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Featured Bible Reading Comprehension Tests

Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by rlvaughn, Dec 26, 2019.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    In the thread Great Book On King James Only by Mark Ward the topic took a several page turn to Bible reading comprehension and grade reading level of Bibles. For that reason, I thought of starting this thread.

    Proponents of various Bible versions often tout the ease of reading as a selling point for their particular versions. Bible Gateway contains a piece titled What are the reading levels of the Bibles on Bible Gateway? Their presentation gives a grade level and an age level. They say this information is "taken from information provided by the publishers of the various translations wherever possible." When I inquired about this in 2017, Bible Gateway said they were not sure what method or methods the publishers used to determine the reading levels, or whether the publishers used the same method. Mardel Book Store did have a "Bible Translation Guide," but they may have removed it. At least it is no longer at the link I had for it.

    I suspect these "guides" use a computerized test such as the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level tests. In other words, it is unlikely that Biblica ran a test with thousands of 7 year old 3 graders and then tested their comprehension of what they read. More than likely they plugged the NIrV or parts of it into a computer and ran tests.

    A few years ago I ran a test with Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level in Microsoft Word. I chose 2 John because it is one of the shortest books in the Bible and I knew it would be easy to copy and prep. This is just a simple test, and probably not the best test. Different books would doubtless yield different results, and I certainly didn't have time to test the entire Bible. Nevertheless, here are some of the results to compare.

    The Flesch Reading Ease test rates text on a 100-point scale. The higher the score means the easier it is to understand the document. The lower the score, the harder to understand.

    The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test rates text on a U.S. school grade level. For example, a score of 8.0 would mean (theoretically) that an eighth grader can understand the document.

    Holman Christian Standard Version
    Flesch Reading Ease 83.5
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.1

    King James Version
    Flesch Reading Ease 81.4
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.2

    New American Standard Version
    Flesch Reading Ease 82.3
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.6

    New International Version
    Flesch Reading Ease 82.2
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.2

    Greek New Testament: SBL Edition
    Flesch Reading Ease 9.4
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 18.6

    Svenska Folkbibeln (Swedish)
    Flesch Reading Ease 69.4
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 7.9

    The two foreign language Bible results are added to help make a point. In my opinion, the Flesch-Kincaid tests actually tell us very little about comparing actual readability of various Bible versions.

    Someone has said that the best way to determine Bible reading comprehension is by observing whether what is being read is also being lived. Perhaps that person nailed it best.
     
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  2. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Flesch and Kincaide tests are based on word length and sentence length.
     
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  3. agedman

    agedman Well-Known Member
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    Sorry, I didn't know you had already attended to this matter.

    I was reading the other thread and was posting on it not knowing that you had already found a tool.
     
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  4. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Nothing to be sorry about. You beat me to it. I have to do so much editing, it took me quite awhile to get the thread started.
     
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  5. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    I don't think reading aloud is a good test. Your experience may be different from mine, but the average person I hear read aloud stumbles quite a bit regardless of what they are reading. (Maybe some of it is just the "aloud" part.) And I am not pointing the finger at anyone that doesn't includes me too (even though I am a pretty good reader). Last Sunday my wife pointed out in the chapter of our Bible study that I read over two different verses that had "Lord God" simply as "God." She checked my Bible when we got home just because she couldn't believe I randomly read both of them wrong! I'm blaming old age myself. :Frown
     
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  6. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    I've been aware of the Flesch and Flesch-Kincaid tools for quite some time. I actually did the test several years ago, but don't think I ever posted on BB about it.
     
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  7. agedman

    agedman Well-Known Member
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    I picked the first sentence of Romans.

    Perhaps each book should have a reading level posted as a preface. :)

    What bothers me is that some would harp of the reading level, when as you pointed out and so did McCree (if I recall) that the reading ability of the typical person is still insufficient to meet the early assembly understanding of the letters written.

    Surly we are smarter than the first century believers? :)
     
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  8. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    I expect different books would come up with different reading levels. It is clear that some are more grammatically complicated than others. Of course, Peter indicated some of Paul's letters were complicated, and he didn't even have a computer to run them through!!
    While it is possible (and doubtless has some usability) to look at various books of the Bible with word length, sentence length, sentence structure (the test I did also pointed out the % of passive sentences), etc., I think much of this is a barking up of the wrong tree that ignores that the Bible is also a spiritually discerned document.
     
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  9. McCree79

    McCree79 Well-Known Member
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    Perhaps the "aloud" isn't a perfect test. This just isn't a KJV issue. I have noticed that middle school kids do poorly when reading the ESV outloud during youth Bible study. However a switch to the CSB did help. Many of my Highschool kids still read from the ESV during youth Bible study. Which I actually like. The youth occasionally mention the differences and we discuss.

    Going back to adults, it may just be coincidence, but adults reading aloud from the CSB, NIV, NKJV or NLT often do signficantly better.

    I do remember when I was attending a Pentecostal church when I was 9-12 years old....they would read the KJV like they were in a play. Many people had chapters memorized. Outside of this church. In my Baptist experience...we do not do near as good at reading the KJV. Perhaps it requires speaking in tongues :)

    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
     
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  10. McCree79

    McCree79 Well-Known Member
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    Overall yes, but we have many adults who are very poor readers in this country.



    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
     
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  11. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    No, but at the same time I wouldn't say it has no value. For the test to be more comparable, I think typographic aspects such as like font size, line height, print color & crispness, line length, etc. would need to be fairly equal, too.
     
    #11 rlvaughn, Dec 26, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2019
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  12. rsr

    rsr <b> 7,000 posts club</b>
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    Four years ago I put together some comparisons of Flesch-Kincaid ratings of Bibles.

    I apologize for the length:

    The Flesch-Kincaid reading level is based on an algorithm whose inputs are the number of words, number of syllables and number of sentences. Vocabulary, grammar, idioms and other variables are not considered -- or even if the words make no sense.

    Mathew 3:16-17

    Lexham English Bible (Grade level 10.8) Now after he was baptized, Jesus immediately went up from the water, and behold, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove coming upon him. And behold, there was a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

    KJV (Grade level 20.5) And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

    KJV revised (I changed the colons to periods; Grade level 6.5) And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water. And, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

    Geneva 1599 (Grade level 6.3)
    And Jesus when he was baptized, came straight out of the water. And lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and [lighting] upon him.
    And lo, a voice came from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

    Holman (Grade level 5.6)
    After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him. And there came a voice from heaven:
    This is My beloved Son.
    I take delight in Him!

    ESV (Grade level 21.3) And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

    ESV revised (I changed a semicolon to a period; Grade level 10.6) And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

    ESV revised again (I changed some commas to periods; Grade level 7) And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water. And behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

    The pledge of allegiance, BTW, is at Grade Level 15.2. And Jabberwocky comes in at 3.2.

    Make of it what you will.


    ____________________________________________

    Just for kicks, here is Romans 8:1-13 from the Wyclif Bible (Grade level 8.5)

    Therfor now no thing of dampnacioun is to hem that ben in Crist Jhesu, whiche wandren not after the flesch.
    For the lawe of the spirit of lijf in Crist Jhesu hath delyuerid me fro the lawe of synne, and of deth. For that that was vnpossible to the lawe, in what thing it was sijk bi flesch, God sente his sone in to the licknesse of fleisch of synne, and of synne dampnede synne in fleisch; that the iustefiyng of the lawe were fulfillid in vs, that goen not aftir the fleisch, but aftir the spirit. For thei that ben aftir the fleisch, saueren tho thingis that ben of the fleisch; but thei that ben after the spirit, feelen tho thingis that ben of the spirit. For the prudence of fleisch is deth; but the prudence of spirit is lijf and pees. For the wisdom of the fleisch is enemye to God; for it is not suget to the lawe of God, for nether it may. And thei that ben in fleisch, moun not plese to God. But ȝe ben not in fleisch, but in spirit; if netheles the spirit of God dwellith in ȝou. But if ony hath not the spirit of Crist, this is not his. For if Crist is in ȝou, the bodi is deed for synne, but the spirit lyueth for iustefiyng. And if the spirit of hym that reiside Jhesu Crist fro deth dwellith in ȝou, he that reiside Jhesu Crist fro deth, shal quykene also ȝoure deedli bodies, for the spirit of hym that dwellith in ȝou. Therfor, britheren, we ben dettouris, not to the flesch, that we lyuen aftir the flesch. For if ȝe lyuen aftir the fleisch, ȝe schulen die; but if ȝe bi the spirit sleen the dedis of the fleisch, ȝe schulen lyue.

    The KJV score is 8.2, practically the same as the Wyclif.

    __________________________________



    I wish you had given the GL of the NASB in your list.

    If I recall it is about 5th to 6th grade, but I am probably very wrong.



    That passage in Romans is 11.8. As a point of comparison, the ESV is 7.7.

    You can look up the passage in both versions and I daresay you will not find one significantly easier to read than the other. The difference? How the versions use colons, commas and periods. The ESV uses shorter sentences, so it gets a lower score. The language, aside from punctuation, is very similar.

    Look at Romans 8:3-4.

    NASB: For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    That comes in at Grade Level 23.8.

    Here's the ESV:

    For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    That's Grade Level 11.5

    Both are formal English and, truthfully, the ESV is easier to read, but not on a factor of two.

    For kicks again, I made a minor change to the NASB:

    For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    Guess what? The simple change of punctuation (replacing a colon with a period) lowered the score to 11.6, virtually identical to the ESV. (Although I like the ESV better stylistically.)
     
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  13. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Right, which I take as meaning that there is not much we can make of it. Certainly these tests must serve some purpose, but I think not much when it comes to biblical comprehension.

    Flesch-Kincaid can read the Svenska Folkbibeln Swedish Bible at a U.S. 8th grade level. Most Americans probably can't read it at any level.
     
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  14. rsr

    rsr <b> 7,000 posts club</b>
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    A couple of things:

    1. When I was a young'un, it was expected that you would memorize Scripture. There were contests, even awards. And what you memorized was the KJV, whose cadences do help in the memorization process. They also enhance dramatic reading.

    2. The goal of memorization was, well, memorization, not necessarily context and meaning. I remember a vacation Bible school session based on "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." The activity included little shoes made of construction paper and no understanding of what "study" meant. (Just to make it clear, I am not against memorization, even today in the KJV; all of the Bible that is in my memory is from the KJV, and I am glad to have it.)
     
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  15. agedman

    agedman Well-Known Member
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    Might I suggest that part of reading is the inner voice.

    Few practice reading with expression and meaningful tones when reading either in silence or aloud.

    I remember the first time I read the Scriptures as a staff member in the assembly.

    I read with expression, changed slightly my tone when necessary, actually paused at commas, ...

    Was mocked in the staff meeting on Monday.

    Reading with expression is lost in (on) many assembles!
     
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  16. rsr

    rsr <b> 7,000 posts club</b>
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    This is not just confined to assemblies, IMO. I am not sure when it became devalued in the classroom, but my anecdotal experience tells me that such reading is less common than it once was.

    I am not trying to romanticize a bygone era. Asking students to read aloud is often a crapshoot. It's nice to try to include everyone in the lesson by reading aloud, but it often does not edify everyone and ends up embarrassing some and putting others to sleep. I can honestly say that our readings of Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet when I was in junior high and high school edified no one.I'm sure it could have been done better, but it wasn't.
     
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  17. church mouse guy

    church mouse guy Well-Known Member
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    I settled on the KVJ in the 1980s. I don't mind other translations but they confuse me more than the KJV. I started reading the KJV at about 12 or so but I got the RSV a couple of years later. I threw the RSV away 50 years ago. I have a Fundamentalist friend who uses the KJV. We speak the same language theologically. The last 2 Bibles I bought were KJV. I like to listen to Scourby read the KJV. I am guessing that the younger people will abandon the KJV.
     
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  18. Just_Ahead

    Just_Ahead Active Member

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    As I age in years on this earth, I find myself getting closer to the KJV than the other translations.

    At this point, I am not KJV only.

    However, give me a few more years and I may get there.
     
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  19. church mouse guy

    church mouse guy Well-Known Member
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    As you know, Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it's the parts that I do understand."
     
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  20. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    The Christian Standard Bible is a very read-out-loud-friendly text... in my opinion, one of the best!

    Another is the Common English Bible, although I don’t like some of the textual choices they’ve made.

    Rob
     
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