What version of the Bible has the least mistranslations?

I have a bible, specifically kjver (king james version easy read) and i noticed that there do seem to be some mistranslations, i would like to get my hands on a version that has little to no mistranslations so any recommendations would be helpful.

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Define “mistranslation”.

How would someone who doesn’t know the original language even know something was mistranslated.

I tend to use the New American Standard, NIV, or NET.

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Any one will do that you bring the greatest breadth and depth of liberal studies to. Just grab the end of any piece of string in the ball of strings and unravel. Faith endures.

Most modern translations are good translations overall, but they operate from various translation philosophies (which you’d need to study). If doing big-picture or devotional reading, any should be fine. If doing verse-by-verse, I’d suggest using multiple translations at the same time. The general rule is when translations differ significantly (e.g., in syntax), then likely the underlying language is more difficult. This should prompt you to pick up a commentary.

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There are two things to consider. (This is my expert opinion as someone who works in Bible translation :wink: )

First is the source text. KJV uses the Textus Receptus source next whereas the majority of modern English translations use the Nestle-Aland/UBS source text. The Nestle-Aland is better. It is based on the most recent textual critical scholarship and compiles the texts considered to be the oldest and closest to the originals.

Second is meaning-based translation philosophy. It is a common misconception that “literal” translations somehow get you closer to the original, but that’s silly. What you want to get at is the meaning that was communicated and that is almost never going to come through well the closer you are to an interlinear gloss. A large proportion of meaning is determined by pragmatic things like information structure, discourse context, cultural frames, and other implicit information that needs to be taken into consideration in translation. The ESV, the NASB, and the NRSV are overly literal translations and most people will find them difficult to understand.

No translation gets everything right. It’s a good practice to read several. I personally like the NLT and the NIV2011.

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I’ve always liked the NASB but a big part of that was the literal aspect you mentioned. As a 20 year old I met a CoC pastor who told me nasb was one of the most literal translations and if I wanted to I know the truth and not opinions to get it. So I did and they talked so much garbage about “thought for thought” versus “word for word “ bibles that I stuck with it for the last 13 years. Though at some point I got a Bible called Modern Literal Translation and used it often. They sometimes word thing backwards to how we would say it in English and they sometimes don’t even use a English word but use a Greek or Hebrew word and list their own concordance number and you look up that word in the concordance with various interpretations. I think the Bible is some kind of CoC bible because I bought it from a CoC conference. But for a decade of my life basically I sincerely believed literal meant less opinion and less likely to be affected by false teachers who tried to hide their theology by manipulating the language.

This is the one I was talking about. Now I mostly just use biblehub unless it’s in church or long portions of the Bible. I am wanting to get more translations though. Was thinking I would have like 3-4 translations and read a book a week through each one.

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Not the King James… that is for sure. That one was hardly an objective translation. It was motivated for reasons other than accuracy, such as making something that sounded good (in a literary poetic sense) for sermons at the pulpit. This is actually one of the reasons why it is so popular. But honesty is sometimes lacking. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is not in the Bible… So the KJ translation practically inserted it into the Bible – problem solved. AND notice that this comment is coming from a Trinitarian (myself), who frequently advocates and defends the doctrine of the Trinity.

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Well for example i was reading a verse with my pastor(though i cannot remember which one at this time) during bible study and he read his version and i read mine though in his version it had the word ox in it where as mine literally said unicorn, and after looking it up i found out that the hebrew word for ox can be also be misinterpreted as unicorn.

That verse about the Trinity in the KJV is 1 John 5:7-8.

And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three agree in one.

Compare with the same verse in NIV2011:

For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

That is a pretty big change but the issue is not with the KJV translators per se but rather their sources. The earliest reference to ‘the Father, the Word and Holy Spirit’ in 1 John 5 is in the Latin Vulgate:

Quoniam tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in cælo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt.

because there are three, who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. And these three are one (Liam’s Unauthorised Version)

The story goes that when Erasmus was compiling the first version of his Greek New Testament (GNT), he removed the reference to ‘Father, Word, and Spirit’ from 1 John 5 recognising that it was not supported by the Greek manuscripts available to him at the time. However, there was such backlash about this that Erasmus bowed to the pressure and changed the Greek so that it more closely followed the Vulgate. Thus, in the minds of the critics, putting the Trinity ‘back’ into the New Testament.

Erasmus’ GNT was so popular that it went on to form the basis for the Textus Receptus, in which we find at 1 John 5:7/8:

οτι τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τω ουρανω ο πατηρ ο λογος και το αγιον πνευμα και ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν

For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit and these three are one. (Liam’s Unauthorised Version)

This textual error was then carried through subsequent versions of the Textus Receptus. So when the translators of the KJV pick up their copy of the Textus Receptus to translate the New Testament I doubt that they even thought twice about how to translate 1 John 5:7/8, because by then the error was already ‘baked in’ to their source text.

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Hebrew is a very distinct language from English. The word order and how subject and object is handled is different; the grammar and verb tenses are different; it is very foreign. Greek goes down another path, with precise tenses that do not translate well into colloquial English. So it is not so much a matter of mistranslation as how you approach rendering these foreign tongues into readable English.

Here is just one small example of the many many kinds of issues one encounters. The Old Testament word for flying animals other than insects make no distinction between birds and bats. That’s not some scientific error in the Bible or any such thing. Flying animals were flying animals and that is all they cared about, so a single Hebrew word sufficed. Most English translations use “bird” for that word, but on occasion bats are grouped into bird lists. As birds in English very much exclude bats, most any translation is going to be either awkward in that way, or wordy, or in some way not quite literal.

Finding a perfect translation is like finding a perfect church; you can expect some trade-offs.

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Absolutely, ‘literalism’ is a unicorn in some sense since decisions have to be made by translators where no equivalent exists.

My personal view is that the goal of translation is intelligibility. If the goal of a translation is understanding and comprehension then that takes the teeth out of the word-for-word vs. Thought-for-thought debate. In that sense, I used to encourage congregants to choose the Bible version that they found easiest to read and understand. Because, ultimately, I’ll take ten Christians with a CEV who love the Word of God and delight in reading it regularly, than 100 Christians who find it a chore to read and understand their ‘literal’ ESV.

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There are a LOT of translations out there these days, aren’t there?! It can be mind-boggling and worrisome. We want to have the best understanding of the texts of our faith as possible, and not be mislead by errors or deliberate changes.

In elementary school (1970s) my sister and I rode the Sunday school bus to our local kjv, sawdust trail type of fundi church. Somehow we managed to learn something from the kjv, probably because we had some really good teachers,who were experts with the flannel-graph. Our teachers were horrified when we came after one Christmas, proudly carrying our new Living Bibles. “That’s not accurate! It’s a paraphrase!” “Yes, and a good one, and the girls can read it and understand what they read.”

Since none of them are perfect, pick a good one (there are many) that you find readable for your regular study. When you select a Bible, you may want to read the preface to the ones you are interested in. They talk about translation philosophies and goals, source texts, translation teams and the like.

There are MANY resources to round out your selection. The Bible Gateway gives you access to many, many translations and paraphrases, if you want to do comparisons. It can be useful to pick up used or inexpensive editions of other versions for your reference shelf, or recommend that your church library make them available.

Also, if you invest in a Bible with an expensive binding, think to the future, and buy the largest print you can tolerate schlepping around. My eyes have “graduated” from my numerous print bibles with ever growing fonts. I am now an ereader bible reader, which I don’t prefer, but it’s what my eyes can take. There are many free e-versions you can add to your collection, if you use an e-ink type reader.

Would you let us know what you end up deciding?

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That would be re’em. See Re'em - Wikipedia

This would be a case of a difference in translation not an “error”. Translation is never a simple case of “this word always means that word.” There is also the question of the sources used for the translation. You can read a verse in multiple translations at www.biblehub.com if you want to compare the various ways the Hebrew/Greek can be translated.

You can also access the NET Bible for free at https://netbible.com/ which contains a massive amount of notes on sources and translation.

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I strongly prefer the RSV. It is the first one I read and the one I read all the way through twice. So it is linked to my memory of what the Bible says. I am not so crazy about meaning based translation because I don’t have so much confidence in the judgment of other people about what the writers supposedly meant. I find the thread of reasoning behind such judgments too tenuous and too easy to insert what you want the text to mean. If the literal translation is hard to understand then I definitely want to know that rather than have it replaced by what someone thinks it is supposed to mean.

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I used the NIV (1986) One Year Bible for a long time. It is quite readable, and I liked the way the Psalms and other poetic passages were laid out. There is an OT and NT passage every day, as well as one from the Psalms and one from Proverbs. (It goes through the Psalms twice in a year.)

There is one place where I take serious issue with its translation, and that is Psalm 15:2. The problem with it (and other translations) is the changing of the preposition to reflect modern English idiom. It should not be ‘from’ but “…speaks truth in his heart.” I like the present continuous tense of the YLT (it is not just a one time thing, but a state of being):

He who is walking uprightly, And working righteousness, And speaking truth in his heart.

We are a particularly gullible species and extremely capable of being deceived and deceiving ourselves.

Because language changes over time, older translations (notably the KJV) can be misleading - some words do not mean the same in modern English. The KJV actually retained language from earlier translations and so sounded old-fashioned in 1611, much less today. (If “Uncle Glenn” ever restores his website, you can verify that attempting to make the KJV more accessible by reading it with a funny voice and superposed music is not a good idea.) I was puzzled by seeing bugles on the list of provisions for Solomon’s table in the Geneva Bible, but a bit of searching revealed that bugle was originally the animal with horns, not just the horn.
Also, archaeological and linguistic data allow us to make better translations in some areas. For example, the KJV understandably but incorrectly says that Pharaoh Neco was headed up against Assyria when Josiah rashly challenged him. From the Babylonian Chronicle, we now know that Neco was going as an ally of Assyria to prop it up against the Babylonians. But the biblical text only mentioned the players necessary for its narrative.
If you want to understand the message of the Bible, any translation that tries to accurately reflect the text will do reasonably well. Arguing a detailed point definitely should not stand on “this is how it was translated in a particular version.”
One version of the incorporation of the suspect bit in 1 John 5:7-8 by Erasmus states that Erasmus declared that he would put it in his GNT if a Greek manuscript existed that included it. He was presented with one. Although it seemed quite likely that the manuscript in question was written specifically for the purpose of targeting Erasmus’s statement, he did fulfill his statement and include the suspect phrase.

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I would affirm everything that Christy has written and attempt to take it further.

The Bible, as Christians know it, is broken up into the Old Testament and the New Testament. What Christians call the books of the Old Testament are in fact the scriptures of Judaism, which Jews insist is not “old”. The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew, a Canaanite language, but in parts in Aramaic, a Mesopotamian language. Just to confuse the issue, when the Jews returned from the Exile in Babylon, they came back speaking Aramaic and used Aramaic letters or script to write Hebrew. In the centuries leading up to the time of Jesus, many Jews were dispersed around the Mediterranean and no longer spoke or read Hebrew. For them, a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek was made. This was called the Septuagint, usually abbreviated as LXX. The New Testament was written entirely in Greek, although a few have argued that Matthew was originally written in Aramaic.

Why all these different languages? The saying is true that observes, “Language is the companion of empire”. Ancient Israel and Judah spent many years as vassal states of empires. First, the Assyrian, then Babylonian, then Persian empires, in which various dialects of Aramaic were spoken and written. After this came the Greek empire of Alexander the Great. Finally, came the Romans. However, in the time of Jesus, Roman Latin was not commonly spoken in Palestine. It has been said that while the Romans conquered militarily, the Greeks (under Alexander) conquered culturally.

The multiplicity of languages is only one part of the problem. There are different versions of the books of the Old Testament. Emmanuel Tov, head of the Dead Sea Scrolls publication project, speaks of five different manuscript traditions of Old Testament books. (And he points out that category 5 is actually a miscellaneous one.) Across these different categories, there is different content and different angles on events. For example, the proto-Masoretic edition of the Book of Ester contains no reference to God, but the Septuagint tradition does.

In regard to the New Testament, there are different manuscript editions as well. In fact, there are some manuscripts which contain material which did not occur in earlier manuscripts and were inserted far too late to have been added by the original author. For example, the story of the woman caught in adultery, inserted at John 8, suddenly appeared in some manuscripts in the 4th Century AD. We do not have any manuscripts of John’s Gospel containing it till those dated to the 5th Century AD. The oldest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel end with the women fleeing the empty tomb at verse 8 (not verse 18). There were around five different attempts to make up for this loss by inserting different endings.

Scholars attempt to study the manuscript traditions in a practice known as “textual criticism”. One should not misunderstand the word “criticism” in this context. It means textual evaluation.

So, even before a text is translated into English, we have to determine which manuscript tradition we should choose to translate.

Does all this information, and more, destroy our faith? I do not think so. Rather it steers us away from worshipping a book to worshipping a person, namely, Jesus himself.

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I know that some may not be accustomed to this, but I tend to use the You Version Bible app that allows users to easily select from multiple versions while reading. This may be way to save a little money, if you’re up for using a little digital technology.

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It depends upon what you mean by mistranslations. I know that the KJV came from a certain manuscript tradition. There are other translations—the New International Version, Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard, New American Standard Version…and so forth.

I look and compare translations when reading in them. Sometimes this is helpful. But the word “mistranslation” is a judgment about the text. In translating from one language to another, there are choices (not mistranslations necessarily) and a word in one languge could be rendered in more than one way in another language.

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Christy…by “NIV2011” do you mean a New International Version that was published in 2011?? Just wondering. I do have the NIV plus others…was interested to see you think NRSV “overly literal.” Aside from KJV, I have a “reprint” or re-produced version of the 1611 version (one made for the 500th anniversary.

Thanks for your input.

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