If you grew up Christian, chances are that all the verses you know by heart are from the King James Version of the Bible.
It’s just one of the oldest available translations from the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, but KJV remains one of the most preferred, despite the old English and sometimes difficult to understand expressions. In fact, some people enjoy the effect that the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ have; my cousin calls it “The power in the Word” and I can’t help laughing every time I remember that!
It’s good to hold on to your KJV for memorization, recitation and generally feeling “worded”, but when you really want to understand what you’re reading in a simple way that’s applicable to daily life, there are translations that can help you: the New King James Version (NKJV) which is the closest to KJV, the American Standard Version (ASV) which retains God’s personal name, Jehovah, instead of replacing it with LORD out of “respect” as most others do, the New Living Translation (NLT) which is a stronger version of the Living Bible (TLB is a very helpful paraphrase, not an actual translation), and the intoxicatingly poetic The Message (MSG), which is also paraphrased and ideally should not be used as one’s main Bible. We also have the reader-friendly New International Version (NIV), the Amplified Version which does exactly that — amplify— and the Good News Translation (GNT), which is perfect for children. Have a look:
- Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. ~ Romans 13:1, KJV
New King James Version (NKJV): Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
- I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory I will not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. ~ Isaiah 42:6, KJV
American Standard Version (ASV): I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images.
- In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. ~ Proverbs 10:19, KJV.
Amplified Version (AMP): When there are many words, transgression and offense are unavoidable, but he who controls his lips and keeps thoughtful silence is wise.
- For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. ~ Jeremiah 29:11, KJV
New International Version (NIV): “…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
- For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. ~ Philippians 2:13, KJV
New Living Translation (NLT): For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
- Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. ~ 1 Cor 12:4-7, KJV
Good News Translation (GNT): There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all.
- Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. ~ Psalm 37:5-7, KJV
The Message (MSG): Open up before God, keep nothing back; he’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon. Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.
Simply delicious, isn’t it? So next time you’re not sure what a verse is saying and would like to read it in simple English, reach for one of these translations. You’ll be glad you did!