Key Bible and Theological Reference Tools: English Translations

This post is a re-blog of my post at Rolfing Unshelved.


This post is part of a series entitled Key Bible and Theological Reference Tools. This series seeks to provide one with an introduction to some key Biblical and theological reference tools. In this series one will find basic explanations, significant examples, and other information about these reference tools.


Basic Description

English Bible translations are publications that seek to faithfully render the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text of the Bible in the English language.

Prominent English Translations

  • New International Version (NIV).
  • Today’ New International Version (TNIV).
  • New Living Translation (NLT).
  • Revised Standard Version (RSV).
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
  • English Standard Bible (ESV).
  • American Standard Version (ASV).
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB).
  • New English Translation (NET).
  • King James Version (KJV).
  • New King James Version (NKVJ).
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
  • New American Bible (NAB – Roman Catholic translation).
  • The Message.

Reason for Differences

Generally speaking, significant differences between translations are due to two reasons:

  1. Different base texts – Differences in translations are often due to the fact that different translations are often based on different source texts in the original languages. As such, these differences are not actually differences in translation but differences in what is being translated.
  2. Different translation philosophy – Other differences can often be explained by differences in translation philosophy and methodology.

Translation Approaches

Generally speaking, two approaches to translation exist with specific translations falling somewhere on the spectrum between the two poles.

  1. Formal equivalence – Commonly referred to as “literal” or “word for word” translation; seeks to retain a formal correspondance (in terms of vocabulary as well as grammar and syntax) between the original and receptor language as much as is possible in the translation process.
  2. Dynamic (or functional) equivalence – Commonly referred to as “thought for thought” translation; seeks to produce a clear and natural translation based on a functional meaning-based correspondance between the original and receptor language.

The following chart presents where prominent English translations roughly fall on this spectrum.

The above chart is taken from Fee, Gordon D., and Mark L. Strauss, How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), pp. 28.


* This post’s information can be found within Rolfing Library’s research guides. See the guide to English translations here.

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