Book Review

Evaluation of

best translations, best KJV substitute, and best study Bibles

reviewed by Robert Nguyen Cramer (version





As the best word-for-word Bible translation, I would choose the ESV., with the NAB as a good second choice. As the best phrase-by-phrase translation, I would choose the GNT, with the REB as a good second choice.

Additional comments and recommendations regarding phrase-by-phrase Bible translations: The GNT and the REB best represent the nuances of the Greek text and deliver to us, in today's language and cultural setting, the meaning that is most comparable to the meaning that the New Testament authors delivered to their intended audience almost 2000 years ago. For the New Testament, Hugh J. Schonefield's The Original New Testament, Revised Edition (Rockport, MA: Element, 1998) is also very good. For the gospels, the fresh translation in The Complete Gospels (edited by Robert J. Miller, NY: Harper Collins, 1994) is also very good, and it includes not only the four canonical gospels but also all the other non-canonical gospels, including Thomas (Greek and Coptic) and Q, with some excellent footnoted commentary.





As the best KJV substitute for reading from the pulpit, I would choose the ESV, with second choice going to either (1) the NAB by itself or (2) a combination of the ESV, the NRSV, and the GNT, with the ESV being used as the primary version and the NRSV and the GNT used as alternates for occasionally problematic verses.

Combination of ESV, NRSV, and GNT: a good second choice option for KJV substitutes for reading from the pulpit: Though the ESV is best for the primary Bible version, the NRSV could be used where the NRSV has wording that is otherwise preferred by the reader and that is still textually reliable. The GNT could be used where the GNT's wording is otherwise preferred by the reader over the wording of the ESV or the NRSV, including cases where the word-for-word literalism of the ESV or NRSV does not adequately address the nuances of the Hebrew or Greek grammatical structures. (There may even be a few verses where the REB may be a better substitute than the GNT.) Use of the ESV, NRSV, GNT, and/or the REB ensures an accurate textual basis, removal of all the KJV corruptions, availability of all of almost all USB4-bracketed text, high quality translation, and understandable modern English.

General comment on word-for-word translations: It is unfortunate that the current word-for-word literal approaches taken by the ESV, NRSV, NAB, NASB , and virtually all other word-for-word translations seem unable to properly address the nuances of some Greek grammatical structures, such as anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives found in Joh 1:1 and Joh 1:18, which Goodspeed, Moffatt, the REB, Schoenfield, and the 1976 GNT all succeeded in addressing quite well. (For further details, see and Hopefully, some day translating such nuances into English will be considered a natural part of even word-for-word translations.

Need for reliable, textually uncorrupted translations for private study and for public reading: The KJV and some other translations influenced by the same textual traditions of the Textus Receptus have so many well-documented flaws that -- to be true to the intended message of the original texts' writers -- the public who hears them really needs to be presented either with (1) corrective textual commentary, (2) corrective changes in their texts, or (3) an uncorrupted, alternative version's translation. Clearly the (3) choice is most desirable and most consistently manageable. As stated above, my recommendations are the ESV or the NAB for both private study and for public reading.

In Biblical Hermeneutics, Second Edition (edited by Bruce Corley, Steve W. Lemke, and Grant Lovejoy, Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002, page 388), Harold Freeman, in his chapter on "Biblical Criticism and Biblical Preaching" honestly comments on the textual corruption of 1Jo 5:7, which appears in the Textus Receptus, the KJV, and quite a few other popular versions in English and other languages:

Textual criticism is the discipline that seeks to identify the original wording of an ancient document. Textual criticism of the Bible benefits preaching by preventing nonbiblical sermon s... We regret giving up a nice doctrinal sermon on the Trinity based on 1 John 5:7b (KJV). Nevertheless, if it is determined that these are additions to the original writings, whether intentional or accidental, biblical preaching based on these texts cannot occur... Sermons based on spurious or corrupted texts cannot be genuinely biblical. The determination of exactly what the Scripture said is the starting point for biblical preaching.


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As the best study Bible, I would choose either The New Oxford Annotated Study Bible and The HarperCollins Study Bible. Both use the NRSV text as their Bible version, both have excellent footnotes and maps, and both have a very impressive list of contributing scholars. The HarperCollins Study Bible's footnotes are genearlly longer and meatier, but The New Oxford Annotated Study Bible's has an abbreviated concordance, subject index, and some very fine articles in its appendix. Second choice goes to the NAB, which also has very good footnotes, and its translation is quite literal and largely consistent with KJV wording.


Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer