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Which Bible Translation is the Most Accurate, and Which One Should I Use?


Which Bible translation is the most accurate

Knowing which Bible translation is the most accurate is a tricky question, but by the time you finish reading this quick, fun article, you’ll know exactly which one is right for you!


I once went on a 900-mile bike ride to promote clean water in Africa. I had just signed up to do it and chatted on the phone with the leaders.


After we hung up, I thought, “Well, I guess I need to get a bike.”


I kind of laughed at myself a bit because I desired to do this big task that I wasn’t even sure I could do… and I didn’t even have a bike.


When we desire to read and understand God’s Word more, we all think, “Well, I guess I need to get a Bible.”


So, you walk into the Bible bookstore and head right over to the Bible section.


But you’re immediately overwhelmed because you didn’t realize that there were so many different translations.


Maybe you just bought one, only to realize later that the one you purchased is a bit hard to understand.


Reading your Bible can be difficult. You’ll feel lazy at times. You’ll feel that you aren’t really getting anything out of it. Some parts will be boring.


To help you conquer this sometimes challenging task, you must make sure that you have a translation that suits your needs.


The Importance of a Good Translation


We’re all reading a Bible that was first written in Hebrew and Greek.


Therefore, when we read an English translation, we’re literally accepting what they’ve translated as truth and putting our full trust in them, saying, “This is a true rendering of God’s holy word.”


To fully understand and grasp the Bible, you’ll need a good translation.


“Well Then, Which Bible Translation is the Most Accurate?”


It depends on your needs and wants. First, do these 2 steps to get the best translation for you!


Note: Don’t skip these steps and honestly think about them. You must answer them to get the best translation for you.


Step 1: Decide What You’re Mainly Going to Be Using It For


Ask yourself which of these three things you are going to be using your Bible most for:


A) Reading - Simple reading in a devotional kind of way. Reading to just hear the Word and allow God to show you something through it.


B) Studying - For any level of studying, shallow to deep. Of course, you’ll still “read” your Bible, but you want to go a bit deeper.


C) Both - This means that you are going to be taking a bit of both worlds.


Step 2: What Do You Prefer the Bible to Be More Of?


A) Readable - Easy language in 21st-century modern English. Maybe even some slang.


B) Accurate - Language that is more true to the original Hebrew and Greek.


C) Both - Again, a mix of both.


Types of Bible Translations


Bible translations will fit into one of these categories:


A) Word-for-Word


Also called “literal” because these translations will be more accurate to the original languages concerning the words and grammar it uses.


B) Thought-for-Thought


Also called “dynamic,” which means that these translations will give you more of the meaning of the overall message, and it won’t focus so much on the exact accurate translation of each individual word in the original language.


Thought-for-thought translations are more readable in easy, 21st-century American English.


C) Paraphrase


Paraphrase translations consider accuracy and meaning, but they’re more concerned with how they can convey the message in an even simpler, more creative way, even if the words and grammar they use are not in the original language.


It’s important to note that the more “readable” a translation is doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be “wrong.”


A dynamic and paraphrased translation might sacrifice a bit from the accuracy of the exact word. However, it will always roll off the tongue easier, and it still could convey the accurate message of the scripture, if that makes sense.


Here are some imaginary examples of how scripture could look in each style:


Thought-for-thought - “Jesus ate a chocolate cookie.” Easy, right?


Word-for-word - “Jesus had partaken of a cookie of chocolate.” This is more true to the original language, but it’s a bit more complex.


Some people care more about this. In fact, if you look carefully at the two examples, the verbs are “ate” and “had partaken.”


There actually is a small difference that could have huge theological ramifications. “Ate” is in the simple past tense, and “had partaken” is in the perfect past tense.


Could these have different meanings in Greek?


However, the “thought,” meaning, and message are still fully understood in the thought-for-thought translation.


Paraphrase - “Jesus quickly destroyed a tasty, chocolatey cookie.” Paraphrases like to use modern slang, like “destroyed,” which means to eat with ease and fierceness.


Optimal Equivalence


One last thought before we actually put translations on a chart. “Optimal equivalence” would be a translation that has a little of both word-for-word and thought-for-thought.


You might think, “Well, why don’t I just get a translation that has a bit of both to ensure that I’ll be safe?”


This isn’t always the right way to go. When reading your optimally equivalent Bible, you could be reading a scripture that is translated more dynamically, but it would have benefited you more to see it more literally. You never know.


But don’t let that scare you, and don’t think too hard about this.


Again, think about what you’ll use it for and what’s most important to you.


Many times, I find that an optimally equivalent Bible might be good to take to church or a Bible study because you don’t know how the speaker will use scripture for their sermon.


Here’s your rule of thumb:


If you’re going to read and reflect, you might want a more readable, thought-for-thought Bible.


If you’re going to study and explore, you might want a more accurate, word-for-word Bible.


My best advice is this: Have translations from each category. That’s right. Own more than one Bible.


Putting Bible Translations on a Chart


Now, we’ll examine the Bibles you can find in any bookstore or online and put them on a chart.


Some important notes about the chart: 


  • Just because a translation is in one category on the chart does not mean that it cannot be used in the other listed ways. The category a translation is in just means that it best fits that category. For example, we use the ESV at our church for sermons and everything else, even though I’ve listed it more on the literal side. It works just fine. We care more about the “accuracy side of things” at our church.

  • “More Literal” does not mean you won’t be able to read or understand it. It just means that it focuses more on accuracy rather than readability.

  • “More Readable” does not mean you won’t be able to study from it. It just means that it focuses more on readability rather than scholarly details.


bible translation chart

If you’re a beginner and don’t know which translation to get: I’d recommend anything besides KJV, AMP, MSG, and TPT.


Or, you can see which Bibles are best for young adults:



The KJV has some old, complicated language (“thee,” “thou,” etc.).


The AMP extends scriptures to clarify the meaning with explanations in parentheses (hence, “amplified”). It might just be too much reading for a beginner.


The MSG and TPT are almost “too free” with some of their scriptures. When the day comes for you to get a more advanced translation, it’s going to seem very different from what you experienced in the MSG and TPT.


Conclusion


The best thing to grasp is this: Just start somewhere. Get a Bible and read.


Have fun and brainstorm about what the meaning could be in your scriptures.


Pray and ask God for guidance on your journey. And if you need help, email us anytime!

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