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Bible Versions: What is the Best Bible Translation? by David Malcolm Bennett

For example, the Good News Bible (GNB) or, better, the Contemporary English Version (CEV) may be the best translation for those whose English is poor or whose understanding is limited, perhaps people with English as a second language or the poorly educated. In fact, the GNB was originally intended for those who had English as a second language. But for those with a better command of English and who have been fortunate to have had a reasonable education there are better options than the GNB and the CEV. These include the NIV, the English Standard Version (ESV) and the RSV.

The main criteria for determining the “best” or even a “good” version are the accuracy of translation and the readability and understandability of the final form. A translation must be accurate, but this does not mean it must be literal. A highly literal translation of any passage can quite easily miss the real meaning. The “best” translation also needs to be easily read and understood by the people it is intended for.

The New International Version

My favorite is the NIV. It has been my main translation for about thirty years. This version has been translated by a team of evangelical scholars from a host of different denominations, including Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian. This cooperative effort goes a long way to eliminating doctrinal bias. These scholars also come from different English-speaking countries, such as America, Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.

A highly literal translation of any passage can quite easily miss the real meaning.

The result is a good translation which, in my opinion, blends the formal and the dynamic methods quite beautifully. This means the words often bounce off the page, but it is rarely fanciful in its translations. It is also generally fair to the Hebrew and Greek texts (as far as I understand them), from which they are translated. It is easy to read and understand, and a pleasure to read.

When it comes to considering translations of specific verses in the NIV, my favorite is 2 Tim. 3:16. It begins: “All scripture is God-breathed”. “God-breathed!” That is a literal translation of the Greek. Strict literal translations don’t usually work. They often sound rigid and unnatural. However, this one works beautifully and expresses the meaning perfectly. Most other translations of this verse use the word “inspired”, which is fair enough, but it leaves open the question what do you mean by “inspired”? A piece of music can be inspired. A sporting idol might be inspired when they play a brilliant game. But that word in this context means more than that. While a dictation concept of the writing of Scripture is flawed, in breathing out the Scriptures through His human messengers God has still given us His word in a form that is totally trustworthy and dependable. It is, indeed, God-breathed, and for that matter, a breath of fresh air.

Another of my specific favorites is Is. 26:12. The second part of which reads, “all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Did you get that? “All that we have accomplished you have done for us.” I remember reading through Isaiah in my morning devotions one day many years ago and this verse struck me like a lightning bolt.

All that I do in the service of God I can only do because His Spirit works in me. It is an echo, if one can put it that way, of Phil. 2:12-13, which reads, “work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” In other words, “all that we have accomplished” in God’s service His Spirit has “done for us” and in us.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Spring 2013

About the Author: David Malcolm Bennett, Ph.D., is an Anglo-Australian Christian researcher and writer with over 15 books in print. They include The Altar Call: Its Origins and Present Usage, The Sinner’s Prayer: Its Origins and Dangers (companion website:, The Origins of Left Behind Eschatology, Edward Irving Reconsidered: The Man, His Controversies, and the Pentecostal Movement, and The General: William Booth. He is also the transcriber, editor and publisher of The Letters of William and Catherine Booth and The Diary and Reminiscences of Catherine Booth.

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