A few days ago on E2R’s Facebook page, I posed the following question: “What translation of the Bible do you reach for first?” There are plenty of great Bible versions out there but I wanted to know, which Bible do you prefer?
I had a reason for asking this question which I will get to in a minute, but I thought you might be interested to learn the results of my little survey. Sixty people commented (thanks!) indicating their preferences for the following translations:
(Note: The numbers add up to more than 60 because some of the respondents couldn’t pick just one translation.)
What do these numbers mean? They tell us that E2R readers draw from a variety of translations and that a fair proportion of you are fans of Eugene Petersen’s Message Bible. I certainly am. After that it’s a five horse race between the NIV (13 votes), the NKJV (12), the Amplified (11), the NASB (10) and the KJV (10).
But I didn’t ask the question merely to gauge the popularity of different Bible translations. I had a far better reason for surveying your preferences.
For the past few months I have been writing a book about the gospel. I am really excited about it and I will tell you more about it in a later post. I have reached the stage in my writing where I need to settle on a preferred Bible translation. I do quote from a variety of translations in my book but I need to settle on one translation for my bread and butter quotes. But which one? They all have their pros and cons so which translation should I choose?
“Well, Paul, why didn’t you just go with your own preferred choice?” Well, I wanted to but, to be honest, I was a bit embarrassed about my own choice. You see, I have been reading the NIV for the past 20 years.
Straight away I can hear some of you groaning. Really?! The NIV? Are you serious? I know, it’s a flawed translation as I have pointed out elsewhere. But you know what? They are all flawed translations and better the flaws you know than the flaws you don’t.
Warning: What follows is Paul’s biased opinion
The NIV Bible that sits on my desk is dog-eared and highlighted on every page. I know it like the back of my hand. I like it because it’s familiar and the language is simple. (When I was preaching in Hong Kong I found it to be eminently suited for non-native English speakers.) If the NIV was a car it would be the car you use for picking up the kids from school or grocery shopping. Sure, you wouldn’t take it on a date or to a hot-rod show – it’s not that kind of car. It lacks the raw grunt of the King Jimmy and the gorgeous styling of the Message. But for everyday use it works. It gets the job done.
And I should know because I have driven a few Bibles in my times.
- My first real Bible was the KJV. As a kid I read it from cover to cover and it remains a close second choice for me. I love it.
- I have many friends who prefer the NKJV and I have tried – believe me, I have tried – to get on board there. But I find the NKJV neither captures the richness of the KJV nor the plain-speakingness of the NIV. It tries to do two things and succeeds at neither. (Forgive me, NKJV fans!)
- I have not read the NASB but I have read the ASV Bible from cover to cover. I guess they are similar. I mean they both have the word “American” in the title, right? Seriously, one day I plan to give the NASB a closer look.
- I am a big, huge, enthusiastic fan of the synonym-riddled Amplified Bible. It is a great, magnificent, and stately book. However, I find it weakened by some real translation howlers. I’ll gladly, happily [with joy bordering on delight] reach for the Amplified second but never first.
- Young’s keeps it real. I almost never quote a scripture from any translation unless I have first read it in the YLT.
- I happily graze in the chatty fields of the CEV, the GNB, and the NLT (or TLB). But I rarely go to these translations first.
To help me make my choice I also surveyed the preferred Bible translations of other grace preachers. As evidenced by the choices made in their writings, I can tell you that Andrew Wommack and those trained by him tend to be died-in-the-wool KJV readers. Joseph Prince prefers the NKJV, as does John Sheasby, Malcolm Smith, Paul White and my good friend Cornel Marais. Andrew Farley likes the NIV as does Ralph Harris, Jerry Bridges, Wayne Jacobsen, and Rob Rufus. While they were alive Bill Gillham preferred the NASB and Ian Thomas liked the Amplified.
As I said, I was a bit embarrassed about my own choice. Believe me, nobody knows the NIV’s faults like I do. But I think I will stick with it, at least for now. It is the translation with which I am most comfortable. Plus, I am encouraged that at least thirteen of you will agree with me.
As for those of you who prefer other versions, well you still have a few weeks to convince me of why your choice is better. Feel free to do so!