Which Bible Translation is Best?
At a couple of our Bible studies, I've been asked my opinion on what is the best Bible translation to have, so I'll answer that here. Keep in mind this is just my opinion and disagreement on this doesn't bother me in the slightest (with a couple exceptions).
This is an important question that is asked mostly because people want the translation that most closely reflects the original texts, and that is what I'll deal with in this post. Oftentimes, the easier a translation is to read, the further from the true Word of God it strays. For example--and these are the "exceptions" I mentioned above--The Message and The Passion Translation are both in the category of not being a translation at all, but are loose paraphrases and plagiarisms of Scripture. There are many other bad "translations" out there, but I can't list them all here.
So, for serious study of God's Word I use the Authorized (King James) Bible. The complaint that most professors and scholars have against the King James Bible don't stem from the quality of the actual translation, but from the source texts used and a bias against the Textus Receptus (TR). I'm not terribly concerned about which manuscripts you might deem "best" (since the ~6,000 we have are remarkably similar even with thousands of minor differences), but I do strongly believe that the men on the King James Bibles translation committee were the most brilliant Bible translators--by far--we have ever had. Check out this link to learn about them: https://kingjamesbibletranslators.org/bios/
Before going down that road further I want to mention that the NASB (1995 or 1971 version. I've heard the 2020 version will be "gender-inclusive") is a very accurate translation as well. The New King James (NKJV) is also quite good. And though you probably can't find it except online, the 1881/1885 Revised Version (R.V.) of the Bible is another good translation.
Let's talk New Testament source texts. The King James and the New King James Bibles are the only mass-produced Bible versions I am aware of that use the Textus Receptus ("received text") as their source. The TR most closely aligns with the family of manuscripts often called the "Majority Text" which follow the Byzantine text-type. This group of manuscripts makes up the majority of texts (hence the name) we have out of those ~6,000 previously mentioned.
So since the TR is very similar with the majority of our manuscripts, why do many scholars feel it is inferior? Because the smaller number of texts that fall under the category of Alexandrian text-type are older (often just called the "Critical Text"). So essentially you have a battle between quantity and age, and the academic argumentation on "which text is best" gets quite extensive.
One thing I need to make clear though, is that while there are many thousands of variants between these thousands of manuscripts, they are extremely similar and most differences are either in spelling or of word order (i.e., Jesus Christ vs. Christ Jesus). God preserved His word beautifully as He said He would.
Study in this field is much too vast to cover in this short article, but hopefully this is a good starting point to looking into this important question. Of course, if you want to read the Word of God without any theological bias than often creeps into translations, just learn Greek, Hebrew, and a little Aramaic!
Please check out the file below for a more thorough explanation of Greek manuscript text-types.