Translation teams use various approaches when preparing new versions of the Bible.

Some adhere closely to the wording of the original languages, while others seek to communicate the thought behind the words. Many combine the two approaches in an effort to compromise between them.

Understanding where a particular translation falls within the “word for word” or “thought for thought” continuum aids our understanding of Scripture:[1]

word-for -word                      thought-for-thought                 paraphrase

NASB     KJV       NRSV       NIV         NLT        CEV      //   TLB         MSG[2]

NKJV      NAB                         NJB


For example, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translates Rom 8:29–30 as “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

In contrast, the New Living Translation (NLT) says, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.”

While an outstanding achievement in 1611, translators of the King James Version (KJV) used medieval Greek texts dated to the 9th–14th centuries. Scholars call this compilation of nearly identical manuscripts the Majority Text (M). As of 1983, these documents represented 80–90% of all known New Testament (NT) manuscripts.[3]

However, as one text critical scholar has noted, “Ten thousand copies of a mistake do not make it any less a mistake.”[4]

 We now have much more reliable manuscripts available to us. Those which scholars have deemed as the most reliable readings have been compiled into the 28th edition of the Greek NT called Novum Testamentum Graecae (NA28).[5]

Text critical scholars have confidence that 97–99% of the NA28 reflects the original document.[6]

The KJV differs substantially from translations based upon the NA27–28. Entire verses are “missing” from some modern versions (e.g. Matt 18:10–12 skips verse 11).[7]

When reciting The Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9–13), many of us automatically conclude with “…for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.”

However, this phrase does not appear in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.[8]

Unfortunately, the NKJV relies upon the less reliable documents as well. As a result, I do not recommend those two translations.

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Go to Introduction to Genesis 1


[A related post is New Testament Textual Criticism]


[1] I do not recommend using paraphrases such as The Message (MSG) or The Living Bible (TLB) for in-depth Bible study. These should not be confused with the New Living Translation (NLT), which is a very good translation rather than a paraphrase.

[2]The New Living Translation, “A Continuum of English Bible Translations,”

[3]Michael W. Holmes, “The ‘Majority Text Debate’: New Form of an Old Issue,” Them 8, no. 2: 15,

[4]Michael W. Holmes, “New Testament Textual Criticism,” in Introducing New Testament Interpretation (ed. Scott McKnight; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 55.

[5] Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus, 28. Revidierte Auflage (ed. Barbara Aland, et al.; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).

[6]Craig Blomberg, Making Sense of the New Testament: Three Critical Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 22–3.

[7]Nestle and Nestle, Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus, 28. Revidierte Auflage, 57.

[8]Craig Blomberg, Making Sense of the New Testament: Three Crucial Questions, 22–3.