13. Our Modern Versions

After finishing his “Dictionary of the English Language,” Noah Webster set about to make his own translation of the Bible. Unfortunately, people were just too used to the KJV to accept it.

England planned a replacement for their King James Bible in the 1880’s, the English Revised Version (ERV). This would be the first English language Bible to be accepted as a post-King James Version, modern-English Bible.

The Americans responded to England’s ERV Bible by publishing the nearly-identical American Standard Version (ASV) in 1901. It was widely-accepted and embraced by churches throughout America.

In 1971, it was again revised and called New American Standard Version Bible (often referred to as the NASV or NASB or NAS). This Bible is considered by many evangelical Christian scholars and translators, to be the most accurate, word-for-word translation of the original Greek and Hebrew scriptures into the modern English language. It remains the most popular version among theologians, professors, scholars, and seminary students today. Some, however, think it is too hard to read.

To fix that problem, the New International Version (NIV) was produced in 1973, which was offered as a “dynamic equivalent” translation into modern English. The NIV was designed not for “word-for-word” accuracy, but rather, for “phrase-for-phrase” accuracy, and ease of reading even at a Junior High-School reading level. It was meant to appeal to a broader, less-educated cross-section of the general public.

Critics of the NIV often jokingly refer to it as the “Nearly Inspired Version”, but that has not stopped it from becoming the most popular, non-KJV Bible.

To translate the NIV, the Masoretic, Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, the Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, Targums, and (for the Psalms) the Juxta Hebraica of Jerome were consulted. The non-Masoretic texts were followed where they were more likely to be correct.

In 1982, Thomas Nelson Publishers tried to produce a KJV with the archaic pronouns changed to modern versions and obscure words updated. However, copyright laws required that they change more than that. The result is called the “New King James Version”.

In 2002, a major attempt was made to bridge the gap between the simple readability of the NIV, and the extremely precise accuracy of the NASB. This translation is called the English Standard Version (ESV) and is rapidly gaining popularity for its readability and accuracy.

There have been many “paraphrase Bibles;” Bibles that attempt to put the Word into modern English to make it more understandable. This will most likely continue. Some of these are The Message (my favorite paraphrase Bible. Proverbs is a hoot!), The Simple English Bible, and The Good News for Modern Man. They have their place in introducing people to the Word of God and giving a different perspective on Scripture, but should not be used for more mature work. The deeper, more accurate translations are better for getting to the deeper truths.