What is the Difference Between Different Bible Versions?

David Cameron November 10th, 2016 - Google+

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different versions of the Holy Bible? What is the difference between them all and which one is right for you? To find the answers to these questions, you don't need to be a Bible Scholar but you do have to understand the history of the Bible all the way back to the first version.

Before we get into the details, it is important to remember that the word "version" actually refers to the translation and often the language in which a Bible is written. The translation of text in one language into that of another is difficult for the simplest of documents but when you are dealing with the Holy Bible, it can be an excruciating task. The subject of Bible versions/translations is a hotly contested one and there are many Bible Scholars that devote their entire lives to the subject.

Currently, there are over one thousand different version of the Bible that have been translated into over one thousand languages1. Don't worry, armed with a little bit of knowledge, you will find the version that is right for you.

The first version of the Bible was a collection of various early texts thought to have been written by Christ's disciples in both Hebrew, Koine Greek and (later) Aramaic2. 

Soon after the first version of the Bible was assembled it was translated into Greek and then again into Latin. As centuries passed, languages developed, the meanings of words changed and these words were used in very different ways. This change in language required that the text of the Bible be updated in order to remain relevant to contemporary Christians. Even later, the text was divided and organized into the books, chapters and verses that we know today. Ever since, the Bibles has been regularly revised, updated and translated into many languages.

As previously stated, many people have devoted their lives to translating the Bible into new versions and, as a result, the conversations for and against certain versions has been filled with passion and vitriol.

We thought that it would be interesting to compare a couple of more well-known verses line-by-line to see how significant an effect can be seen version to version. As part of this comparison, we have selected eleven English language texts that are from a variety of historical time periods.


Genesis 1-5

LINE 1
KJV: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
NKJV: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
NiRV: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Douay-Rheims: In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.
Good News Translation: In the beginning, when God created the universe,
Holman Christian Standard Bible: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
NASB: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
NIV: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
NLT: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
NRS: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
RSV: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

LINE 2
KJV: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
NKJV: The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
NiRV: The earth didn't have any shape. And it was empty. Darkness was over the surface of the ocean. At that time, the ocean covered the earth. The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Douay-Rheims: And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters.
Good News Translation: the earth was formless and desolate. The raging ocean that covered everything was engulfed in total darkness, and the Spirit of God was moving over the water.
Holman Christian Standard Bible: Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
NASB: The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
NIV: Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
NLT: The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
NRS: the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
RSV: The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.

LINE 3
KJV: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
NKJV: Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
NiRV: God said, "Let there be light." And there was light.
Douay-Rheims: And God said: Be light made. And light was made.
Good News Translation: Then God commanded, "Let there be light" - and light appeared.
Holman Christian Standard Bible: Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
NASB: Then God said, "Let there be light "; and there was light.
NIV: And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
NLT: Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
NRS: Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
RSV: And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

LINE 4
KJV: And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
NKJV: And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
NiRV: God saw that the light was good. He separated the light from the darkness.
Douay-Rheims: And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness.
Good News Translation: God was pleased with what he saw. Then he separated the light from the darkness,
Holman Christian Standard Bible: God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.
NASB: God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
NIV: God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
NLT: And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness.
NRS: And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
RSV: And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

LINE 5
KJV: And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
NKJV: God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
NiRV: God called the light "day." He called the darkness "night." There was evening, and there was morning. It was day one.
Douay-Rheims: And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day.
Good News Translation: and he named the light "Day" and the darkness "Night." Evening passed and morning came - that was the first day.
Holman Christian Standard Bible: God called the light "day," and He called the darkness "night." Evening came, and then morning: the first day.
NASB: God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
NIV: God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
NLT: God called the light "day" and the darkness "night." And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.
NRS: God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
RSV: God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Okay, so when you compare Genesis 1-5 across these various translations, the impact appears to be none or very slight.  Unfortunately, one verse, does not a Bible make…

Corinthians 13:4-8 is a well-known verse that is often read during wedding ceremonies.  This passage is an excellent example of how the meaning of a word such as "charity" has changed over time – eventually being replaced by the word "love". Even the scholars who revised the traditional King James Version Bible saw reason to replace the outdated word with its more modern counterpart.

Corinthians 13:4-8

LINE 4
KJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
NKJV: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
NiRV: Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud.
Douay-Rheims: Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up,
Good News Translation: Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud;
Holman Christian Standard Bible: Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited;
NASB: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
NIV: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
NLT: Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud
NRS: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant
RSV: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;

LINE 5
KJV: Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
NKJV: does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
NiRV: It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people's wrongs.
Douay-Rheims: Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil:
Good News Translation: love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs;
Holman Christian Standard Bible: does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs;
NASB: does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
NIV: It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
NLT: or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
NRS: or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
RSV: it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

LINE 6
KJV: Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
NKJV: does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
NiRV: Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken.
Douay-Rheims: Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth:
Good News Translation: love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.
Holman Christian Standard Bible: finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth;
NASB: does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
NIV: Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
NLT: It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
NRS: it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
RSV: it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

LINE 7
KJV: Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
NKJV: bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
NiRV: It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up.
Douay-Rheims: Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Good News Translation: Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.
Holman Christian Standard Bible: bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
NASB: bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
NIV: It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
NLT: Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
NRS: It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
RSV: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

LINE 8
KJV: Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
NKJV: Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
NiRV: Love never fails. But prophecy will pass away. Speaking in languages that had not been known before will end. And knowledge will pass away.
Douay-Rheims: Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void or tongues shall cease or knowledge shall be destroyed.
Good News Translation: Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass.
Holman Christian Standard Bible: Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
NASB: Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
NIV: Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
NLT: Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!
NRS: Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
RSV: Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

So which Bible version is right for you? This becomes a very personal choice and only you can tell which suites your tastes and needs.  If you are deciding on a Bible to give to another person or for outreach, you may take the person's reading level into account and select a more modern translation. You hear the term "tradition" a great deal when discussing Bibles versions – if tradition is important to you then an older text may be the best choice for you. There are many great online tools available for comparing a broad choice of Bible versions. Our favorite is biblestudytools.com.

We hope that this line-by-line version comparison will be helpful in your selecting a Bible. At very least it should make you more aware that there are very import differences between Bible versions.


Footnote 1: https://www.bible.com/versions
Footnote 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible



More online Bibles Resources:
http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Bible/BibleType.htm
http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ac66

http://www.biblestudytools.com/rhe/1-corinthians/passage/?q=1-corinthians+13:4-8