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.
Most reader-friendly versions of the Bible are generally the loosest:
- The New Living Translation, is a paraphrase, seeking the contemporary meaning of each passage, not its literal translation.
- Christians of all stripes enjoy The Message by Eugene H. Peterson, a Bible-as-novel. Each translation, of course, is only the starting point for Bible publishers. Lately they've made buying a Bibles for someone else easier by producing gift Bibles, study Bibles, award Bibles and devotional Bibles for every group or occasion.
- The Women's Devotional Bible (Zondervan) and The Women of Color Study Bible (Nia Publishing) both add reflections and annotations that highlight women's issues, as The Men's Devotional Bible does for their counterparts. For Latinas, Broadman and Holman offers a Quinceanera Bible.
The youth market for Bibles has heated up tremendously:
- Most of the teen niche, like Thomas Nelson Inc.'s The Extreme Teen Bible present the Bible by way of MTV, with commentary by teens on drugs, peer pressure and sibling rivalry, all wrapped in tie-dye or neon colored covers.
- The Teen Devotional Bible, from Zondervan, is patterned after its women's devotional, while The TruthQuest Bible (Broadman and Holman) is the New Living Translation, annotated for teens, in a tie-dye cover.
- For Catholics is the more sedate Catholic Youth Bible (St. Mary's Press).
- Children The DK Illustrated Family Bible gives the New International Version realistic, annotated illustrations that will capture a middle-schooler's imagination. For younger children, there is The New Explorers Study Bible for Kids (Thomas Nelson) and The Beginners Bible series from Word Publishing.