What’s the Most Accurate Bible Translation?

What’s the Most Accurate Bible Translation?

How to Find the Most Accurate Bible Translation

As Christians, it is important to study the Bible daily. However, with so many Bible translations to choose from, and more being added to the list each year, it can be hard to know which Bible to choose! 

Does it really matter what translation of the Bible you read? Does it all boil down to personal preference? While personal preference certainly plays a role in the decision, it is important to study a Bible translation that is regarded as accurate by scholars and theologians.

What is the most accurate Bible translation? The New American Standard Bible, or NASB, has long been considered the most accurate Bible translation. The NASB, originally published in 1963 uses a literal, word-for-word translation method that maintains accuracy. Other Bible translations regarded as highly accurate include the King James Version (KJV) and English Standard Version (ESV), to name a few.

Bible translation in America seems to be a booming enterprise. With so many translations readily available, believers are often distraught over which translation is the best. In this post, we will take a look at some interesting facts regarding the accuracy of Bible translations and the many methods of Bible translation that exist.

We will also share some of the things you must consider when you are choosing a Bible translation for your personal studies. By the end of this article, you will be well-equipped to select a new Bible with confidence as you continue to grow in your knowledge of God’s word.

Most Popular Bible Translations in 2021

With new Bible translations arriving on the market each year, it can be fascinating to watch trends shift. However, the list of popular Bible translations often stays the same from year to year. In fact, most of the following Bible translations have maintained the title of most popular Bible translation for more than ten years! 

The most popular Bible translations in 2021 include the following:


  • NIV – New International Version 
  • KJV – King James Version
  • NLT – New Living Translation
  • ESV – English Standard Version
  • NKJV – New King James Version
  • CSB – Christian Standard Bible
  • NIRV – New International Reader’s Version
  • MSG – The Message
  • NASB – New American Standard Bible



While this list does not represent the most accurate Bible translations, some of the translations cover both categories. It is not necessary to select a Bible translation from this list. However, these Bible translations are ones that are commonly used by pastors, scholars, and theologians. For this reason, it may be beneficial to study one of the most popular Bible translations for ease of use.

How is the Bible Translated?

The act of translating the Bible has been practiced for centuries upon centuries. Originally written in Hebrew and Greek, John Wycliffe is credited with producing the first complete Bible translated into English in 1382.

However, even before this translation, the Bible was translated from traditional Hebrew to the common language of the time. This was the start of the never-ending process of translating the Bible into the language of all people. Some of the earliest Bible translations from Hebrew into other languages included Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, and Armenian.

Bible translation is a complex task with many possible methods. This is one of the reasons we have so many Bible translations available today! The goal of Bible translation is to produce a text in another language, be that English or otherwise, that is in the same style as the original text.

Where Do Bible Translations Originate?

While we know a lot about how the Bible came into existence, many pieces of history are missing between then and now. From both the Bible and ancient history, we know that the Bible began as various manuscripts that were copied by hand for distribution. 

Eventually, these manuscripts were combined to create the Hebrew Scriptures (now the Old Testament) and the Greek New Testament (now the New Testament). Those original manuscripts ceased to exist centuries ago. However, there are various portions of copies of the Old and New Testament that have been preserved to this day. 

So, how do we get from those copies of the manuscripts to the many Bible translations we have today? Modern Bible translators use the most updated versions of these Biblical manuscripts. 

To translate the Old Testament, Bible translators use the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the modern heir of the Biblia Hebraica which was edited in 1906 by Rudolf Kittel. To translate the New Testament, Bible translators use an updated edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece which was originally edited in 1898 by Eberhard and Erwin Nestle.

From these compilations, modern Bible translators use a variety of methods to translate the text into a new translation. The most common Bible translation methods include Word for Word Bible Translation, Thought for Thought Bible Translation, and Paraphrase Bible Translation. We will discuss the various pros and cons of these methods in depth throughout this article.

Why Are There So Many Bible Translations?

So, why are there so many translations of the Bible? Is it really necessary to continue to translate the Bible into English when there are people who have yet to read a Bible in their native language? 

Various Translation Methods & Manuscripts

The primary reason there are so many translations of the English Bible is simply that there is such a wide range of translation methods and philosophies. This fact, coupled with the hundreds of manuscripts Bible translators can work with, lends itself to the many versions that are available today. 

There are roughly 50 main versions of the Bible available in English. However, if we consider revisions to those main versions, there are several hundred English Bibles. And this is just a conservative estimate! With so many translations to choose from, it’s understandable that this is a topic of great debate in Christian circles throughout America.

New Translations Account for Changes in the English Language

Translations of the BibleIn addition to the many translation methods and philosophies, new Bible translations have been introduced to account for the drastic changes in the English language over the years. For example, the King James Version (KJV), written in Old English, may be confusing to some readers. 

Because the meaning of words in the English language changes over time, it is important that there are translations of the Bible that account for these changes.

One good example of this is found by comparing 2 Timothy 2:15. In the English Standard Version (ESV), 2 Timothy 2:15 reads, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

However, in the King James Version (KJV), 2 Timothy 2:15 reads, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

At the time of the King James Translation, ‘study’ simply meant do your best – not learn something new like it does in our modern language. In many ways, modern translations of the Bible allow us to more easily study and understand the truths found in God’s Word. 

However, this fact should not cause us to discount some of the first Bible translations as we can still gain great insight from the text found within.

Bible Translation Methods

As mentioned previously, there are several different methods used to translate the Bible. The first method that is used is called formal equivalence, or word for word translation. Functional equivalence, or thought for thought translation is another translation method. In more recent years, a third Bible translation method has been introduced, the paraphrase translation.

It is important to note that while the word for word translation method is often regarded as the most accurate, nearly every translation of the Bible can be insightful and useful for various purposes. Let’s take a closer look at each of these common methods for Bible translation to see how they differ. 

Word for Word Bible Translation Method

The word for word Bible translation method, or formal equivalence, strives for the most literal translation. Oftentimes, scholars refer to this method as literal translation. Because of this, Bibles that use this method are often regarded as the most accurate. Bibles that are translated using the word for word method leave the least room for human error or faulty interpretation of the text.

Examples of Word for Word Bible Translation

Some of the most common Bible translations that use the word for word Bible translation method include the following:

  • NASB – New American Standard Bible
  • ESV – English Standard Version
  • NET – New English Translation
  • KJV – King James Version
  • NKJV – New King James Version


Benefits of Word for Word Bible Translation

There are certainly many benefits to reading a word for word translation of the Bible. In fact, many of the most popular Bible translations follow this method! Many translations that fall under this category combine accuracy with ease of use, something that readers often prioritize.

Thought for Thought Bible Translation Method

The second Bible translation method that is used commonly is the thought for thought translation method. Also known as functional equivalence or dynamic equivalence, this method aims to make the text easy to both read and understand. Because this translation provides ease of use, it is often recommended as an excellent choice for an individual’s first Bible.

Examples of Thought for Thought Bible Translation

Some of the most common Bible translations that use the thought for thought Bible translation method include the following:


  • CSB – Christian Standard Bible
  • NIV – New International Version
  • NLT – New Living Translation


Benefits of Thought for Thought Bible Translation

The thought for thought Bible translation method provides benefits that are similar in many ways to the word for word method. While the thought for thought method may not be considered as accurate as others, it provides an easier reading experience. This is great for young readers or individuals who are reading the Bible for the first time. 

Paraphrase Bible Translation Method

The final Bible translation method we will cover in this article is the paraphrase method. While not considered accurate by any means, Bibles in this category can provide a unique insight into a text. Many pastors, scholars, and theologians agree that Bibles translated using the paraphrase method should not be the only Bible an individual reads. Rather, they should be considered a type of study tool.

Examples of Paraphrase Bible Translation

Some of the most common Bible translations that use the paraphrase Bible translation method include the following:


  • NIRV – New International Reader’s Version
  • MSG – The Message
  • GNT – Good News Translation


Benefits of Paraphrase Bible Translation

While it is certainly the least accurate subset of Bible translations, Bibles that are translated using the paraphrase method can be an incredible tool! Most of these paraphrased translations read more like a book, making it easier to understand complex topics for some readers. 

Why Does Bible Translation Accuracy Matter?

The Bible is the inspired Word of God. However, it is translated by man. Because of this, we must choose the Bible translation we read carefully. While Bible translators study for years to accomplish their tasks effectively, there is always room for error.

Although there are certain translations of the Bible that many regard as more accurate than others, readers can gain knowledge and insight from virtually every translation. For this reason, many pastors, scholars, and theologians suggest reading from several Bible translations regularly.

Do You Have to Pick Just One Bible Translation?

Many people stress over which Bible translation they will choose. However, no one says you have to pick just one Bible translation! In fact, there is great benefit from reading various translations and comparing their text. Here are some ways that you can introduce several translations of the Bible into your daily studies.

Consider Reading Through a New Bible Translation Each Year

Many people read through the Bible each year. While this is beneficial even if you are reading the same translation, reading a new translation can prove even more beneficial! Consider reading through a new translation of the Bible each year. There are many benefits to this practice including new revelation, greater understanding, and different insight gained from different translation methods.

Some pastors and scholars choose to stick to Bibles that are translated using the word for word method for this practice. Others, however, prefer to alternate between Bibles that utilize several translation methods and philosophies. 

Select Various Bible Translations for Cross-Study Purposes

Several believers choose to use the same translation of the Bible for their entire life. There is certainly nothing wrong with this practice! However, one way to introduce different translations of the Bible into your daily rotation is to use them for cross-study purposes. Much like one would use a Study Bible, using another translation of the Bible can provide deeper insight and meaning to otherwise confusing passages.

Things to Consider When Selecting a Bible Translation

If you are new to your faith, or if you are simply looking for a new translation of the Bible to read, there are several things you should consider. Here are a few questions to ask yourself during this process: 

Do Pastors Regard This Bible Translation As Accurate?

First and foremost, it is important to select a Bible that pastors regard as accurate. For most people, this means sticking to a translation that uses the word for word method. However, other methods provide comparable benefits. It is wise to choose a Bible translation that is popular and well-regarded by pastors, theologians, and scholars.

Do I Understand This Translation of The Bible?

It is imperative that you understand what you are reading as you study the Bible! While some individuals appreciate the challenging Old English of the King James Version (KJV), others find themselves reading aimlessly without gaining knowledge. If you are not able to understand the words you are reading, or if you find the process tedious, you will be less likely to continue on in your study of Scripture.

What Bible Translation Does My Pastor Use While Preaching?

While it is not imperative that you use the same translation of the Bible as your pastor, many people find this practice to be helpful! By selecting the translation from which your pastor teaches, you will be able to easily follow their sermons and insight. 

Most pastors preach from one translation of the Bible. However, other pastors use several versions throughout their studies and teaching. If you are unsure of which translation of the Bible will be most beneficial for you, your pastor is a great resource!

Translating the Bible Into Other Languages

The work of translating the Bible is one of the most important missions. As English speaking Americans, we have the blessing of having access to hundreds of versions of the Bible. But did you know that not everyone has access to a Bible in their native language? 

A 2020 study done by Wycliffe Global Alliance, a leader in Bible translation, estimated that roughly 1.5 billion people are waiting to have a full Bible translated into their language. 

As of 2020, at least some portion of the Bible has been translated into over 3,415 languages. While significant progress has been made toward the goal of translating the Bible into every man’s language, there is still work to be done! Wycliffe Global Alliance estimates work has begun towards translating the Bible into an additional 2,731 languages, a work that would impact 167 countries.

Interesting Facts About the Most Popular Bible Translations

There are many interesting facts about some of the most popular Bible translations. Let’s take a closer look at some of these translations of the Bible that continue to increase in popularity with each passing year.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is considered not only the most accurate Bible translation but also one of the most popular! Originally published in 1963, the NASB was most recently revised in 1995.

In addition to using the word for word Bible translation method, the New American Standard also uses text from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The NASB also uses text from the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum. 

However, the NASB does present some challenges. Its literal translation makes it more challenging to read than other translations of the Bible. Although this fact does not discourage many individuals from selecting the New American Standard Bible as their translation of choice.

English Standard Version (ESV)

A more recent revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the English Standard Version (ESV) is similar in many ways to the New American Standard Bible. After the first publishing in 2001, a new edition of the ESV came to market in 2009 that included the deuterocanonical books.

The ESV has quickly grown in popularity due to its accuracy and ease-of-use. The ESV is written in modern English. However, many readers find that it remains pure to the text of older translations of the Bible.

King James Version (KJV)

One can not discuss popular translations of the Bible without mentioning the King James Version (KJV). Perhaps one of the oldest Bible translations still in print, the first publishing of the King James Version was in 1611.

It is shockingly accurate. However, the KJV is written in Old English, a language that many modern readers struggle to understand. As we mentioned previously, adaptations and changes to the English language have rendered the KJV outdated. Some of the words that were commonly used in 1611 simply do not have the same meaning in our language today. 

However, this fact does not discount the accuracy and popularity of the King James Version. In fact, the KJV remains one of the best-loved and most popular translations of the Bible in English.

Are Study Bibles Accurate? 

In addition to the many translations of the Bible that are available in our language, there are also thousands of Study Bibles. Written by various scholars, pastors, teachers, and theologians, these study Bibles provide us with additional insight into passages. 

There are many types of study Bibles on the market today. Some study Bibles feature footnotes directing the reader to additional resources. Others include devotional thoughts or excerpts responding to particular passages. In general, study Bibles follow a specific translation selected by the author. They simply add their personal thoughts or insight along with the Biblical text. 

It is important to understand that any author’s insight should not be regarded as highly as the Word of God. However, study Bibles can be an incredible tool in helping a believer grow deeper in their faith. The Biblical text within the study Bible is just as accurate as that translation of the Bible. However, this does not account for the thoughts and insight added by the author.

When selecting a study Bible, one must be careful to choose a version that is authored by a trusted leader who is regarded highly by their peers.

In Conclusion

So, does the accuracy of the Bible translation you read really matter? Absolutely, yes! It is important to search out a text that is a close translation of the original text. However, there is great value in reading a variety of Bible translations to gain insight and understanding.

The most accurate translation of the Bible is the New American Standard Bible (NASB), a literal, word for word translation that is also one of the most popular. Other accurate translations of the Bible include the English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), New English Translation (NET), and New King James Version (NKJV), to name a few. 

In addition to choosing a Bible translation that is accurate, it can also be helpful to read a translation of the Bible that is popular among your community. Some of the most popular Bible transitions include the New American Standard Bible (NASB), New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), Christian Standard Bible (CSB), King James Version (KJV), and English Standard Bible (ESV), to name a few.

Regardless of the translation of the Bible that you select, it is important to prioritize daily reading and studying of the Scripture. This practice will encourage you as you deepen your faith and understanding of the Word of God.

Related Questions

Is the Bible the absolute truth? Yes! The Bible is absolute truth and must be the cornerstone of both our faith and our daily lives. The Bible is our foundation for truth. Because of this, we have a set of guidelines by which to live and determine right from wrong. You can read more about whether the Bible is absolute truth here.

Why are there Bibles in hotel rooms? Many travelers wonder why there is a Bible in their hotel room. This movement started as an outreach to traveling businessmen in the early 1900s. It continues through the same group, The Gideons International, as an outreach and ministry opportunity. Read more about the history of Bibles in hotel rooms here.

What are the benefits of being a Christian? If you are new to religion, you may be wondering why Christianity is beneficial. The primary benefit of becoming a Christian is securing your eternal destination in Heaven through the gift of salvation. You can learn more about the benefits of being a Christian here.

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