Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Modern English Bible translations

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Modern English Bible translations

Many attempts have been made to translate the Bible into modern English, which in this context is defined as the form of English in use after 1800 (different from the linguistic meaning of Modern English).


The New Revised Standard Version is the version most commonly preferred by biblical scholars. In the United States, 55% of survey respondents who read the Bible reported using the King James Version in 2014, followed by 19% for the New International Version, with other versions used by fewer than 10%.

Development of Modern English Bible versions

The Authorized King James Version of 1611 was sporadically altered until 1769, but was not thoroughly updated until the creation of the Revised Version in 1885; it was not until the Revised Standard Version of 1952 (New Testament in 1948) that a rival to the KJV was composed, nearly 350 years after the KJV was first published. The RSV gained widespread adoption among the mainstream Protestant Churches in America and a Catholic Edition was released in 1962. It was updated as the New Revised Standard Version in 1989.

In the late twentieth century, Bibles increasingly appeared that were much less literal in their approach to translation. In 1946, the New English Bible was initiated in the United Kingdom, intended to enable readers to better understand the King James Bible. In 1958, J. B. Phillips (1906–1982) produced an edition of the New Testament letters in paraphrase, the Letters to Young Churches, so that members of his youth group could understand what the New Testament authors had written. In 1966, Good News for Modern Man, a non-literal translation of the New Testament, was released to wide acceptance. Others followed suit. The Living Bible, released in 1971, was published by its author Kenneth N. Taylor, based on the literal American Standard Version of 1901. Taylor had begun because of the trouble his children had in understanding the literal (and sometimes archaic) text of the King James Bible. His work was at first intended for children, but was later positioned for marketing to high school and college students, as well as adults wishing to better understand the Bible. Like Phillips' version, the Living Bible was a dramatic departure from the King James version.

Despite widespread criticism due to being a paraphrase rather than a translation, the popularity of The Living Bible created a demand for a new approach to translating the Bible into contemporary English called dynamic equivalence, which attempts to preserve the meaning of the original text in a readable way. Realizing the immense benefits of a Bible that was more easily accessible to the average reader, and responding to the criticisms of the Living Bible, the American Bible Society extended the Good News for Modern Man to the Good News Bible (1976) by adding the Old Testament, in this more readable style. This translation has gone on to become one of the best selling in history. In 1996, a new revision of Taylor's Living Bible was published. This New Living Translation is a full translation from the original languages rather than a paraphrase of the Bible.

Another project aimed to create something in between the very literal translation of the King James Bible and the more informal Good News Bible. The goal of this was to create a Bible that would be scholarly yet not overly formal. The result of this project was the New International Version (1978). This version became highly popular in Evangelical Protestant circles.

The debate between the formal equivalence and dynamic (or 'functional') equivalence translation styles has increased with the introduction of inclusive language versions. Various terms are employed to defend or attack this development, such as feminist, gender neutral, or gender accurate. New editions of some previous translations have been updated to take this change in language into account, including the New Jerusalem Bible (1985), the New Revised Standard Version (1989), the Revised English Bible (1989), and Today's New International Version (2005). Some translations have approached the issue more cautiously, such as the English Standard Version (2001).

A further process that has assisted in increasing the number of English Bible versions exponentially, is the use of the Internet in producing virtual bibles, of which a growing number are beginning to appear in print – especially given the development of "print on demand".

Today, there is a range of translations ranging from the most literal, such as the Young's Literal Translation to the most free such as The Message and The Word on the Street.

King James Version and derivatives

The King James Version of 1611 (in its 1769 amended Oxford edition) still has an immense following, and as such there have been a number of different attempts to update or improve upon it. The English Revised Version and its derivatives also stem from the King James Version.

English Revised Version and derivatives

The English Revised Version was the first official attempt to update the King James Version of 1769. This was adapted in the United States as the American Standard Version. The translations and versions that stem from them are shown in date order:

New International Version and derivatives

The popular New International Version has appeared in a number of editions.

Dynamic translations and paraphrases

A significant aspect in translations from the latter half of the 20th century was much greater use of the principles of dynamic equivalence.

Internet-based translations

The New English Translation (or NET Bible) is a project to publish a translation of the Bible using the Internet. It is freely available and accompanied by extensive translator's notes. Another is The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible, which uses a collaborative MediaWiki website that interlinks the words of the Bible to articles and image galleries about the topic. The Open English Bible aims to create the first modern public domain English translation of the Bible, using an open-source process for corrections and modernizing verses.

Messianic translations

Some Bible translations find popular use in, or were prepared especially for, the Messianic Judaism movement.

New English Bible and derivatives

The initiative to create the New English Bible began in 1946, in an attempt to make an entirely new translation of the Bible in modern English.

Catholic translations

1Released in parts between 1913–1935 with copious study and textual notes. The New Testament with condensed notes was released in 1936 as one volume.
2NT released in 1941. The OT contained material from the Challoner Revision until the entire OT was completed in 1969. This Old Testament went on to be the base for the 1970 NAB
3New Testament only; Gospels by James Kleist, rest by Joseph Lilly.
4Second Catholic Edition released 2006.

In addition to the above Catholic English Bibles, all of which have an imprimatur granted by a Catholic bishop, the authors of the Catholic Public Domain Version of 2009 and the 2013 translation from the Septuagint by Jesuit priest Nicholas King refer to them as Catholic Bibles. These versions have not been granted an imprimatur, but do include the Catholic biblical canon of 73 books.

Sacred Name translations

These Sacred Name Bibles were all done with the specific aim of carrying into English the actual Name of God as they were in the originals. Most have been done by people from the Sacred Name Movement. They are distinguished by their policy of transliterating Hebrew-based forms for sacred names, such as "Yahweh", "YHWH", etc.

Masoretic Text / Jewish translations

Jewish translations follow the Masoretic Text, and are usually published in bilingual editions with the Hebrew text facing the English translation. The translations often reflect traditional Jewish exegesis of the bible. As translations of the Masoretic bible, Jewish translations contain neither the apocrypha nor the Christian New Testament.

Simplified English Bibles

There have been a number of attempts to produce a Bible that greatly simplifies the English. (Some of these versions are also listed in other categories: for example, the NIrV is also found under the NIV section). These are translations that are not necessarily a very dynamic translation, but go beyond simply everyday English into a restricted vocabulary set, often aimed at non-native speakers of English.

Adaptive retellings

Some versions have been labelled "adaptive retelling" as they take many liberties with the form of the text.


Modern English Bible translations Wikipedia

Similar Topics
The Adventures of Robin Hoodnik
Jamie Arthur
Dave Mitchell (footballer)