ESV Blog has just posted a chart comparing the five leading versions. Here it is:
Note that none of the versions listed as being “word-for-word” are, in fact, word-for-word translations. A truly word-for-word translation would be an interlinear translation. Each of the versions listed in the chart changes word order from the original biblical texts, as well as making other changes to try to make the translation more usable by English readers. I think what the ESV folks actually mean when they say “word-for-word” is:
- There is greater concordance of words within the KJV, NKJV, and ESV than within the NIV or NLT.
- There is a higher degree of formal equivalence within the KJV, NKJV, and ESV than within the NIV or NLT.
- There is an attempt to translate each word of the original biblical text with some word or words in English.
There is no word-for-word English Bible version published today. Such a translation would essentially not be readable by English speakers, even though it would have English words. For instance, here is a true word-for-word translation of John 3:16:
Thus for he loved the God the world that the son the only/unique he gave so that every the one believing in him not may perish but have life eternal.
As you can see, that actual word-for-word translation does not match, word-for-word, any of the five versions featured in the ESV Blog chart:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NLT)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (NKJV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)
What differences, if any, do you sense among the five versions in the chart for the translation of John 3:16?