Types of Bible Translations

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Types of Bible Translations

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“Of making many books there is no end.” So said Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:12 Ecclesiastes 12:12And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
American King James Version×
. 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, which publishes Vertical Thought , 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.

Types of Bible Translations - graphic by Dan Dowd

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

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


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.

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