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Which versions do pastors use most?

Ellison Research conducted a random survey of over 500 clergy from Protestant churches, asking what "one version or translation of the Bible they personally rely on most for their work." 1 This is not necessarily the version from which they read at services; it is not necessarily the "official" version of their denomination.

Results were:

Version % of pastors
New International Version (NIV) 34%
King James Version (KJV) 24%
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 10%
New King James Version (NKJV) 10%
New American Standard (NAS) 9%

margin of error: ~+mn~4.3 percentage points

The remaining 13% of pastors preferred other versions, such as the Amplified Bible, Contemporary English Version (CEV), God's Word Bibles, the Living Bible, The Message, New American Bible (NAB), New American Standard (NASB), The New Century Version (NCV), New Jerusalem Bible, The New Living Translation, and Today's English Version. None of these was the favorite of more than 2% of the pastors sampled.

There were major differences among pastors whose denomination are affiliated with the two main umbrella groups: the National Council of Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals. Other pastors described their church as Evangelical, mainline Protestant, Pentecostal or Charismatic:

National Council of Churches: Methodists, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutherans... 20% 11% 40% 6% 5%
National Association of Evangelicals: Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, Baptist General Conf... 49% 24% 2% 12% 8%
"Evangelical" 47% 22% 9% 10% 8%
"Mainline Protestant" 18% 8% 51% 3% 7%
"Pentecostal & Charismatic" 21% 45% 3% 19% 6%

Other options for the Gospels:

There are two versions of the Gospels that might be of particular interest to liberal and progressive Christians. They contain extensive notes and are sensitive to the 1st century CE Jewish culture in Judea and the Galilee. They are:

bullet Robert W. Funk's book: "The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus" represents the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar -- a group of liberal New Testament theologians. They took on a number of challenges, one of which is to attempt to determine which of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the gospels were probably valid, which might be valid, which were probably inventions of the authors and which were quite implausible. "The Five Gospels" include the four canonical gospels and the Gospel of Thomas. Together they form the most popular gospels in use by Christians during the late first century CE and subsequent centuries. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
bullet Robert J. Miller's book, "The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholar's Version," contains the four canonical gospels, the main extracanonical gospels that were widely used by early Christians, the Signs Gospel which many theologians believe forms the basis for the Gospel of John, the Gospel of Q, and a collection of miscellaneous sayings attributed to Jesus. The books are translated into modern English, complete with quasi-idiomatic renderings, thus preserving the sense of the original writings. Read reviews or order this book

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For serious Bible study, you might consider purchasing a multiple translation or parallel Bible. These have many versions, side-by-side, on each page. Another option is an interlinear Bible. It typically has the KJV translation of a verse in bold, followed by the same verse in one or more other translations. Some are:

bullet Parallel New Testaments:
bullet John Kohlenberger, Ed., "The Contemporary Parallel New Testament: 8 Translations," KJV, NASB, NCV, CEV, NIV, NLT, NKJV, & The Message, Oxford University Press, (1998) Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
bullet John Kohlenberger, Ed., "The precise parallel New Testament: Greek & 7 translations," Greek, KJV, Rheims, Ampl. Bible, NIV, NRSV, NAB, NASB, Oxford University Press, (1995). Read reviews or order this book
bullet Parallel Bibles:
bullet "Comparative Study Bible: A parallel Bible presenting the NIV, NASB, Ampl. Bible & KJV," Zondervan, (1999). Read reviews or order this book
bullet "KJV / Amplified parallel hardcover," Zondervan Publishing, (1995). Read reviews or order this book. Includes abridged concordances.
bullet has a parallel Bible available online that allows you to search for a key word, or obtain any given verse, in your choice of two translations. See:
bullet Interlinear Bibles: 
bullet Curtis Vaughan, Ed., "The Word: The Bible from 26 translations," Baker Book House, (1998) Read reviews or order this book
bullet Alfred Marshall, "Interlinear NASB - NIV Parallel New Testament, in Greek and English," Zondervan Publishing House, (1993) 

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "American pastors name their favorite version or translation of the Bible," Ellison Research, at:

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Copyright 2000 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-NOV-2
Latest update: 2009-JUN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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