Which Bible Translation is the Best?

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Cover of the original King James Version of the Bible
Cover Page of the 1611 King James Version, First Edition

A recent Facebook discussion centered on the question of which Bible translation we should use. Specifically, the question was, “Which is better, KJV or NKJV?”

Some of the respondents commented that their pastor or some other leader had recommended (or insisted) that he should use the KJV.

Here’s my response with a few clarifications.

The way I approach this topic is to consider that when God spoke to the people in the Bible – both Old Testament and New Testament – He spoke in the language of common, ordinary people of the day: Hebrew, Aramaic, and KOINE Greek. I highlighted Koine because Attic (“Classical”) Greek had been replaced by this new “common” Greek. Latin was spoken by the more educated people, mainly in Rome. But the common, ordinary people of the area of modern-day Israel spoke Koine Greek.

Given that fact, wouldn’t it be in our best interest to use the best manuscripts available to produce, read, and study God’s Word today?

And given that fact, wouldn’t it be in our best interest to read and study God’s Word as translated into the common vernacular used today?

So where does that leave us?

If you can’t read the original languages (which, contrary to KJV-Only proponents is not late 16th/early 17th Century English), then American adults are BEST served with a translation along the lines of the CSB which does a really good job of balancing formal equivalence (“literal”, word-for-word) and functional equivalence (thought-for-thought) in translation. American teens may be best served by the NLT, which uses a more functional equivalence translation philosophy.

Assuming you can’t read the original languages and you’re studying the Bible, perhaps it’s better to use something along the lines of the ESV alongside the CSB.

Having said that, let me state unequivocally that I believe that any believer can hear God’s voice in any language he/she can speak.

A very long time ago, I read something that still resonates to me about which translation is the best: The best translation is the one that you’ll read, study and apply to your life. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember who said it)