top-ten-bible-translations

The Christian Booksellers Association has published its list of bestselling Bible translations in 2012 for the United States.

2012 – Based on Dollar Sales

  1. New International Version
  2. King James Version
  3. New Living Translation
  4. New King James Version
  5. English Standard Version
  6. Holman Christian Standard Bible
  7. New American Standard Bible
  8. Common English Bible
  9. Reina Valera 1960
  10. The Message

2012 – Based on Unit Sales

  1. New Living Translation
  2. New International Version
  3. King James Version
  4. New King James Version
  5. English Standard Version
  6. Common English Bible
  7. Holman Christian Standard Bible
  8. New American Standard Bible
  9. Reina Valera 1960
  10. New International Readers Version

Are there any surprises to you? How many of these translations have you read?

 

 

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Comments

  1. says

    I think it could be defined as a surprise that the ESV continues to run middle of the pack, and cannot even supplant its closest formal equivalence rival in the NKJV. I view this as almost a rejection of the version in one sense, it doesn’t seem like it will supplant the NIV as being the closest thing to a universal English version we have, contrary to what the groups pushing it are asserting. I think the HCSB is hanging tough but suffers from lack of marketing and awareness. The CEB gets the boost because its the mainline translation.

    The only versions that have a shot at “dethroning” the NIV are the NLT and HCSB, it would seem. I figured the NIV would suffer a little more based on the controversy surrounding it, but it still seems to be the favorite.

      • says

        And thank you for the excellent blog. I really hope the HCSB does well; I prefer the traditional language that it retains over the NIV, and that places it above the NIV and NLT which both read well (as does the HCSB).

        I just wish for a little better layout when it comes to the poetry. It’d probably also help to one day get a copy of it that’s as nice as my ESV genuine leather large print version I lucked up and won on Twitter. However, I don’t typically spend that much on Bibles!

        To answer the questions as to what versions I’ve read, I’ve read 10 out of the 11 total listed. The only one I haven’t read is the Reina Valera, and that’s because my Spanish is muy malo.

          • Scott + says

            I find the HCSB to be a beautiful translation. I would use it as my main choice except for one major flaw. When I read “this is the Lord’s declaration” it sets my nerves on edge just like scraping your fingernails across a blackboard. Change that and you have my undivided devotion.

    • brad says

      The biggest controversy with the NIV is from Ignorance, Hubris, and loyalty. Throw in a little KJV Idolatry as well…..

      There isn’t a translation out there with nothing to gripe about it. NET is great with all it’s notes. NIV is great with it’s concepts such as Sinful Nature for Sarx instead of FLESH every time which confuses people to no end and creates whole screwed up doctrines. (EX. if Sarx is literally intended as the flesh of the body every time Paul says it, then Paul was a walking skeleton, See Rom 7:5) So the concept of a “flesh nature” that which drives our hungers and lusts akin to how our flesh does our body except in the context of Sin alive inside of me, nearly like an entity, Paul dubbed Sarx.

      Personally, I have few issues with any of those. If I’m reading, I like NET or NASB. Nasb isn’t real pretty, but it’s pretty easy to understand and get a pure picture as the most literal translation. But, put that against the NIV, embrace the differences in words, to get the message right. One will say six inches the other a half a foot, one uses words literally, (which syntax from 2000 years ago may cast askew our understanding) and NIV captures the concepts and expressions better.

      NET, gives you a little of both, an in between. And if you own one, it gives you a crap load of notes on why they said what where they said it. They show you the conflicts, and their reasoning so you can, as a lay person, get a working understanding of what was being said.

      Between the three, I have a well rounded study foundation.

    • davidbrainerd2 says

      The ESV is pushed by Calvinists like John Piper. So there’s going to be pushback to it. Plus, its English is often awkward. Look at Philippians 1:3 in the KJV/NKJV and then in the ESV. ESV stuck with the old english syntax, but made it grammatically incorrect by changing “upon” to “in.” There’s some typical stuff like that. For example, changing “hell fire” (KJV) to “hell of fire” (ESV) — that’s just not English.

    • jamie says

      The NIV is the most thorough, clear and accurate version that really speaks to me and a lot of people evidenced by its dominance in the marketplace. The 2011 is not so strong but I still have 1984 and show people how to still get 1984 version. Very soon I will lead a charge to demand that all that have purchased 1984 NIV digitally be afforded the right to always have it electronically. After all, its what they paid for. shouldn’t be much of a problem to get it done legally. The NIV is just simply awesome!

    • Philip says

      I prefer The New Catholic Bible published by CTS. It matches our liturgy. It is a modified Jerusalem Bible with Grail psalms. It is good reading. It is not a form-equivalent translation. It is closer to a function-equivalent translation but still fairly exact.

      I use the New American Bible (not the NASB) too and the Christian Community Bible.

      When conversing with some Protestants on the internet I will quote the KJV from time to time because my experience is that many Protestants have a high regard for the KJV and some will not use any other bible. Sadly the KJV editions most commonly available today have removed the ‘apocrypha’ from the Old Testament Appendix that was present in the KJV at the time of its first publication.

      It is also disappointing that many Protestant bible translations provide only 66 books. I prefer to have a bible with a complete canon.

      • david brainerd says

        NAB is probably the worst translation ever made. You’d be better off with the NIV, and I’m not a big NIV fan.

  2. Jim Jacobs says

    Always enjoy your blog. In reference to what Bible versions I’ve read, the NIV, NLT and the Message are versions I’ve read through. Grew up with the KJV.

  3. says

    Not so much surprises as trends–Interesting to see that (1) KJV is *finally* slipping to #2 & #3. Powerful tradition, isn’t it? Also (2) Rise of the NLT is interesting. I wonder if that was accelerated by the 2011 revision of the NIV?

  4. says

    I have read the NKJV, NASB, and the NIV. I am almost finished with the RSV (taking well over a year and a half to finish a 1 year reading plan), and in Deuteronomy reading the ESV. I may or may not have read through the HCSB. I can’t really remember. I try to do a different translation each year, and think I have completed 4, but the HCSB is uncertain. I grew up KJV, but I have never gotten beyond the Psalms trying to read it. Funny enough, KJV isn’t my preferred translation (I go back and forth between the NASB and ESV), whenever I try to quote scripture, I default to KJV. :)

  5. Heartspeak says

    I grew up with KJV, so I tell people I’m still ‘fluent’ in KJV. Used NASB in Bible school and preferred it. It seems like NIV is most common in my circles these days and it’s grown on me. I have a copy with the NIV and Message side by side and really like the ability to quickly compare. I love reading the MSG and it gives a more wholistic sense of the passage (especially NT epistles) but I’d never use it for technical study, hence having the NIV right there keeps me from losing the intent of the passage.

  6. Heath says

    Brother Thom: Thanks for the list, and thanks for your leadership @ Lifeway.
    I love bibles, and like to read a lot of translations. Our church uses the NKJV and that is what I preach from every week. It is what I started using in seminary – The Believer’s Study Bible – and took with me to the pulpit. However, I like the NLT as an easy to read and have passed along that recommendation to new Christians. I like the NASB for a literal translation. I have tried to like the ESV. I appreciate the scholarship and endorsers of the ESV, but I just don’t like to read it for some reason. The HCSB is good as well and more and more people in our church use this translation, which I certainly do not discourage. The NIV . . . well, IMHO there are just better choices. The old KJV is hard to beat for the simple beauty of the English language, and it is hard to read the Psalms in any other translation.

  7. Steven Menteer says

    I would have lost a bet over the number one slot. I thought it would have been the KJV. On a personal note, after my conversion I was given a NLT by my pastor, even though he was/is a KJV onlyist. As of right now, I favor the NASB for its literalness, but I’m open to hear why I should study and preach from the Holman.

      • says

        I love the HCSB. I only wish that they would have used the “Textus Reseptus” to translate from. Maybe then it would not be criticsed as much as it has been. Yet then they would say its not as accurate as it could have been! But anyway, please send me all you have pertaining to this translation. Thanks and God Bless!

  8. says

    I would be interested in seeing what pastors prefer as their primary preaching text, in line with Todd’s comment above. Our senior pastor went to the HCSB this past year after the NIV 2011 update.
    I’m dismayed that the ESV and HCSB are not doing better, but I presume that most people buy a “brand” (forgive me) that they recognize.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Ted –

      Both the HCSB and ESV are young as far as translations go. They are doing well at this point.

    • david brainerd says

      I had some initial interest in the HCSB, but then I noticed it used the word “Yahweh” in the OT, and I lost interest. LORD or Jehovah, only. Put “Yahweh” in a translation, and I won’t use it.

      • Michael says

        David… if you do some research on God’s personal name used in the OT, you’ll discover that “Lord” is an incorrect translation. Why? Because, Rabbis, when they would read God’s name out loud from the text, would say “Adonai” (Lord) instead of God’s actual name (YHWH). They did this because they felt God’s name was too sacred to say out loud. Also, “Jehovah” was a medieval creation which combined God’s name (which consists of four letters and no vowels) with the vowels of Adonai. Also, in Latin, the “Y” became a “J”. Notice that we don’t say “Hallelu-Jah”, we say “Hallelu-Yah” (with a “Y” sound, not “J”). Hallelujah literally means “Praise the Lord!”. Or, better yet, “Praise Yah!” (YH). Sometimes, in Hebrew, God’s sacred name is shortened to the first two letters (YH).

        So, we know how to pronounce the first part of God’s name (Yah), but… scholars really aren’t sure how to say God’s full name. Since ancient Rabbis refused to say God’s name out loud and record the correct pronunciation for later generations, we can only guess as to how God’s name is pronounced. Yahweh, however, seems to flow off the tongue and seems to be a nice fit.

        So, now you know! :)

  9. says

    Grew up on the KJV, then over the past 20 years shifted moved to the NIV, NASB and finally my current version, the ESV. I have heard favorable things about HCSB and like Steven, would be open to hear more about the Holman.

      • Mike Brady says

        I’m currently using New Life Version (NLV). I have used other translations. I think NLV is simple and easy to understand plus it doesn’t remove any verses like the NIV.

  10. says

    I prefer the New American Standard translation as I’ve found it to be closet to the original language, which makes for a more accurate exegesis when preparing my Sunday School lessons.

  11. Ronnie J says

    Hi. Dr. Rainer,
    Thanks for posting this helpful data! I think it would be interesting to see some trending data as well over the last say 10 years. I have read all of these translations at some point with the exception of the Spanish version, Reina-Valera. Personally I carry an ESV study bible with me most of the time and that is the translation of choice when I preach as well. We use the ESV student study bible in our teenage groups in the church as well for teaching and memory. When I preach, I go to my logos library and print out the ESV, KJV, Holman, NASB and the NLT to read over together. I really don’t prefer The Message but do often refer to JB Phillips in the NT. I grew up in a KJV only church and often when I quote from memory that is what comes out! In the end all of these owe a great debt of gratitude to the KJV and William Tyndale. Nothing in my mind will ever fully replace it and it’s poetic beauty, but I do like my ESV :)

  12. says

    I am not surprised at all by the NIV remaining the top selling Bible translation. What surprised me is the NLT being the top translation for unit sales. I thought the ESV (my preferred translation) would do much better as well as the HCSB. I think a lot of Christians do not have a clue about the updated NIV because they have not been informed of the changes. My only guess with the NLT is some churches have used that as their many translation.

  13. Christian says

    I’ve studied for years and years. Started with the NKJV from the time I was little. Switched over to the NASB in college. Then to the ESV right after it came out. All have their pros and cons.

    Typically, when I want to just read the Scriptures, I lean towards the HCSB which I dscovered last year. It’s got a great flow. It has the same problems the ESV, NASB and NKJV versions do; mistranslations, but you can’t help but let a little bias in, it’s human. All translations seem to suffer in some areas regarding mistranslations.

    If I’m studying in depth (not just reading), I tend to have 3 versions open, the NASB, the Complete Jewish Bible and the Young’s Literal. I’m finding there’s value in all translations. None are perfect. However, the troubling thing to me is the NIV. It’s a really, really bad translation. Google search it, people. It can straight up change the meaning of passages easily.

  14. says

    While i have read and used most of these translations to varying degrees in both personal and ministry situations, most of my scripture memory has historically been from the NIV84. I was an NIV guy forever until they changed it. I will not buy the new NIV and have all but converted to the ESV, which I really really love. I still use the NIV84 on occasion. Of course as a good Southern Baptist I do like and have some affection for the HCSV but it is not my primary goto version.

  15. Jeff Berg says

    I find the ESV landing in the middle of the pack as a bit of a surprise and would have expected it to be higher up in the list. It will be interesting if this will remain true in the coming year. While the NIV has had a dominant hold in mainstream evangelicalism for such a long time, I wonder if some of reason it remained at the top was because of the NIV-2011 being released? It could account for sales in people either wanting another 1984 copy before production completely ceased, or people investigating the 2011 version. While not “heretical”, the NIV-2011 has some controversy surrounding it’s translation of certain passages, similar to the TNIV several years ago. As churches are forced to make a choice regarding pulpit versions as the 1984 is no longer available, I’m curious- how many are selecting the NIV-2011 rather than switching to another version? As a church, we were faced with this decision recently and have decided to switch to the ESV. Finally, since Crossway makes the ESV so widely available for free online and in apps, is that affecting it’s position in the middle of the pack as people use the free versions on their electronic devices rather than purchasing physical copies?

      • Jeff Berg says

        Dr. Rainer-

        That was my thought too. I really didn’t anticipate a shift either, with the wide availability of e-versions, but just thought I’d throw the question out there. Thank you.

  16. Jim says

    I’ve read through all but The Message and CEB. I prefer the ESV over the others although I could live with any of them (except The Message).

    I’m surprised the KJV continues to sell so strongly.

  17. Hunter D. Johnson says

    It would be interesting to see which translations are being “used” the most. What I mean by that is, which translations are being purchased or read by people who read their bible once a week? twice a week? three times a week? and so forth. Also which translations are being quoted by popular books? I realize that’s a lot of research but i think it says a lot about a translation if serious bible readers are reading one particular translation, or if popular authors chose to quote one particular translation. For the record i love the HCSB and i recommend it often.

  18. Julia Pilson says

    I have several versions that I look to and read, depending on what I am studying.
    My main bible that I have had since spiritual birth is the NIV study bible. I love the KJV also and memorized many scriptures from it, as a new believer. It was the version my kids used in school for memorization.

    However, I am using more and more the NKJV, NASB, and Amplified: I really like the fact that all the pronouns for God are capitalized, unlike the NIV, ESV, NLT and others.
    Does bother anyone else when you see pronouns for God in small caps?

  19. Dustin says

    I guess I was surprised that the New Revised Standard Version is not even in the top ten. Of course, I knew it wouldn’t be high on that list but many of the “mainline” churches use it as their pew bible and I know several ministers who preach from it. In addition it has the “sanction” of many denominations, and has been published in specifically Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox editions. There is also at least one “scholarly” edition, meant for academic study. What does the NRSV’s lack of popularity indicate? Is it a lack of interest in the Bible among that translation’s constituent groups?; Is it that those groups are more effected by evangelicalism than they are really even aware of?; Is it something else entirely?

    • says

      My congregation uses the NRSV for lectionary readings, but has NIV pew Bibles (I’d prefer several other translations to it, but particularly the NRSV or ESV, which we have a number of in our library). Our preferences would be a bit limited, because I would prefer a pew Bible with the Apocrypha because of our tradition. I dislike the NIV primarily because I prefer translations with at least an echo of the KJV. I often feel like the NIV translators intentionally tried to break out of the KJV mold, and in some cases the translation paid a price for it. I think it remains so popular primarily because of social inertia. Whenever my congregants go to buy a bible, it is usually the translation recommended to them “because it’s the one everyone reads” if they don’t use the KJV.

      I think the NRSV suffers primarily because of three things. I’m over simplifying a bit, but not by very much, I think:

      1) The NRSV is seen as Liberal
      2) The NRSV is seen as too academic (this overlaps with #1 when it comes to people with problems with historical-critical study)
      3) The NRSV has suffered from horrible marketing. The success of the CEB in comparison shows that this may actually be the biggest strike against it.

  20. says

    Get ready for some rapid fire random thoughts here, (and probably TMI!): Now that the dude has Logos on our home computer, I have access to almost all of them — but have never heard of Reina Valera. My only surprise is that the NCV (New Century Version) isn’t on there. I’ve always heard it was accurate yet at an easier reading level. The NCV was probably the first Bible I bought for myself because I tended to notice more details about the passages when the language was simplified. I remember memorizing some Psalms for elementary Sunday school classes from my parents’ King James, and it’s still hard to read those passages in another version b/c they just don’t sound right!. When I was in high school, a public school teacher gave me the NIV for my birthday b/c she found out I didn’t have a personal Bible. I’m a bit attached to it b/c I read it during the time I first noticed God’s Spirit at work in my life. I excitedly highlighted every passage in the New Testament that talked about grace and faith as I first began to comprehend it for myself. It is a trip down memory lane every time I open it. The dude preaches out of the NASB, and I have experimented with the HCSB in a small mentoring group I lead. (I remember being surprised that the HCSB translated Noah as planting the *first* vineyard while none of the others that I know of make that distinction.) Also, I do like flipping over to see how The Message will translate something, because it often will give a new food for thought. However, I don’t use it for study because I’ve noticed that it leaves out important things — such as the wording that indicates certain passages are Messianic prophecies. I did recently buy my preteen a study Bible that uses the New Living Translation. It was a reactionary moment b/c one Sunday the women in our mentoring class were all out of town and I sat in on an adult SS class where too many were sitting around being right about their understanding of scripture and applying it to such surprisingly shallow things. So, I thought maybe my son might need some balance in our church in hearing the heart of God from a thought for thought translation rather than satisfaction in being right all the time. Again, probably TMI, but there it all is!

  21. Jason Clough says

    I know that we have data available for total money spent and total units sold, but I would be interested to see a breakdown of what people are reading based on age. Being a younger minister (under 30) I see that most of my contemporaries are using the ESV, while some use the NASB, HCSB, or others. I do not really know anyone in my age who uses the NIV anymore, largely due to the existence of more faithful translations and the aforementioned “edits” in the 2011 version.

    I would think that if there was a way to follow what translations the younger ministers are using that it would help in projecting what translations are going to be sold in the next 10-12 years as older pastors retire and younger ones assume the pulpit. What translation are these younger ministers going to use when preaching to their churches, and will the people in the congregation start reading these translations in order to better follow the pastor? I know that this data is much more difficult to scientifically quantify, but it would be interesting nonetheless, as well as quite useful.

  22. says

    I can certainly see why the New Living Translation has risen to the top of the lists. I read through it some time back and was so impressed with how smoothly it flows that I use it as my primary Bible now. However, I have not found a more helpful study Bible than the ESV Study Bible.

  23. Steve says

    The results reflect the blessing and challenge of so many English versions of the Scriptures. Christians are in a sense overwhelmed with choices. There are objective differences (translation philosophy, gender language, etc.) but often subjective criteria carry more weight (“That’s easy to undertand,” or “That sounds like the Bible as I’ve always heard it,” etc.). I used the NIV84 for about 25 years as a pastor. It wasn’t perfect but I liked it a lot. When they updated it in 2011, I had a choice. Stay with the 84 and confuse my congregation as the NIV2011 was all that is available in the stores. Or I could switch to the new edition even though I didn’t like some of the changes. Or I could move to another version as my main preaching text. I chose to go with the ESV and haven’t regretted it at all. It is a good “bridge” translation between those who like the KJV/NKJV (as do some in our church) and those who like the NIV or NLT. Honestly, I prefer the more traditional language (such as in Psalm 23). I took a close look at the HCSB and saw much to like. But I was frustrated by some factors (relatively minor): 1. Horrible name– “Holman Christian…” I know this is the result of threated legal action by another company that uses “Christian Standard” but including the company name wasn’t the best choice. 2. Tendency to “improve” traditional verses (see John 3:16, Psalm 23, etc.) Not saying that it’s inaccuate, I just like the continuity with longstanding translation traditon where possible. Again, this is my preference. I’m not saying the HCSB is wrong or bad in this. 3. Distracting features, “bullet points,” capitalization of pronouns for deity (not a practice of the original languages), use of Messiah for Christos, and use of Yahweh (all of these are defensible and fine, just not my preference). I could mention other things (like the waste of money to do a translation when other viable ones were useable, a Study Bible that lacks a concordance, and the fact that it is a translation so closely tied to a single denomination–even if it is my own). These reasons may not be relevant to others and I rejoice whenever a good translation is actually read, studied, and preached from, whether it’s my favorite or not.

  24. Jeff Butler says

    I like the HCSB but am okay with the NIV, even the 2011. The NIV will stay popular due to Biblica selling them at such a low price. It makes it affordable to buy a lot and give them away and have plenty in the pews (chairs) on Sunday. It is the one we can afford to give away and that most people already have so it is the one I continue to preach from. If possible get the HCSB at a lower bulk price and you might see it rise in use.

  25. Philip Hamilton says

    I definitely prefer the ESV version, however i have read NIV, KJV, NLT, NKJV and NASB (also a favourite)

    What saddens me is the fact that Bibles are so dear.

    NLT is probably top based on selling Bibles cheaper than NIV which i reckon is a better version.

    Would love to see ESV top of unit sales and non-existent on dollar sales (£0/unit would be great!)

    Thanks
    Phil

  26. says

    I remember in my seminary days (early 1980″s) our professor explained that translations come about from two criterion; accuracy to the orginal text and readibility to the current hearers. In that day, he placed the NASB in the best position for accuracy and the NIV for readability. I’m interested, Dr. Rainer, if you would agree those are still the top two in those categories today? Appreciate hearing any other reader’s thoughts on this as well.

  27. Joseph Botwinick says

    With more and more of the younger generations downloading their Bibles on their electronic devices for free (phones, tablets, etc…), myself included, I wonder how accurate this list actually is. It might be a good thing to research the number of free Bible downloads out there to get a better picture of what is most used.

    • John Wylie says

      Joseph,

      I think that is a good question. I have several bible translations in electronic format that I don’t have in a hard copy. Among these are the ESV, NASB, NRSV, NIV11, RV, ASV etc…Some of them I actually paid for via my LOGOS program but others were free downloads. I don’t even know where a study would begin to track all of that.

  28. John Wylie says

    I noticed a person in comment wanted to hear from pastors about what we use in the pulpit. I was trained on the KJV and that’s what I still use in the pulpit. However, in my Sunday School class and on Weds night I used the NKJV. To be honest, I would prefer to use the NKJV all of the time. I do like the ESV and the HCSB as well. I’m certainly no fan of the Message for a number of reasons.

  29. says

    Hi Thom,

    This is a very interesting list; thank you for sharing. I’m curious: have you ever read the Recovery Version published by Living Stream Ministry. Yes, there is some controversy related to the notes, which is something I don’t have a problem with, but I’m curious to know if you’ve read any of the text yourself. A lot of people find the translation to be very accurate. Would love to know if you’ve tried it out.

    All the best,

    Joseph

  30. says

    I’ve read from most of those, except the Common English and Spanish version. HCSB and NIV are the two I use the most and then the KJV. Of course, since I work for B&H it started out as job security to know and promote the HCSB, but now it is my favorite. However, when purchasing a Bible for a new Bible reader, I usually go with the NIV because of cover style chooses (which HCSB is improving on). Plus it’s not so intimidating in its language for understanding.

  31. Evan Hertzsprung says

    During my Hebrew classes at seminary each student had to choose an English translation to compare with the Hebrew text. I chose the NLT and it has become my favourite translation. During that same time I received an HCSB. I had never read it before and decided to give it a try. Now I recommend it to everybody who is interested in such things. The NIV rounds out my top three translations from which to read and preach. With those three you get a decent range in translation method, from more literal to more functional equivalence. For study purposes I use both the NASB and the ESV as comparisons, but somehow the ESV strikes me as a Reformed translation and it rubs me the wrong way. It’s hard to explain. I use the NLT mostly for preaching, and I don’t think there is a better translation for the Bible’s narrative material. It simply shines. For poetry I often want to know the literal metaphors used in the original text and so I often use another translation at that point. I worship with Chinese immigrants and their Canadian born children, and I find they respond well with the NLT. I was raised on the RSV and am grateful for the nurture I received through it.

  32. says

    Started out in seminary with RSV from my father; then in early 70s, Jerusalem Bible. Then on to the NIV followed by NRSV. These days, am loving the freshness of the CEB.

  33. says

    Thanks for the list!

    I grew up with KJV. As an adult (and pastor), I’ve developed an appreciation for many translations with the NLT being my most -used for a number of years. I’ve also relied on the CEV. Interestingly, I grew up with anti-NIV people so I’ve never really used the NIV.

    But I’ve been reading the Common English Bible (CEB) since it was published recently. I believe it’s the newest translation on the list, and I was surprised to see it doing so well so quickly. I’m almost all the way through it.

    My next translation to read beginning-to-end is going to be the NET, which I’ve referred to mainly for study.

  34. Clay Knick says

    No surprises here except for the CEB which is getting quite a push from the UMPH. I’ve read all of these translations, but not the Spanish one, since I don’t read Spanish.

    For me the following translations get daily use: RSV, NRSV, NIV. I consult a variety when I study. The NLT is excellent for extended reading of narratives. While I like it in Job, I don’t like it in Psalms, but like it in Proverbs. I like what they did with the gospels, too. The HCSB has some good renderings and I like the HCSB Psalter. We’re so blessed to have so many English translations. Some language have none or only one.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Clay –

      Your point is well taken. We are blessed to have many translations since some people groups have none.

  35. John Belder says

    Somewhat surprised the ESV is only #5. In the early years I grew up with KJV, then mostly NIV. The last few years I have been spending more time in the ESV. While it doesn’t “flow” as nicely as the NIV, I do believe it is more a word for word translation rather than the NIV. The ESV has an outstanding study bible.

  36. Jedidiah Slaboda says

    I find it hard to believe that the NRSV is not on either list. It is a standard English translation for the Mainline and in the academy. I know Evangelicals do most of the Bible-buying in this country but the fact that it is available in many editions means some people are still buying it. Was it excluded from the count?

      • Clay Knick says

        The NRSV has been off & on this list over the years. I know for some in the mainline the CEB is an alternative. NRSV is used in settings other than the mainline, too. Many evangelical theological schools have professors who use & recommend it (among others).

  37. says

    Where’s the NET Bible? Why’s that not selling in the US? Surely it is the most helpful translation ever!! If it were for sale here in the UK I would make it our standard Bible.

  38. Don Haflich says

    I would be interested to see how the translations rank among denominations but I am surprised that the ESV is half way to the NIV throne

  39. says

    This is very interesting! I am curious what kind of people group that were buying the Bible. I am sure that most were just buying the Bible and not really using it daily. I don’t do paraphrase translations at all. I have read some but not for me.

    As for me being reformed, I love ESV, then NASB’77 then NASB’95 then NKJV. As a child, I started with the Big Print KJV, then Good News, then NIV’84 at my parent’s choice. On my own before both of my parent went home to be with the Lord, NASB’77, and after they went home to be with the Lord. In the year of ’98 (a little bit at the family UMC church which isn’t my church home until I found a church in 1999 or Jan 2000 I started going to Southern Baptist Church, I still did NASB’77 then NKJV. Then I went to reformed Southern Baptist Church I learned about ESV which became my favorite of all translations. I still use NASB, and NKJV. I sometime had to look into NIV’84 if needed to work on my Bible Study homework to answer the question if my teacher were using some of the wording from NIV. I only prefer Words to Word Translation and not paraphrase or Thought for Thought. I do have HCSB but I almost never use it. I see that HCSB is in Gospel Project, but on the other hand, I always read from my ESV every time. The wording is very different there which sometimes threw me off. I do have e-Bible as well, but I prefer book form Bible so that I can underline and mark them up.

  40. Drew Dabbs says

    Growing up, KJV was about the only translation I even knew existed. I was given a Living Bible by my grandparents when I was saved and baptized in 1991. In junior high, I discovered the NIV(84), which remained my translation of preference until I became a pastor. Some key leaders in my church had a real beef with the NIV(84), so I started preaching from the NASB. I never really like the rigid, formal equivalent style, but it got the job done. Sometime into my second pastorate, I started preaching regularly from the HCSB, and now, in my third pastorate, I use it almost exclusively. For readability, I like and most often recommend the NLT (Life Application Study Bible) to those looking to purchase a Bible to read and study.

  41. says

    I used to read the NIV all the time, and would use the NASB for closer study, but with the 2011 translation of the NIV I started my search for a new “go to” Bible. I have read all the translations listed, with the exception of the Reina Valera. Currently I read mostly the ESV, but I also love my HCSB and the NASB. I think the HCSB suffers from a couple of things. One, lack of advertising. People just don’t know about it. Two, the word Holman in the translation title. I’ve heard from some saying that has turned them off from even looking at. Maybe it would be better to just call it the Christian Standard Bible? The other thing, in reading it, I have found a couple of places where it looks like the translation is a bit biased. Unfortunately, I can’t think of the verses off the top of my head, but if I remember where they are I’ll email them to you. Overall though, I love the HCSB, it’s more literal than the NIV, but doesn’t seem as literal as the NASB or ESV. That helps it to be a more fluid read.

    I agree with Chris, a lot of people are not aware of the changes in the NIV with the 2011 edition. I am a speaker and teacher, and when I talk about the various English translations, I am continually surprised by the look of shock on the face of the people in the audience. They had no idea about the changes. I think as word gets out, the NIV 2011 will lose ground and some of the other better translations will garner a larger audience and more popularity.

    I’m interested in receiving the information on the HCSB that you mentioned above. I have already emailed the address you posted and look forward to any information you can send me.

    Thanks for posting the list!

  42. Greg Drummond says

    The first Bible I ever had was the Good News and read through that for a number of years. Then it was the NIV for most of my youth and young adult. In Bible College I was introduced to the NASB. Then for most of my pastoring I used the NASB for study and the NIV in the pulpit. Occasionally I would reference the NLT and the Message. I have never really felt drawn to the ESV even though I have looked at it.
    Now that I’m back in seminary I have been enjoying NRSV (Renovare Life With God Bible), but our local church in Toronto, Canada uses the HSCB as it’s “official translation.” I have since fallen in love with it. I wasn’t aware of the HCSB until about just over a year ago, nor the revisions it has gone through, but I continue to be impressed and share it with others.
    Thom, can you elaborate on the major differences between the 2009 and the 2003 editions of the HCSB? Are they anywhere as significant as the changes of the 2011 NIV or the 2004 NLT?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Greg –

      Though there were a number of changes, they were not so substantive that we felt like it should be called an update. Most of the changes were for better flow of reading.

      Thanks for the encouraging words about the HCSB.

  43. John Keeter says

    With all the free KJVs published and given away by Gideons and many others, not to mention small publishers who print it because of no copyright, the number two spot is still lowball. Amazing!

  44. says

    What? Really? A translation is considered to be the “best” if it either 1) makes the most money, or 2) sells more copies than it’s neighbors? Am I reading that right?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Chris –

      I haven’t seen anything in the post or the comments that indicate a translation is better because it sells more in dollars or units. These two top ten lists simply rank them by dollar sales or unit sales, not by any qualitative assessment. With due respect, I believe your comments are unfounded.

  45. says

    Seems like a lot of “conservative” folks out here! I tend to agree with Gordon Fee on holding functional and formal equivalent in tension, with ultimate preference going toward functional. There is no “literal” translation, though marketing and branding will always say otherwise, and I appreciate the readability and gender neutrality of the NIV2011. My formal equivalence counterpart is usually the NRSV because I find it clearer than the KJV and NKJV. Truthfully, I haven’t read much of the HCSB but I do have one on my shelf that I’m now thinking I should grab more often.

    Thanks for the list!

  46. says

    I really enjoy the HCSB…
    I would really like to see a version where the chapter and verse numbers are removed, and are organized in individual books. I really believe that would more closely resemble the originals. Last Thursday I copied part of the book of Exodus and removed all the numbering and reference lettering. I was completely stunned at how much easier it was to read. I know it really shouldn’t matter…but I think subconsciencely it interrupts the flow, or perhaps it becomes an information overload for me.
    I would absolutely love to see a HCSB version done this way. Can you make that happen Mr. Rainer?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thanks Stephen. Yes, I could make that happen. In order for me to make a wise stewardship decision, I would need to know that many others would interested in a such a Bible. Let’s see if any other readers have an opinion. Our HCSB team members are reading these comments closely and carefully.

      • Brian says

        Thom,
        I would also be interested in seeing translations printed in paragraph format without verse numbers in the text, perhaps on the side would be cool.
        I appreciated reading all the comments and although I use the KJV almost exclusively I have read and used many other versions. Things about the ESV tick me off and I feel it stale, although I received revelation using the ESV I much prefer the NKJV but mostly for it’s footnotes, which I believe other Bible publishers could learn from, otherwise I double check back with KJV so much I may as well use it to begin with, lol.
        I purchased a HCSB a few years ago and enjoyed reading it a lot. I gave that text away to someone and have yet to purchase another, yet. If it was available in a “no numbers in the text setting” I would love to enjoy it cover to cover , more than once.
        The NASB is an enjoyable translation for me because, for me, is easy to read without the italic words for an extremely literal read, which, same with the NKJV, I compare back to the KJV and can read it while ignoring the italics also, so I just settle with the KJV , studying best I can the original meanings of each word when necessary.
        Sorry to ramble, but again, I would throughly enjoy a paragraph setting with no verse numbers in the text.
        Also I think if yaw implement Smyth sewing into all your HCSBs it would be worth the extra money on both ends. Holman is already known for having better than average durability for the money but crossway and lockman both seem to excel in this area.
        Thank you and I plan on purchasing another HCSB next time I’m near the lifeway.

    • jonathon says

      >I would really like to see a version where the chapter and verse numbers are removed, and are organized in individual books.

      This is where Bible Study Software is useful.
      The good programs let you read the text without chapter and verse numbers. However, doing so is usually deep in the advanced configuration settings.

  47. Katie Duckett says

    Are we really counting The Message as a real translation?
    I would be interested to see see how many people switched translations after the new NIV came out in 2011. And if they did switch what did they switch to? I was not a huge fan of the changes in the NIV (and have talked to others who feel the same way) aand needed a new Bible so I went to the HCSB.

  48. Drew Dabbs says

    For any who may me interested,

    As far as I’m aware, Eugene Peterson has never really pushed The Message as a “translation,” but as a paraphrase. When we think “The Message,” we should think “The Living Bible.” That’s not to knock either one, but they fall into the same basic category. The difference is that the paraphraser of The Living Bible started with an English translation (the KJV) and went from there, whereas Peterson started with the original languages and paraphrased it using contemporary language and idioms.

    The New Living Translation, however, is not a paraphrase. It is a translation, as the name suggests, into modern English. While some liberties were taken to render certain thoughts understandable to current English readers, it falls well within the functional equivalence range.

    Just some thoughts that may help clarify some of the issues surrounding the various versions out there.

  49. says

    I was very surprised to see the NLT beat the NIV in unit sales and was sonewhat surprised that the MSG did not mke that list. I am unfamiliar with Reina Valera 1960. I;ve read (all the way through at least once) the NIV, TNIV, The MSG, KJV, NKJV, NLT, HCSB, CEV, ESV, NET, and a few others not on these lists. I’m a proponent of using multiple versions.

  50. David Townsewnd says

    Quite pleased I think mainly the better translations are doing very well. I preach mainly from NKJV as I find it a good middle ground between KJV and the modern translations. Apart from those two I also like NLT and NASB. Possibly surprised NASB so low on the list. Its a good translation though not as widely used as some Glad the Message is down in the territory I feel it should be.

  51. Logan says

    I honestly am not surprised one bit by the top 4, those are the Bibles that most people are familiar with. Because I work at LifeWay in the Dallas area, I know a little as to what people like. Most people will gravitate to those 4 because everybody uses them and they have always been popular. Most people, especially in areas where LifeWay does not have a store don’t know about the HCSB or how the translation reads. In the Dallas area, (my store especially) we sell more ESV’s than either the KJV or NKJV combined simply due to the fact that many churches in our area are using that translation. I think the fact that most churches stick to their originality and roots when it comes to translation greatly influences what kind of Bibles people purchase. My church for example reads from the NKJV but I prefer the ESV.

  52. Rob says

    I Went from a NIV (1984) to an HCSB and NASB for daily reading. I like the NASB as well. I still teach out of my old NIV, but that’s about it. And even then, I use comparative translations in my sermons.

    I think with the changes, you’re going to see a SPIKE in NIV usage, but for all the wrong reasons.

  53. tj says

    I have read parts of each version except the Spanish one. Prior to being introduced to HCSB the NIV was my translation of choice. I now prefer HCSB, and recently got the Appologetics Study bible which uses HCSB… everything to formatting to style to language I prefer over other versions. I also have seen HCSB use a more literal form of words they translate and for me the more realistic it is the more it means. Please don’t use flowerly language , just get to the point. I feel like HCSB does so without croupting scripture.

    For speaking uses and the rare occasion I bring my tablet to church rather than my bible I use ESV, personally I use HCSB and when quoting I like to compare translation to see which one drives the point clearest.

  54. says

    Which Bible Translation really comes down to a matter of convenience. There is nothing worse for me than listening to a preacher read from one when I’m trying to follow in another. While I prefer to have a paper bible in my hand for personal study and reading, I carry a Kindle with multiple Bible translations just in case (It has KJV, ESV, NIV84, HCSB, and NASB). As for me, I preach and teach exclusively from the HCSB (The Hard Core Southern Baptist Bible) because my seminary professors from Capital Bible Seminary helped translate it. In many of my Greek and Hebrew translation classes, we would discuss why certain verses were translated a certain way (e.g. John 3:16). They kinda sold me on it’s reliability. And from a personal perspective, I really like the way it reads. I will say that if I am teaching in John 3, I get a little uncomfortable with the translation and usually spend some time defending the accuracy of that translation. I really hope that it eventually catches on because it is such an awesome translation!

    Thanks for compiling the list. Very insightful!

  55. James says

    It continues to amaze me how people continue to bad mouth the NIV11. I use it daily and it is my preferred translation. It is a little different than the NIV84. As far as its accuracy? I actually think there are a great many passages that have improved in its accuracy. In fact, many of those passages that are different in the 2011 are now much more similar to the ESV. It seems to me that it is vogue to criticize the NIV11. People read someone’s pet peeve list of passages they don’t like from the 2011, and then they jump on the negative bandwagon. In reality, similar lists could be made of every translation. Each translation has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s interesting that those who criticize the NIV11 are virtually silent about the NLT which is very similar, only the NIV11 is a bit more literal. Go figure. Remember, the Greek text is the standard for being literal, not an English translation. So unless you’re fluent in Greek, I’d be careful in criticizing any English translation for its supposed accuracy. Perhaps we should elevate understandability and application a little more than we do when it comes to translations. What does literal matter if someone can’t understand it. We can only apply the scriptures when we understand them.

    Not too long ago I was in a LifeWay store (a little plug for you Thom!) and a lady came in looking for a Bible. A conversation began and she said that she had just started going to church (less than 3 times) for the first time in her life. Her friend encouraged her to get a Bible and suggested to her the NKJV because of its accuracy. I gently suggested to her a different translation which I assured her was accurate and reliable: the NLT. As someone who had no history with the Bible, she would have been lost in the NKJV. If the Living Bible were published as a Life Application Bible, I would have suggested that to her.

    I really don’t care what translation a person uses as long as the can understand what they’re reading and *applying* what they read. Reading and studying without application is a waste of time (James 1:22-25), and you’re not going to apply what you don’t understand.

    Let’s value understanding and application more than someone’s opinion on what they believe is an accurate translation (especially when they aren’t fluent in Greek).

    I celebrate any version of the Scriptures that people will faithfully read, understand and apply.

  56. Bill Wright says

    When He saved me over 12 years ago (I’m 36), the first Bible I purchased was the NLT, at the suggestion of my wife, who grew up with the KJV. I now use the NLT as my standard give-away Bible, always on hand for those being presented the Gospel. It is not intimidating by any means. Personally, I now use the NKJV because that’s the version John MacArthur has his study Bible formatted. But now I’m highly interested in the HCSB and will make that purchase in the very near future as well as utilize it on my various Bible applications and Kindle. Thanks, Thom.

  57. Donnie C. Brannen says

    Disappointed to see the “NIV” continuing to hold its market share, given that the “NIV” of 2012 and following is a totally different translation than the NIV 84 that I and others have known, loved, used and recommended. Zondervan’s “bait and switch” in foisting a new, more PC version on the public while still calling it the NIV has evidently succeeded. For shame.

  58. says

    I’m a Greek & NT professor. Periodically, I get frustrated with the NIV & its lack of specificity, & go to the RSV / NRSV / ESV / NET for my text classes. But I somehow always end up going back to the NIV. It’s more readable, less tendentious than the ESV, and it doesn’t have the “hey look at us we’re scholarly & edgy” quality that I get from the NRSV.

    I’ve decided that it’s better to use the NIV for preaching & teaching and warn my students / listeners when I think it isn’t specific enough.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Please note that the list is derived from the Christian Booksellers Association. That organization includes Christian booksellers, both online and brick and mortar stores. It would not include secular sellers such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Amazon provides rankings, but they do not divulge individual book or Bible sales.

      • Cisco Cotto says

        Thanks very much for the clarification! I’m having some leaders in our church spend a few months reading through HCSB. Then they’ll offer feedback and we’ll make a decision on switching to it for Sunday mornings. Thus far I’ve found it exactly as advertised and very readable.

  59. says

    I’m surprised ESV is still at number 5! I started using it when NIV11 came out. At first I didn’t like ESV but after reading Kevin DeYoung’s short eBook on the ESV about a year ago, I was convinced it was time to make the switch. Right now, I’m replacing my memory verses with ESV.

    My second go to version is a tie between NIV84 and HCSB, followed by NLT and NKJV. I still use NIV because almost all the Bible phrases I memorized are from NIV and I use HCSB because of its simply clarity.

  60. Steve Ponder says

    Thanks, Dr. Rainer, for posting the list! The pastor of our church uses the NASB for his sermons and, on occasion, will augment his sermons using the Philips New Testament. When the HCSB came out, I started using it in my Discipleship Training class lessons. The pastor stopped by my class one night and told us that if he were starting his preaching ministry today, the HCSB would be the translation he would select. An interesting note is that our Associate Pastor to Students uses the ESV when he reads the Scripture passage from the pulpit each Sunday morning.

  61. Ted Grodecki says

    I attend a Presbyterian church which uses the NIV. I teach 2 times a week at the church and use the HCSB primarily. The ESV is over-hyped in my opinion. I like the HCSB not only because it is easy to read, but from my studies, is probably the most accurate translation. Now if we can get the HCSB to release an interlinear, I’d be in Heaven!!!

    • Matt says

      Within the first five years of my walk (2003-2008), I read and studied exclusively out of the NIV ’84 although I was raised on the KJV. For reasons unknown, I began to slowly transition into using the NKJV and for the next 3 years(2009-2011) the NKJV became my translation of choice. However in the fall of 2011 as I transferred to a Bible college, I came in contact with various people using a variety of translations. This peaked my interest of learning about the different translations of the Bible so throughout that entire semester I spent comparing and contrasting not only the translations themselves but furthermore the Greek Manuscripts that they were basing them on as well. I first stumbled upon the HCSB during this time and it struck me as a readable yet suitable translation for serious study. Since that time the HCSB, NASB. NKJV, and ESV have all become my top recommended translations…..recently I began reading the Lexham English Bible (LEB) which is in my observation a highly literal translation with excellent scholarship. The only thing I would recommend for the HCSB is a better edition of the HCSB Study Bible….possibly have multiple options to choose from as far as style of text, and pages. To me the current edition is a little kiddie in appearance in spots. What I really love about the HCSB study bibles is the bountiful cross-references that are available, to me the HCSB excels highly in this area. Thank you for all you do for the Kingdom!

  62. says

    in my church we always used NIV 1984. we don’t mind if we have the update 2011NIV my pastor it’s okay with it some of our new members use the 2011NIV but . We like the NIV 2011 .but we love More the NIV84 th en the 2011 . I am so thankful and surprise NIV still the best selling Bible

  63. Tom Covington says

    I began using the NASB in seminary and for my initial ministry. I have been “testing out” both the ESV and HCSB for the last 2 years. For me at least there is not enough difference between the NASB and ESV for me to move from the NASB. I am really enjoying the HCSB and have been teaching with it for several months. They are all 3 fine trnslations and I greatly wish the HCSB were more widely known. I am hopefully this will happen with its use in The Gospel Project as I would love to see more people use it either as their primary Bible or just add to their reference collection.

  64. says

    Thanks Dr. Rainer for the update. I am using both ESV and HCSB in my preaching. I also love the NKJV, and will sometimes use it. The only thing that drives me crazy about the ESV are the personal pronouns for deity. I really wished they had capatlized those pronouns.

  65. Frederick says

    Many interesting opinions and perspectives on Bible translations. I prefer the NKJV, NLT (2004) and the ESV. I have used the NKJV for many years and find myself reaching for it for personal reading and meditation. All translations listed are very good, except possibly the post 1984 NIV. I think the most important thing is to read it! Whichever Bible you choose, the most important thing is that you read it!

  66. jay says

    I like the 2011 niv, i know the sbc rejected it but i think it was only to promote the HCSB, i like the HCSB version, but i also like the 2011 niv bible. As for the gender language, they are doing the same thing as the NLT bible, so i dont see what the big fuzz is about.
    The 2011 niv clearify the homosexul
    Movement what the niv 1984 failed to do.
    Anyways just wanted to share this. God bless

  67. says

    I´ve been using many Bible translations, such as, the NET Bible, Lexham English Bible, Jerusalem Bible, the Amplified Bible, the New World Translation, the New International Version, the World English Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, etc. , and I say that despite the criticism it has suffered, for me the BEST Bible Translation is the “New World Translation”.

  68. Paul says

    Very interesting reading the comments. I started with Good News when I became a Christian (30 years ago) then moved to NIV then NKJV then KJV. I now switch between KJV, NIV and ESV. Incidentally, one thing i like about the ESV is that there is an Anglicised edition. For sometime however the main criteria for me was that I wanted to read only those translations based on the textus receptus and so that only gave me NKJV and KJV. I’m a bit more relaxed about this now!

  69. says

    I just found this thread and not sure if it’s still open but will write anyway. I’m like many others here. I grew up on KJV but came to find the language to archaic to be meaningful to the ordinary man on the street. I was required to use the NASB in Bible college and it was good for scholarly pursuits. When the NIV arrived on the scene (at the same time I was taking advanced Greek class), I was put off by the inaccurate translation of the word “sarx” as “sinful nature.” I have never picked up another NIV nor use it to this day. In my first pastorate I quickly gravitated to the NKJV when it came out (no “thee’s” and “thou’s”) until the ESV made its debut. I used the ESV extensively for preaching and teaching until the HCSB came into being. I read through it several times and decided it was a beautiful translation, and one that I would use as the main go-to version – except it had one MAJOR flaw. Every time I read “this is the Lord’s declaration” (instead of “says the Lord” or “declares the Lord”) I had to grind my teeth. That phrase to me was like scratching your fingernails on a blackboard. I have written LifeWay and voiced my opinion and have always gotten the response “It’s the literal translation of the Hebrew.” I know that, but it doesn’t work. The phrase is awkward, unpoetic, grating, and sticks out like a sore thumb. And I’m mildly surprised that LifeWay sticks by this phrase. And so I eventually put it back on the shelf and there it remains. I occasionally get it down and read the NT which is great reading. They also need to ditch the bullets and the bold lettering for OT passages. I would prefer to use it for preaching/teaching but cannot until they revise that phrase. Today I use the ESV as my study/research translation along with the NRSV. I have also just purchased the RSV-CE (Catholic Edition) which I’m beginning to find is a wonderful remake of the old RSV that was hounded to death because of its choice of wording in Isaiah 7:14. The RCC took this great translation, reworked the controversial passages to be more acceptable to conservatives (jettisoned the gender neutral wordings) and is one that I am beginning to use more often to compare with the others.

    Enjoy your articles in christianpost.com, Thom. Tell the HCSB editors to change the phrase “this is the Lord’s declaration” and it will become the number one translation for me, as well as a best seller in America.

    Thanks for the forum.

      • Mike Mc says

        I have to agree with the others who have posted concerning the phrase ” this is the Lord’s declaration” it does not work. In a translation that flows so well I just doesn’t work. I have tried to switch to this version multiple times as overall it is great to read and still extremely accurate, but that one translation choice, the sound of it in my ears or in my mind when I hear or read it completely turns me off, It actually kills a fine translation. I quit using it after a while. If that one phrase could be changed to just even declares the Lord it would be my go to version. It just does not flow in most of its’ occurrences, it just sounds and reads wrong. Declares the Lord means it is the Lord’s Declaration and just sounds and reads more naturally.

      • Terry says

        I just found this thread too. I have been using the HCSB for about 6 months as my exclusive bible. I changed from the ESV. I really like the reading flow and the accuracy to the original languages. But the wording of “this is the Lord’s declaration” also threw me. I have been able to get around it in my personal studies, but I do find it awkward to read when teaching.

        Overall, I love the HCSB. My wife and both use it now.

  70. Bruce D, Woods says

    Actually, the KJV still reigns supreme [the Reina Valera is the Spanish translation of the KJV]. My go-to Bibles are the KJV and the ESV. The NLT and the HCSB are also used occasionally and sometimes spark an insight the more formal equivalent translations don’t offer. I have no use for paraphrases {as bad as the Living Bible is, The Message is mostly atrocious – replete with doctrine the Peterson makes up as he goes along}. The NIV is readable but pretty loose. The new version of the NIV is awful. The NASB is caught between true equivalence and readability and it’s a very hard line to adhere to. I note that the dreadful NRSV didn’t make the list and it shouldn’t. It is butchery – especially in the OT. I’d advise to have at least one ‘formal equivalence’ translation at hand when doing serious Bible study or teaching. Use others as you may feel the need.

  71. db says

    I do not understand on how some people can count it as a blessing to have many so many translations available to the word of God. How many ways can there possible be to say something in the english language. Is Gods word too boring for us? When we get bored of our bible the solution is to switch to a different version? I can not believe on how many people have had the audacity to badly translate Gods word just enough to obtain there copyright and make money off of it??? One of the first things I noticed when I came to my Lord and Saviour was the problem with this. This is just too confusing for everyone. How can we possibily be one in the body of Christ reading all different versions of the word?? Stick to KJV.

  72. says

    Enjoying the HCSB lately, but glad to see the NKJV hanging around the top of the list. Keeps that traditional KJV ‘feel’ while being readable to modern ears. Also no missing verses, but gives info in the footnotes.. If Nelson had the marketing of Crossway, it would give the ESV serious problems. ..

  73. says

    I Study out of the NASB, the NIV, & the NLT. These three help a lot with scripture that I have problems with. I find using a formal, functional and free translation for study purposes really helps to bring clarity.

    On the other hand for memorization and devotional I go with the NASB!

  74. harold says

    Very interesting to see those figures, even though I’m so late to the party. From the little I’ve seen of the Message bible online, I wish it hadn’t made the Top Ten on any list. I don’t read or speak Spanish so that version is not one of which I can have an opinion.

    Being sixty years old, and from the Deep South, I knew only the KJV until the age of eleven or twelve, when someone left an old RV with Apocrypha in the pews. Bel and the Dragon? I knew that wasn’t in my bible! My next ‘translation’ would be the Good News for Modern Man NT paraphrase – and despite it being a pretty poor bible version, I have to admit that it did have quite an impact upon me at the time (so perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so hard on the Message). Within a very short time, I was gifted the new NASB (this was in ’72) and it quickly became my favorite bible, and remained so for a couple decades. In ’81 I was given a nice leather one in Nelson’s Open Bible, personal-size format that I still have and sometimes use.

    I never warmed to the NIV, though my parents did in the original version. At the risk of appearing sexist, I must admit that I don’t trust the gender-neutral bent of several translations currently popular. However, this is not an anti-feminist stance, but is based upon two specific concerns. First, the language in the OT that may or may not apply to Christ in potential dual-meaning passages can become obscured. Second, the awkward changes from second-person singular to third-person plural grates on the ear of many of us older citizens who were taught that this was poor grammar (ie, the use of “they” to avoid “he”). I have no problem with the translation matching the Greek text, and have seen that there are indeed passages which can be changed from, say, the KJV-family’s renditions in places, but those who are making these translations sometimes go too far, with the effect of obscuring the message. Just to cater to certain political agendas, it seems. Wow, sorry to get so off-topic.

    I still use the KJV, the NASB, NASBu, NKJV, HCSB, ASV, RSV and ESV, and have bought nice leather copies of each over the years. I really like the ESV. Tip to Crossway – move higher up the sales list by making your print just a touch darker for us seniors. My ESV single-column reference would be my primary carry bible if the print were just a little friendlier in that regard. I have come to appreciate personal-size bibles, not just for carrying but also for sitting in a comfortable chair and reading, over attempting to use large study bibles for those two purposes – carrying, and reading in comfort.

    I have yet to decide which translation I will use for 2014’s one-year plan. Was thinking of using a paraphrase such as the NLT (it simply replicates so much the language of the LB that I cannot agree with claims that it is a new translation). In fact, choosing a potentially more accurate NLT over the old LB brings gender-neutral issues into the equation also, making more difficult what should be easy, ie, the NLT should be an improvement. Perhaps my best bet for reading a paraphrase is just to go back in time with the Good News bible I found cheap at a thrift store a few years ago.

  75. says

    Re-reading this, I find it disjointed, unclear, and pretty judgmental. The first two I can’t help, and the third I didn’t mean. My intention is to encourage all of us to think about translations in the context of a world that lives outside the church, and how to use those to further people’s relationship with God.
    I would imagine it must be frustrating to spend years of your life working on a Bible translation, and discover that many people dislike it. When I write for my blog, I find myself referring to many different versions (it’s a blessing to speak English!), and I believe that the major issue with all of them is that they sometimes don’t express themselves well. Obviously, if one is translating, then that means he cannot just “render the passage in common English.” He has to try to find the middle ground between accuracy and readability. In each of these versions, the translators have made decisions based on what they thought was the right “mix.” Since I regularly retranslate some of these passages in various versions for readability, it’s fairly obvious that my opinion differs. I haven’t read through the HCSB (which seems to be the version of interest here), but I’ve used it. I believe that the verses we refer to in ministry the most do coalesce around certain specific language, and that’s where most folks make their choice. The challenge for the translator seems to be the OTHER verses–the ones that are not so popular, and don’t offer so much common language between versions. I like the majority of the versions, and deeply respect someone who gives up years of his life to translate the Scriptures. Martin Luther understood better than most what the personal cost could be.
    I think (and this is a personal statement), that the issue is that people (read average folks) don’t read the Bible at all. If they go to church, they listen to the sermon, and let that be their Bible knowledge. This is a huge problem for our society. As yet, we have very strong Christian influences in our world, but it is changing rapidly, and Christians are ministering “against the tide.” The Bible is seen as irrelevant, unnecessary for modern life, moralistic, and very much outdated. I spent about 30 years in ministry myself, and more recently worked in the “outside world” in mortgage lending. Interest in the Bible was at zero degrees Kelvin in that position, despite the fact that I maintained a consistent witness there. I had no other believers in the company, and it was a place of total spiritual disinterest. There were many young people, many older folks, and lots of people in between. This is the America we live in, unfortunately, and if one goes to work in such a company, he’ll do his lunchtime Bible studies alone.
    I am still puzzling about how to “break through” this indifference and rejection, although the company I worked for has disappeared with the recession. I wish I knew. A conversion or two per week is not going to do it, but that’s what we see (if that) in our churches. Revival, in the sense that we’ve used the term before, is not going to do it. We do need a modern religious/spiritual transformation, but my guess is that we, as “oldsters” are going to have to face the fact that if the church moves into the 23rd century alive, it will have to change its face dramatically, and adopt many new ways of thinking. I’m not suggesting that we change the Scriptures. I’m just observing that there’s not much “draw” from churches in the “real world.” In other words, I think the translation we use may be the least of our concerns. It may be survival.
    To begin to understand this, I’d like to suggest that every pastor get a job somewhere “in the world” and ask his church to co-operate while he learns what everyone else thinks, and that he learns to see things from the viewpoints of other folk. Then I’d like to suggest that every pastor demand that his church boards be made up, at least in part, of people with experience “outside.” And I’d like to suggest that we embrace the opportunity presented by folks who really don’t care–but who might care if they understood. Sorry for the rant, and this is probably not the place for it. It just seemed like all the “stuff” about which translation is sort of like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” (by the way, it’s 3).
    Steve Bradley

  76. jay says

    I like the niv 2011 better than the 84 it clarifies the whole homosexual subject that the 84ed didn’t seem to be clear on. About the whole brothers and sisters thing I don’t see what the big deal os many pastors that don’t like that and like the NLT I don’t understand them since the NLT and many other versions say that. The ESV footnotes will tell u the same thing. So i don’t really see what the whole big fuzz is about.
    I do love the NLT better thanball of them but the NIV AND the NASB come in as second and third and then the ESV.

  77. jay says

    This just my opinion but I think that the NLT or NIV
    LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE IS THE BEST study bible out there! I personally love it. Second is THE FIRE BIBLE just wished it wasn’t niv 84 edition hopefully they’ll updated to the 2011

  78. Gary Mink says

    Thank you for the info. I found you while doing research for an article I am doing.

    The HCSB would do better (IMHO) if the publishers would leave off their name. Bible translation now-a-days seems to have become the cash cow of publishers. Perhaps I am being too cynical.
    Gary

  79. Hollis Bush says

    I can speak for 3 bibles and that’s CEB, HCSB, ESV. The common English bible is one of my favorite bibles to read for Old Testament use, it has a flow that feels very well honestly like a old magical book that was given to me from some old wise man. Haha, funny but true when you first open that bible and read the first few pages of Genesis and see how different it is from HCSB,ESV, and KJV it’s more Hebraic than any of the three. The HCSB is just a all out good study bible hands down and I am glad I nought that hands down. The HCSB doesn’t feel like a Hebraic bible, it feels like holding a book of scrolls that was intended for a teenager or child to read until he was mature enough to read the KJV. The layout of the books were good I just wish you had better dividers throughout the bible. I always thought if the HCSB had a divider for The Law,Prophets, Kings, Poetry, Gospels, Letters of Paul, Letters of Peter, Letters of John would’ve made the bible very easy to navigate through if it was in the beginning of the book and at the top.

    The HCSB could’ve in my opinion took out law and added Torah if that was the case and made it more interesting for the reader. The pictures were good, how you used scripture to reference scripture was like genius for the gospels, but I wish for commentary you can next time use Apostle Paul, Jesus, John, James, and Peter in the bottom section to describe what’s going on instead of giving us what you think is happening.

    Due to a little of research on Revelations I thought it’d be cool to finally call Jesus for one time throughout the whole book Yeshua in that last book giving your bible greater significance and over the top on one of the bibles best buys because the HCSB bible was all there it was just missing certain elements to make it way better. That’s why I love that bible the most throughout my whole collection, I couldn’t really ask for a better bible just add those in and you will have my full undivided attention.
    Just imagine that as the last title Revealing Yeshua the Messiah/Christ that would be so awesome. By the way this is coming from a 21 year old.

    Lastly the ESV, another great bible but it’s not for me it’s for a person who just wants to know Christianity because the bible caters to many different denominations except Mormons. The ESV is great for certain things but it cannot hold its reader at face value like let’s say HCSB, or CEB. It’s good but it’s for a person who just plans on going into ministry, and debates which is a very good thing. This where the HCSB lacks because the HCSB is just a good read, ESV is for like higher learning.

  80. Jonathan Myers says

    Dr. Rainer,

    Because of the many Evangelical scholars who have been promoting the ESV, this has been my version of choice for the last few years. It truly is a great translation. Recently, however, I have been reading out of the HCSB. I love that translates key Christian words such as “righteousness,” “fellowship,” and “propitiation.” Such words are loaded with significant meaning for Christians. I also appreciate that they use the term “slave” instead of “bondservant.” I also have an easier time reading it than the ESV. Finally, of all the translations I have read, I like the layout of the HCSB the most. While I have done all of my Scripture memory in the ESV, I am considering switching to the HCSB because of the simplicity of the language.

    The only drawback I see in the HCSB “camp” is a minor one: I would love to see some different study Bibles. In my humble opinion, the ESV has the best study tools on the market, namely, ESV study Bible, MacArthur Study Bible, and the Gospel Transformation Bible(!). The HCSB seems to be a great resource, and the Apologetics Study Bible is profoundly unique (I also love my Marine’s Bible). Personally, I would love to be the owner of a HCSB MacArthur study Bible, a HCSB interlinear New Testament, an ESV-HCSB Parallel Bible, or a Gospel Transformation-ish Bible. Is there any chance Holman will come out with any of these resources in the near future?

    Yours in Christ,
    Jonathan Myers

  81. Benjamin R. Owen says

    It is surprising that the Revised Standard Version, which had a good run in the 1960s through the mid 1980s, is no where to be found in this list. It seems to be a pattern that a new version will come along and be the new “standard” for five, ten, fifteen or maybe even twenty years, and then fade away, while the good old King James Version remains a steady first, second, or third. It has had a four-hundred-year run and is still running strong. It must have some huge, vital merit, certainly the greatest literary gift God ever gave to any people of any language.

  82. Jeff Jackson says

    Dr. Rainer,
    I’m in the process of switching translations for my preaching ministry; either the ESV or the HCSB. My personal preference is the HCSB, but whenever I visit Lifeway the selection of ESV bibles dwarfs the other translations. I know selection is important to people and ESV has provided a huge selection from which to choose. My hope is that the HCSB will continue to beef up their selection too.

    And some of us still like the red-letters. Please don’t abandon them.

    Thanks for your ministry

    • Jeremy Royal Howard says

      Pastor Jackson:
      Thanks for your remarks about the Holman Christian Standard Bible. We find that a lot of pastors are turning to HCSB since it provides a readable and accurate translation of the original texts. I’m happy to say that the HCSB is being offered in a variety of new cover designs and text settings over the course of the next year. By this time next year there will be well over 200 new options in HCSB Text Bibles, and this is apart from an ever-growing variety of Study Bibles and Specialty Bibles. You will find all of these at LifeWay Christian Stories and in numerous other retailers. We are always happy to hear from pastors and Bible readers about ways we can better serve them. Shoot me a note anytime.
      Sincerely,
      Jeremy Royal Howard, Ph.D.
      Bible & Reference Book Publisher
      jeremy.howard@lifeway.com

      • brad says

        So, to put beside the hcsb for good, but still critical contrast, what would you recommend?

        Example,
        I use NASB
        NIV
        NET
        and have a pretty good base between the words, concepts, and notes.

        • Jeremy Royal Howard says

          Brad:
          Excellent question. I believe that of the list you shared, the Holman Christian Standard Bible reads most like the NIV and yet is to be ranked closer to formal equivalence. NASB and NET are in turn further toward formal equivalence than HCSB, but arguably at the expense of being readable by the majority of people. To be honest I love all four of these translations. What I hear people saying about HCSB is that they appreciate that it upholds very capably two important values: being readable (which sometimes commends a dynamic-equivalence approach) and yet also accurate (tipping toward formal equivalence). We describe this as optimal equivalence, and in layman’s terms I would call it a balancing act that seeks to convey the original meaning (never compromising that by allowing modern philosophies to change the original meaning) in a way that is readily understood by the average reader. I hope I’ve been helpful. Please don’t hesitate to ask further questions.
          Sincerely,
          Jeremy Royal Howard, Ph.D.
          Bible & Reference Book Publisher
          jeremy.howard@lifeway.com

          • Brad says

            I’ve read some in it. It’s very readable.

            At a glance I think it’s pretty on target. Phil 3, rom 8:9A 1 John 3: and 5’s “dilemma” verses, Gal 5:16, Romans 7 and 1 john 1, are my fast checks.

            I’m no scholar, but the Soteriological challenges there are a passionate study of mine. And, I must say, I think you present it close to dead on. I was preparing to come back with my critique when I checked them. But, even though we may disagree on the conclusions, (maybe not) my uneducated self who has been inside out on those areas, thinks they are dead on. I think you put SINCE instead of IF that made the intent more clear in one of them, and left the IF out of Gal 5:16 to reflect the clearness of the statement.

            My closest criticism is leaving Paul a skeleton. But I understand why you did that, well, I understand a few reasons that qualify that move.

            Sarx = flesh really sends a lot of people south and creates some wacky ideas sometimes. If Sarx was always flesh, then a few verses have Paul with skeletal remains, maybe guts and brains, but no flesh and..> HE WAS STILL WRITING LETTERS! No wonder they cut off his head.

            But, NIV with “Sinful Nature” created such a stirring, I get why you’d avoid that.

            I’ve never found NASB the pain to read like most. I really like it I guess, because in my deepest studies it was the clear one, and after you “get the feel” for it, she’s ok.

            I’d recommend yours in a heart beat, and suspect I’ll own one. But I have to tell you, the disappointing thing for me was I didn’t get to argue any of the normal points. When it appears you agree, the conversation is unconscionably shortened.

          • Jeremy Royal Howard says

            Brad:
            You obviously give careful attention to choosing a Bible translation! That’s our heartbeat, too. And thanks for the humor!
            Jeremy

          • brad says

            I’m just nearly smart enough to understand what I don’t know.

            I’ll stay gone now.

  83. Cisco Cotto says

    Dr. Rainer,

    Last month I switched our church to the HCSB from ESV because I have found it a more readable translation, though still faithful to the original text. The translation has been well received, but I have run into some challenges among the young people in the church. The two reasons are the lack of an HCSB smartphone app that is free and of the same quality/functionality as Crossway’s ESV app. The other is how outdated the HCSB.org site is. The last blog entry on the site is from almost a year ago! These things make it tough for a senior pastor to establish credibility for a newer translation which many people in the church have never heard of. I like the HCSB more every day, but there are challenges to making it work as the primary teaching Bible in a church.

    • Jeremy Royal Howard says

      Pastor Cotto:
      Great to hear from you again! You’ve been a helpful source of feedback over the past couple of years. Thanks for indicating two areas of growth for the presence of the Holman Christian Standard Bible online and in app format. Your note helps renew our focus. Watch for improvements soon on both of these fronts. Reach out to us anytime about HCSB and our Bible Publishing plan.
      Sincerely,
      Jeremy Royal Howard, Ph.D.
      Bible & Reference Book Publisher
      jeremy.howard@lifeway.com

  84. Arlene R. says

    Yes, the NIV is the one translation that the christian booksellers are “pushing” in their stores. No surprise that it is outselling. It is really too bad.

  85. Paul Arnold says

    I have read nine versions including most on your top ten. I will finish the Contemporary English Version in the next few weeks which will be my tenth. Have read KJV, NKJV, HCSB, ESV, NLT & NASB all more than once.

    Maybe because it was emphasized when I was in seminary, but the NASB is my favorite.

    Also, I thought the Message was presented as a paraphrase rather than a translation.

  86. says

    I love the NIV, but the controversy shrouding the 2011 update makes me uneasy using it in particular circumstances. The HCSB is an excellent translation, but I wish they would update it taking out the personal names of “Yahweh” and going back to the traditional “LORD” renderings. In many ways, I think it is disrespectful to use the name following thousands of years of supplanting the personal name with LORD. For devotions, hands-down the best translation is the New Living Translation. It doesn’t surprise me that it is doing so well. In fact, I believe that the NLT will be the translation that replaces the NIV eventually.

  87. says

    Just one more comment about the HCSB. What really touched my soul, and made me feel as if i were hearing Gods Word for the first time, was when I read the Beatitudes. This blew me away! It was like being there listening to Jesus speak those Words. Also, thanks for not removing all those verses like the Non Inspired Version did. The HCSB will do well because God is in it. Your brother in Christ always,J.C.

  88. says

    On a previous post, I was critical of the HCSB’s use of the name “Yahweh.” However, after I have been using the translation, I have grown to appreciate the HCSB’s use of God’s personal name. Call it commenting too soon on my part. The HCSB is a good translation.

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