Bible Translations “Visually” Compared

I ran across this chart and thought it was a reasonably accurate visual representations of the different Bible translations available today. “More meaning-based” means there is more interpretation going on in the translation. The translator is telling you what he or usually a committee believes the original Hebrew or Greek means in English. “More form-based” is going by the form the word is in the Hebrew and Greek and putting it in a equivalent English form. This is going to be a more literal of translation but harder to read in English.

Notice the MSG, The Message Bible, is not a translation at all. It’s a paraphrase and ought not be regarded as God’s Word at all. The same is true for the Living Bible, Good News for Modern Man, AKA Today’s English Version. These can be consulted for a turn of phrase, an aid to understanding, but know you’re reading a deliberate paraphrase not a “thus saith the Lord.”

I personally use the NASB, but I prefer the 1977 not the 1995 version. There is now a 2020 version and that occasioned the article that I got this from. The article was critical of the 2020 NASB (  If you want an even more literal translation I can recommend, because I have read and studied it, the American Standard Version. This is a 1901 translation and so painfully literal it is often described as “wooden”. If you’re familiar with and like my ham-fisted translations of the Greek, you’ll like this. If you would like the Greek insights without the whole translation, get yourself The Amplified Bible. You can get it used for under 20.00 and I believe the app is free for those who know what that jargon even means.

Notice GW, that’s God’s Word, sometime I will share my critique of that name. Okay, I’ll do it now: what The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) did, bogart the names Evangelical, Lutheran, Church, and America by calling themselves ‘the’, so God’s Word did by naming their free-wheeling translation ‘God’s Word” (Pronounce ‘God’ with a pulpit tone and you’ll get the picture.” GW started out as the New Testament: God’s Word to the Nations. This was a project by Confessional Lutherans. Somehow, they lost control and God’s Word was produced. In 2019 the Evangelical Heritage Version came out which was done by Confessional Lutheran pastors and professors. They have also produced a digital study Bible. The print edition of the Bible is about 25.00; the digital study Bible is 19.99.

I prefer the EHV to the ESV and consult it about as often as I consult the AAT (An American Translation done in 1976 by a LCMS pastor.). Dr. Robert Preus praised this translation in the Old Testament saying it understood that that Hebrew was not so much a majestic language but an earthy one. I would place these three translations as follows. EHV right before NIV and AAT right after.

As I have said many times, referencing someone else I remember not whom: The problem is not that we don’t’ have an accurate translation of the Bible. The problem is that we don’t read the translations we do have. Finally, during the so-called Battle for the Bible in the 70s, I heard my father respond to taunting sarcastic question which translation is the Word of God. He said emphatically, “The one you’re reading.” Years later Dr. Robert Preus in class said the same thing and explained why: If St. Paul can say of the LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament that the Greek-raised Pastor Timothy would have grown up on, “ All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16 (NASB77) than we can say that of our English translations too. Amen to that.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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