Bible Translation Survey Results

“With well over 300 comments in 48 hours, here are the results of my small research project as to what Bible translations the Ryle readers enjoy reading from:

34% – English Standard Version (ESV)

16% – New American Standard Bible (NASB)

14% – King James Version (KJV)

9% – New King James Version (NKJV)

9% – New International Version (NIV – 1984)

3% – New Living Translation (NLT)

2% – Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

2% – New International Version (NIV – 2011)

1% – Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

1% – New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

1% – Geneva Bible

1% – New English Translation (NET)

► Translations mentioned which were under 1%: Revised Standard Version (RSV), Amplified Bible (AMP), Jerusalem Bible (JB), New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), Good News Translation (GNT), Contemporary English Version (CEV), J.B. Phillips, and The Message.”  —Erik Kowalker

34% for the ESV, some 102 readers.

There are several ways to interpret these results: 1. A certain sector of Christians participated, so not fully represented. 2. Irrespective of Christian tradition, 34% just like the ESV.  3. Again, irrespective of Christian tradition, of the participants, more prefer a formal-type translation.

At any rate, I’m encouraged that people spend time in their Bibles, whatever the translation may be.

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31 Responses to Bible Translation Survey Results

  1. Could I ask why the Amplified is so far to the “Word for Word” side? That seems rather curious to me given that it actually fails to offer much in the way of translation and more in the way of thesaurus. Or is it because it works from “words” rather than from “thoughts” per the spectral scheme even if it does so very poorly?

    • Jon Hughes says:

      And why is the NRSV so far away from the ESV on the chart? (Is it the gender inclusive renderings?) And how is the ESV more word for word than the KJV and NKJV? That surely can’t be possible!

  2. T.C. R says:


    Outside of the “amplifications,” the Amplified is quite formal.


    Yeah, this chart needs redoing. I wonder who is behind it? It’s not altogether accurate. You’re right.

  3. Todd Beal says:


    Thanks a lot for this post. It is informally very informative. I just had a great idea; correct the arrow chart to accurately reflect the word for word vs. thought for thought continuum, and then redo the survey as a multi-blog collaborative effort. This would give more accurate results, providing the divisions of Christian tradition are equally represented.

  4. Yes, that sector appears to be conservative Christians, I was encouraged, noting the overall use of both the ESV and the NASB. There is a nice consistency here with the people it appears.

  5. T.C. R says:


    That’s a good idea.

    Fr. Robert,

    Yes, both conservative and dispensed toward the formal type.

  6. Theophrastus says:

    And what I learned from this is is that apparently none of the Ryle readers enjoy consulting original languages.

  7. T.C. R says:


    But we’re talking Bible translations here, not the original languages.

  8. ScottL says:

    Why are some versions in red letters and some in black?

  9. Simon says:

    ESV is the latest fad to hit the US Evangelical scene. And people are really fanatic about this. You know those KJV only types? My guess is that in, maybe, 20 years time, you’ll have a group of ESV only fundamentalists.

  10. Protege Rod says:

    I’m surprised the NIV wasn’t ranked higher in the survey since it is the best seller each month. It’s no doubt that for serious word study, the formal translations are probably more preferred and trusted by scholars and students. I’ve found myself using the ESV more often than any other translation. I like various translations and I’ve found it hard to settle on just one. I guess my lot in life is to use several translations to compare. Crossway has done an excellent job of marketing, promoting and supporting the ESV. It’s a good translation that I believe is accurate and relatively trustworthy. It is widely distributed and has so many resources like free apps for cell phones, its online version with customizable features, many choices of sizes, colors and binding for its bibles, etc. Like T.C. mentioned in the past, I guess I got caught up in the ESV marketing vortex! T.C., is the ESV still your new primary translation?

    • T.C. R says:


      I go back and forth between the ESV and the updated NIV, with the edge going to the ESV. 😉

      • Simon says:

        For me the NRSV is the best formal equivalence or literal version. I also use the old NIV and NLT translation for personal study. The ESV is ok. But it is the result of a fundamentalist reaction against gender inclusive versions such as the NRSV and the TNIV. I.e. their agenda affects the translation (ironically this is what they accuse others of). So in Romans 16:7 Junia is excluded from the group of apostles. The NASB, btw includes her/him in the apostles, but translates Junia as Junias (i.e. male). The first sex change in history? hmmmm, fishy business going on there with the fundies methinks. I bought a copy of the ESV study bible. The scholarship with regards to history and achaeology is impressive. But the theology is far too fundamentalist. I think I will replace it with the Harper Collins NRSV Study Bible. It’s far more balanced than the ESV. But yeah, The NRSV is very impressive and is, for me, the standard for literal versions. Just as an aside, the fundy thought police in the U.S. have all but made it a crime for anyone to read the NIV. And, fundies being fundies, have become very fanatical about this. This is fueled by the likes of MacArthur and Piper. It’s very unfortunate. It should have occurred to these guys when they read the New Testament that Jesus of Nazareth was not a fundamentalist.

  11. Protege Rod says:

    These are good points Simon. The ESV, NASB, KJV, NKJV are definately the primary choices for the more conservative group. It’s a fact that the ESV was initiated by people like Dr. James Dobson. The Holman Christian Standard Bible(HCSB) is also a reaction translation to the NIV. It’s no doubt that in some way, all translations seem to have some type of bias or agenda. That’s what frustrates me about these English translations. I wish there was a translation that wasn’t biased. I like the NRSV also. It seems to read easier than most formal translations. It needs to be updated. It also needs better marketing and promotion. It could also use more choices in hard copy of sizes, binding, texture, etc.

    • T.C. R says:

      Yes, the NRSV is still a great choice.

    • Simon says:

      I totally agree on the need for the NRSV to improve it’s marketing and general awareness in the Bible market. The other downside to the NRSV is its price. Here in Australia the thinline version sell for $50 (AUD). You don’t get much variety in style either. But it’s a really balanced version and a pleasure to read. It also seems to be the Bible of choice for a lot of scholars. The publishers of the NRSV could do really well if they pushed hard as Crossway have done with the ESV. I don’t think the NRSV could be subject to the type of criticism that the NIV is subject to as well. It gets the balance right with regard to gender (for e.g. translating where appropriate “brothers and sisters” instead of just “brothers” per the ESV), it’s a formal equivalence translation and it reads very well. I’ve found my personal study enhanced by using it alongside the NIV and the NLT. I think that’s a good representation of the best translations accross the spectrum.

      • T.C. R says:


        Even today I found myself reading the NRSV. But in the area of gender, it is quite uneven. It has made some poor decisions. But it’s the first choice of academics, still.

  12. Protege Rod says:

    Many of the other translations’ companies can learn from Crossway no doubt. I’ve contacted the company associated with the NRSV. I shareded some of my suggestions. However, I didn’t receive a response. I just don’t understand why some companies are not responsive. I’ve contacted other companies and they have been distant also. I use the New Century Version(NCV) for clarity alongside the formal translations. I can’t seem to settle on just one formal translation. Simon’s points have caused me to reconsider using the NRSV more. The ESV’s resources and access makes it tough for me to completely abandon it.

  13. Protege Rod says:

    Can you give an example of uneven use of gender in the NRSV? It seems to be relatively gender accurate which is one reason I like it. I Also like the NCV for this reason.

    • T.C. R says:


      Where to begin? First, there’s a kind of intertextuality that many Bible expositors, which includes our trusted scholars, hold to, and I think there’s fair. For example, Israel is considered God’s Firstborn Son, with God and Father. This rich emphasis on Sonship is first developed in the OT and then fulfilled in Christ, God’s Son, in whom we adopted to Sonship. So when the NRSV and others replace “Son” and “Sons” for “Child” and “Children,” they are obscuring this important intertextuality. Even N.T. Wright, who favor the NRSV, sees this as a weakness in the NRSV.

  14. Protege Rod says:

    I see what you mean T.C. I understand your example. Is the NRSV a Catholic translation? I know it has Catholic Editions, but even the Protestant Editions seem to have a “Catholic” feel to it. What type of cross is that on the NRSV Bible?

  15. Protege Rod says:

    Gotcha. As usual, great topic. Seems like the ESV is on the way to becoming one of the better all-around translations. Even though it has a more conservative background, its scholarship seems reliable enough to the original languages. Is that a reasonable assumption T.C.? I trust your scholary approach. Have you heard of the Lexham English Bible?

    • T.C. R says:

      Yes, the ESV has it idiosyncrasies, but it remains quite reliable. It’s my primary Bible. The new NIV didn’t cut it for me.

      No, never heard of the Lexman English Bible. 😉

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