What Bible Translation Do Different Denominations Use? Get the Facts


There are dozens of different English Bible translations, like the New International Version (NIV), the King James Version (KJV), the English Standard Version (ESV), the New American Standard (NASB), the New Living Translation (NLT), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and several others. What translations do the major denominations use?

Protestant denominations allow their members to use the Bible translation they prefer. However, some denominations use a designated translation for their services. Churches in other denominations use the translation their pastor chooses, in which case some prefer accuracy, while other prioritize readability.

What translation do Baptist denominations use? What about Assemblies of God, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian denominations? What are the major differences between the popular translations? Keep reading to learn more.

Woman reading Bible
What reading level is the NIV, KJV, and ESV? See below

What Bible translation does the Assemblies of God use?

The Assemblies of God denomination is one of the fastest-growing Protestant traditions over the last century. Known for their Pentecostal theology, they also have a congregational form of church government, and practice believer’s baptism (as opposed to infant baptism). The Assemblies of God denomination has a high view of Scripture according to their doctrinal statement (i.e. The 16 Fundamentals of Truth).

The Assemblies of God doesn’t mandate that their members use a certain English translation of the Bible. Members of Assemblies of God churches often use the NIV, NASB, ESV, KJV, or NKJV. The Assemblies of God denomination doesn’t dictate that their churches use a particular translation for church services.

What Bible translation do Baptist denominations use?

The Baptist tradition started in post-Reformation Europe, but it experienced explosive growth in the United States. Baptist value the separation of church and state, a congregational form of church government, and believer’s baptism. Traditionally Baptists believe and teach that the Bible is God-inspired and authoritative.

In general, Baptists use the NIV, KJV, NKJV, or the NLT. A smaller number use the NRSV, NASB, and ESV. Since autonomy is a central conviction of the Baptist tradition, individual churches and their members have the freedom to choose the translation they will read.

TranslationPercentage
NIV31%
KJV23%
NRSV14%
NKJV13%
NASB10%
Popular translations among Baptists
Man reading Bible
What reading level is the NASB, NKJV, and the NLT? See below

What Bible translation do Lutherans use?

The Lutheran denomination started in 16th-century Germany, when Martin Luther (1483-1546) protested the abuses and excesses of the Roman Catholic church. Luther had a high view of Scripture and that doctrine was a pillar of the movement for several centuries. Today, some Lutheran denominations maintain a high view of Scripture like the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Traditionally, Lutherans use the NRSV English translation of the Bible. Lutheran leaders, like Bible scholars and ministers, favor the NRSV because it is faithful to the original languages of Scripture and while it is a word-for-word translation, it also allows for reasonable flexibility when necessary.

Quick Comparison
NRSV John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
ESV John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
NRSV Acts 4:12
“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
NIV Acts 4:12
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
NRSV Philippians 4:13
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
NKJV Philippians 4:13
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

What Bible translation do Methodists use?

John Wesley (1703-1791) started the Methodist movement in 18th-century England. The Bible was critical to his vision of discipleship and Christian living. Methodists maintained this conviction for centuries.

In general, Methodists use the NRSV and the Common English Bible (CEB). The NRSV reflects a higher reading level and the CEB is more accessible to average readers. The KJV and NIV are also popular translations among Methodists. Leaders don’t require members to read a certain translation.

What Bible translation do Presbyterians use?

The Presbyterian denomination is rooted in the life and teachings of the French Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564). John Knox (1514-1572) was also instrumental in the denomination’s formation. Traditionally, the Bible is at the center of Presbyterian theology.

The King James Version (KJV) is the Bible translation that Presbyterians have used historically. However, in recent decades, many Presbyterians switched to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the English Standard Version (ESV), or the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.

TranslationHistoryMethodologyReading Level
NIVThe full text of the New International Version (NIV) appeared in 1978. Over 40 years later, the NIV maintains a wide readership, especially among conservative evangelicals.Thought-for-thought; the meaning of each thought, not necessarily each word, is the aim of translators7th grade
NASBThe New American Standard Bible (NASB) Update appeared in 1995 with the purpose of improving the translation’s clarity and updating outdated English styles (e.g. removing words like “thou”). Since it’s first appearance in 1971, the NASB has been a favorite among people who prefer a word-for-word translation.word-for-word (“strictly literal”); also known as “formal equivalence”11th grade
ESVPublished in 2001, the English Standard Version (ESV) reworks the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which first appeared in 1971. Conservative evangelical scholars produced the ESV, so it’s not a surprise that it has been growing in popularity among conservative evangelical readers in the last two decades.word-for-word (“essentially literal”)8th grade
KJVThe King James Version first appeared in 1611, then underwent several revisions in the following centuries. The KJV is the most popular English translation in Protestant history.word-for-word (“essentially literal”)12th grade
NKJVThe entire New King James Version first appeared in 1982. It’s creators declared it to be an update on the KJV. Scholars from different denominations like Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Assemblies of God made up the translation team.word-for-word (“essentially literal”)9th grade
NLTThe New Living Translation (NLT) is an update of the Living Translation (LT). The LT didn’t translate from biblical manuscripts in their original languages of Hebrew and Greek, it only re-worded the American Standard Bible (ASB) of 1901. 90 conservative scholars worked on the NLT, which was published it in 1996.dynamic equivalence; often employs paraphrasing to maximize clarity6th grade

How do people choose a Bible translation?

As mentioned, some people choose to read whatever translation their pastor, uses because it helps them learn in church. Yet there are other reasons people opt for one translation over another:

  • Accuracy: Many readers value accuracy higher than any other aspect of a translation. The NASB is considered the most accurate word-for-word translation among scholars and pastors. The English text is so close to the original languages that it makes it difficult for some people to read.
  • Readability: The term readability is used to describe how easy a translation is to understand. A translation like the NASB may be extremely accurate, but if a reader can’t understand it as a result, perhaps another translation would be better. Translations that are well-reviewed for combining accuracy plus readability include: the NIV, the NKJV, the NRSV, and the ESV.
  • Writing style: This category is mostly associated with the KJV. People either like the older writing style of the KJV, or they avoid it altogether. The KJV is considered an accurate English translation, even by those who don’t prefer themselves. For some, the NKJV is a great compromise because it has a similar translation philosophy as the KJV, but updates the language for twenty-first century readers.

Baptists will continue to use different translations of the English Bible because the tradition values the autonomy of each person. Whatever translation is used, Baptists will continue to value Scripture as the Word of God, study it, defend it, and do their best to live according to its teachings.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

References:
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