Most Accurate English Translations of the Bible

Translations of the Peshitta

For those searching for the most accurate translation of the Aramaic Scriptures, known as the Peshitta, there are not many choices. George M. Lamsa’s translation is a nearly complete edition of the Peshitta in English. It is not “complete” because the original Peshitta contains what some refer to as Apocryphal texts. (See the Scriptures page for a complete list of the books of the Peshitta) Lamsa’s translation of the Old and New Testaments is decent, but could be improved upon. It is believed that the translation is now in the public domain. Older translations of the Peshitta New Testament consist of those from James Murdock and J.W. Etheridge.

Since the late 1980’s, various scribes of the Assembly of Jerusalem have translated the Peshitta and manuscripts unique to the Assembly from Aramaic and Hebrew. An early release was known as the Aramaic English Standard Version.

While not an English translation, Biblia Peshitta published by B&H Publishing Group, is the most accurate Spanish translation and highly saught after by Eastern Rite brethren utilizing the Peshitta text in their research. From the publisher: “Unique in its genre, this work is the first formal attempt to translate those manuscripts into Spanish.” If you know Spanish, this is the translation of the Peshitta to have.

Translations of the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Texts

For those seeking an accurate English translation of the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek manuscripts, in terms of modern translations and literalness, the following list should suffice. I consider these as the “top four”, with some hesitation concerning the Holman Christian Standard Bible (now known as the Christian Standard Bible)

In order of literalness and/or accuracy…

1. New American Standard Bible (NASB)
most literal, most accurate, modern English
Translation of Masoretic and Greek
Tetragrammaton rendered: “the LORD”
“NASB or NKJV [translations] … continue to be the most useful for detailed and careful study.”
Quote from: http://www.bible-researcher.com/esv.html

2. New King James Version (NKJV)
literal, modern English
Translation of Textus Receptus
Tetragrammaton rendered: “the LORD”
“NASB or NKJV [translations] … continue to be the most useful for detailed and careful study.”
http://www.bible-researcher.com/nkjv.html
Quote from: http://www.bible-researcher.com/esv.html

3. English Standard Version (ESV)
Translation of Masoretic and Greek
quite literal
Tetragrammaton rendered: “the LORD”
“less suitable than the NASB or NKJV”
http://www.bible-researcher.com/esv.html

4. Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Translation of Masoretic and Greek
Tetragrammaton rendered: “Yahweh”, “the LORD”
“When the notes offer an alternative rendering, it is usually more literal than the rendering in the text.” “The marginal equipment of the HCSB is clearly its best feature, and (despite the few lapses noted above) in this reviewer’s opinion it more than compensates for any weaknesses of the text.”
http://www.bible-researcher.com/csb.html

The American Standard Version (1901) would have been on the top of the list, but it is difficult to find these days and reprints can be very expensive.

American Standard Version (ASV)
Translation of Masoretic and Greek
literal, accuracy, older English
Tetragrammaton rendered: “Jehovah”
no longer commonly used, difficult to find, expensive reprints
http://www.bible-researcher.com/asv.html

The World English Bible (WEB) is an update to the ASV. It is highly accurate and uses “Yahweh” as a rendering of the Tetragrammaton. It is not easily available in various formats for purchase. It is public domain.

The use of the Tetragrammaton (especially in the form of “Yahweh”) is important to Eastern Rite Brethren. Thus, to solve the issue of using one of the English translations that render the Tetragrammaton as “the LORD”, we often tend to read this as “the Lord Yahweh.”

Deuterocanonical / Apocryphal Texts

As mentioned above, some Apocryphal books appear in the original Peshitta Bible. To my knowledge, there is currently no translation of these books available in the English language. Until that day comes, we use what is available to us.

The Greek Septuagint contains various Deuterocanonical texts. Brenton’s translation of this text is very decent.

The Revised Standard Version (the “Catholic Edition”) contains the Apocrypha, but this translation is becoming increasingly difficult to find even in used book stores. An alternative, although not the most recommended, is the New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha.

The World English Bible, a very accurate edition (and update to the ASV) contains Apocryphal texts. This is in the public domain as mentioned above.

Additional alternatives include the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible, a translation of the Latin Vulgate. Another Catholics edition is the New American Bible, one of the worst translations I have encountered. It should not be confused with the highly accurate New American Standard Bible.

Some editions of the Geneva Bible and the King James Version contain the Apocrypha.

When it comes to additional texts such as the Odes of Solomon, the Didache, the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron, resources and translations for these books are not typically found in printed editions of the Bible. Translations of the Odes of Solomon can be accessed here. The Didache is available in a handful of translations, accessible online at this link. The Gospel of Thomas is available in five English translations here, with additional resources here. The Diatessaron is available in one translation that I have been able to locate here. One of the Eastern Rite brethren is working on a modern English edition of the Diatessaron.

Dead Sea Scrolls

I plan on providing more information on translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the future. In the meantime, I will say that some scribes within the Assembly of Jerusalem have found that Geza Vermes offers some of the best translations.

Where to Access

If you have access to books stores, especially Christian book stores, you can obtain some of the above publications with ease. However, if you are without a book store in a reasonable driving distance, your best option may be to purchase online. I have found that, while using caution, sites such as AbeBooks, eBay.com, and Amazon are excellent sources for purchasing new and used Bibles. I have found the best deals through AbeBooks, and entire collections of translations through eBay. Most of my purchases of newer Bibles have been through Amazon. Another great source, and often offering much better deals than Amazon, is ChristianBook.com. As far as I know, ChristianBook.com only carries new products.

For those who prefer using an online edition of the Bible, StudyLight.org, BibleGateway.com and unbound.biola.edu offer a variety of translations, old and modern, along with original language (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) and many reference tools. eBible.org offers various translations, which is also the home of the World English Bible.

There are also many free and moderately priced apps for your mobile device available through Google Play and Apple’s app store. One in particular is YouVersion which offers several translations and other tools, including audio.

For your desktop computer, there are many options. You can use your favorite search engine to look for something most suitable for your own needs. I prefer the free program called “TheWord” (tW). It has many free Bible and reference modules and handy tools that I found most valuable in my day to day research. You can download it free at http://www.theword.net/.

My Personal Choices

For my own use, when I am using an English translation of the Peshitta, I tend to either use my own or an adapted edition of Lamsa’s translation. When I’m out and about and without access to my printed Bibles and digital manuscripts, I use a translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB). It would be better to use Lamsa’s translations because it is, after all, a translation of the Peshitta, but it is large, heavy and clunky to carry around. The NASB is available in a variety of formats, small, pocket size, leather bound, and so on.

Future Reviews

A translation I haven’t mentioned yet, is the New English Translation (NET). I hope to review this one in more detail in the future.

Disclaimer

The Church does not endorse this article and it has not been reviewed by any officer of the Church for accuracy. As I am not a cleric or scholar, the publishing of this article and any subsequent updates is not intended as being a statement of anything doctrinally binding on the brethren. This article contains my personal opinions, based on my research of the topic, and as such I am open to corrections and suggestions. I encourage you to do your own research.

Last updated: 15 April 2017

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