New International Version Leads List
NAE members who answered the "NAE Asks You" question echoed polling done by CBA and others: the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible is the most widely read version in the United States, receiving 39 percent in the NAE poll. A distant second is the New American Standard Bible (20 percent) followed by the English Standard Version (13 percent).
The NIV has maintained popularity and influence since it was published in 1978. The NIV was designed so that modern day readers could understand the biblical text in the same way that the very first readers understood the text. Thirty years after its first publication, there are more than 400 million NIV Bibles in print.
The NIV translators meet yearly to monitor changes to the English language and progress in biblical scholarship. One area on which the translators concentrated in particular for the 2011 update to the NIV was gender language. Whenever the original languages used words that are clearly intended to communicate to men and women equally, the updated NIV used words that will be understood that way in English, like "humans," "people" or "mankind." Whenever the original languages use masculine pronouns for God, the updated NIV uses the English masculine pronouns "he" and "him." While the NIV 2011 hasn't been without controversy (The Southern Baptist Convention said they could not commend the translation and its use of gender neutral language), the NIV remains the most popular version of the Bible.
The New American Standard Bible (NASB) has also been around since the 1970s. Its strength is translating the biblical text literally word-for-word and has been widely embraced as "the most literally accurate English translation." People who are not fluent in the biblical languages, but who like to do word studies, find the NASB's word-for-word style easy to follow. In 1995, the NASB was updated to increase clarity and readability.
Though a relatively recent translation, the English Standard Version (ESV) has gained wide popularity since it was published in 2001. The ESV is set in the classic stream of literal translation, while paying close attention to literary beauty. The ESV Bible was the first to be published simultaneously in print and digital formats.
For further reading:
"Battle for the Bible Translation," Christianity Today (Sept. 2, 2011), http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/september/bible-translation-battles.html
"Dynamic Equivalence and Its Daughters: Placing Bible Translation Theories in Their Historical Context," Journal of Translation, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2011), http://www.sil.org/siljot/2011/1/928474543391/siljot2011-1-01.pdf
"Frequently Asked Questions," Committee on Biblical Translations, http://www.niv-cbt.org/questions/
"Updating the New International Version of the Bible," Biblica, http://www.biblica.com/niv/accuracy/
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"There is a massive shift on immigration that is occurring within the evangelical churches in America. We discovered that when pastors of our churches teach what the Bible says, people's attitudes change on immigration. If people read about what the Old Testament says on welcoming the stranger, people change their minds."