A close-up shot of a worn-out Bible with pages filled with faded text, depicting the rich history of countless translations, each representing the diverse interpretations and cultural influences over time.

How Many Times Has The Bible Been Translated?

The Bible is the most translated book in the world, having been translated into over 700 languages. But just how many different translations are there in English alone? Read on to find out.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: There are over 50 major English translations of the Bible.

A Brief History of Bible Translations

Early Translations into Latin and Other Languages

The Bible was originally written primarily in Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament, and Koine Greek for the New Testament. However, even in ancient times, translations of the Bible into other languages began to appear.

In the 2nd century BC, Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, resulting in the Septuagint. This helped to spread the Bible beyond the Jewish community. In the 4th century AD, the Bible was translated into Latin by Saint Jerome.

His translation, called the Vulgate, became the dominant Bible translation for over a thousand years in Western Europe.

John Wycliffe and the first English Translation

In the 14th century, John Wycliffe and his followers translated the Vulgate into English. This was the first complete English translation of the Bible. However, it was banned soon after completion. Still, copies of Wycliffe’s Bible circulated in England, helping to pave the way for future English translations.

William Tyndale’s Translation

In 1525, William Tyndale produced the first printed English translation of the New Testament. Tyndale used the Greek texts rather than Latin. But he only managed to translate half the Old Testament before being executed for heresy. His translations later formed the basis of the King James Version.

The King James Version

In 1604, King James commissioned a new English translation to resolve issues with preceding translations. The King James Version (KJV) was completed by 54 scholars in 1611. It became the standard Bible for English Protestants for hundreds of years and is still popular today.

Modern English Translations

In the late 19th and 20th centuries, new manuscript discoveries led to renewed scholarly interest in the original Bible languages. This led to many new English translations, using contemporary language to make the Bible more accessible.

Some popular modern English translations include the New International Version, New American Standard Bible, and English Standard Version.

Since its original writing, the Bible has been translated into over 500 languages, with portions translated into over 3000 languages. Multiple English translations exist to provide access to God’s word for English readers of all backgrounds.

This demonstration of the enduring power and ubiquity of the Bible testifies to its status as the world’s most translated text.

The Most Popular Modern Translations

The New International Version (NIV)

First published in 1978, the NIV Bible has become one of the most popular modern English Bible translations.

The NIV is a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation approaches. This makes it highly readable while still accurately conveying the meanings of the original biblical texts.

As of 2022, the NIV has over 600 million copies in print. It is used extensively in sermons, Bible studies, and personal reading around the world.

The New King James Version (NKJV)

The New King James Version was first published in 1982. It takes the original King James Version (KJV) and updates the grammar and vocabulary for modern readers while preserving the classic style.

The NKJV is quite literal in its translation technique but uses modern English. This allows contemporary readers to easily understand the messages of Scripture while connecting to the long tradition of the beloved KJV.

With over 150 million copies sold, the popularity of the NKJV demonstrates a desire to reconnect with the Bible’s historic roots even while accessing its teachings in today’s language.

The English Standard Version (ESV)

First released in 2001, the English Standard Version rapidly grew into one of the most widely-used modern translations.

The ESV takes a formal equivalence approach to translation, seeking to convey the exact meaning of the original biblical texts in good literary English. The translators also aimed to retain theological consistency with historic translations.

As of 2022, there are over 100 million ESV Bibles and New Testaments in print. Its accuracy and elegance have appealed to many scholars, church leaders, and lay readers.

The New Living Translation (NLT)

Published in 1996, the New Living Translation uses a dynamic equivalence translation philosophy to convey Scripture in clear, natural English.

The NLT avoids complex vocabulary and idioms, instead focusing on expressing the thought and ideas behind the texts in readable language. Footnotes clarify instances of figurative language or cultural references.

By 2022 there have been over 100 million NLT Bibles printed. Its accessibility has proven effective for personal study, devotional reading, and Youth & Children’s editions.

Types of Bible Translations

Word-for-Word Translations

Word-for-word translations attempt to preserve the original wording and structure of the ancient biblical texts as closely as possible. Examples include the King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), English Standard Version (ESV), and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

These translations stay true to the source languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, while still being readable in English. Often they contain explanatory footnotes when a word or phrase cannot be directly translated. Word-for-word translations are great for in-depth Bible study.

Thought-for-Thought Translations

Thought-for-thought translations focus on accurately conveying the meaning of ancient texts rather than literal wording. Examples are the New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), and Contemporary English Version (CEV).

These translations use more natural, conversational English to communicate the ideas of the original languages. They take some liberties with wording and grammar to make concepts clear for modern readers.

Thought-for-thought translations are highly readable and great for gaining an overview understanding of biblical passages.


Paraphrases restate biblical texts using contemporary language and phrasing. Examples are The Message, The Living Bible, and The Amplified Bible. Unlike formal translations, paraphrases are more like commentaries that attempt to capture the essence of Scripture in very casual, everyday wording.

Some details and nuances may be lost, but paraphrases can help readers engage and connect with biblical concepts on a heart level. They are useful for getting the “big picture” of passages.

According to research, the Bible continues to be the best-selling book of all time, with over 5 billion copies sold. Yet it has been translated from ancient languages into new versions and languages countless times throughout history to reach new generations.

While no translation is perfect, the many different Bible versions and translations available today help make God’s Word accessible and understandable to all who seek it.

The Most Accurate Bible Translation

Determining the most accurate Bible translation is a complex endeavor, as different translations take different approaches to balance readability, literalness, and conveying the original meaning. However, several translations stand out for their rigorous scholarship and commitment to accurately conveying the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts.

Formal Equivalence Translations

Formal equivalence, or word-for-word, translations aim to preserve the structure and wording of the original biblical languages as much as possible in English. While they sacrifice some readability, formal equivalence translations enable readers to closely analyze the details of the text.

  • The English Standard Version (ESV) is highly regarded for its word-for-word faithfulness to the original biblical languages while maintaining good literary style in English.
  • The New American Standard Bible (NASB) meticulously adheres to the word order and structure of the original texts, making it useful for close study.
  • The King James Version (KJV) beautifully conveys the cadence and diction of the 1611 translation, though its language is now archaic.

Optimal Equivalence Translations

Optimal equivalence translations balance literary elegance in English with faithfulness to the original semantics. They render meaning-for-meaning rather than word-for-word.

  • The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) uses inclusive language, making it one of the most widely used translations in academic biblical studies.
  • The New International Version (NIV) conveys ideas clearly in contemporary English, ideal for personal study and application.
  • The New Living Translation (NLT) privileges readability and naturalness in English over literalness.

Interconfessional Translations

Several respected translations represent collaboration between Protestant and Catholic biblical scholars, reflecting ecumenical cooperation:

  • The Revised Standard Version (RSV) remains an influential translation today thanks to its poetic style and attention to ancient manuscripts.
  • The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) dynamically renders the original texts into very readable, modern British English.

In the end, no translation is perfect or suits every purpose. Comparing multiple excellent translations can often provide the deepest understanding of the richness of the biblical texts.

Choosing the Right Bible Translation

Consider Your Purpose

When selecting a Bible translation, it’s important to think about your needs and goals. Are you looking for a version that’s easy to read and understand? Or are you doing an in-depth Bible study and want a very literal word-for-word translation? Here are some purposes to consider:

  • Devotional reading – For regularly reading the Bible, a translation like the NIV or NLT that uses natural, conversational language can be easier to understand.
  • In-depth study – For studying the precise meaning of Greek and Hebrew words, a more literal translation like the ESV or NASB may be preferred.
  • Memorization – If you want to memorize Bible verses, a very literal translation can help you recall the exact wording.
  • Teaching – When preparing a Bible lesson, checking multiple translations can give you a well-rounded understanding of each passage.

Think about when and how you’ll be using the Bible most. This can help point you towards the right translation for your needs.

Study Multiple Translations

Rather than relying on just one translation, many Bible scholars recommend using multiple versions for study. Each translation has its own strengths and weaknesses. By comparing two or more translations, you can gain insight into different interpretations and nuances of meaning.

For example, reading a passage in the ESV and then again in the NLT can give you a sense of what the original Greek or Hebrew was communicating. The ESV sticks closely to the original wording while the NLT expresses the ideas in more modern language.

Other excellent translation pairs include KJV/NIV, NASB/NLT, and CSB/Message.

Using online tools like BibleGateway.com makes it easy to quickly compare multiple translations. You can read a given passage across many different versions to get the big picture. Study Bibles like the NIV Quest Study Bible also print multiple translations side-by-side for helpful comparison.

Ask Your Pastor or Small Group

Talking to your pastor, small group leader, or mature Christians can provide guidance when choosing a Bible translation. They may have helpful advice based on your spiritual season and needs. For example, a new believer may find an easy reading translation like the NLT most beneficial when getting started reading the Bible regularly.

Seasoned Bible scholars can also give recommendations based on which translations they prefer to use for study, teaching, and devotional reading. Ask them what version they gravitate to and why. Their insights can help you make an informed choice.

It’s wise to learn from those who have spent many years reading and teaching the Bible. Their experience with different translations can offer practical guidance as you choose the right one for your spiritual growth and understanding.


In summary, the Bible has been translated into English over 50 times, with many significant translations throughout history. While no translation is perfect, the best translations balance word-for-word accuracy with clear readability.

By studying multiple translations and asking advice, you can find the right Bible version for your needs.

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