Top Ten Bible Translations in the United States


The Christian Booksellers Association has published its list of bestselling Bible translations in 2012 for the United States.

2012 – Based on Dollar Sales

  1. New International Version
  2. King James Version
  3. New Living Translation
  4. New King James Version
  5. English Standard Version
  6. Holman Christian Standard Bible
  7. New American Standard Bible
  8. Common English Bible
  9. Reina Valera 1960
  10. The Message

2012 – Based on Unit Sales

  1. New Living Translation
  2. New International Version
  3. King James Version
  4. New King James Version
  5. English Standard Version
  6. Common English Bible
  7. Holman Christian Standard Bible
  8. New American Standard Bible
  9. Reina Valera 1960
  10. New International Readers Version

Are there any surprises to you? How many of these translations have you read?



Posted on March 19, 2013

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Cisco Cotto says on

    Dr. Rainer,

    Last month I switched our church to the HCSB from ESV because I have found it a more readable translation, though still faithful to the original text. The translation has been well received, but I have run into some challenges among the young people in the church. The two reasons are the lack of an HCSB smartphone app that is free and of the same quality/functionality as Crossway’s ESV app. The other is how outdated the site is. The last blog entry on the site is from almost a year ago! These things make it tough for a senior pastor to establish credibility for a newer translation which many people in the church have never heard of. I like the HCSB more every day, but there are challenges to making it work as the primary teaching Bible in a church.

    • Jeremy Royal Howard says on

      Pastor Cotto:
      Great to hear from you again! You’ve been a helpful source of feedback over the past couple of years. Thanks for indicating two areas of growth for the presence of the Holman Christian Standard Bible online and in app format. Your note helps renew our focus. Watch for improvements soon on both of these fronts. Reach out to us anytime about HCSB and our Bible Publishing plan.
      Jeremy Royal Howard, Ph.D.
      Bible & Reference Book Publisher
      [email protected]

  • Jeff Jackson says on

    Dr. Rainer,
    I’m in the process of switching translations for my preaching ministry; either the ESV or the HCSB. My personal preference is the HCSB, but whenever I visit Lifeway the selection of ESV bibles dwarfs the other translations. I know selection is important to people and ESV has provided a huge selection from which to choose. My hope is that the HCSB will continue to beef up their selection too.

    And some of us still like the red-letters. Please don’t abandon them.

    Thanks for your ministry

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks Jeff. Your comment was just sent to key leaders at LifeWay.

    • Jeremy Royal Howard says on

      Pastor Jackson:
      Thanks for your remarks about the Holman Christian Standard Bible. We find that a lot of pastors are turning to HCSB since it provides a readable and accurate translation of the original texts. I’m happy to say that the HCSB is being offered in a variety of new cover designs and text settings over the course of the next year. By this time next year there will be well over 200 new options in HCSB Text Bibles, and this is apart from an ever-growing variety of Study Bibles and Specialty Bibles. You will find all of these at LifeWay Christian Stories and in numerous other retailers. We are always happy to hear from pastors and Bible readers about ways we can better serve them. Shoot me a note anytime.
      Jeremy Royal Howard, Ph.D.
      Bible & Reference Book Publisher
      [email protected]

      • So, to put beside the hcsb for good, but still critical contrast, what would you recommend?

        I use NASB
        and have a pretty good base between the words, concepts, and notes.

      • Jeremy Royal Howard says on

        Excellent question. I believe that of the list you shared, the Holman Christian Standard Bible reads most like the NIV and yet is to be ranked closer to formal equivalence. NASB and NET are in turn further toward formal equivalence than HCSB, but arguably at the expense of being readable by the majority of people. To be honest I love all four of these translations. What I hear people saying about HCSB is that they appreciate that it upholds very capably two important values: being readable (which sometimes commends a dynamic-equivalence approach) and yet also accurate (tipping toward formal equivalence). We describe this as optimal equivalence, and in layman’s terms I would call it a balancing act that seeks to convey the original meaning (never compromising that by allowing modern philosophies to change the original meaning) in a way that is readily understood by the average reader. I hope I’ve been helpful. Please don’t hesitate to ask further questions.
        Jeremy Royal Howard, Ph.D.
        Bible & Reference Book Publisher
        [email protected]

      • I’ve read some in it. It’s very readable.

        At a glance I think it’s pretty on target. Phil 3, rom 8:9A 1 John 3: and 5’s “dilemma” verses, Gal 5:16, Romans 7 and 1 john 1, are my fast checks.

        I’m no scholar, but the Soteriological challenges there are a passionate study of mine. And, I must say, I think you present it close to dead on. I was preparing to come back with my critique when I checked them. But, even though we may disagree on the conclusions, (maybe not) my uneducated self who has been inside out on those areas, thinks they are dead on. I think you put SINCE instead of IF that made the intent more clear in one of them, and left the IF out of Gal 5:16 to reflect the clearness of the statement.

        My closest criticism is leaving Paul a skeleton. But I understand why you did that, well, I understand a few reasons that qualify that move.

        Sarx = flesh really sends a lot of people south and creates some wacky ideas sometimes. If Sarx was always flesh, then a few verses have Paul with skeletal remains, maybe guts and brains, but no flesh and..> HE WAS STILL WRITING LETTERS! No wonder they cut off his head.

        But, NIV with “Sinful Nature” created such a stirring, I get why you’d avoid that.

        I’ve never found NASB the pain to read like most. I really like it I guess, because in my deepest studies it was the clear one, and after you “get the feel” for it, she’s ok.

        I’d recommend yours in a heart beat, and suspect I’ll own one. But I have to tell you, the disappointing thing for me was I didn’t get to argue any of the normal points. When it appears you agree, the conversation is unconscionably shortened.

      • Jeremy Royal Howard says on

        You obviously give careful attention to choosing a Bible translation! That’s our heartbeat, too. And thanks for the humor!

      • I’m just nearly smart enough to understand what I don’t know.

        I’ll stay gone now.

  • Benjamin R. Owen says on

    It is surprising that the Revised Standard Version, which had a good run in the 1960s through the mid 1980s, is no where to be found in this list. It seems to be a pattern that a new version will come along and be the new “standard” for five, ten, fifteen or maybe even twenty years, and then fade away, while the good old King James Version remains a steady first, second, or third. It has had a four-hundred-year run and is still running strong. It must have some huge, vital merit, certainly the greatest literary gift God ever gave to any people of any language.

  • Jonathan Myers says on

    Dr. Rainer,

    Because of the many Evangelical scholars who have been promoting the ESV, this has been my version of choice for the last few years. It truly is a great translation. Recently, however, I have been reading out of the HCSB. I love that translates key Christian words such as “righteousness,” “fellowship,” and “propitiation.” Such words are loaded with significant meaning for Christians. I also appreciate that they use the term “slave” instead of “bondservant.” I also have an easier time reading it than the ESV. Finally, of all the translations I have read, I like the layout of the HCSB the most. While I have done all of my Scripture memory in the ESV, I am considering switching to the HCSB because of the simplicity of the language.

    The only drawback I see in the HCSB “camp” is a minor one: I would love to see some different study Bibles. In my humble opinion, the ESV has the best study tools on the market, namely, ESV study Bible, MacArthur Study Bible, and the Gospel Transformation Bible(!). The HCSB seems to be a great resource, and the Apologetics Study Bible is profoundly unique (I also love my Marine’s Bible). Personally, I would love to be the owner of a HCSB MacArthur study Bible, a HCSB interlinear New Testament, an ESV-HCSB Parallel Bible, or a Gospel Transformation-ish Bible. Is there any chance Holman will come out with any of these resources in the near future?

    Yours in Christ,
    Jonathan Myers

  • Hollis Bush says on

    I can speak for 3 bibles and that’s CEB, HCSB, ESV. The common English bible is one of my favorite bibles to read for Old Testament use, it has a flow that feels very well honestly like a old magical book that was given to me from some old wise man. Haha, funny but true when you first open that bible and read the first few pages of Genesis and see how different it is from HCSB,ESV, and KJV it’s more Hebraic than any of the three. The HCSB is just a all out good study bible hands down and I am glad I nought that hands down. The HCSB doesn’t feel like a Hebraic bible, it feels like holding a book of scrolls that was intended for a teenager or child to read until he was mature enough to read the KJV. The layout of the books were good I just wish you had better dividers throughout the bible. I always thought if the HCSB had a divider for The Law,Prophets, Kings, Poetry, Gospels, Letters of Paul, Letters of Peter, Letters of John would’ve made the bible very easy to navigate through if it was in the beginning of the book and at the top.

    The HCSB could’ve in my opinion took out law and added Torah if that was the case and made it more interesting for the reader. The pictures were good, how you used scripture to reference scripture was like genius for the gospels, but I wish for commentary you can next time use Apostle Paul, Jesus, John, James, and Peter in the bottom section to describe what’s going on instead of giving us what you think is happening.

    Due to a little of research on Revelations I thought it’d be cool to finally call Jesus for one time throughout the whole book Yeshua in that last book giving your bible greater significance and over the top on one of the bibles best buys because the HCSB bible was all there it was just missing certain elements to make it way better. That’s why I love that bible the most throughout my whole collection, I couldn’t really ask for a better bible just add those in and you will have my full undivided attention.
    Just imagine that as the last title Revealing Yeshua the Messiah/Christ that would be so awesome. By the way this is coming from a 21 year old.

    Lastly the ESV, another great bible but it’s not for me it’s for a person who just wants to know Christianity because the bible caters to many different denominations except Mormons. The ESV is great for certain things but it cannot hold its reader at face value like let’s say HCSB, or CEB. It’s good but it’s for a person who just plans on going into ministry, and debates which is a very good thing. This where the HCSB lacks because the HCSB is just a good read, ESV is for like higher learning.

  • Gary Mink says on

    Thank you for the info. I found you while doing research for an article I am doing.

    The HCSB would do better (IMHO) if the publishers would leave off their name. Bible translation now-a-days seems to have become the cash cow of publishers. Perhaps I am being too cynical.

  • This just my opinion but I think that the NLT or NIV
    LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE IS THE BEST study bible out there! I personally love it. Second is THE FIRE BIBLE just wished it wasn’t niv 84 edition hopefully they’ll updated to the 2011

  • I like the niv 2011 better than the 84 it clarifies the whole homosexual subject that the 84ed didn’t seem to be clear on. About the whole brothers and sisters thing I don’t see what the big deal os many pastors that don’t like that and like the NLT I don’t understand them since the NLT and many other versions say that. The ESV footnotes will tell u the same thing. So i don’t really see what the whole big fuzz is about.
    I do love the NLT better thanball of them but the NIV AND the NASB come in as second and third and then the ESV.

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