Which Bible Translation Should I Use? A Comparison of 4 Major Recent Versions: ESV, NIV, HCSB, NLT

coverI’ve been looking forward to this book for a few years:

Andreas J. Köstenberger and David A. Croteau, eds. Which Bible Translation Should I Use? A Comparison of 4 Major Recent Versions. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2012.

Here’s the lineup:


One year ago today, three of the book’s four contributors presented and debated their positions at a symposium at Liberty University (video here). The book includes four essays arguing for the superiority of one of four translations:

  1. ESV
  2. NIV
  3. HCSB
  4. NLT

It doesn’t have the typical “counterpoint” or “perspectives” format where the authors respond to the other essays, but some of the essays evidence that they are responding to each other based on their interaction at the above symposium. (They finished their essays a month after the symposium.)

This is a very good book. It accessibly presents major arguments across the spectrum of translation theories, and it does it in a way that lets readers see specific examples. The editors explain,

The following chapters focus on 16 passages in a parallel format so that you can compare these four major translations as they apply their Bible translation philosophy. Each translation is represented by a scholar who has served on the translation committee of that particular version. (p. 22)

Here are the sixteen passages:

  1. Exodus 2:5–6
  2. Psalm 1:1
  3. Ezekiel 18:5–9, 21–24
  4. Matthew 5:1–3
  5. Mark 1:40–45
  6. Mark 16:9–20
  7. Luke 17:3
  8. John 1:3–4, 14, 18
  9. John 2:25–3:1
  10. 1 Corinthians 2:1,13
  11. Galatians 5:2–6
  12. Colossians 2:8–15
  13. 1 Thessalonians 1:3
  14. 1 Timothy 2:12
  15. Jude 4–5
  16. Revelation 3:20

A few reflections:

  • The book’s tone is civil. That’s not always the case when people disagree on Bible translations!
  • I’m grateful for all four of these translations, and I use them all regularly.
  • The first three essays seem more thorough and robust than Philip Comfort’s defending the NLT.
  • I find Doug Moo’s essay most persuasive (though the NIV’s translation of 1 Tim 2:12 isn’t what I’d choose).
  • This is not a technical book, so you don’t need to know Hebrew or Greek or advanced theological terms to understand it. It’s a good entry-point into the discussion about Bible translations.

Three of the contributors gave presentations in fall 2011:




Panel Q&A


  1. The Best All-Around Book on Bible Translation
  2. How to Disagree about Bible Translation Philosophy
  3. Translation and the Doctrine of Inspiration
  4. Thank God for Good Bible Translators and Translations
  5. The Importance of Dignified Translations


    • says

      See Denny Burk’s chart here. I understand Doug Moo’s explanation, and I respect it. But like I say above, “assume authority” isn’t what I’d choose.

      Cf. my review of a book that I call “The Definitive Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:12.”

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