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And the best Bible translation is…

Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect translation, or even an ideal translation. Every Bible translation is good for a different purpose, as Bible translator Donna explores. There are several different translations that I like to recommend.

But of all the modern English versions, I find the NIV the most versatile.

The NIV is a true multi-purpose Bible translation: it excels in both accuracy and readability.

1. Accuracy. The NIV is exceptionally accurate and continues to be refined. Craig Blomberg is a member of the translation team and has been exploring this in his current series:

• Can commas be that important?Victims of adultery • Wives, women or deaconesses?Deferring to others or keeping score?Was Jesus ever indignant?Did Philemon practice outreach or inreach?

2. Readability. And I don’t just mean in private. A Bible is of limited use if it doesn’t work out loud. Some translations may sound antiquated or Yoda-esque, but the NIV’s language flows. It reads well and it speaks well.

Of course, neither accuracy nor readability are hard to find in English translations these days — but it’s difficult to find both in such excellent balance.

3. A rolling translation. Translation is always provisional. As part of its driving philosophy, the NIV is designed for periodic updates. The translation team shapes these re-releases by carefully interacting with developments in both biblical scholarship and English usage. The NIV has now been practising this rolling translation philosophy for several decades, and it shows: it improves over time!

4. Independent and reliable. The NIV team, the Committee for Bible Translation, has been meeting annually since 1978 and has always been independent. It’s not beholden to a particular camp, publisher or bias. This has helped ensure that the NIV is broadly evangelical in the most robust sense, and gives it an international scope.

The NIV isn’t just eminently useful, it’s trustworthy. From my corner of the world, the NIV is the premier Protestant translation of Scripture.

A glut of different Bible versions has appeared in recent years, but the versatility of the NIV is unmatched. It does double or triple duty, serving as a study Bible, a congregational Bible, and a devotional Bible. Plus, it’s got a proven track record.

What makes a Bible translation work for you, readers?

However, as I’ll explore in coming weeks, I don’t think translation is the most pressing issue for English-speaking Bible readers…

Categories: Written by Arthur

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Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

4 replies

  1. I don’t know many details about Bible translations but I’ve heard things in the past about dynamic equivalence (eg. NIV) versus complete equivalence (eg. NKJV) and the possibility that dynamic equivalence can end up being more like paraphrase than translation in some instances. I can understand that having an accurate and perhaps literal translation may be best in some cases, but the NIV does seem to be easier to read and understand in general and I prefer it for everyday reading. Apart from that, I’ve not had much experience with the ESV but I know many people use it for Bible study. I guess if you’re studying scripture, the best approach would be to look at various translations side by side as well as the original language.

  2. Cheers Nathan. You know, I think there’s a sense in which “dynamic equivalence” is actually more accurate, because it preserves meaning rather than just word-forms. If we had a true, total “word for word” translation, it would be incomprehensible.

    Multiple translations is a good thing, isn’t it!!

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