Bible Reviews Bible Reviews

“Version”, “Translation”, “Edition”, “Revision”…
What’s the Difference?

People often misuse these words, especially with respect to Bibles. That’s unsurprising because the matter is not very simple. I’ll work my way from the more general to the more specific. In this first half of the article I’ll use only simple definitions. In the second half of the article I’ll address each word more precisely and at greater length.

In Simple Terms…

Please be aware that the following definitions are limited specifically to how the words are used to describe Bibles. Also: the definitions given here are less than precise, but they are fairly easy to remember and fairly useful.


The actual words that make up the Bible text.
Imagine we have two Bibles: Bible A and Bible B. If all of the words in all of the Bible verses in Bible A are exactly the same as all of the words in the verses of Bible B, then the two Bibles are the same Bible version.
Important Note
Some claim that a Bible “version” is not a translation—is never a translation. That claim is quite simply false. Almost all English Bible versions currently in print are direct translations by accredited language experts from original language source texts.
Jump to: Edition Revision


The English words in the Bible text are a direct result of translation into English from one or more other languages.
Most English Bible versions are translations. That is: the primary source document(s) used by the creator(s) of a Bible translation are written in foreign language(s), and those primary source documents were translated into English to produce the English Bible translation. However: there are a few English Bible versions that technically are not translations. These exceptions have as their primary source some other English Bible version. The following examples show the two typical types of exceptions:
  • American King James Version - primary source is the King James Version. Archaic words have been modernized.
  • The Living Bible - primary source is an earlier English translation which was re-written to make the Bible easier to read.
Jump to: Version Revision


A particular format of a particular Bible version produced by a particular publisher.
Let’s consider the following Bibles:
  1. The NIV Beautiful Word Bible published by Zondervan.
  2. The NIV Rainbow Study Bible, Brown Bonded Leather published by Holman Bible Publishers.
  3. The NIV Rainbow Study Bible, Hardcover published by Holman Bible Publishers.
  • Those are all the same Bible version.
  • Those are all the same Bible translation (the NIV is a translation).
  • But those are all different editions of that particular Bible version.
On the other hand: if you have two identical copies of the NIV Beautiful Word Bible, then you have two copies of the same edition. Difference in size, difference in construction, difference in the cover material, difference in the paper - basically any visible difference inside or outside, and several other types of differences, indicate different editions of the Bible.
Jump to: Version Translation


Unfortunately “revision” and “revised” are very ambiguous terms. Below I list the various meanings with absolute minimum explanation. Part two of this article addresses all of these terms with more precision and in more detail.
  • Revision / Revised #1 - the Bible is a new translation that relies on an existing English translation (a reference version) for word choices. So: a new (genuine) translation that by design sounds a lot like an earlier translation.
  • Revision / Revised #2 - the Bible is a minor update of an existing Bible version. Basically: very similar to the existing Bible version but “New and Improved”. Unlike “Revision / Revised #1” this is not a completely new translation (it is only a minor update), but typically translation by professional translators is involved in producing this type of revision.
  • Revision / Revised #3 - the Bible is a significant alteration to an existing English Bible version apparently without any translation involved. This is the least common type of “Revision / Revised” found among in-print English Bible versions.

Not bored yet? Want every excruciating detail of these terms so that you can use them with absolute correctness and precision? Then continue on to