A Simple Layman's Guide to Bible Translations
by Johnathan Tate

Over the years, I have purchased a number of translations of the Bible in my desire to know God's Word more deeply. Since I do not know Greek and Hebrew (yet, anyway), and since I know that perfect translation between two languages is impossible, owning and reading several translations is the best way for the average English speaker to get a good sense of what the divinely inspired authors of the Scriptures wish to say. Herein I will speak on several popular as well as not-so-known translations of the Scriptures (the ones I have come into more than passing contact with) in hopes that the visitors to this site will get some good use out of them. In my reviews, I will go translation by translation and give a general overview of each translation, as well as good points and bad points of each one. There is an explanation below of the various types of translations, and I have color coded the title of each translation to match its type.

Chart courtesy Zondervan.com

Formal Equivalent
These translations attempt to reproduce the Greek and Hebrew as exactly as possible into English. Words, figures of speech, and sometimes even the sentence structure of the original languages are reproduced in a much more limited way in this type of Bible. These hold -in varying degrees- to a generally word for word approach.

Dynamic Equivalent
These Bibles run on a more thought-for-thought philosophy than the Formal Equivalent translations, but do so in a much more sparing manner than paraphrases. Greek and Hebrew figures of speech are replaced with modern rough equivalents. They are more readable in a sense, though sometimes in a freer translation some passages become more interpretations than translations.

These are not really translations, but rewordings of the Scriptures that speak in a very earthy, common tongue. Those who advocate these note that the New Testament was written in the common language of the people and not that of playwrights or philosophers. The results can be the clearest expression of Scripture on par with the original. However, theological biases can creep in and be readily apparent. These are acceptable for devotional reading, but even the authors themselves would not suggest using them for study or as a church Bible. Some paraphrases are based on the original languages, while others on translations themselves.

Aberrational Translations

These are translations done independently by a smaller religious sect. Usually they will "translate" Scripture by twisting it to fit their theologies, rather than conforming their theologies to the Scriptures. These groups often have a person or organization which is practically considered equal in authority with the Bible, and a number of them believe that their group is the only way to salvation.

Geneva Bible
Published: 1560 (revised 1599)
Reading Level: 12th Grade
Translators: Calvinist
The Goods: An excellent Reformation-era translation which is now widely available again through Tolle Lege Press. The language is Shakespearean, but a lot of "churchy-words" aren't there. The notes are the most excellent of any study Bible, as they were written by Reformers who trained under John Calvin, such as William Whittingham and John Knox.
The Not-So-Goods: Language is dated, and this translation is not widely-known anymore due to being surpassed by the King James Version in the mid 1600's
God's Name: Jehovah, Lord, God, Jah
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate
Website: 1599 Geneva Bible, GenevaBible.org

Douay-Rheims Version

Published: 1609 (revised 1752)
Reading Level: 12th Grade
Translators: Catholic
The Goods: For three and a half centuries this Bible (in one form or another) was the English Bible for Catholics. The revision by Bishop Challoner in the 1750s Anglicised more of the text and put it in more agreement with the Protestant Authorized version, at least in style (and since the original DRV influenced the King James Version, we have something of a quid pro quo). It is a faithful translation of the Latin Vulgate, the official edition of the Bible used by the Vatican.
The Not-So-Goods: Even though many of the Latinisms were removed in Challoner's revision, several others remain, such as "supersubstantial" in the Lord's Prayer and "do penance" instead of "repent" (both of which have been corrected in most modern Catholic Bibles). It was translated from the Latin instead of from the original Hebrew and Greek. The English language has also changed a great deal in the last few centuries, as we have words that have changed meaning (such as "suffer" or "prevent") and other words have dropped from the language altogether. (See the King James Version below for others.)
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate
Website: Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible

King James Version
Published: 1611 (revised 1769)
Reading Level: 12th Grade
Translators: Anglican
The Goods: The old classic is still strong after four hundred years of use. To many, this is the Bible. This has a poetic and majestic language and structure and was translated extremely well. God has used it immensely in the spread of the gospel, and it sounds Biblical to English ears. The translators tried to translate the KJV as a Bible that was literary, accurate, understandable and would last. Of course, they had no idea that their work would be in almost exclusive use by over a quarter of the world for over three centuries.
The Not-So-Goods: While still popular and a great translation of God's Word, this Bible is also archaic in many respects. The manuscripts from which the KJV was translated were far more recent than those discovered later and used in modern versions - i.e., the modern versions are based on copies of the Bible that are far closer to the originals than the KJV's mansucripts. We don't use words like "froward" and "wot" today, and words and phrases such as "prevent", "suffer", and "fetch a compass" had far different meanings than what they do today. The fact that there is a cultlike "King James Only" movement does not help either, and such a group would be steadfastly opposed by the translators of the KJV.
God's Name: Jehovah, LORD, GOD, Jah
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate
Website: Wikipedia's KJV Article
Revised Version
Published: 1885
Reading Level: 12th grade
Translators: Mainline/British, conservative
The Goods: This is the first major attempt to revise the Bible of King James, both in language and textual basis. The translation is extremely literal to the Biblical languages, and is considered excellent for those who not read the originals. The distinction between the singular (thee, thou) and plural (ye, you) second persons is very helpful for detailed study. It is not the KJV but is not too far off to sound different. Many passages which have an enhanced understanding of the deity of Christ are rendered as such, and other corrections of the KJV's renderings (e.g, the RV has “Thou shalt do no murder” as the sixth commandment) are introduced. Godly people like Charles Spurgeon commended it for deep study...
The Not-So-Goods: Spurgeon also said this Bible is “strong in Greek, but weak in English.” The text is more of a Jacobean English interlinear in some areas, and even reverts to the original language word order. Not all archaic words are updated, and those which are have a very British flavo(u)r – e.g. “corn” means what Americans call “grain.” This version is virtually (sadly!) out of print, though is available in some Bible software.
God's Name: LORD, God, Jah, Jehovah
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong
Website: Michael Marlowe's ERV Page

American Standard Version
Published: 1901
Reading Level: 12th grade
Translators: Mainline/Unitarian, conservative
The Goods: This considered by many to be the most literal English translation of the Scriptures ever widely available. When one reads this Bible one is almost reading an interlinear. For those who are well-versed in the Scriptures and are wishing to study the Bible from a translation alone, this is one of the best, if not the best. There is also a differentiation between the singular (thee, thou) and plural (ye, you) second persons. The Name of God is rendered as a name rather than as the title of LORD. It is also generally conformable to the Authorized version.
The Not-So-Goods: This translation is almost too literal. The text reads more like the mix of Shakespearean/Jacobean English and a Greek or Hebrew interlinear. Most archaic words are updated (to 1901 standards) but not all are. There is also an underlying Unitarian bias to certain passages of Scripture and some notes where the proper translation is put in the footnote (e.g. Titus 2:13) and any footnote where Christ is “worshiped” has to tell you that it can refer to obeisance to a created being as well as the creator, which seems to open the door for denial of the deity of Christ. It often reverts to the KJV's less accurate renderings (see it on the Titus passage above, as well as the sixth commandment). This version is almost out of print, though is available in most Bible software since it is now public domain, so if you want one in paper you'll have to get a used copy on Ebay or Abe Books or order a new one from Star Bible, the only current publisher of the ASV.
God's Name: Jehovah
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate
Website: CCEL American Standard Version

Revised Standard Version
Published: 1952 (revised 1971)
Reading Level: 10th Grade
Translators: Mainline/Catholic, somewhat liberal
The Goods: This was once the alternative to the King James Version. It was released with a great deal of hype and expectation as a modern-language revision of the ASV by the National Council of Churches. Due to its long time on the market, there are many commentaries and studies based on the RSV. Mainline Christians loved it, and many evangelicals also appreciated the strong scholarship used in translating it. Even today many lectionaries and churches use the RSV. It was the first widely-used Bible since the KJV that was available with the Apocrypha, and was the first English translation to have the books in the Greek canon (3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151) that had never been in English editions of the Apocrypha.
The Not-So-Goods: The biggest problem with the RSV is that the translation, from a left-of-center perspective, often obscures prophetic references to Christ in the Old Testament. This can trip people up who may use the NT references to the OT then find something entirely different. More educated evangelicals can get around these, however. Also, the RSV uses Shakespearean English when addressing God while using more modern language when others are in view. Finally, the RSV is no longer widely available, though a few reprinted editions can be found.
God's Name: LORD, GOD
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate
Website: NCC "About the RSV"

New World Translation
Published: 1961 (revised 1984)
Translators: The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (aka Jehovah's Witnesses)
The Goods: Well, since I guess I need to say something good about this one, here it goes... They do distinguish between the singular and plural second person (you for singular and YOU for plural) and this could be helpful for other translations to adopt, but this is the proverbial gold ring in a pig's snout.
The Not-So-Goods: Where do I start? They insert the name "Jehovah" into the NT, and while some could argue that there are places where this (or Yahweh) might possibly be warranted occasionally, the JW's do it only where "Lord" refers to the Father or the Godhead, but never the Son. Yahweh and Adonai are both rendered as Kyrios (Lord) in the Greek and are undistinguished, so the way the JW's do it is they try to get away from the clear fact that Jesus is Yahweh God. The Holy Spirit is referred to as an "it" rather than as a "He" and is written as "holy spirit" to reflect their view that He is not a Person but a force. The references in the NT to Jesus being divine are further mistranslated by renderings such as John 1:1 ("The word was a god" instead of "The Word was God"), Hebrews 1:8 ("God is your throne" rather than "Your throne, O God"), and II Peter 1:1 ("Our God and [the] Savior Jesus Christ", where the bracketed word is clearly there just to hide the fact that Christ is Almighty God). This "translation" was done by people who were not scholars of the original languages and who did this with an agenda to promote what has always been seen as false views of God and of Christianity.
God's Name: Jehovah
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Absent, excepting John 20.28
Website: New World Translation @ Watchtower.org

Jerusalem Bible
Published: 1966
Reading Level: 10th Grade
Translators: Catholic, moderate
The Goods: The Jerusalem Bible is a product of a fine Catholic translation team including author JRR Tolkein. Its literary quality is almost on the level of the King James Version, as the translators have sought to render the Scriptures in a more elevated tongue and sound like a work of great literature, whether read in private or spoken aloud. The Readers Edition has minimal theological notes, and the original edition has a plethora of theological and historical notes. God's Name is rendered as a name (and even the right one - Yahweh) rather than a title. Traditional gender language is used throughout. Though it is a Catholic translation it is not generally biased toward Catholicism in how it's written. If only they would release an edition with the Apocrypha separated from the OT...
The Not-So-Goods: As a Catholic translation, the uninspired Apocryphal books are interspersed throughout the inspired Old Testament rather than separated (as the church father Jerome did). The reader's and other editions have somewhat more liberal book introductions and study notes. Also, while I am in strongly in favor of transliterating Yahweh, other Hebrew names for the deity (e.g. El Shaddai [God Almighty], Yahweh Sabaoth [Yahweh of Hosts], El Elyon [God Most High]) are unnecessarily transliterated where an English translation would be fine.
God's Name: Yahweh, Yah
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate

New American Bible
Published: 1970 (NT, Psalms revised 1996)
Translators: Catholic, moderate
Reading Level: 9th Grade
The Goods: A generally good translation for Catholics to use. Is readable and scholarly. The notes are strongly Roman Catholic, but this can be good for those wanting to know Catholic interpretation of different Scriptures. Also, it is an American production, so those who speak American English will appreciate this.
The Not-So-Goods: The theology of the notes are not only Catholic (and conservative with respect to the "perpetual virginity" of Mary and deity of Christ), but are quite liberal with respect to textual criticism, e.g. accepting as a given that Moses did not write any of the Pentateuch and that Daniel wrote his book after the fact of his "prophecies".  The editors seem to not be able to take the Biblical writers at their word. Some gender-neutral language as well.
God's Name: LORD, GOD
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong
Website: US Conference of Catholic Bishops - the NAB

The Living Bible

Published: 1971
Reading Level: 4th Grade
Translators: Kenneth Taylor (a Baptist)
The Goods: The Living Bible became one of the more popular versions of the Bible when Dr. Taylor released this paraphrase. There were not many common-language editions on the market, and so this was a breath of fresh air. Taylor had attended seminary and originally did this to help his children understand God's Word. Because of the author's strong evangelical leanings, this Bible is generally devoid of liberal renderings.
The Not-So-Goods: Being a paraphrase, this is not the most exact rendering of Scripture. Also, it was paraphrased from the ASV rather than the original languages. Some of Taylor's Arminian leaning show through in this Bible, as is evident from some passages that in most translations are used as Calvinist proof-texts. For instance, while most translations of Acts 13:48 follow the Greek in saying something in the nature of "and as many [of the Gentiles] as were appointed to eternal life believed (ESV - others say "ordained to eternal life"),  the Living Bible badly mistranslates this as "and as many as wanted eternal life, believed." Verses are also sometimes combined or rearranged.
God's Name: Jehovah, Lord, God
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate
Website: The Living Bible (Wikipedia)

New American Standard Bible
Published: 1971 (revised 1977, 1995)
Translators: Evangelical, Conservative
Reading Level: 11th Grade
The Goods: This revision of the ASV is, like its parent, an excellent literal translation of the Bible. Language is updated (especially in the 1995 revision, where "You" replaces "Thou" in reference to God) and the text is much easier to read than that of the ASV. There are numerous text notes that are helpful as well. The translation method is eminently orthodox (much moreso than the ASV), and virtually all translation choices reflect a conservative and inerrantist perspective. Overall an excellent Bible to study from, and has become a standard among evangelical scholars and many laymen.
The Not-So-Goods: Though an improvement on the ASV in readability, it is still a bit too wooden for some due to its strict literalism, and becuase of this it is not used as much in worship. If one reads it silently it is good, but if read aloud it takes a little more familiarity to make it sound the best.
God's Name: LORD, GOD
Deity Pronouns: Capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong
Website: Lockman Foundation: The NASB
Endorsements: Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, Charles Stanley, Kay Arthur, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Robert Norris,

Good News Translation (Formerly Today's English Version)
Published: 1976 (revised 1992)
Reading Level: 8th Grade
Translators: Evangelical moderate, Catholic
The Goods: The original GNT was translated by a missionary who was trying to publish an edition of the Bible which was especially good for those for whom English was a second language. No big theological words here - easy-to-understand phrases replace them to communicate the original text to the reader.
The Not-So-Goods: The GNT is a tad too paraphrased for many. Some of the "big words" have important meanings and could be just as well explained with a footnote or an appendix in the back. Several OT prophecies have the same problems as the RSV. The 1992 edition brings gender-neutrality into much of the text. The primary translator (Robert Bratcher) considers the foundational Christian belief in an inerrant Bible "heresy" and has made a name for criticizing and even ridiculing those who hold to this belief.
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate
Website: Michael Marlowe's page on the GNT

New International Version (1984)
Published: 1978 (revised 1984)
Reading Level: 8th Grade
Translators: Evangelical, conservative
The Goods: The NIV is a balance between literal (word-for-word) and paraphrase (thought-for-thought). The text is still readable enough along with the KJV-family of translations but is a much easier read. Many evangelical churches now use this translation as their official translation (including the webmaster's home church) because it uses the better, older manuscripts of the OT and NT but is eminently readable. The renderings also provide ease in memorization. One of the better study Bibles, the Zondervan Study Bible (now available in KJV and NAS as well), is originally based on this translation. The excellent Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible is based on this translation.
The Not-So-Goods: The NIV is somewhat too free for my taste. Sometimes it's not forceful enough in how it translates some common phrases, e.g. "This is what the LORD says" rather than "Thus says the LORD"; we also read "Let him be eternally condemned!" rather than "Let him be cursed!" or "Let him be anathema!". The phrase "the LORD of Hosts" (denoting God as leader of heaven's armies) is replaced by "The LORD Almighty", which doesn't quite fit the meaning of "God of Heaven's Armies".
God's Name: LORD
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong
Website: NIV Offical Site (International Bible Society)
Endorsements: John Kohlenberger, Philip Yancey, Mike Yaconelli, Henry Cloud, Lee Strobel, Rick Warren, Joni Eareckson Tada, Charles Colson, Charles Swindoll, J.I. Packer, Cal Thomas, Harold Lindsell,

The Sacred Scriptures, Bethel Edition
Published: 1981
Translators: The Assemblies of Yahweh (mainly their leader, Jacob O. Meyer)
The Goods: Hmm... God's Name is properly rendered in the OT as Yahweh. The NT has the Son as Yahshua, which is somewhat closer to the Hebrew than "Jesus". There are some passages (Hebrews 1:10, 2 Corinthians 3:17) which accidentally teach the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, despite the denial of these doctrines by the AoY (later editions may mistranslate these as well). The term "Messiah" is used throughout this translation instead of "Christ", which makes it sound more Jewish. The SSB is mostly a reworking of the ASV, so it is fairly literal in its translation.
The Not-So-Goods: While not even in the same league as the JW's NWT, the SSB still suffers from major shortfalls. They view words such as God, Lord, Christ, Church, hell, and Jesus as pagan and do not use them at all. The name Yahweh is placed into the New Testament, but only as a reference to the Father (except a few places where they have so far missed it) - e.g. John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Yahweh, and the Word was Elohim", where the Greek has Theos (the Greek equivalent of Elohim or God) in both reference to Father and Son, and does not use Kyrios (which is the Greek rendering of Yahweh and Adonai). Like the JWs, the AoY and Elder Meyer believe that their sect is the only way to Salvation, and both JW and AoY teach such unbiblical doctrines as salvation by works, baptismal regeneration, and Sacred Name-ism (you must call God by His Name - His titles are either pagan [AoY] or not personal enough [JW]). The Assemblies also add the rites and trappings of old Judaism to the mix, and I have a feeling that the apostle Paul would have a field day with these folks.
God's Name: Yahweh
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Weak
Website: AoY Site on the Sacred Scriptures

New King James Version

Published: 1982
Reading Level: 9th Grade
Translators: Evangelical/Fundamental, conservative
The Goods: Close to the wording and language structure of the KJV, yet archaisms are modernized and the famous "thees and thous" are out. Language is not too idiomatic so as to be dated too quickly, and is much easier to read than the old Authorized Version. Is a modern reworking of the KJV rather than a new translation. Variant readings from other texts are placed in the margins for people to read. Many conservative churches have adopted the NKJV, seeing as the old KJV needs update but they don't want to go too far. Also, the best study Bible on the market, the New Geneva/Reformation Study Bible is available in this translation.
The Not-So-Goods: The biggest problem with the NKJV is that -for the most part- it uses the same texts as the KJV and only utilizes the older mansucripts in the margins. (If you're a Byzantine Text supporter, this is a big plus!) On a lesser note, the NKJV has 17th century sentence structure with 20th century words, which can look funny to people every now and then. 
God's Name: LORD, GOD, Yah
Deity Pronouns: Capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong
Website: Bible Gateway NKJV Page

New Jerusalem Bible
Published: 1985
Reading Level: 10th Grade
Translators: Catholic, somewhat liberal
The Goods: The NJB is a translation based on the Jerusalem Bible of the 60s. Most of the positives of the NJB are the same as the JB.
The Not-So-Goods: The NJB may be somewhat more of a literal read than the JB, but the JB is usually fine. The NJB also is much more liberal in its translational choices and exceptionally moreso in its notes. Also, gender-neutrality have crept into the NJB, and it generally is not as easy on the ears as the older edition.
God's Name: Yahweh, Yah
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate

Revised English Bible
Published: 1989
Reading Level: 10th Grade
Translators: Mostly Liberal British Protestant/Catholic
The Goods: The REB is a through revision of the New English Bible of the 1960s. While still definitely dynamic in nature, the REB is more literal than its predecessor. Numerous unusual translations of the parent are rendered in a more traditional way. Like the NJB, the REB was intended to be a very literary edition of the Scriptures, and so is a good read (if you are familiar with British idiom - see below). It is a result of the work of a multidenominational team of scholars...
The Not-So-Goods: ...who are all from liberal denominations. No real evangelical input seems to have been involved. Because of their desire to remain faithful to the originals, the text has not been thoroughly goofed up, but there are still a number of passages whose translations are iffy, if not totally off. The British idiom (e.g.corn instead of  grain) may throw some people off as well - this is as much a British Bible as other popular translations are thoroughly American in idiom.
God's Name: LORD, GOD
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate

New Revised Standard Version
Published: 1990
Reading Level: 10th Grade
Translators: Mainline/Catholic/Orthodox, somewhat liberal
The Goods: This translation is one of the more flowing, literary translations available. It is a fifth-generation descendant of the old KJV, but the language is modernized and readable to the average believer. In the NT, when Jesus' title is used among a Jewish audience it is rendered as "Messiah" rather than "Christ". It probably uses the best translation of John 1:18 (see below) of any modern translation. It is also available with the Apocrypha as a separate section (while these books are not inspired, they are still useful and interesting). Many mainline churches (PCUSA, Episcopal, United Methodist, Disciples) now use this as their version of choice. Is a good one for Christians who are familiar with the Bible and know about the questionable renderings (see below).
The Not-So-Goods: The problems of the old RSV are readily apparent in the NRSV, if not more so. OT passages which are utilized by the NT writers to foretell the Messiah are not always rendered as they should be. There is a strong undercurrent of gender-neutral language in this translation which reduces its accuracy (though thankfully not going so far as changing "God the Father" to something like "God the Father-Mother"!). The fact that it is a product of the liberal National Council of Churches also does not help its acceptance by evangelicals.
God's Name: LORD, GOD
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Adequate

New Living Translation
Published: 1996 (revised 2004)
Reading Level: 6th Grade
Translators: Evangelical, conservative
The Goods: The NLT is sylistically based on the old Living Bible, which was a popular paraphrase of the ASV. The NLT, unlike its predecessor, was done by a number of well-regarded Biblical scholars for the purpose of rendering the Scriptures in a decidedly modern tongue. Theological "buzzwords" (justification, sanctification, etc.) that are sometimes unfamiliar to younger believers (both chronologically and spiritually) are replaced with phrases that convey the meaning of the originals. Poetic sections are only rendered so if part of a song, prayer, etc. Jesus is called the Messiah when dealing with the Jews rather than the Christ. A few churches are adopting this translation.
The Not-So-Goods: Because it goes between being dynamic and paraphrasic, the NLT suffers from some free translations where theological biases may be detected by some. Also, the NLT uses gender-neutral language much more than most conservative translations of the Bible, almost but not quite to the point of the NRSV. See the Not-so-goods section for the NIV for other problems.
God's Name: LORD
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong

English Standard Version
Published: 2001
Reading Level: 10th Grade
Translators: Evangelical, conservative
The Goods: This is a revision of the old Revised Standard Version done by evangelical scholars. While many evangelical theologians appreciated the translation of the RSV, there were numerous places in the OT where the RSV has some questionable translations on some passages that the NT writers use to point to Christ. The ESV corrects these for the most part, and also updates the language of the half-century old RSV, and is also generally more literal in a number of renderings than its parent. The text of this translation remains in the line of the KJV and its literary quality, but it is also not a difficult read. The Reformation Study Bible is now available in the ESV.
The Not-So-Goods: There are a couple of OT passages where the Messianic character is still somewhat blurred (e.g. Daniel 9:25 reads "an anointed one" rather than "the Anointed One" or "Messiah"), but these are few in number. The standard theological "buzz-words" are still there, which aren't always easy for new believers to understand, though the regular churchgoer should be familiar with them and they are significant.
God's Name: LORD, GOD
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong

Today's New International Version
Published: 2005
Reading Level: 8th Grade
Translators: Evangelical, slightly conservative
The Goods: The TNIV is a brand new translation that is currently garnering a lot of press. Some of the positive aspects of this include the use of the term "Messiah" for Jesus rather than "Christ" when the passage is in a Jewish context. The TNIV's translation of John 1:18 is an improvement over the original NIV, and there are other passages which are improved. Time is given as, e.g., "nine o'clock" rather than "the third hour", and a woman who is "with child" is now "pregnant."
The Not-So-Goods: The weaknesses of the NIV are generally apparent in the TNIV as well. The bulk of the criticism of the TNIV has been with respect to its use of gender. The TNIV joins the NRSV (translated by mainliners) and the NLT (a much freer translation) in going gender-neutral or, as they put it "gender accurate." There are passages where this can be warranted, e.g. "brothers" being rendered "brothers and sisters" when the term obviously deals with both sexes, as with changing "the man who believes" to "the one who believes" and "man" to "human". However, there are some passages in the TNIV where they use the term "their" to avoid the generic "he", but this can cause people to question whether the passage deals with the individual (as in the Greek) or with a group (as it may seem in the TNIV, NRSV, etc.). (And as people such as the DataRat have pointed out, it goes even further than the NRSV in some places!) A couple of passages in the TNIV seem to give justification for female officers in the church, whereas most conservative Christians don't support this. Finally, in a few passages the term "the Jews" is changed to "the Jewish leaders", which some have said tries to absolve the Jewish people of the time of any complicity in opposing Jesus. Already numerous evangelicals are protesting and boycotting this new translation, and time will tell how much of a following this new edition of the Bible will really gain.
God's Name: LORD
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong

The Message
Published: 2002 (whole Bible)
Reading Level: 3rd Grade
Translators: Eugene Peterson (an evangelical Presbyterian)
The Goods: Eugene Peterson did this to try to reproduce the flavor of the original languages as a language that people use in everyday life. In doing so, Peterson has some renderings that might sound a bit harsh to most of those familiar with the Bible, e.g. Acts 8:20 where in the usual translation Peter says something to the effect of “Your money perish with you" (NKJV) but in the Message he says "To hell with your money - and you with it!" It may sound different or unwelcome, but it is actually similar to the way the Greek has it.
The Not-So-Goods: First of all, no verses in this one (except for the new Remix edition) makes it sometimes hard to find a specific passage. Also, not only will the earthy language offend those more used to the stately, majestic language of the King James Bible and its descendants, it is contemporary to the point of being trendy, and often in a way that is excessively forced. The media hype (e.g. "If the Bible were written today, this is what it would sound like") bothers a lot of folks like myself. Dr. Peterson himself says he is uncomfortable when churches use this, that it is for the private use of the believer. Is heavily paraphrased, even moreso than the old Livng Bible, to the extent that interpretation rather than translation abounds throughout and is not noted as such.
God's Name: GOD (early editions of the Psalms used Yahweh, but this has since been changed, unfortunately)
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Published: 2004
Reading Level: 9th Grade
Translators: Evangelical, conservative
The Goods: This is published by Holman, which is the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, but its translation team is multidenominational. The language is clear and easy to read yet not too colloquial. Some Hebraisms are in the text where warranted, such as the occasional use of "Yahweh" when God's name is referred to as a name (e.g. "I am the LORD" but "My name is Yahweh") and the use of "Messiah" instead of "Christ" when dealing with the Jews. Quotations from the OT are clearly marked, and the textual footnotes are great. Its character as a conservative, "optimal equivalent" translation is outstanding. (I especially like how John 3.16 is translated!)
The Not-So-Goods: No translation is perfect. While most questionable readings are included in brackets (which can be good or bad depending on your point of view), some are adopted that don't belong, such as John 1.18 ("the only son" as opposed to "the only God"). On a few occasions the text gets a bit colloquial, such as the use of the term "slacker" for "sluggard", though "slacker" is much more understandable and perhaps more accurate.
God's Name: LORD, GOD, Yahweh
Deity Pronouns: Capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong

New International Version (2011)
Published: 2011
Reading Level: 8th Grade
Translators: Evangelical, slightly conservative
The Goods: This is a rebranding and slight revision of the TNIV and calling it the NIV. It is not quite as far on the left in gender issues, and has the positives of the TNIV.
The Not-So-Goods: The publishers of the NIV2011 seem to think that they know better than God on gender, and are now going to tell the NIV readers that they have to buy the new one or else switch to another translation since the NIV84 is being replaced. Many confessional Christians have done exactly that, and the NKJV, ESV and HCSB will reap the benefits..
God's Name: LORD
Deity Pronouns: Not capitalized
Deity of Christ: Strong

Which Bibles do I use? I own numerous translations, but chiefly I read from the ESV (for its all-around excellence as a study Bible), NIV (my church uses this one for worship, and I use it in family devotions), and the NKJV (due to its accuracy and similarity to the KJV, and to compare textual philosophies). I once had the NRSV and NJB on this list, but the liberal readings in several passages put them more in the second-tier in my opinion.

Second Tier: NLT, JB, NRSV, KJV, RV, ASV, RSV
Third Tier: TLB, The Message

For those who read this, I say to pick a couple translations if you want to get into deep study of the Scriptures but most importantly pick a translation that you can read and understand without too much consulting of a dictionary. New believers would do well with the NLT, NIV, or HCSB and for children I would recommend one of these as well as the NIrV or the International Children's Bible. Those more familiar with the Scriptures would do well to go for a more literal translation such as the NKJV, ESV, or NASB for use in in-depth study. For those who are nostalgic for a Bible with a high literary and poetic quality, you can't go wrong with old King James.

Major Verses Pertaining to the Deity of Christ in various versions:

Note: Verses marked in indigo are textual variants between the Critical, Majority, and Received (Traditional) texts, and do not necessarily reflect translation bias per se.

John 1.18 - No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. NRSV


John 8.58 - Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."  ESV

Unclear: TLB, NLT

Acts 20:28 - Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood. NAB

Less Clear: ASV, REB
Unclear:  GNB, NJB, NRSV, RSV

Romans 9.5 - Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. TNIV

Less clear:  ASV, DRB, JB, KJV, NASB, NKJV, RV
Unclear: GNB, NAB, REB, RSV (corrected in later editions)

Philippians 2:5-6 - The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God - GNB

Unclear: REB

Colossians 2:9 - For in Christ there is all of God in a human body. TLB

Less Clear:  MSG

II Thessalonians 1.12 - Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the undeserved favor of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. - NLT

Clear:  NAB, NLT

I Timothy 3:16 - And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. NKJV

Present: GB, KJV, NKJV
Absent: All others

Titus 2.13 - [W]hile we wait for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. - HCSB

Unclear: ASV, GB, DRB, KJV, NAB

Hebrews 1.8 - But unto the Son he saith, O God, thy throne is forever and ever: The scepter of thy kingdom is a scepter of righteousness. GB

Unclear: Some margins say "God is your throne" rather than "Your throne, O God"

I John 5.7 - For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. KJV

Present: GB, KJV, NKJV
Absent: Most others

ASV: American Standard Version, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1994.
ESV: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers) 2001.
GB: Geneva Bible, 1599.
GNB: Good News Bible: Today’s English Version (New York: American Bible Society) 1992.
HCSB: Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman) 2004.
JB: Jerusalem Bible (New York: Doubleday) 1966.
KJV: The Authorized (King James) Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.
NAB: The New American Bible (Nashville, Tennesee: Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) 1997.
NASB: The New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation) 1995.
NIV: New International Version (Colorado Springs: International Bible Society) 1984, 2011.
NJB: The New Jerusalem Bible (New York: Doubleday) 1985.
NKJV: New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.
NLT: New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
NRSV: New Revised Standard Version (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.) 1989.
NWT: New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Brooklyn: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society) 1984.
REB: Revised English Bible (London: Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press) 1989.
RSV: Revised Standard Version (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.) 1952.
RV: Revised Version (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1885.

SSB: The Sacred Scriptures, Bethel Edition (Bethel, PA: Assemblies of Yahweh) 1981.
TLB: The Living Bible (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1997.

Reference Works
Steven Sheely and Robert Nash, Choosing a Bible: A Guide to Modern English Translations and Editions (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1999.
James White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House) 1995.

**Thanks also to the DataRat (website, Yahoo! group) for critiquing this review and helping make it better.
(I hope to have reviews of the Complete Jewish Bible eventually, but I can't make any promises on when. Until then, take a trip home and check out more of my site!)