[Infographic]: Types of Bible Translations

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Types of Bible Translations

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[Infographic]: Types of Bible Translations


"Of making many books there is no end." So said Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:12. We could take Solomon's statement and extend it to Bible translations. Go into any good bookstore and you can easily be overwhelmed with dozens and dozens of Bible translations from which to choose. Which one do you choose to study God's Word and learn His way?

There are three main types of Bible translations: word-for-word, thought-for-thought and paraphrase. A word-for-word translation attempts to translate each Hebrew or Greek word into a corresponding English word. However, some consider a word-for-word translation harder to understand, particularly when it comes to figures of speech that are not used in modern culture. Two examples of word-for-word translations are the King James Version and the New King James Version.

The thought-for-thought translations seek to express the meaning of each sentence or paragraph from the original language in simple up-to-date English without being tied to translating every word. As such, these types of translations should not be exclusively relied on for doctrinal study. The New International Version is perhaps the most well-known of the thought-for-thought translations.

A paraphrased translation has the primary goal of conveying the Bible in a simple, easy-to-understand language without regard to word-for-word or even thought-for-thought expressions of the original languages. The authors often exercise "poetic license," leaving great room for personal religious ideas.

The United Church of God uses the New King James Version as its standard English-language translation. We recommend this as a good all-around translation for everyday use. Thought-for-thought translations can be good secondary sources for simply reading God's Word or for rounding out an understanding of Scripture. The truth is, all Bible translations contain some human error, so it's best to use several versions in study.

1. Word - For - Word

NASB - New American Standard Bible
AMP - Amplified Bible
ESV - English Standard Version
RSV - Revised Standard Version
KJV - King James Version
NKJV - New King James Version

2. Thought - For - Thought

HCSB - Holman Christian Standard Bible
​​​​​​​NRSV - New Revised Standard Version
NAB - New American Bible
NJB - New Jerusalem Bible
NIV - New International Version
​​​​​​​TNIV - Today's New International Version
NCV - New Century Version
NLT - New Living Translation

3. Paraphrase

NIrV - New International Reader's Version
GNT - Good News Translation (also Good News Bible)
CEV - Contemporary English Version
TLB - The Living Bible
MSG - The Message


The examples of Bible translations is not meant to be all inclusive, but rather a listing of some of the more popular.


  • cncat

    What about these two: The Passion Translation and God's Word version?

  • Dan Dowd

    Thank you for your question! The God's Word Translation is a “closest natural equivalence” translation. On the chart, I would put this to the right of the New Century Version. The authors add interpretation that is not supported in the original manuscripts. The Passion Translation goes even further towards a paraphrase putting in the same area as The Living Bible. There can much more said, but I hope that answers your question.

  • ohthatdude

    I wss hoping to get some thoughts on the Geneva bible

  • Dan Dowd

    David, The Geneva Bible is similar in approach to the KJV. It was the go-to Bible before the KJV became more popular and is a word-for-word translation in approach. It was also used as a guide for some of the translators of the KJV. I did not include it in this article because it is not a widely available translation and for most people the old English wording is hard to read.

  • sdunn
    The 21st Century King James Version is Awesome. It still has the (thee's and Thou's) but for example Genesis 21:26 (KJV) 26 And Abimelech said, (I wot not) who hath done this thing; neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day. Genesis 21:26 (KJV21) 26 And Abimelech said, “I know not who hath done this thing; neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it until today.” Cool isn't it.
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