Many new translations of the Bible are said to be thought-for-thought, rather than a literal interpretation of the original text. These shouldn't be heavily relied upon, because they are depending on man's interpretation of God's thought. Here's a helpful guide to see where your translation falls between literal and thought interpretation: (click it to view larger)
**This chart is copied from Mardel Bookstore website, here.
I found this chart at the Mardel Bookstore. Click HERE to read their Bible translation guide, which gives a brief explanation of each translation.
The translation I use is the New American Standard. As you can see, this is ranked the most literal on Mardel's chart. There will always be some debate over which translation is best, but, from what I've found in personal study and in talking to various preachers, the New American Standard seems to be pretty hard to beat when it comes to a really good literal translation.
Some people say this version is harder to read then some of the newer ones- and to an extent they are right. It is written on about a tenth grade reading level, whereas the NIV is written on about a sixth grade reading level. But for adults, this shouldn't be a problem. I think what people mean when they say it's harder to read isn't the reading level itself, but the readability of the text due to outdated words, or thee's and thou's. To address those concerns, there is a 1995 updated version of the New American Standard which kept the word-for-word translation, but made it more readable. Zondervan says "The 1995 updates makes several important refinements with regard to the original NASB:
- It no longer uses "Thee" and "Thou" in reference to Deity;
- phrases have been smoothed out
- words that have changed meaning have been updated
- verbs that have a wide range of meaning have been updated to better account for their use in the context;
- punctuation and paragraphing have been formatted to fit today's standards; and
- notes about the ancient manuscripts have been revised to include more new and interesting facts."
My personal recommendation is to get the updated New American Standard. I haven't found the translation difficult to read at all; I actually find it easier to understand then many others I've read. Plus, it's a very reliable, literal, word-for-word translation of God's original message.