The English Bible Translation Comparison chart, after years of tweaking, continues to be a work in progress.  Due to much request, I revisited it to add...

    Version 5: NIV 2011 and NET (New English Translation) Bible
    Version 6: CEB (Common English Bible) and The Voice
    Version 7: ERV (Easy to Read Version) and ISV (International Standard Version)
    Version 8: MEV (Modern English Version), LEB (Lexham English Bible), and KB (The Roman Catholic Knox Bible)
    Version 9: CSB (Christian Standard Bible)

In addition, responding to new information and new translation revisions, changes have been made in some translation grade level rankings, plus adjustments in positioning of some versions. Note that NASU and NASB now appear separately.  While earlier versions of the chart will (sadly) live forever on the Internet, I recommend only using the two newest charts (version 7 or 8).  Scholarly and documented constructive criticism, along with specific requests for additions, are welcome and help to make the chart continuously better.

Translation Chart Small


Purpose of the English Bible Translation Comparison chart

  • This chart visually shows the style of each English Bible translation, utilizing a spectrum ranging from word-for-word, to thought-for-thought (dynamic equivalence) and paraphrase.

  • Displays common abbreviations for many popular English Bible translations

  • The numeric value in parenthesis following each translation name is the grade level of readability.

  • Notes whether the apocrypha is included or available for each translation. Be aware that some translations include the apocrypha as part of God's Word (e.g. NAB), while others included it for historical significance (e.g. KJV) or make it available for research purposes (e.g. ESV).

  • Makes note of translations that are employing gender neutral language. (Consider this article: What's Wrong with Gender-Neutral Bible Translations? by Wayne Grudem)

  • Notes translations entirely or primarily utilizing the old manuscript set known as the Textus Receptus and Jacob ben Hayyim edition of the Masoretic text.  Also notes translations entirely or primarily based on the 1592 Sixto-Celmentina Latin Vulgate, prepared by Pope Clement VIII. Alternatively, a majority of modern translators now utilize critical texts, featuring revisions and updates based on more recent manuscripts finds including the Dead Sea Scrolls. The most popular critical texts are: Nestle-Aland text (NA), currently in its 28th revision, and the Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies (UBS). Others include: The Hebrew text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (SBLGNT), a new edition produced by Michael W. Holmes in conjunction with the Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software.

What the English Bible Translation Comparison
chart doesn't do

  • This chart makes no assessment as to the quality of each translation and, in fact, includes some translations with strong Roman Catholic bias (e.g. NAB and the Knox Bible).

  • It does not cover every English translation, choosing to focus on a majority of modern best sellers.

  • We are not the final word on readability level or style. While tests exist to help determine these, conflicting results often arise requiring a subjective determination and subsequent designation. Publishers often make claims regarding readability of their translations, some which we have agreed with, others have required revision. Ongoing reevaluation has prompted us to make changes in our assessments, resulting in small changes from earlier versions of this chart.

Specifically Answered Questions

I am curious as to where the Douay Rheims translation fits into the English Bible Translation Comparison chart?

    The Douay Rheims translation doesn't really have a good spot to appear on my chart.  Here's why...
    Like the King James translation, most today are not using the original.  By itself this would not keep me from placing it on the chart. (In fact, in putting the King James version on the chart I assume the 1769 Oxford edition which is commonly the text still provided under the original name).  The Challoner revisions (by Bishop Richard Challoner) of the mid 1700's are what most people are referring to under the retained name of the Douay-Rheims (which was originally created in 1582 NT/1609-1610 OT).  Challoner used a lot of renderings from the King James text of his day (pre-1769 Oxford edition, likely one of the 1629 or 1638 Cambridge editions), so some of the ranking of the King James would certainly apply to Challoner's revised Douay-Rheims.
    The primary reason the original Douay-Rheims doesn't fit well on the chart is that it is not a translation (or paraphrase) from the original languages (Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew). The original Douay-Rheims was a word-for-word translation from another translation, namely the Latin Vulgate.  Even with the later version (or revision), Challoner "corrected" the King James renderings he adopted by referring to the Clementine edition of the Latin Vulgate (created under Pope Clement VIII in 1592 and revised in 1593 & 1598).  In effect, Challoner was still emphasizing word-for-word with the Latin Vulgate, especially in regards to key terms and concepts.
    In summary, with an understanding that the Douay-Rheims is primarily a Latin to English secondary translation, it is strongly a word-for-word edition.  Due to archaic terms and phrasing, its reading level is, like the King James, would also rate a 13 (meaning college or higher to understand).

    I did include the more recent Knox Bible (1949) which is a similar, yet more dynamic, translation from the 1592 Sixto-Celmentina Latin Vulgate. The Knox Bible was endorsed by Pope Pius XII.

Doesn't the ISV (International Standard Version) claim to be much further towards the word-for-word side of the thought-for-thought spectrum? 

    The ISV was very difficult to place on this chart.  Many specific passages would have been ranked near the HCSB or even over to the ESV.  On the other hand, their goal of retaining poetical form for many passages took some of those passages way over towards a paraphrase.  Our final positioning attempts to average this unique disparity.   We're open to input as to how others may assess this and suggestions to any better way to show it on our chart.

Isn't the MEV (Modern English Version) easier to read than the KJV (King James Version), which both appear at the same high grade level (13)?

    The MEV was difficult to assess.  While they did update many archaic terms and phrases found in the KJV, they also embraced a more literal rendering of the sentence structure found in the original languages.  In one sampled NT verse, this made it an excessively long sentence comprised of numerous thoughts. Using standard tools of evaluating grade level of readability such a verse exceeded grade 23 (if such existed).  Fortunately the reading level of other verses is significantly better drawing the overall average downward.  Functionally, we have chosen to use grade 13 as the upward limit of this chart.  At grade 13 it means that at least some (and perhaps a lot of) college education would be necessary to read and understand the texts so designated.


(c) 2010/11/13/15/17 Brent MacDonald,
CC Discipleship Training Institute: Lion Tracks Ministries
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