The Most Popular Translations of the Bible Today

Modern Bible Translations

The Most Popular Translations of the Bible Today

One of the most important books in human history is the Bible, which exists in multiple variants. As Christianity is one of the world’s largest religions, it’s observed in many different languages. In total, over 157 countries have some level of Christian observance with roughly 2.3 billion adherents. 

Because of Christianity’s huge numbers, it’s no surprise the Bible has been translated multiple times. With this in mind, let’s look at the most popular bible translations and see how they differ. To do so, we’ll use data provided by Christian Book Expo, which has created a definitive ranking of Bible bestsellers based on sales volume.

10. New Revised Standard Version

The New Revised Version Bible was first published in 1989.

First published in 1989, the New Revised Standard Version Bible is based on the Revised Standard Version, first published in 1952. The goal of the NRSV was to provide readers with more accurate renderings of the original biblical text in contemporary English. The NRSV also makes an effort to be more gender-neutral by removing much of the “male-only” language.

NRSV Sample Verse

Holy bible with note book and pencil on wooden table against morning sun light for christian devotion, copy space
The sample verse from the NRSV is one of the shortest translations.

If you’re looking to compare and contrast the different versions, you can look at 1 John 3:17. In this verse, the NRSV writes the language as: How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?

9. New American Standard Bible

Copies Of The New American Standard Bible In A Row
Multiple copies of the New American Standard Bible in a row.

Originally published in 1971 and later updated in 1995, the New American Standard Bible is the 9th best-selling translation. According to scholars, the NASB is one of the more literal translations of the original Bible. Great care was taken to maintain the same verb tense as the original English translations.

NASB Sample Verse

The New American Standard Bible Open To James 2:26 About Faith Without Works
The New American Standard Bible verse James 2:26.

Attempting to use the literal translation from the original Hebrew and Aramaic, 1 John 3:17 is translated into: But whoever has worldly goods and sees his brother or sister in need, and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God remain him? One of the biggest differences here is the strict use of male-only language.

8. New International Reader’s Version

Glow illuminating the Holy Bible in the dark.
The New International Reader’s Version is geared toward a younger audience.

Published in 1996, the New International Reader’s Version is geared for ages 7 and up, younger than other Bible translations on this list. One of the pitfalls of this translation according to many is it’s not as literal as older Bibles. This translation hoped to make the Bible more accessible with an easier vocabulary and shorter sentences.

NIRV Sample Verse

Two women studying the bible.
The NIRV sample version is written with the younger crowd in mind.

Using an easier vocabulary allows 1 John 3:17 to be much easier to read in this Bible translation: Suppose someone sees a brother or sister in need and is able to help them. And suppose that person doesn’t take pity on these needy people. Then how can the love of God be in that person?

7. Reina Valera

Reina Valera Bible
The Reina Valera is the most popular Spanish-language Bible.

A Spanish translation of the Bible was first completed by Casiodor de Reina in 1569 and was updated again in 1602. The Reina Valera is widely used in churches and ministries in Spanish-speaking countries, especially those who observe Protestant or Evangelical denominations.

Reina Valera Sample Verse

Biblia Reina Valera
The Reina Sample verse is translated from the original Spanish.

While the original text is in Spanish, if you translate 1 John 3:17 to English from the Reina Valera it reads like this: But he who has goods of this world and sees that his brother is in need and closes his heart to him, how will the love of God dwell in him?

6. New King James Version

The New King James Version does not use gender-neutral language.

Introduced in 1982, the New King James Version is an English translation that looked to modernize the original. As the latter is one of the most widely used translations, this “new” version hoped to maintain the same literary style, but update the language for contemporary readers.

NKJV Sample Verse

Close up of the Holy Bible. Photo taken in natural lighting. Religion concept.
The NKJV sample verse is not similar to any other Bible translation.

In the NKJV, the translation of 1 John 3:17 reads as: But whoever had this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? The NKJV reads far differently than the original, which was written in the 1600s.

5. Christian Standard Bible

Old open Bible ( American Standard version ) with cross over soft wood background
The Christian Standard Bible is the newest translation on this list.

First translated in 2017 and derived from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the CSB balances accuracy and faithfulness to the original Bible text. However, the CSB’s goal was to create an updated translation to be more contemporary for modern readers. Gender accuracy was also put forth as a primary goal of this translation.

CSB Sample Verse

Open Book on wood background
The Christian Standard Bible sample verse is one of the easiest to follow.

According to this 1 John 3:17 translation, you have shorter text with words like “heart” removed, though gender remains: If anyone has this world’s good and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him – how does God’s love reside in him?

4. New Living Translation

Open Bible on a wood table with light coming from above. ( Church concept. )
The New Living Translation was first published in 1996.

Published in 1996, the New Living Translation hoped to introduce a version younger readers would better understand. The NLV originally began as a revision of The Living Bible but morphed into a fuller translation from the original biblical language. Among its notable differences are metaphors, which are rewritten to be more contemporary for modern and younger readers.

NLB Sample Verse

Close-up of Christian man's hands while reading the Bible outside.Sunday readings, Bible education. spirituality and religion concept. Reading a book.
The NLB sample verse is the first one to make any mention of money.

There’s a definite difference with the NLB 1 John 3:17 translation as it’s the first to specifically mention money. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?

3. English Standard Version

English Standard Version Holy Bible ESV
The English Standard Version stuck to the original structure of the Bible.

The 2001 English Standard Version translation of the Bible offers something of a formal structure. This Bible is a revision of the Revised Standard Version and attempts to stick to the original sentence structure. However, meanings are changed to make for a more modern reading experience for anyone 15 and older.

ESV Sample Verse

Opened Bible
The sample verse offers one of the closest versions of the original Bible text.

In the ESV sample verse, there’s closer text to the original phrasing with only slight structural differences in the sentence. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? One of the main differences is “abide”, which has also been written as “reside” in multiple translations.

2. King James Version

A closeup shot of the Holy bible, King James Version
The King James Version is one of the best-known Bible translations.

Published under the authority of King James I of England, the King James Version is one of the most widely read translations. Written and translated by a committee of scholars acting on the King’s orders, James hoped this would be the definitive version used in all churches across England.

KJV Sample Verse

Holy Bible King James Version with pressed decorative leather cover on table with soft flickering candlelight
The King James sample verse is closest to the original text.

It takes just a few seconds to see how the King James Version feels like it was written in the 1600s. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

1. New International Version

The Bible - New International Version - sitting outside on a table with a blurry sign in the background.
The New International Version is the most popular Bible translation.

Currently the best-selling Bible translation according to Christian Book Expo, the New International Version was published in 1978 and again in 2011. These versions are much easier to read and look to balance language from the original text with an easier sentence structure.

NIV Sample Verse

The Holy Bible the new International version
The NIV sample verse is the only one to mention material possessions.

The NIV sample verse is the only one to mention material possessions which feels most like modern language: If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

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