Picking out a new Bible or curious about different translation types? Below are a few comparison charts to help you make your decision or learn more. Reading and comparing the charts should give you a good idea of how different versions compare to each other by translation type. Please use them only as a guide. Some people might have different opinions about the exact placement of the versions.
I recommend choosing a Bible from the left side of the charts like the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV), the King James Version (KJV), or the New King James Version (NKJV). (Though it is on the left side, I do not recommend the Amplified Bible.) These four versions do a good job of accurately translating the words and meaning of the original languages.
Please do not choose the option on the far right of every chart: The Message Bible. It is not a reliable version. There are significant problems with it. To learn more please see the following articles on chapter3min.org
Today’s English Bibles tend to fall into one of three categories. There are those that lean towards a word-for-word or essentially literal translation, those that lean more towards a thought-for-thought translation, and those that paraphrase the meaning (paraphrases). Some Bibles are a blend of two different types. The ones that most closely follow the copies of the original manuscripts are word-for-word translations and essentially literal translations. This means they give the most accurate presentation of the original manuscripts, and that makes them the best choice.
Thought-for-thought translations move away from a word-for word or literal approach and aim to transfer the meaning of phrases or groups of words from the original to an English equivalent. Paraphrases are written to be easier to read and understand than word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations. While this may shed light on the meaning of the text, care should be taken when using them. Paraphrases sometimes change the original meaning too much. If you do choose to use a paraphrase, I recommend using it alongside of a more accurate translation. God’s word “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12a) Paraphrases can dull the sword and in some cases grind it to a pulp.
Choose prayerfully and wield a sharp sword!
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
These charts were collected over a period of years. Today, they can be found on different websites. Unfortunately, I am not sure where most of them originated, so I cannot give credit. I think one of the unmarked ones was from Zondervan. Please contact me if you have source information.