What is the Best Translation

A question that we are often asked when people discover that we read Greek is, "What is the best translation to use?"

Here is an answer I gave to that question recently to a student from India.


The Best Translation

It was common in the 1970s in Canada, for people to ask "Which Bible translation is best?" and to get very emotional over the answer. People would have arguments over Bible translations.

I have transitioned in my own thinking, based on being able to read Greek, to asking, "What can I learn from each translation? How does this-or-that translation handle this bit of difficult Greek that is giving me a problem?"

I have come to really appreciate https://biblehub.com since it lets me easily compare several translations. The translations I look at the most are:

Translations that are more word-for-word

Translations that are more free

I find that if I investigate the Greek original, and then look at these 5 different translations, I get a pretty good sense of what the NT writer was saying.

So the question I ask is not "Which published English translation is the best to use?" but rather "What did the author say? How do I understand it? How can I most effectively translate it myself?"


What About the King James Version?

I generally do not use the King James Version for this, since I am interested in creating a translation into 21st century Canadian English.

The KJV has been enormously influential in the history of the English language, and enormously important in the lives of God's people for the past 420 years.  But if I use only the KJV as a comparison for the translation that I create myself, then I am not fully sure I understand the passage.

We have a national radio and TV network called the Canadian Broadcast Corporation...the CBC. It is similar to the BBC in Britain.

What I tell my Canadian students (and what I tell myself) is that I want our translations to aim at being in "standard Canadian English"...and that if they want to know what "standard" is, then they should listen to the evening CBC national news.

Our CBC announcers speak "Canadian Standard English"—they almost define what "Canadian Standard English" is.

I want my Bible translation to be something that would sound OK if a CBC announcer read it.

That means the KJV will not do. It was a terrific translation in 1604, when it was made. It has been powerfully used by the Holy Spirit. But It is inadequate as a translation into "Canadian Standard".

This is part of the task of translation: to ensure that a modern Canadian (or in your case, a modern Indian) will read and understand the passage just as a native-Greek speaker in first century Greece would have understood it.

Luke, Paul, and the other NT authors wrote using the common Greek of their era (this is what the word Greek κοινή means: common). We call the dialect of the Greek New Testament "Koine Greek".

So our translations into English should be into "Koine English"...with the aim that the NT should have a similar impact and effect on native-English speakers today as it did on native-Greek speakers the first century.

So you can learn from the KJV/ESV/NASB plus whatever Hindi translations you use...but I want your own translation work to be into "Koine Hindi".


The advantages of an answer like this is that a) it is true, and b) it helps me to avoid getting into an argument.


All of you of course are aware of issues around the manuscripts that the KJV translators worked from...that they were Greek manuscripts from AD 1300 rather than 300

But I do not normally raise that particular issue when somebody asks me a question in the church parking lot after the Sunday morning service.