The Bible is the best-selling book of all time. But with 16 different English translations available in more than 1,000 different editions, which is the right Bible for you? A look at the major translations and who reads them:
The King James Version
First published by order of its namesake in 1611, the KJV is still unmatched for its pure, poetic beauty. The King James is also the most familiarly "Biblical" to the ear: when Linus quotes the Christmas Story at the end of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," he quotes the King James. But the same archaic language that lends the King James its authority can make it a difficult read. The KJV is the Bible of choice for Mormons and you're likely to find it in Anglican households as well. The New King James Version retains much of the KJV's power, while smoothing out some of its thornier diction. (Some groups view the King James as the only true translation of the Bible.)
New Revised Standard Version
By and large, mainline Protestants prefer the New Revised Standard Version, with its up-to-date translation. Academics like it too for its faithfulness to the original Hebrew and Greek texts. The New Revised is used widely for study bibles and it's also approved by the Pope for Roman Catholics to read, but not for use in liturgical settings.
New International Version
Associated with the evangelical tradition, the NIV is the bestselling English translation of the Bible. Though easier to read than either the NRSV or the King James, its readability comes at the cost of textual accuracy.
The New American Standard Bible
A rigorous translation, that may be a better bet for evangelical Protestant students.
New American Version
The New American Version is the main translation used by Roman Catholics and is approved by the Vatican for use in Mass. The translation is clear and modern.
Other Catholic Translations:
- The New Jerusalem Bible is a more scholarly choice for Catholics, with a richer, literary tone. Keeping with Catholic tradition, both the New Jerusalem and the NAB put the Apocrypha-books of the Bible that Protestant versions keep segregated from the Old Testament-"in place."
- The Catholic Bible, from Oxford University Press, is an alternative for Bible beginners.
- Oxford's Catholic Study Bible is for more advanced readers, or those taking a Bible class.