Which Bible Translation is best?
I've used a number of translations in my life and the issue came up frequently enough for my Mother as well, that she began reading the New Testament in Greek. While I myself never went that far, it is important to recognize the differences between translations; for not all translations have been created equal.
Among all the translations available let's just start with the KJV. The KJV is not an inspired work any more or less than any other translation (see: KJV Only) despite what many people believe, and the proof of this is found very simply in the original introduction to the KJV, the statement made by the very translators of the book, in that it was not a divinely inspired work but the work of men. A more detailed exposition of this can be found in the aforementioned KJV Only.
The churches I was in used various bibles; I've rarley seen ASVs, and almost never a NASB. Rarely I would see NKJVs and much more often I would see NIVs. It was the same at home. My mother would flit between translations trying to find the best one. But none of these versions really appealed to her or to me because of various issues. We had some beautiful, beautiful bibles– red letter editions, with tabs, leather, color maps, introductions to the books, and so forth.
My mother eventually found her way into an RSV, and then into an NRSV later. But for me the RSV always had a special place. I had always felt the gender horizontal language in the NRSV went just a little too far.
Thus I came to explore the ESV. I'm still looking into the ESV but it seems that I am going to move towards the ESV and away from the NRSV in the future.
I still like the ideology in the RSV.
I've also heard good things about the HCSB but I've never had a chance to take a look. The NET bible looks a little unreadable too. So I tend to skip it.
In any case today, we have Artscroll. Get a RSV, an NRSV, an ESV or a NASB sure, but whatever you choose also look into purchasing an Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash. Hebrew and Approved English with full commentary, it will be an invaluable study aid in addition to your normal study bible.
After a wide search and a number of years of experience, I've run into the idea that even though some bibles are better than others, different bibles are best suited to a particular purpose. Then there is the idea of a reference edition or study bible; a bible is more than just it's translation, but the notes, maps, and commentary it comes with can often be very valuable as well.
I'm going to put most of this into a page Bible Reviews but here are some point-form thoughts:
The English Standard Version ESV is copyrighted, but the terms are intentionally loose:
When quotations from the ESV text are used in non-saleable media, such as church bulletins, orders of service, posters, transparencies, or similar media, a complete copyright notice is not required, but the initials (ESV) must appear at the end of the quotation. Publication of any commentary or other Bible reference work produced for commercial sale that uses the English Standard Version must include written permission for use of the ESV text.
Of course, the Artscroll Stone Chumash would be considered unimpeachable for reading the Old Testament. But is there a decent Christian-edition of the Old Testament? I.E. issues like ESV or NRSV if you can't find an RSV, or is ESV better than RSV? Or how about, is NASB worth it? What about HCSB? And then you have issues of, which study bible is best? What should I do?
Don't panic! Keep reading.
First, read about the issue and get different people's opinions. Here are some pages I read when coming up with this page you're reading here:
To perform comparative analysis take a verse in question and compare it among many translations. It doesn't have to be over a controversial subject; for example, in the KJV the Hebrew word reim (ראם) is translated as Unicorn in Psalms 22 and Numbers 23. This is because when they were translating the word they didn't understand the Hebrew, and additionally may have been working with far older Greek translations, also some of which may have been mistranslated. Today, due to extensive research and scholarship we know that the word reim does not mean Unicorn horn but instead something more like a buffalo horn.
|Translation||Verse (Psalm 22)|
|KJV||Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.|
|NKJV||Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.|
|RSV||Save me from the mouth of the lion, my afflicted soul[a] from the horns of the wild oxen!|
|NRSV||Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued[a] me.|
|ESV||Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued[a] me from the horns of the wild oxen!|
|NASB||Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.|
|NIV||Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.|
|HCSB||Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued[a] me from the horns of the wild oxen.|
|ASV||Save me from the lion’s mouth; Yea, from the horns of the wild-oxen thou hast answered me.|
|AMP||Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.|
As you can see, all translations including he NKJV have moved away from the word “unicorn”. Why? The answer is simple and easy to understand. The actual word being used is reymim, which is plural – the animal in question cannot be a unicorn because it has more than one horn. There are of course other arguments (that unicorn was a pre-flood animal) but given that unicorns are fantastic beasts of European folklore which came hundreds of years later it seems unlikely omans invaded Jerusalem this seems very unlikely to have
This is a very simple example with no theological fallout, and (hopefully) something everyone can agree on. But not all such issues are easily resolved. You may hold a particular theology and be interested in a bible which ensures that theology is presented correctly. If you are interested in exploring this further please see Comparing Bible Translations which gives examples of theological differences between various bible translations, in order to help you choose which translation is best for you.