English Bible Versions

Bible Society currently stocks 25 different English translations of the Bible.  But why are there so many?

A long time ago, the only English Bible you could get was full of Shakespearean style language with words like thee and thou and begat. Today you can buy Bibles in easy-to-understand English.

Most of the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, with some small parts written in Aramaic (a kind of street language during Jesus’ time). The original language of the New Testament was Greek. Because many of the world’s people can’t read these languages, it needs to be translated. All translations lie somewhere on a spectrum between a word for word and a thought for thought approach – in fact they all move up and down on the scale in different places. Translations closer to the word for word end of the spectrum tend to reflect the grammar of the biblical languages more closely, but as a result are often more difficult to understand. Thought for thought translations attempt to reflect the meaning behind larger sections of text in a way which most makes most sense for their intended readers.

A lot of people ask which Bible is the best one. The best Bible for you is the one that you feel most comfortable with.  Check out different English translations of one of the most famous Bible passages – Psalm 23.

King James Version (KJV 1611)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

New International Version (NIV)

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

New Living Translation (NLT)

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honour to his name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

You, Lord, are my shepherd.  I will never be in need.

You let me rest in fields of green grass.  You lead me to streams of peaceful water, and you refresh my life.

You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths.

I may walk trough valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid.  You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.


Search this passage in other versions of the Bible…


Read more about the Bible…

What is the Bible? Where did the Bible come from? The Bible story The Bible in Māori