Where you given a King James version of the Holy Bible? Many consider the King James Version to be the greatest translation. A problem for modern readers is the word choice is old. People have a hard time reading it. Are the other translations that are safe to use? What translation of the Bible should I be using? To answer this question we need to focus on the types of translations and why there are so many.

Source Languages

Part of the field of study for any preacher is to study the Greek and Hebrew languages. A really good bible teacher will become fluent in Greek and Hebrew to the point that they will translate the Bible texts themselves as part of their preparations. Anyone can do this if they learn the language. The source texts that go back thousands of years are available to everyone.

For the sake of simplicity what everyone needs to understand is that the Old Testament is written in Hebrew the native language of Jewish people. And the New Testament is written in Greek the language of Rome that occupied the world a the time of Jesus and his apostles.

Types of Translations

The King James Bible is the most famous English language translation. This version was created in the early 1600s at the request of England’s King James. The King James version is considered a Literal translation. And it was created from the best source materials they had available at that time. Many new translations are not Literal so let us explore the types.

There are main three categories that translations fall into. Those categories are “Literal”, “Paraphrase”, and a hybrid of the two, “Dynamic Equivalent”, which is mostly literal but injects some of the translating group’s own thoughts.

Literal Translation

Literal is the best kind of translation for anyone who wants to study the Bible and teach from the Bible. Each word in these translations can be linked directly to Greek or Hebrew words. BlueLetterBible.org has the King James hyper linked to every word translated and we can see the original words from the where the translation came from.

Other translations that are literal like the King James are the English Standard Version (ESV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), and the New American Standard (NASB). I personally like the ESV. It uses the words of modern language and is readable. the NASB is the same but the translation does not flow very well from my perspective and I do not like to read it.

Paraphrase Translation

Paraphrase is the most enjoyable to sit and just read. Eugene Patterson a church pastor translated the entire bible in his own words which he titled the Message. The MSG version of the bible is very popular and is an interesting read because he is an excellent writer. Through this version of the Bible one might gain insights and other commentary ideas. But this commentary is coming from Eugene as a Bible teacher.

Dynamic Equivalent Translation

Most Bible versions fall here and they have specific audiences they want to target. The most famous version of this type of translation is the New International Version (NIV). These versions are hard to explain. They are not a paraphrase but they are not word for word translations either. They take a word in the original and sometimes they translate word for word if it is clear but other times they take a liberty and translate the idea behind the word to help the reader understand more readily. Like the paraphrase I would suggest understanding the author and their purpose before reading.

So What Version?

I recommend you use them all or a subset of ones you like. If you read something you don’t understand in the King James Version of the Bible then read another version and see if the meaning becomes more clear. With the internet this becomes immediately easy on a site like biblegateway.com. There you can place side by side multiple translations of the same verse. Here I have ESV, NIV, and MSG demonstrating one of each type of translation.

At the end of the day use the Bible version that God has drawn you to use or that matches what a majority in your church use. Your standard for any in-depth study should be a literal translation because they are the best you can get without learning Greek and Hebrew.

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