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For those of us in the English-speaking world, there are a huge number of Bible translations available to us.

There are different ways of translating, and each translator has to make decisions and interpretations along the way. It's a massive subject, so we'll keep things simple here.

In the UK, there are three main modern translations in use: The English Standard Version (ESV), the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT). There is also the old King James Version (KJV), with its old-English language.

With new people coming into our church who wanted to go out a buy a Bible, we came up with these criteria for choosing a church-wide version

  1. It must be accurate, recognising that there is no such thing as a "perfect translation."
  2. It must be readable and understandable for people who've never read a Bible before.
  3. It must be in the shops, readily available in the UK.
  4. It's optional; people are free to read their favourite translation, but only one will be used for reading at the front of church.

The KJV served well for hundreds of years but it is very hard to read for modern newcomers so we put that to one side, grateful to God for its legacy.

The ESV, NIV, and NLT are all accurate, though each has different translation philosophies. 

The ESV is excellent for study and well-suited to detailed study. Unfortunately, it can be very wooden at times; some sentence structures are unwieldy and unsuitable for public reading in general context.

The NLT is much more readable, conveying meaning from the original languages more creatively and with greater emotion.

The NIV sits between the ESV and NLT, being more readable than the ESV but closer to the original word orders than the NLT (and is slightly less dynamic as a result).

In our services, then, we read from the NLT for its accuracy, readability and availability, and it is the version we recommend to new believers.


A brief note on sermon preparation and translation accuracy:

Darren prepares his sermons starting with the Hebrew and Greek Bible texts, using the ESV and language tools for accuracy.

Passages are analysed for syntactic and thematic structure, aided by technical commentaries as necessary.

In the process towards sermon preparation, the phrasing and language of the NLT is leveraged to work with the earlier analysis to bring out the meaning of the text.


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