Bible Translation Comparison Chart

Navigating the world of Bible translations can feel like a daunting task. With numerous versions available, each with its unique approach, style, and translation, it’s essential to understand their differences.

In this article, we will compare various Bible translations to help inform your choice. They will be compared in these seven categories: (1) translation philosophy, (2) reading level, (3) notable features, (4) origin, (5) manuscript tradition, (6) most popular Study Bible, and (7) translators.

The charts below compare the following translations: Christian Standard Bible (CSB), Contemporary English Version (CEV), English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV, New American Bible (NAB), New American Standard Bible (NASB), New International Version (NIV), New King James Version (NKJV), New Living Translation (NLT), and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

Holy Bible
Is the NIV or NLT easier to read? See below

Comparing Translation Philosophies of English Bibles

A translation philosophy is a guiding principle used when translating biblical texts from their original languages. This may lean towards formal equivalence, which aims for word-for-word accuracy, or dynamic equivalence, which strives for thought-for-thought clarity, or a balanced approach to serve different needs.

BibleTranslation Philosophy
Christian Standard Bible (CSB)Optimal equivalence; balances literary precision and readability.
Contemporary English Version (CEV)Simplifies language for readability; emphasizes understandability and accessibility.
English Standard Version (ESV)Literal word-for-word translation with modestly updated language.
King James Version (KJV)Classical, word-for-word translation using early 17th-century English.
New American Bible (NAB)Scholarly, inclusive language; for liturgical use by American Catholics.
BibleTranslation Philosophy
New American Standard Bible (NASB)Prioritizes literalness for depth of study while updating the language.
New International Version (NIV)Blends accuracy and readability for a global English-speaking audience.
New King James Version (NKJV)Maintains traditional language; updates archaisms of original King James.
New Living Translation (NLT)Thought-for-thought translation to convey ideas in everyday language.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)Balances word-for-word and thought-for-thought with modern English usage.
Study Bible
Which translation has a 4th-grade reading level? Which has a 12th grade? See below

Comparing the Reading Levels of Bible Translations

A reading level refers to the complexity of a text’s language and its suitability for readers at a certain educational level. It involves vocabulary, sentence structure, and thematic depth. In Bible translations, reading level affects accessibility, readability, and the audience’s comprehension of the biblical text.

BibleReading Level
CSB7th/8th-grade level; Intermediate reading level; balances readability with textual fidelity.
CEV4th/5th-grade level; Lower reading level; prioritizes accessibility and readability for all ages.
ESV10th-grade level; Higher reading level; preserves the literary quality of original texts.
KJV12th-grade level; High reading level; dense, archaic language with complex grammatical structure.
NAB9th/10th-grade level; Moderate reading level; uses inclusive, understandable language for liturgy.
BibleReading Level
NASB11th-grade level; Advanced reading level; high fidelity to original languages can be challenging.
NIV7th/8th-grade level; Intermediate reading level; balances understandability with textual accuracy.
NKJV11th-grade level; Elevated reading level; retains traditional language, with minor modern updates.
NLT6th/7th-grade level; Easy reading level; thought-for-thought translation promotes comprehension.
NRSV10th-grade level; Moderate reading level; combines scholarly accuracy with modern English.
Bible study
What’s the most popular Study Bible in the NIV, KJV, NLT, and others? See below

Comparing the Notable Features of Bible Translations

Notable features of Bible translations include their translation philosophy (word-for-word or thought-for-thought), language style (modern or traditional), readability, and inclusion of study aids. These characteristics guide individuals in choosing a translation that suits their needs best.

BibleNotable Features
CSBEqually weighs accuracy and readability, suitable for both study and devotions.
CEVEasy to understand, suitable for children and ESL readers.
ESVLiterally accurate, slightly formal English, popular for personal study.
KJVTraditional, formal, uses Jacobean English, respected for poetic beauty.
NABThe official Catholic version, includes the Apocrypha, uses inclusive language.
BibleNotable Features
NASBHighly literal, useful for detailed study, and retains traditional terms.
NIVBalanced approach to translation, clear, broadly used in Protestant circles.
NKJVPreserves KJV’s style but modernizes archaic words and grammar.
NLTEmphasizes readability, conveys the meaning of original texts in modern language.
NRSVEcumenical appeal, inclusive language, respected in academic circles.

The Origin of English Bible Translations

The origin of a Bible translation refers to its historical and procedural background. This encompasses the commissioning body, the team of translators, the guiding principles followed, the manuscripts consulted, and the time period during which the work was completed. It offers insight into the translation’s purpose and methodology.

CSB2004 Holman Christian Standard Bible revision, released in 2017.
CEV1995 translation by American Bible Society, focused on readability.
ESV2001 revision of Revised Standard Version, by Crossway Bibles.
KJVCommissioned by King James I of England in 1604.
NAB1970 translation, authorized by Catholic Bishops of the United States.
NASB1960s update of the American Standard Version for modern readers.
NIV1970s translation by an international team commissioned by Biblica.
NKJVModernization of KJV commenced in 1975 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
NLT1996 thought-for-thought translation, revision of Living Bible.
NRSV1989 revision of the Revised Standard Version, ecumenically produced.

The Manuscript Tradition Bible Translations

The manuscript tradition of Bible translations refers to the original language texts used as the source for translation. These may include Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts, such as the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint, the Textus Receptus, or the Dead Sea Scrolls, each with unique textual variations.

CSBBiblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Septuagint, and Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.
CEVDraws from various Hebrew and Greek texts and prioritizes clear translation.
ESVBiblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition.
KJVBased on Textus Receptus, Masoretic Text, and Latin Vulgate.
NABUses Biblia Hebraica and Greek New Testament by United Bible Societies.
NASBUses Biblia Hebraica and Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.
NIVRelies on Biblia Hebraica, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Nestle-Aland text.
NKJVFollows Textus Receptus but consults modern texts for footnotes.
NLTBased on Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Greek New Testament (UBS4).
NRSVUtilizes Masoretic Text, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Septuagint.

The Most Popular Study Bible for Each Translation

A Study Bible is a Bible edition that includes additional features to aid personal study and understanding. These features often include explanatory notes, cross-references, maps, historical background information, doctrinal explanations, and thematic studies. It is designed to help readers delve deeper into the biblical text.

BibleStudy Bibles
CSBCSB Study Bible, provides extensive study tools and resources.
CEVThe Learning Bible: emphasizes understanding.
ESVESV Study Bible, renowned for thorough articles and study aids.
KJVScofield Reference Bible, featuring extensive cross-references and explanatory notes.
NABCatholic Study Bible, offers extensive notes and commentary.
BibleStudy Bibles
NASBNASB Study Bible, features in-depth study notes and articles.
NIVNIV Study Bible, popular for its detailed notes and maps.
NKJVNKJV Study Bible, offering comprehensive study aids and notes.
NLTLife Application Study Bible, focuses on applying Bible teachings.
NRSVHarperCollins Study Bible, a standard for academic biblical studies.

The Translators of Each Bible Translation

BibleStudy Bibles
CSB100 scholars from 17 denominations for Holman Bible Publishers.
CEVAmerican Bible Society translators aiming for understandability and accuracy.
ESV100 evangelical scholars and pastors on Crossway Bibles’ team.
KJVTranslated by a committee of 47 scholars appointed by King James.
NABCatholic scholars under the guidance of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee.
BibleStudy Bibles
NASBAmerican scholars on the Lockman Foundation’s translation committee.
NIVOver 100 international scholars from the Committee on Bible Translation.
NKJV130 biblical scholars, church leaders, and lay-Christians worked on it.
NLT90 Bible scholars from various theological backgrounds and denominations.
NRSV30-person team of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox scholars.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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