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Bible Translations

Paraphrase versions of the Bible help people who are new to the Bible understand it.

Literal translations are helpful for people who want to study each word.

An example is the New International Version (NIV) is literal where possible and paraphrase, "thought-for-thought", where necessary to help the reader understand. The NIV has been ranked as one of the best balance between accuracy and readability.

NIV New International Version

Reading Level: 7.80
Readability: A highly accurate and smooth-reading version in modern English
Reference Support Material: High
Number of Translators: 115
Translation Philosophy/Format: Balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought Paragraphs with poetry.
Notes: The best-selling translation, widely accepted by evangelical Christians. Purpose in translation was to "produce an accurate translation, suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and liturgical use." Published in 1978.

· The LORD, your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

The New International Version (NIV) is a translation made by more than one hundred scholars working from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. It was conceived in 1965 when, after several years of study by committees from the Christian Reformed Church and the National Association of Evangelicals, a trans-denominational and international group of scholars met at Palos Heights, Illinois, and agreed on the need for a new translation in contemporary English. Their conclusion was endorsed by a large number of church leaders who met in Chicago in 1966. Responsibility for the version was delegated to a self-governing body of fifteen Biblical scholars, the Committee on Bible Translation, and in 1967, the New York Bible Society (now International Bible Society) generously undertook the financial sponsorship of the project.

The translation of each book was assigned to a team of scholars, and the work was thoroughly reviewed and revised at various stages by three separate committees. The Committee submitted the developing version to stylistic consultants who made invaluable suggestions. Samples of the translation were tested for clarity and ease of reading by various groups of people. In short, perhaps no other translation has been made by a more thorough process of review and revision.

The Committee held to certain goals for the NIV: that it be an Accurate, Beautiful, Clear, and Dignified translation suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and liturgical use. The translators were united in their commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Bible as God's Word in written form. They agreed that faithful communication of the meaning of the original writers demands frequent modifications in sentence structure (resulting in a "thought-for-thought" translation) and constant regard for the contextual meanings of words.

In 1973 the New Testament was published. The Committee carefully reviewed suggestions for revisions and adopted a number of them, which they incorporated into the first printing of the entire Bible in 1978.

KJV King James Version

Reading Level: 12.00
Readability: Difficult to read due to 17th-century English vocabulary and word order
Reference Support Material: High
Number of Translators: 54
Translation Philosophy/Format: Priority to word translation rather than meaning Verse for Verse
Notes: Traditionally loved and accepted by all Christians. Purpose in translation was "to deliver God's book unto God's people in a tongue which they can understand." Published in 1611.

· The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17


Reading Level: NA
Readability: Expanded and amplified by means of a system of brackets and parentheses, which sometimes make for abrupt reading
Reference Support Material: Low
Number of Translators: Frances E. Siewert, plus 12 others
Translation Philosophy/Format: Priority to word translation plus additional amplification of word meaning Verse for verse
Notes: A popular translation used to understand the hidden meaning of Greek and Hebrew words. Published in 1964 (updated in 1987).

· The LORD your God is in the midst of you, a mighty One, a Savior - Who saves! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest (in silent satisfaction) and in His love He will be silent and make no mention (of past sins, or even recall them); He will exult over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. There are shades of meaning found in these original Bible texts that can't be captured in a straight word-for-word translation into English. Dr. Frances Siewert had the vision for a translation that would use additional English words to convey the full meaning of Scripture to those who don't have the knowledge of the original languages. Using the word-for-word American Standard Version as a reference text, she chose additional words to communicate the nuances of meaning from the original texts. These "amplification" words are offset from the text by brackets or parentheses. The Amplified New Testament, which was first published in 1958, took over 20,000 hours of research. Dr. Siewart's work was reviewed by a committee of translation experts for accuracy. The full Amplified Bible, first published in 1965, has become the favorite second Bible for millions of Christians. By comparing it to their favorite translation, they discover a wealth of additional insights into the Scripture.

Living Bible

Reading Level: 8.33
Readability: A popular, readable paraphrase, at times quite interpretive
Reference Support Material: Low
Number of Translators: Kenneth N. Taylor
Translation Philosophy/Format: Meaning all-important Paragraphs
Notes: A very popular paraphrase of the Bible. The purpose of the work was to explain the Bible in simple, everyday English. Originally intended for personal devotional use only. Published in 1971.

· For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you. Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song.
Zephaniah 3:17

NLT New Living Translation

Reading Level: 6.30
Readability: A readable translation, uses vocabulary and language structures commonly used by the average person
Reference Support Material: Low
Number of Translators: 90
Translation Philosophy/Format: Priority to meaning rather than word translation Paragraphs with poetry
Notes: The New Living Translation is a dynamic equivalence translation based on the work of 90 Bible scholars and a smaller team of English stylists. These scholars and stylists went back to the original languages and sought to produce the closest natural equivalent of the message in natural, contemporary English.

· For the LORD your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.
Zephaniah 3:17

NKJV New King James Version

Reading Level: 9.0
Readability: Easier word usage, but somewhat choppy because it maintains 17th century sentence structure
Reference Support Material: Low, but some KJV materials can be used
Number of Translators: 119
Translation Philosophy/Format: Priority to word translation rather than meaning Verse for Verse
Notes: A modern language update of the original KJV. Purpose was to update and modernize the original KJV but preserve the KJV as much as possible. Published in 1982.

· The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

The Message (New Testament and OT Wisdom Books)

Reading Level: 4.8
Readability: An easy-to-read, modern-language paraphrase
Reference Support Material: Low
Number of Translators: Eugene H. Peterson
Translation Philosophy/Format: Converts the original languages into the tone and the rhythms of modern-day American speech while retaining the idioms and meaning of the original languages. Paragraphs with poetry
Notes: This paraphrase was translated using the rhythms and tone of contemporary English to communicate to the modern reader.

· Old Testament not yet available, so no scripture comparison possible.

Parallel Bibles

When studying the Bible, it is helpful to compare different Bible translations. The translation committees for each Bible version chose different ways of translating the original Scripture texts into English. By comparing them, the English reader can get a more complete understanding of the intended meaning of the original writers. Parallel Bibles include different Bible translations side-by-side in one volume. Each page contains a complete Scripture portion from each of the versions so that the reader can easily compare the differences between versions.

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