What translation to use? Sense and nonsense.

This is an area that is rife with nonsense. Lets get some sense into this topic.

Firstly talk about global conspiracies to subvert the word of God through large publishing houses belongs in the realm of comic books and that is where it should stay. It is nonsense and Christians everywhere should not be taken in by it.

There is a lot of fuss about which translations are the most accurate and to understand the fuss you need to understand a little about the Greek source texts used. During the reformation, when the first English translations, direct from the Greek, were prepared, the Greek text used was called the Textus Receptus which was derived from a group of texts with a Byzantine origin. Since then many more Byzantine texts have been found and the whole collection has been used to prepare a combined Byzantine text which is now called the majority text. The majority text and Textus Receptus are very similar and represent around 90% of all the ancient texts known - hence the name majority text. However there is a problem with the majority text - nearly all of the earliest copies of New Testament texts we have represent a different origin - known as the Alexandrian text. Most Alexandrian origin texts have been found in the last 200 years and were not available to earlier translators. There are some minor differences between the texts and many modern scholars give precedence to the older Alexandrian texts. The standard text that incorporates all the older, Alexandrian texts is known as the critical text (Nestle-Alland) and most modern bibles are based on this text. So which is the best? Well that is a matter of opinion, there is no definitive answer and that is the problem. Most scholars prefer the critical text but not all. Be wary of people who claim their view is correct and everyone else is wrong - things are not that clear cut.

Related to the above there is a popular fallacy going around that the KJV is the most accurate version of the bible. The KJV new testament is an excellent translation of the Textus Receptus, however that does not guarantee to make it closer to the original text. Apart from newer translations using older manuscripts to get closer to the original text there have also been advances in Greek scholarship that allows a better understanding of the language and grammar of the time which aids modern translators. The advances in scholarship have given us bibles today that are closer to the original text and better express the original meaning than have been available for hundreds of years. As Christians we should take advantage of these new developments. However, if you prefer the language in the KJV then go ahead, just don't let some zealot tell you you must read the King James Version (KJV). If you find the language difficult, get yourself another version you enjoy reading. We should thank God for advances in modern biblical scholarship and enjoy our bibles.

So what should you read? Actually a very easy question to answer - what ever you feel most comfortable reading. Don't listen to zealots who insist you only read one version.

There are a lot of translations, everyone likes to say some are better than others but often its not that clear cut. Different translations have different intentions and ranking one above another is not really helpful; we need to understand what the translators were trying to achieve. Some bibles take a very literal approach to translation which, whereas it might be technically acurate, may well obscure the original meaning because the use of words and grammar is very different in new testament Greek compared to modern English, it can also lead to a translation that does not read well in English. A more literal translation does not necessarily convery the meaning more clearly. The other extreme is a complete paraphrase which just tries to communicate the meaning. Most translations lie somewhere between the two extremes. The most important thing is to read the bible and be comfortable with the version you use.

What do I use? I actually have a wide selection of bibles but the ones I use most often are the NIV (2011) and NRSV; that's just my personal preference.

A selection of bibles worth considering and some notes on each. This is not an exhaustive list and they are ordered according to the first publishing date so I am not recommending one over another.

Geneva Bible The first translation of the bible to be printed and widely distributed and a direct translation from the Greek and Hebrew, earlier bibles were often translated from the latin which itself was a translation. It many ways it was the completion of William Tyndale's work that he never managed to fulfill himself. The Geneva bible is largely overshadowed today by the King James but it was the most popular version of the bible in the 1500 and 1600's and was more popular than the King James for several decades after the release of the King James. The Geneva bible contained extensive footnotes which enhanced its popularity with many but upset the authorities. It really was the first English language study bible. It remained a best seller for decades despite being banned by the authorities several times. Available today with modern spelling which makes it even more accessible. If you prefer an older style language or a bible based on the Byzantine rather than Alexandrian Greek texts then this is a worthy alternative to the KJV.
King James Version (KJV) The most popular English translation in history. It has been revised many times and most people are reading the 1769 version, not the 1611 version. The KJV started life as a new translation ordered by King James and the King gave guidelines on what he wanted and even how some words should be translated. Political interference and a rather disparate translation committee seemed an inauspicious start but despite that the KJV became the standard English bible for many years. Because the English used is archaic it can make discerning the meaning difficult, however if you like the style then use it. Not a version I would give to a newly converted teenager.
Amplified Bible (AMP) First published in 1965, based on the American Standard Bible. An unusual bible in that it aims to clarify certain expressions by including expansions of the phrase in question. This can certainly help with understanding but does not make the reading a very easy experience. Certainly an option for the study shelf. There was a newer version released in 2015. Good for study.
New American Standard Bible (NASB) An update of the American Standard Bible. the full version was published in 1971. A formal word-for-word equivalence makes this both highly accurate to the Greek text used but not the easiest version to read. Probably a version you should have on your shelf to help with study but maybe not one you will want to read every day.
New International Version (NIV) First published in 1978 and has been the best selling version of the bible ever since. It is not a word-for-word translation but uses a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought to give an excellently readable bible while retaining a high degree of accuracy. There have been several updates over the years. The aim is to provide an accurate, readable translation and it achieves that aim. The newest version is the 2011 edition. An excellent choice for your regular bible.
New King James Version (NKJV) Known as the Revised Authorised Version (RAV) when released in the UK. The full version came out in 1982. The aim was to update the vocabulary and grammar while retaining the style of the original KJV. The translators aim word-for-word equivalence rather than thought-for-thought equivalence. A popular translation.
New Revised Standard (NRSV) An update of the Revised Standard Bible. Published in 1989. The aim was to take advantage of the newer texts available, eliminate archaic language and bring the language up to a more modern standard. A translation accepted and used by a wide range of Churches and the most commonly used English language bible in academic circles. Well worth considering.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Published in 1999. A version that uses word-for-word equivalence but when that does not give clear English they will use a phrase-for-phrase translation. The HCSB takes advantage of modern scholarship and recently discovered manuscripts to give a very readable translation.
English Standard version (ESV) Published in 2001. Its aim was a modern word-for-word translation that took account of modern scholarship and also gave the reader a better reading experience than previous word-for-word versions like the NASB.
The Message (MES) Published fully 2002, but parts had been released for many years. The aim was to "keep the language of the Message (Bible) current and fresh and understandable". A translation that goes to the extreme end of thought-for-thought equivalence. A bible designed for reading rather than study.
The International Standard Version (ISV) The complete ISV was published in 2011. It is a completely new and is not based on any previous translation. The translation is a compromise between literal and idiomatic translation. One unusual aspect is that attempt to render poetic content in a poetic style whereas in most translations the poetic style is lost in translation.