Ghosts of past, present and future translations

Posted: 25th December 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

Tis the season for lists and a few bloggers have been posting [herehere, here] on which Bible translations they’re settling on at the end of 2008. This year was pretty settled for me in that regard – certainly not as much flux as ’07 when I started this blogging experiment as a way to track my ongoing search for a modern Bible translation.

As you may or may not know, I used the NASB almost exclusively for 20 years, until just 4-5 years ago. I also had a NEB from college, which led to the REB, but by and large I was toeing the “literal is best” line. Ironically the first crack in that position was the ESV – implicitly marketed as “a more readable NASB”, I used it for a year or so before continuing to search for “more readable”. I already had the REB in my hands, but spent a year or two comparing it to the TNIV, HCSB and NLT (which my wife uses regularly) before deciding to stick with what I knew.

Coming into this year then, I had resolved to keep using the REB as my primary translation, augmented with the HCSB and TNIV as secondary resources when appropriate. For example, my church uses the NIV as its pew and pulpit translation, so the TNIV comes with me on Sundays more often than not, though it is not my regular private translation. The HCSB more-or-less replaced the NASB and ESV as my preferred “formal” translation, though I still refer to the NASB regularly. For the most part, these are the three translations that I used in 2008, though certainly the blogging world’s spike in interest with the NLT led to increased use there as well.

I do also have to say that I’ve referenced the NEB more this year as well. Whether it’s just checking what has changed in the REB or reading the NEB for its own pleasure, I have definitely given the older translation more visibility in my personal reading and writing here on the blog.

It was at this point in my original draft of this post that I began to speculate on my similar 2009 translation usage: NEB/REB, HCSB, TNIV, etc. etc. However, for Christmas my wife gave me a new gadget “toy”: Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader. I’ve been a hesitant technology adopter in the past, so this normally would be a stretch, but after playing with it for a few hours now, I can see this being very useful, especially on my bus commute to work. I normally have my backpack stuffed with 2-3 books and a Bible for reading, but this would/could replace all of that!

My dilemma is that the REB is not available electronically, so my primary time for reading – if given to the Kindle – would require a different translation choice. The TNIV probably makes the most sense, but I’ve been thinking about the KJV too – having it as a reading resource might finally push me over the edge and “open” it more regularly. In all likelihood, I’ll have multiple translations downloaded – now it’s just a matter of sorting through the reviews and trying to determine which Kindle edition of each translation is the one to get.

As for print Bibles in 2009, I will say that I’m going to make a better effort to use the NJPSV/Jewish Study Bible as a regular reference point for Old Testament studies. Perhaps the NLT or Lattimore as an additional New Testament translation reference. I did end up with a full edition of The Message and I plan to possibly look at The Voice as well, though I suspect those will not be primary translations.

In the meantime – any recommendations on Kindle editions?

  1. Nick Norelli says:

    No recommendations, but allow me to express my elation at the news of your Christmas gift! I’ve seen the video for the Amazon Kindle and it looked good, but now I’ll be able to get an honest evaluation from an actual owner (hopefully you’ll post some thoughts on it). In any event, congrats and merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks, Nick. It was a complete surprise to me – she did a great job of keeping it a secret! And yes, I do plan to post on my experience using it, so hopefully that will be useful to you.

  3. Nathan Stitt says:

    I’d recommend the NET, NLT, TNIV, and perhaps ESV. In roughly that order. I’m surprised to see your interest in the KJV, though perhaps I shouldn’t be. Since you are already familiar with the TNIV and ESV I think you might benefit from trying out the other two on the Kindle.

    Your post has me wondering if I should set some goals for translations for this upcoming year. I use so many that I’m not really sure I could limit myself. I did get a brand new NET bible for Christmas today, so that will be my biggest new translation for the coming year I guess. Let us know which Kindle versions you go for.

  4. […] Translations — Which one? I was thinking about blogging on this and then I read ElShaddai’s posting on translations and thought why not?  Bible Translations use to be something that was easy to stick with.  I would […]

  5. I am really looking forward to reading your thoughts on the Amazon Kindle. Are most bible translations available? What sort of theology/biblical books are available? Your post motivated me to write a similar post that I have been thinking about.

  6. Nathan: I’d recommend the NET, NLT, TNIV, and perhaps ESV. In roughly that order. I’m surprised to see your interest in the KJV, though perhaps I shouldn’t be.

    Yeah, the KJV thing is more curiosity than anything – I’ve never read it other than a few verses here and there, but it seems to be the standard-bearer of literary style. I have a hardback, but it hasn’t moved much from my shelf – I’m wondering if the electronic format would allow me to read it with new eyes…

    Thanks for the other recommendations and congrats on the new NET! I’ll be very interested to hear more about that – which edition/binding did you get?

  7. Robert: Are most bible translations available? What sort of theology/biblical books are available?

    Thanks for the links! On cursory examination, it looks like many translations are available: KJV, NLT, NASB, NIV, TNIV, HCSB, ESV, Amplified, CEV, ASV, WEB, Douay Rheims, Darby, The Message. However, I did not see RSV, NRSV, JB, NJB, NEB or the above mentioned REB. Also, I’d really like to see the “Books of the Bible” edition of the TNIV in Kindle format – but it doesn’t appear to be available.

    The real work will be in sorting through the translation reviews to see which publishers have just dumped the text into an electronic file and which have taken the time to optimize the formatting and layout for ebooks.

    I haven’t searched theology stuff out yet – but if you’re on Amazon, just select “Kindle Store” from the search dropdown to see what’s available.

  8. Nathan Stitt says:

    Well, I wanted either of the more expensive editions of the NET Bible. I like the British Tan color and the premium leather as well. However, a local bookstore had a single burgundy one in stock, and so I asked my mom to get it for me for Christmas, which she did. It’s still very nice, and I’ll probably get the premium leather one in the second edition whenever it comes out.

    BTW, I just read a bunch of Kindle bible reviews on Amazon. It looks like the NLT is not well formatted at the moment. However the TNIV looks to be pretty good. I read mixed reviews on the ESV, and there were no reviews of the NET version. I also somehow overlooked the HCSB last night, which got good reviews. I’d adjust my recommendation to the NET, HCSB, and TNIV.

  9. Yes – I was trying to decide between the TNIV and HCSB as the “first” purchase, but will probably go with the TNIV – trying not to buy any more HCSB’s until the updated translation is out next year. I read the same reviews on the NLT – that’s a shame, though I’ve downloaded the sample to check it out anyway.

    So far I’ve downloaded samples of the TNIV, HCSB, NET, NLT and a KJV – I’ll try to do a “first impressions” post before the end of the year…

  10. Congrats on the Kindle. I’ve had various smartphones over the last few years, so I’m quite used to reading the KJV electronically. You’ll enjoy it. I’ve made a deliberate effort to read the KJV in the evenings, and it’s like rekindling an old friendship.

    I’ve also enjoyed the NET on my iphone, although I’m only less than a month into it. Enjoy your new gadget.

  11. Tyler says:

    Enter the ASIN # in the search bar at to get these three kindle editions of the Books of the Bible.

    The Books of The Bible: Luke-Acts and Paul’s Letters
    ASIN: B001NC9IFM

    The Books of The Bible: John, John-s Letters, Revelation
    ASIN: B001NC9IFC

    The Books of the Bible: Matthew, Hebrews, James
    ASIN: B001NC9IG6

    Congratulations on the new Kindle. I sure wish they would release the kindle in Canada!

    Merry Christmas.

  12. Tyler – thanks for those numbers – I really do appreciate that! Though I have to confess that paying three times the price of the complete print edition for just the NT books is a little tough to swallow. Not sure what IBS is trying to accomplish with that…

  13. Nathan Stitt says:

    I just noticed the NET is only $0.99 for Kindle, can’t beat that. I’m really interested to see more feedback from you on the Kindle in the future too.

  14. That’s a good catch, Nathan. Hard to argue about a buck, though it remains to be seen if the NET translation stands on its own without the translation notes.

  15. Nathan Stitt says:

    I hope the NET stands up. I have just made the decision of switching to the NET for my primary Bible for 2009. My parents bought me a premium leather edition for Christmas and I’ve been unable to put it down. It’s virtually impossible for me to read the NET without reference to the notes at this point, but I hope to read passages in large chunks first, read the notes second, and then re-read the whole thing again in summary. I am curious how well I will take to the translation itself, but at first glance it seems a mix of the NIV, NLT, and HCSB in it’s renderings.

  16. Nathan: […] at first glance it seems a mix of the NIV, NLT, and HCSB in it’s renderings.

    Yes – I had thought it a mix of NIV and HCSB when I did some comparisons as well. I’ll be very interested to hear more of your thoughts on the NET as you use it more.