Which Bible translations have the highest accuracy?
At one time Bible translations were an arduous task that took years, if not decades to complete. Now translations are appearing in rapid succession and it is becoming difficult to keep up with the many that are available. I'll restrict my comments to those translations of which I am familiar.
King James Version
All languages change over time. Hence, some translations, while good when they were originally introduced become difficult to use accurately simply because the common language has changed. The King James Version was a very good translation when it was first introduced in A.D. 1611. It has gone through several updates, the last of which dates back into the 1700s. Hence, the King James Version reflects the English used 300 years ago. While it remains a fairly good translation, still errors have been made using this translation simply because people do not realize that the definitions of words have changed.
New King James Version
This is a good, solid translation that basically follows the King James but with modern English terms. If there is a fault, it is in its wide selection of word choices for translating words in the original language. A word in Greek might be translated five to ten different ways because readers of English find this to be more natural.
New American Standard
This is a good translation, though at times its phrasing is difficult to read due to its tendency to translate a word the same way every time it is used. It gives a better feel for what the original language presented, but many find its readability to be stilted. A severe problem is that retains the usage of Old English pronouns, such as "Thee" and "Thine," when God is talking or being addressed. The shifts between modern and older pronouns are disconcerting to most people and are not called for in a translation.
The updated New American Standard Bible, also known as the New American Standard Bible 1995 edition, removed the old English pronouns. It also reads a bit smoother than the original NASB.
American Standard Version
The predecessor to the New American Standard, the American Standard Version is known for its precise translation. It was completed in 1901 so its English is slightly out-of-date. It shares the New American Standard's problem of switching between modern and older pronouns.
English Standard Version
This translation just recently came out in 2001. It appears to be a solid, literal translation of the original text. Many problems in past translations have been corrected; though it introduces a few problems of its own. For example, "man" and "woman" at the beginning of I Corinthians 11 is rendered as "husband" and "wife" though there is no support for this in the context of the passage. A good review of this translation can be found at: "The English Standard Version" and "English Standard Version."
New International Version
While being a very easy to read translation, it suffers greatly from a strong bias in its editorial staff. Several key verses were modified to give credence to Calvinistic doctrine. It was also based on a flawed Greek text. See the article: "The New International Version" for more details.
Revised Standard Version
This version was intended to be a United Kingdom version of the American Standard Version, but along the way scholars who doubted the inspiration of the Bible influenced the translation to give credence to their doubts. The most famous mistranslation is that of Isaiah 7:14 where the prophecy of the Messiah being born of a virgin is rendered as being born of a young woman.
New Century Version (Children's Version)
Actually, this is a set of versions aim at different reading levels. The children's version is good, but I have found several places where the translation leaves a lot to be desired. I suspect that in trying to simplify the text, they lost much of the subtlety that is present in the original text. However, there are places where their translation clarifies difficult passages.
The following translations are unacceptable because of the heavy editing done by translators:
New International Version Inclusive Language Edition
New Revised Standard Version
New Century Version (Adult Version)
Contemporary English Version
New Living Translation
All of the above have taken on the right to alter the original text in an attempt to make the Bible more acceptable to modern society's view of how the world ought to be. See the sermon, "Gender-Neutral Bibles" for more details.
Other poor translations because of major changes to the text to support the beliefs of the translators are:
Today's English Version
New World Translation