There is a great debate amongst some people as to which translation is the best. Some people love the ESV, NKJV, NIV, NLT, KJV, etc.
The answer is a complicated one. However, today we are comparing two popular Bible translations, the NIV and the ESV Bible.
NIV – The New International Version is an English translation of the Bible. In 1965, various committees from the Christian Reformed Church and the National Association of Evangelicals met. They were a trans-denominational and international group. The first printing was conducted in 1978.
ESV – The English Standard Version was introduced in 1971. It was a modified version of the Revised Standard Version. The group of translators created this in order to produce a very literal translation of the original text.
NIV – The goal of the translators was to balance out between readability and word for word content.
ESV – The translators attempted to produce a very literal translation of the text. While the ESV is very easy to read, it does come across a bit more intellectual sounding than the NIV.
There would be very little difference in the readability of either of these translations.
Bible translation differences
NIV – The translators goal was to create an “accurate, beautiful, clear, and dignified translation suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and liturgical use.” It is known for its “thought for thought” or “dynamic equivalence” translation rather than a “word for word.”
ESV – Of these two, this version is the closest to the original text of the Hebrew Bible. It is a literal translation of the Hebrew text. The translators emphasize “word-for-word” accuracy.
Bible Verse comparison
John 17:4 “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”
John 17:25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.”
John 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”
Genesis 1:2 “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
1 Samuel 13:4 “So all Israel heard the news: ‘Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.’ And the people were summoned to join Saul and Gilgal.”
1 John 3:8 “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
Romans 3:20 “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”
1 John 4:16 “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
John 17:4 “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”
John 17:25 “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.”
John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”
Genesis 1:2 “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
Ephesians 6:18 “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
1 Samuel 13:4 “And all Israel heard it said that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become a stench to the Philistines. And the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal.”
1 John 3:8 “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
Romans 3:20 “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
1 John 4:16 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
NIV – There have been a few revisions. The New International Version UK, The New International Reader’s Version, and Today’s New International Version. The last of which changed the pronouns to create a more gender inclusiveness. This was the subject of great criticism and went out of print in 2009.
ESV – In 2007 the first revision came out. In 2011 Crossway published a second revision. Then in 2016 the ESV Permanent Text Edition came out. In 2017 a version came out that included the Apocrypha.
NIV – The NIV is frequently chosen for children, youth, as well as adults.
ESV – As mentioned in the ESV vs NASB comparison article, this Bible translation is good for general audience use.
NIV – This Bible translation has more than 450 million copies in print. It is the first major translation to depart from the KJV.
ESV – This is one of the most popular Bible translations on the market.
Pros and cons of both
NIV – This translation has a very natural feel and is extremely easy to understand. It has a very natural flow to the reading. However, much was sacrificed. Some of the interpretation seems imposed their own translation upon the text by adding or subtracting words in effort to stay true to what they thought was the spirit of the text.
ESV – This translation is easy to understand yet very literally translated. It maintains many of the theological terms used in the older translations. This is one of the most ‘word-for-word’ translations available. However, some of the artistic beauty of the older translations are lost with this translation. Some people find the language too archaic in some verses.
Pastors who use the NIV – David Platt, Max Lucado, Rick Warren, Charles Stanley.
Pastors who use the ESV – John Piper, Albert Mohler, R. Kent Hughes, R. C. Sproul, Ravi Zacharias, Francis Chan, Matt Chandler, Bryan Chapell, Kevin DeYoung.
Study Bibles to choose
Best NIV Study Bibles
- The NIV Life Application Study Bible
- The NIV Archaeology Bible
- NIV Zondervan Study Bible
Best ESV Study Bibles
- The ESV Study Bible
- The Reformation Study Bible
Other Bible translations
As of October 2019, the Bible has been translated into 698 languages. The New Testament has been translated into 1548 languages. And some portions of the Bible have been translated into 3,384 languages. There are several other translations to use such as the NASB Translation.
Which Bible translation should I choose?
Ultimately, the choice between translations is a personal one. Do your research, and pray about which one you should use.