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Bible History and Versions

The English Bibles - From the Originals to the Various English Versions

In 1999, I published a public domain paper which represented about 4 years of personal research. It is rather dated now, but includes a lot of good content.


    • The Original Authorships - Tables, (2 pgs)
    • The Identification of Manuscripts - (5 pgs)
    • The History of Early English Translations - (3 pgs)
    • The English Versions Compared - 18 Versions investigated, (7 pgs)

* DOWNLOAD "The English Bibles" (1999) - .pdf format.

Version Comparison Summary

My concluding opinions based on my 1999 study, are that both the King James Version (KJV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB) are both excellent choices, the New King James (NKJV) is acceptable, and the original and various revisions of the NIV Bibles are to be avoided.

Updates Since 1999

A lot has changed since 1999!

I have decided not to update my 1999 paper, but to provide some additional version-review comments. Please note that these are my personal opinions, based on my own research and evaluations.

King James Bibles

  • Article - King James Exclusive The Legitmacy of exclusive use of the King James Bible

  • Article - KJV Revisions since 1611 (pdf) In short, they're mostly typos and none revise the translation.

  • KJV 1900 - Pure Cambridge Edition (KJVPCE) - It used to be that there were two primary versions of the KJV Bible, the Oxford 1769, used by Thomas Nelson (and many others) has been the standard version, at least in the U.S., and the Cambridge 1873, published by Cambridge University Press, popularly used in Europe. Essentially, the differences between the two are very minor revisions comprised of spellings, captialization, etc., not variations in the text. Recently (2013?), the KJV 1900 has emmerged, and (unfortunately) has been named the "Pure Cambridge Edition".

    As far as I can tell, This 'new/not-new' edit-version is distributed by Faithlife (Logos developer/parent), is an extremely minor revision of one or more Cambridge University Press edition(s) published "circa 1900-1970s," and is significant primarily as the latest standard form of Electronic KJV text used by Logos software. To date, I have NOT been able to confirm the publication information for this edition, and the (very short) revision list I have seen includes only 12 items; a few spelling and capitalization changes, one instance of changing an 'and' to 'or', and one instance of changing a plural noun to a single noun. My Take-away is that the KJV 1900, a.k.a. KJVPCE, aka Pure Cambridge Edition, is not a divergent revision, but is a trustworthy 'normal' KJV text with no discernable distinctions, in terms of use and reading.

  • Literal Standard Version (LSV) - The LSV (2020) is a very literal translation based on Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1863,1898), which I have personally appreciated for many years. The LSV uses the TR for the New Testament, which makes sense as it was based on the YLT, but it specifies that the translators also made use of Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine texts (same critical 'family' as TR, esp. for the Gospels). This makes the LSV an acceptable study resource for pastors and Bible students of King James Only association.

    This LSV version has a few unusual renderings. Most notably, it renders the Name of God as "YHWH" without translation/transliteration and translates 'baptism' as 'immersion'. There are other word-translations which use uncommon choices. Two additional examples are the translation of 'Scriptures' as 'Writings', and 'Angels' being translated as 'Messengers.' Both of these are acurate choices, and these and other uncommon word choices (apart from YHWH and immersion) are inherited from the YLT. Those who are, like me, used to using the YLT, may not see a reason to use the LSV instead, but it seems a good alternative.

Modern Language Bibles

  • English Standard Version (ESV) - The ESV (2001) seems to be of the hightest quality, and is very popular among conservative Christians. The version has sold 250 million copies as of 2021. ESV.org describes it's version as an "essentially literal translation of the Bible in contemporary English." For my personal evaluation, I have to say that I have found it slightly too interpretive for my taste, compared to the NASB (1995), but I am still very comfortable with it as a very good literal version.

  • New American Standard Bible of 2020 (NASB) - The 1977 and 1995 versions were reviewed in my 1999 paper, and both are excellent. To date, I have not reviewed the 2020 version. Information from the publisher (Lockman Foundation) states that the 2020 update stays "Gender-accurate," but the new version replaces the generic male pronoun with modern grammatical form. See the detailed Lockman article on NASB 2020 gender renderings. I don't like this trend in translations, but I understand it. Both my trust of the Lockman Foundation and the detailed explanations provided in the linked article make me optimistic about the 2020 update.

  • New English Translation (NET) - The NET Bible (2005) is a good literal version, except that it interpretively utilizes gender-neutral translation is some places. The primary value of the NET Bible is for it's exhaustive translation notes - understand that the NET Bible has 60,000 translation notes, compared to about 31,000 verses in the Bible. Because these notes are well written and meaningful, this Bible is a unique resource which I would encourage any pastor or serious Bible student/teacher to obtain (use free online at NetBible.org).

  • American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV) - I have come to a much greater appreciation of the ASV, since my initial review. The value of the ASV is that it is VERY literal in its text. Of special note is that this version appropriately translates YHWH as Jehovah (proper name of God, meaning I AM), instead of replacing YHWH with Lord (meaning Master), as dictated for verbal pronouciation by post-exilic Jews. This version is over 120 years old and is not for everyone, but it is quite valuable for those who appreciate the literal rendering.

Not Recommended

  • New International Version, NIV (2011) is worse than the 1984 NIV, now going to a fully gender-inclusive edit of God's Word. Both the TNIV (now discontinued) and the NIV (2011) have been formally rejected by the Southern Baptist Convention.

  • Christian Standard Bible, CSB (Originally Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)) is described as "a blend of accuracy and readability", is gender-neutral, and is written at a 7th grade reading level. I have not reviewed it.

  • New Living Translation, NLT started as a project to revise The Living Bible, but instead became of fresh translation using the critical texts. It is gender-neutral, dynamaic equivalence translation style, with a 'middle-school' reading level. I have not reviewed it.