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Five Five-Star Bible Versions

Reviewed by Gary F. Zeolla

All of the versions reviewed on this page are available at reduced prices from Books-A-Million.

King James Version

A very reliable Bible version, if you can understand it

The King James Version (KJV) is probably the best-known version of the Bible. And it is truly an excellent translation. First off, it follows a “formal equivalence” (word-for-word) translation principle. IMO, this principle is much more accurate than the “dynamic equivalence” (thought for thought) principle that most modern-day versions follow.

In addition, the KJV is based on the Textus Receptus (TR). And again, I consider this Greek text to be more reliable than the “Critical Text” (CT) that most modern versions utilize. Although, I actually prefer the “Majority Text” (MT) to the TR, but these two texts are very close, much closer to each other than either is to the CT.

But it must be noted that the KJV is not the only version that follows a formal equivalence principle and is based on the TR. There are several other such versions, such as the New King James Version, Modern King James Version, and the Literal Translation of the Bible, while my own Analytical-Literal Translation is based on the MT.

Moreover, each of these other versions utilize modern-day English and thus are relatively easy to read while the KJV’s use of the Elizabethan English can make it very difficult to understand.

Now I know there are many “KJV-onlyists” who consider the KJV to the only true Bible, while all other Bible versions are called “perversions.” And their diatribes even attack versions like the ones I list above. But I have taken the time to investigate their arguments and have found them to be faulty.

I present my counter-arguments to the KJV-onlyists’ arguments in much detail in the section on “KJV-onlyism” in my book Differences Between Bible Versions, so I won’t try to get into that discussion here. I’ll simply encourage the reader to consider both sides of this argument before making a decision on it.

All that said, if you can understand the KJV then by all means utilize. But if you find the KJV difficult to read, then before condescending to read a less reliable dynamic equivalence version, or worse, giving up on reading the Bible altogether, I would suggest checking out one of the versions I mention above.

New King James Version

A very readable, accurate, and reliable Bible version

When I first became a Christian I was reading the NIV, but upon comparing it to the word-for-word translation in an interlinear I realized that it was not that accurate. The reason for this is the NIV follows a “dynamic equivalence” (thought for thought) translation principle. So I changed to using the NASB, which follows a “formal equivalence” (word-for-word) principle. And the NASB did match up much better to the interlinear.

But then I began to investigate the issue of Greek text type. And my research convinced me that the Critical Text that the NIV and NASB are based on was less reliable than the Textus Receptus that the KJV and NKJV utilize. So I switched to the NKJV as my primary Bible, and have been using it as such for over a decade now.

Now I know there are many KJV-onlyists who consider the NKJV to be a “perversion” of the KJV. But I have taken the time to research their arguments and have found them to be faulty. I present my counter-arguments to the KJV-onlyists’ arguments against the NKJV in much detail in the section on “KJV-onlyism” in my book Differences Between Bible Versions.

In my book I quote from numerous KJV-onlyist sources. I look at their arguments against the NKJV in general along with evaluating in detail their complaints on specific verses. And I conclude that yes, there are times the NKJV is not translated as accurately as it could be, but the same could be said for the KJV. And overall, both versions are very reliable.

But the big difference between these two versions is the KJV’s use of Elizabethan English can make it very difficult to understand while the NKJV utilizes modern-day English and thus is relatively easy to read. And frankly I see no reason why I should struggle unnecessary with the KJV’s archaic English when the NKJV is just as accurate while so much more readable.

To conclude, the NKJV is a very readable and accurate Bible version. One can read it with confidence that they are utilizing a reliable version of the Bible. If the reader wants even more confidence in this regard, then see my Bible versions book.

Literal Translation of the Bible

An extremely reliable and accurate Bible version

The Literal Translation of the Bible, as the name implies, follows a literal translation principle. This principle simply believes that EVERY SINGLE WORD in the original Hebrew and Greek texts should be translated. In addition, the grammatical forms of words should also be translated as they are in the original texts. So a noun should be translated as a noun, an adjective as an adjective, etc. Moreover, any words added for clarity should be offset in some way, usually by placing them in italics or brackets.

So a literal translation principle produces a very exact reproduction of what God originally said. And I do believe that this method of translating is the only one which concurs completely with the doctrine of verbal inspiration, i.e. the belief that not just the thoughts or ideas of the Bible are inspired, but the very words and grammatical forms of words themselves. It is for this reason that I have been using the LITV (for “Literal Version”) extensively for the past 15 years. It is the ideal type for Bible to use for in-depth, personal Bible study.

If fact, I am so much in favor of a literal translation method that I produced my own literal translation of the New Testament, the Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT). But there are two main differences between my ALT and the LITV. First, the LITV is based on the Textus Receptus (TR) while my ALT is based on the Majority Text (MT). These two texts are very similar, much closer to each other than either is to the more popular Critical Text (CT), but there are some significant differences between them. And I favor the MT to the TR, but either of these to the CT.

Second, my ALT has “analytical” features included within brackets within the text to help the reader better understand the text.

I produced my own translation not because I thought there were any problems with the LITV. It is truly an excellent translation. But I wanted a translation with these two features that the LITV lacks.

Now an argument often made against using a literal translation method is that it would be too awkward to read. And yes, the LITV can seem a bit awkward when one first begins reading it, especially if one is used to reading a much less literal version like the NIV. But personally, I never found the LITV to be excessively awkward. And one of the comments I have received about my ALT is that it is surprisingly easy to read. This is probably because the analytical features help to explain difficult passages.

So I wholeheartedly recommend the LITV. Even if it takes a little getting used to, the effort will be worth it. It will enhance your Bible studies significantly. It is truly an extremely reliable and accurate Bible version. And if you want another literal translation to compare it to, I would recommend my ALT. 

Modern King James Version

An accurate and reliable updating of the KJV

The Modern King James Version (MKJV) is a lesser-known Bible version. It is an updating of the King James Version. Jay P. Green, the translator of the Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV), also translated the MKJV. The press release for the MKJV says, "... it is the grand old version in the English of today-period!"

It is true that the MKJV updates the archaic language of the KJV, but the MKJV does make other changes as well. However, these changes tend towards making the text more literal than the KJV, and the MKJV is easier to read than the KJV. So as compared to the KJV, it is an improvement. But as compared to the New King James Version, I’m not so sure.

I have been using the NKJV as my primary Bible for years. The MKJV is somewhat more accurate than the NKJV. But the difference is not that great. And the MKJV is also somewhat more difficult to read. So I see no reason to switch to it. So I will probably stick with my practice of using the NKJV as my primary Bible and Green’s LITV as my secondary Bible.

But having said that, the MKJV is a very good Bible version. It is very accurate and is based on what I believe to be a very good Greek text, the Textus Receptus. So the MKJV is very reliable and is worth checking out.

World English Bible

Readable and accurate translation of the best Greek text

The translation philosophy of the World English Bible is described on the WEB: FAQ page on its Web site, "Some people like to use the terms 'formal equivalent' and 'dynamic equivalent.' Neither of these exactly describe what we are doing, since we have borrowed ideas from both, but I suppose that we are closer to formal equivalence than dynamic equivalence."

Dynamic equivalence refers to the thought for thought translation principle used in such versions as the NIV and NLT. This method is less literal than the formal equivalence (word for word) method seen in such versions as the KJV and NKJV. And in my opinion, formal equivalence is a much better principle for translating the Bible.

In any case, the above is a rather accurate description of the translation method of the WEB. It is mostly a formal equivalence version, but it tends towards dynamic equivalence at places. Also added words are not italicized or bracketed as they are in versions like the KJV and NKJV. So its accuracy is somewhat less than these two versions but much better than true dynamic equivalence versions. And with only minor deviations into dynamic equivalency, the WEB is reliable Bible version. Moreover, the WEB is much more readable than the KJV and somewhat more readable than NKJV.

In addition, the WEB differs from the KJV and NKJV in that it is based on the Majority Text (MT) rather than the Textus Receptus (TR). These two texts are very similar, much closer to each other than either is to the more popular Critical Text (CT). Of these three texts, I believe the MT is the most accurate, so being based on this text a big plus in favor of the WEB.

In fact, the WEB is one of only two versions currently available based on the MT. The other is my own Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT). But, as the name implies, my ALT differs from the WEB in that the ALT is a very literal translation, thus it is more accurate than the WEB. But the WEB would be more readable.

The WEB also has footnotes indicating textual variants, along with alternative translations and explanatory notes. My ALT includes such information. It has alternative translations and other aids within brackets within the text and a list significant textual variants in an appendix. And whether in footnotes, within brackets, or in an appendix, such info can be very helpful in Bible study.

So the WEB provides an accurate and readable translation of the best available Greek text, while providing helpful aids for Bible study. So I would highly recommend it. And for an even more accurate translation of the MT, see my ALT.

For further details on all of the versions discussed above, along with additional information on different translation methods and Greek text-types and reviews of about 25 other versions of the Bible, see my book Differences Between Bible Versions.

All of the versions discussed above, along with my Bible versions book, are available at reduced prices from Books-A-Million.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above reviews were posted on this Web site March 31, 2002.

Bible Versions Controversy

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