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Get to Know your Bible Translations

 —  January 13, 2014 — 33 Comments

When it comes to Bible translations, I’ve typically been an NIV 84 guy. I won’t be using their new version, though – from my vantage point, one too many liberties were taken in the update. I’d like to hear your thoughts on some suggestions on what to transfer over to in the future.

It’s why I like Adam Ford’s clever post on this blog about the different ways you can understand Bible translations:

bibletranslations
So while we’re on the topic, which tends to be your personal favorite translation:

  1. For your own study?
  2. For giving to students?

Thanks for your thoughts!

P.S. Like the NIV 84, too? I found a website where you can still use it online: http://www.biblestudytools.com

Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

33 responses to Get to Know your Bible Translations

  1. When I became a Christian, I used NIV 84. Then around 2007, I switched to the ESV. I needed something to challenge me beyond what I was already used to. I love how the ESV reads and lays out things.

    As for my students, everyone who enters 6th grade gets the LIVE NLT. As kids either graduate from youth group, or want something to challenge them more, I point them to the ESV.

    • Tony Myles

      Sounds like I can ask you a follow up question, then – as you learned the NIV and (I assume) memorized some of its verses, has the ESV complemented that for the most part or have you had to relearn many for newer wording? How close are the two?

      • I think they complemented each other nicely. Some verses were about the same, while others were a bit different. But the change didn’t hinder anything.

        The ESV is a more literal translation, so it does differ from the NIV 84, but not as much as you would think. I’m really sold on it.

  2. I use the NRSV in my study (seminary professors would be proud of me) and the NLT in my teaching (they may not be so proud now) . I give all my students a NLT as I love it’s ability to be easily read understood.

    • Tony Myles

      I hear that a lot about the NLT – that it’s a good Bible to hand out to new or young Christians. Do you ever find them “graduating” into a newer translation down the road? Or is the NLT good for the long haul?

  3. I’m a big fan of the ESV, but I like to have a lot around for reference. My main ones are NIV84, ESV, and NKJV. The next one I’m looking at is the NASB. Variety is the spice of life!

    • Tony Myles

      Good call. I have appreciated what I’ve seen in the NASB, although it feels like the ESV has become more popular over the last year and taken the post-NIV84 spot the NASB would have slid into.

  4. I’ve been using ESV mainly for study. I use NASB, ESV, and NLT for teaching.

  5. I have used the NIV84 for decades. So has my current church. Do to the changes in the NIV, we have recently made the decision to go to the ESV as the version we will use in the pulpit. I like the ESV for study. Love the literal translation. I don’t particularly like it for reading. There are some places where it is worded in ways that make no sense. We’ve told teachers they’ll be able to use the ESV, keep using their NIV84 or use the HCSB, NET, or NASB. After a year of using several of the translations, I think the HCSB is closest to the NIV84. I like the readability of it as well. My favorite version for accuracy and readability combined is the NET. As a church we went with ESV and not the HCSB or NET because the ESV is everywhere and the HCSB and NET are difficult to find.

    • Tony Myles

      Wow! That’s a lot of translation-juggling! :) I think you’re hitting on something, though – what if the “best” translation isn’t as available as others? That’s a difficult thing to navigate, especially if we want to get it into the hands of others.

  6. I grew up on the NIV84 and still have that as my personal study Bible. However, my denomination has gone largely to the ESV. I like the ESV, from an academic/theological perspective, because it is more literal, as was already mentioned. However, when minister to teens I have mixed feelings about it, and definitely with younger kids. Because it’s more literal, it can get a little bit unweildy. The language can be hard for them to work through, and it definitely isn’t as “beautiful” as the NIV84, a lot of times. However, I’m not entirely sold on the newer NIV’s rendition of things. In the past, I have used NLT with some of my youth, but there are some serious translation differences, at certain points, that I am not entirely comfortable with, such as Genesis 3:16. In the NLT, it says the woman’s desire will be to “control” her husband. In the NIV, it says her desire will be “for” her husband. Definitely sends two totally different messages about the post-Fall relationship between husband/wife.

    • Tony Myles

      Intriguing. I didn’t notice those differences, and it makes me wonder how important it is to realize not just what the Bible says via a translation… but the tone in which it seems to say it. That alone can reshape how someone views that idea.

  7. I currently use 3 different ones. We provide LIVE NLT bibles to any student who needs a ‘hard’ bible (‘soft’ being an app like YouVersion). So we stick with NLT for students, easy to ready and understand, plus I don’t get stopped every 10 seconds for a what does this word mean question. I use HCSB when I preach in our adult service. It’s our pew bible and is a good medium between easier to read and more literal translations. I use ESV for personal study and college work. More literal translation and is becoming more accepted and popular than (dare I say it) the KJV. I also better throw in a Greek translation too or my Greek professor is liable to fail me!

  8. Christianprincess January 14, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    For teaching I use mostly NIV and NKJV, though I use the Message for passages that I want to be broken down into more common language.

    For personal use I use NIV and the Message. I like the Amplified Bible for the further explanation and depth to certain passages, but I am not always confident in its accuracy in translation. ESV is good though I don’t use it very often. I may explore it more based on many of the comments above.

    Thanks for loving God, students, and families!

  9. I teach out of the NLT & we get students the LIVE NLT Bible. for personal study i’m using (and seriously digging) the Voice Bible, it’s a fresh, poetic translation that has nothing to do with reality TV talent shows.

  10. I agree with a lot of the above comments, and personally I switch between NIV84, NASB, ESV, HCSB and NET. There is a really good apologetics study Bible that is in HCSB that we give to our students as a graduation present, and we have heard a lot of really good things about that one.

  11. I grew up on KJV, discovered NIV in college, and now teach primarily out of the NLT due to the fact that it’s so easy for my students to understand– and it’s very readable in a large group setting. I like the ESV but it seems like just a reboot of the NKJV. I own all the versions listed above and a few more. As far as students getting into the Bible, I’m just happy they’re into one of the above and trust God to show them His truth through it.

  12. I’ve used the NASB for years and am still very happy with it overall. Due to its literal nature, some passages are phrased in very awkward ways. In those cases I’ll use either the NIV 84 or the NLT. In most cases where there are significant differences between the NASB and the NIV84, I find the NASB to be more accurate to the original languages, but there are exceptions. It’s always good to compare to the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic just to make sure. I personally caution people against using The Message. While it does provide helpful clarification in some cases, I’ve found it far too often misses the original language intent quite badly. It’s a supplement at best.

  13. 1.) I have a NKJV Study Bible that I like to use for personal reading and study.
    2.) I tend to give students the most popular paraphrase of the Bible, “The Message” because it is not intimidating to a new believer and they can understand it because it’s on their level of thinking and understanding. However, I choose the NIV translation to give to a student.

  14. So I am curious, what are some of the most problematic liberties that have been taken? Is it problematic for you because it is different than what was memorized and you think the older 84 version was close enough and didn’t need to be changed, or do you view the changes as so horrendous that the whole thing needs to be tossed out? As the running joke in many Biblical institutions is that NIV = nearly inspired version. Was it even right to use from the start?
    Here are a couple websites that help highlight some difference:

    http://www.slowley.com/niv2011_comparison/
    http://www.biblewebapp.com/niv2011-changes/

    To you, are they really that bad?

    (at the moment I am reserving posting my personal views for further comments, so as not to draw attention away from your introspective journey of scriptural study tools. As an English speaking/reading person, we have the luxury of going to another translation if we don’t like how something is worded – try only having one available like so many people in the world. They must relay on the Spirit more than their grasp of their spoken language and trust that what is there is what is from God… Different translations could be seen as different denominations – food for thought.)

    • Tony Myles

      Hi, Matt! It’s interesting you ask… I randomly happened to have a chat with the chairman of the TNIV committee years ago. If you remember, the company at that point introduced it and was hoping it would catch on. I asked, “What made you decide to do an update?”

      He replied, “We felt that there was a better, more accurate way of saying some things that would better reflect where our culture is today.”

      I asked, “So… do you feel this is as accurate as possible?”

      He answered, “Yes.”

      I said, “Didn’t you feel that way the first time? And who’s to say in 10 or 50 years you want to change it again? At what point are you being accurate and at what point are you changing the Bible?”

      He didn’t have much of an answer for that.

      That’s my larger concern here with continued revisions to something that was once claimed to be “the Bible.” Yes, I have personal skin in the game due to my own memorization of the 84 version. I imagine it’s why some people who were KJV resisted the NIV, among other reasons. I don’t the the NIV is holier than the rest, but it was how I was introduced to God. Maybe you can understand why I’ve held onto it for many years.

      That said, I think if the pattern will be, “Let’s keep changing this” then we create our own potholes every step of the way and don’t realize the harm we can cause in an effort to reflect gender-neutral friendliness and other cultural concessions.

      Is there a “perfect” translation? Obviously not in a broken world.

      Can we stop playing games with this, though? Absolutely.

      • Sorry for the essay:

        It looks like the onus really falls on the pastors/leaders in charge. It wasn’t all that long ago the Living Bible went to the NLT, the KJV went to the NKJV, Phillips was swapped out for the Message, and all in the name of keeping things fresh and relevant to the times. (We can go on about translational changes; NRSV, NASB, even various Greek translations/transliterations – but that’s a seperate discussion)
        The thing that leaders need to do is get people into the Word. I use a variety of translations, including the LEGO Bible or the Manga Bible (okay, some of you have completely written me off now – sorry. But if I carry one around and set it on a table public, it’s a virtually a 100% guarantee that someone will inevitably walk over to me and look over my shoulder or ask to see it, or what it is, etc. – Bingo, conversation started about the Bible to a stranger.)
        Being well versed in translations allows for one to offer different recomendations to the types of people s/he interacts with and can therefore make better suggestions. Why offer a NLT to someone if we are to insist in them moving out of it as they mature – because it gets them into the Word. They need to start somewhere and be able to read it, and get it, outside of their leader’s presence. The 2 simplest disciplines, prayer and scripture reading, are the hardest for people to comit to do.
        While I see your reason to boycott, and if enough people do it, it all send a message to the publishers, language is constantly changing and it is the goal of the leader to present the Word in a “delicious as honey” method. True, it is the Father who calls us via the Spirit and it’s not a smoke and mirror / dog and pony show, but gone are the days when a Latin mass and stain glassed windows are the way to publicly edify the body.
        I don’t disagree with your position, but I also think it prudent to advise all new believers that there are options of translations, but they should not hop from one to another just because they like how one is said (more often than not it is bcause one is “simpler” or not as convicting).
        With many “soft” copies of the Bible being presented, and most students will only have access to the NIV 2011, telling them they are wrong for downloading that app may in fact cause more trouble than it’s worth; unless of course this is the bridge in which you decide to defend to the death/the fight worth dying for.
        I guess my biggest thing is that many have pretty much made it clear to our students that one version isn’t “good enough” and that upon maturation, a new translation is to be saught (possibly before the first translation has been completely read). With this door open, it’s basically, “pick what you want (here are your options) but I use this (and perhaps “and would never use this”). This can quickly get to an “I follow Paul. I follow Apollos…” type situation in the church.

        • Tony Myles

          Appreciate your heart on this, Matt. Maybe I should clarify that I am not lobbying against the new NIV, but rather trying to wrestle through its existence/ethos… knowing that the weight of how I plug people into the Bible is connected to that. I don’t understand why Zondervan would make the older version unavailable – truly, it feels like a marketing decision.

          I do feel that burden – a shepherd does pick a pasture for the sheep to graze on food, so to speak. But I do refer to the Message, NLT and more as the situation fits it. I sense we’re saying similar things, and I take your thoughts her as sharpening vs attacking. Maybe it just helps to know what I meant. Thanks!

          • No, Tony, thank you.
            You are always very thoughtful AND thought provoking in your musings. I appreciate your challenges and your candidness. You open yourself up to a lot of fire by publicly stating your thoughts and even your own questions. And to top it off, you respond to posts!
            It bothered me too when NIV84 was removed, especially from most of the “soft” copy markets. I guess the biggest challenge is what to suggest to someone looking to buy a Bible now, and in the future. Those that still have their ’84 version most likely didn’t just cast it off, and it might become more of a guilty pleasure, but like the post below, what if they go to a Bible study and there are different NIV’s? Educating the laity on Hebrew and Greek is commendable, but I have meet few who actually care to take it past the church walls, or church context.
            I too am perplexed at the “next step” Bible after the initial NLT, message, Graphic Novel style Bible often given to students. And I think that might also be the real issue: STUDENTS. We fling them into the “which version” arena while they are still often in the “milk stage” of their faith. Nothing like feeling so overwhelmed by options and conflict to make them want to just forgo getting a new Bible, let alone continuing with the one they have (which perhaps they now have second thoughts on because of potential controversy). Most students are selectively broke, when it comes to Christian resources, and rely on the gifts of others. Of the kids that actually bring their Bibles, there’s a good chance they are using a family member’s, a gift, one they found in a pew or hotel, or more recently – the one on their phone. I have seen more and more of a trend for the Word to just appear on a projection screen with the passage and version selected by the speaker so as to avoid having to take time out to reexplain due to translational issues from the group. This can lead us down another rabbit trail.
            As far as either of your main questions go: whatever gets me, and them, to read the Word and ask questions. Questions lead to answers, which lead to decisions, which lead to outcomes, which lead to advancing in life instead of just treading water/wallowing in the muck.

  15. One of the biggest differences I have seen between the two NIV Bibles takes place in the book of Esther. We were in the middle of going through the book of Esther with our youth group when we received new Bibles, and the story of Haaman’s death is vastly different. NIV84, which is the one we were studying from and the one I grew up with, has Haaman being hanged for his deception. Imagine our surprise when the new NIV Bibles had Haaman being impaled on a pole. While the end result is Haaman’s death, the story that we have memorized changes with the new NIV.

    • Tony Myles

      Wow! Great point, Sara. I know the “inn” word is also clarified in Luke 2, making it less about a hotel image and more about a guestroom. I wonder if the Esther piece is similar – a clariication, or an interpretation.

  16. Matt mentioned projecting scripture on the screen for students to avoid confusion in the group. You said that could lead you down rabbit trails. Can you share your thoughts? Do you see potential problems for the students with this? If so, what are they? We’ve been projecting the verses we use in chapel for years for many reasons. 1. Our Christian school teens don’t all attend church, and those who attend go to many different churches and use many different versions. 2. A few years ago, our chaplain, who was assigned to us from the church required the kids to use /read/memorize from “The Story”. We got a lot of student and parent push back on that, because they felt it was not academic enough or that they’d graduated from the level of The Story. 3. We have a good mix of students who read the Bible in English and students who only read the Bible in Chinese — it does simply seem easy to project Scripture that is being read. It also makes any choral reading of a verse easy.
    This all just makes me curious, are we doing thm a disservice?

    • Tony Myles

      Great question. My personal experience with this isn’t so much a right or wrong, but a bonus/perk I stumbled upon. Our church used to meet in a movie theater where we put everything up on the screen. The theater was generally dark, so having people read their Bible wasn’t an option. Once we moved out, we bought some in-house Bibles. I now use the screen to put up the reference and the page number.

      The bonus/perk was we saw people became more familiar with opening up a Bible. In turn, the overall reading of the Bible picked up in families/households. So that’s my general approach now – if I have a passage we’ll be spending time in, I put the reference up and the page number (for newbies) have them follow along. If I share a verse as a complement to that, I may have that on the screen by itself.

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