Lord’s Library editors compiled this resource to help Christians understand the different Baptist Bible versions.
The Baptists are a major branch of Evangelical Christianity with a focus on Baptism by full immersion to professing believers only. While the Baptist tradition can vary with many different sub-groups around the world, they typically subscribe to a specific set of principles and practice. Diverse from their beginning, those identifying as Baptists today differ widely from one another in what they believe, how they worship, their attitudes toward other Christians, and their understanding of what is important in Christian discipleship.
Baptists form one of the largest branches of Protestantism. There are many different Baptist denominations, but they are largely identified by two key characteristics. First, they believe in adult Baptism by full immersion. They specify adult baptism because they believe each believer should make a personal choice to come to the faith and make that public profession, something a baby can’t do. Also, Baptists will emphasize the role of the Bible in personal life and church practice. They will usually teach that the Bible and Bible alone should be our standard for Christian life and church practice.
So, in light of the focal emphasis of the Bible in the life of the Baptist church, which Bible versions do they use and why?
Baptist Bible Versions Comparison List
Bible Versions Used by Baptist Churches and Pastors
The most common Bible versions used among Baptist pastors and believers are the New International Version, King James Version, New King James Version, and the New Living Translation. A small yet steady segment of the church prefers the New Revised Standard Version or the New American Standard Bible. More recently, the English Standard Version has grown in popularity among Baptists.
Ultimately, Baptist churches and parishioners have the freedom to use nearly any Bible version for both worship and personal study. If you went to visit a random Baptist church on any given Sunday, you could find them using a variety of modern English Bible versions.
There are a couple of translations that are considered off-limits, but they aren’t common or popular ones. The New World Translation (NWT) is the Bible of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was translated by that group and thus contains their theological imprints in the text. In light of this, Baptists will see it as off-limits and not an accurate rendering of God’s Word. Above all, the Baptist mindset is centered around the Bible, so accuracy in biblical translation is of utmost importance to them.
Even so, Baptists do not take a firm stance on translation philosophies. Whether it be thought-for-thought or word-for-word, as long as it is considered accurate, they are fine with it. That makes nearly any modern English Bible translation acceptable for use by Baptist believers.
Ellison Research did a study showing the most common Bible versions used by Baptist Pastors. Interestingly, these numbers were consistent between all Baptist denominations, even the more extreme Southern Baptist Church. The chart below shows the data they found.
New International Version (NIV)
The New International Version was created to meet the need for a Bible in modern English using the earliest, highest-quality manuscripts available. The translators also aimed to create a reading of God’s Word that would be accessible to a wide audience in terms of language. The NIV Bible was translated by a team of 15 biblical scholars representing many different evangelical denominations.
King James Version
The King James Version has stood the test of time and proven itself by becoming the best-selling English Bible translation of all time. This is because it boasts incredible accuracy to the manuscripts from which it was translated and a rich, vibrant language. The complete King James Bible was originally published in 1611 after being commissioned by King James VI.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) was first published in 1989 by the National Council of Churches of Christ and is made up of several different Bible versions. The NRSV was translated by a 30-person committee made up of Protestants, Roman Catholics, and members of the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as a Jewish scholar. The New Revised Standard Version is widely ecumenical and available in three formats, including a standard version with or without Apocrypha, a Roman Catholic edition, and The Common Bible iteration.
New King James Version (NKJV)
First published in 1982, the New King James Version of the Bible is an update of the King James Version produced by Thomas Nelson. This Bible translation was created in an effort to bring the accuracy and reliability of the original King James to a wider, modern audience. The New King James Version is an engaging Bible translation for those that appreciate the history, flow, and accuracy of the King James Version but wish to read a Bible in a more contemporary language.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The New American Standard Bible is an interesting Bible because it is the most widely embraced literal and accurate Bible translation created in the 20th century. First published in its entirety in 1971, the NASB aims to be true to the original languages of the Bible while being understandable. This Bible translation was produced from the need for a contemporary word-for-word Bible translation that existed at that time.
The same research also surveyed the translations that Baptist pastors found to be problematic, for various reasons. The Baptist pastors which were a part of this study expressed concern over the following translations: The Living Bible, Today’s NIV, The Message, and even the KJV. While the KJV is popular among Baptists, some church leaders find that their congregations have trouble understanding it. It’s for this reason that Lord’s Library recommends a King James Bible dictionary.
While on the topic of the King James Version, it’s important to note this growing branch of Baptists which believe the KJV is the only divine-inspired translation. Oftentimes KJV-only Baptists cite poor transcription of the more modern Bible versions due to a difference in the manuscripts used.
While the hierarchy of the Baptist church doesn’t enforce the use of certain Bible translations within its churches, the Bibles considered to be most accurate are encouraged. Baptists have a passion for God’s Word that drives them to seek the best-translated Bibles available. The differences we see in Bible use among Baptists show us that the question of what is the “best translated Bible” can be a question with many possible answers. But, nonetheless, the majority of Baptists churches and believers use a variety of common, modern Bible translations that you would find prevalent in churches of many denominations.
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