history and a majestic classic work of English literature to boot.
NAB New American Bible. Conservative Roman Catholic translation.
NKJV New King James Version. Modernization of the KJV.
NRSV New Revised Standard Version. Good mainline version, but overdoes inclusive language (that is, wording to avoid using “masculine” terms for people).
TNIV Today’s New International Version. Version of the NIV that features inclusive language, though not quite as obtrusively as the NRSV.
For Further Study
Bible Gateway (offsite). Look up biblical passages or do word searches in any of 23 English translations and numerous other language versions.
Blue Letter Bible (offsite). One of the most popular Bible study websites, which allows free online searches for verses or words in the Bible, comparing multiple translations.