This question is somewhat related to another about whether Catholics are allowed to read the NIV. But my question is broader: is there an English translation that most church authorities accept? I would like to find a translation that won't offend:

  1. Catholic Christians
  2. Eastern Orthodox Christians
  3. Most Protestant Christians

I'm largely familiar with Protestantism and I know that you can't please all of us all of the time, so I'm most concerned with the first two.

I'm prompted to ask this question from a paragraph in the Preface to Putting God on Trial: The Biblical Book of Job that states:

I have elected to use the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible throughout this work. It is the only translation that is universally accepted by all three branches of the Christian faith: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant.

Is that true? He gives no source and Wikipedia indicates that all three branches have serious reservations about the translation. Would any other translation fit the bill?

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    Your question is more of an opinion than a fact finding question. However the KJB is still the most popular. NIV is accepted as the most popular using English that is common today. ESV is probably more accurate than the NIV. As the NIV is a little wordy and does a little bit a paraphrasing to get the same (as decided) meaning.
    – user1054
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 15:39
  • I think you should decide for yourself which the best version is, not which is the least-offensive version. Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 21:02
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    @Dan: I already know which versions I prefer, but that's not the question at all. Either there are versions that are universally accepted or not. My purpose is to find a version that is useful for interacting with a large range of Christians. Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 16:43
  • @Brian: I already have opinions on the best translations. But I would like to know if there are any universal translations, which is an entirely different question. Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 16:44
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    all tree branches *giggle*
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 22:49

2 Answers 2


The main problem with the NRSV is its attempt at using gender inclusive language when possible, although it is more conservative in this regard than some versions. Otherwise, it is a very scholarly translation that is more literal than some, but still has a good English style. It is available in Catholic editions with all 72 books in the traditional order, as well as Protestant editions, with or without the Apocrypha.

The original RSV also comes in Protestant and Catholic editions, and does not have the issue of gender inclusive language. It does use "thee" and "thou" etc. in prayers, which some people like, and others hate.

My impression in dealings with some Eastern Orthodox is that there is no English translation that entirely lives up to their standards. They would like a translation of the Old Testament taken from the Greek Septuagint, which they consider the Christian version of the OT since it was the most common version used in the early Church. All English Bibles that I know of that are in use today come primarily from the Hebrew OT. The Orthodox Study Bible is based on the New King James Version, with an attempt to change the Old Testament where it contradicted the Septuagint. Also, the Septuagint books that are missing from the Protestant Bible were also added. My understanding is that some Orthodox are not satisfied with the results.

Twelve years ago I attended a Bible study led by the Orthodox Bishop of Dallas, Abp Dmitri, and he used the RSV. This was before the Orthodox Study Bible Old Testament was available.

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    Given the Orthodox preference for the Septuagint and the Protestant preference for the Masoretic Text, there probably is no middle ground between the two when it comes to the Old Testament. (I hadn't thought about the Eastern church sticking with the Greek text, but it makes total sense.) It's good information that at least one Orthodox Bishop used the RSV, which sounds like the closest we are ever going to get in this life. Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 3:02

The New Oxford Bible with Apocraphya is one I've seen in Protestant and Catholic seminaries alike. It's NRSV, a fairly scholarly translation, although amongst conservative evangelicals, it's considered a little bit more liberal than the ESV.

Unfortunately, I just don't have any knowledge about Orthodox views on that translation however.


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