About a month ago I posted my thoughts on Bible translation philosophy including a chart giving the range of many popular translations between the two opposing extremes of word-for-word translation and thought-for-thought translation. The two extremes are also sometimes called formal equivalence (word-for-word) and dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought).
Looking at the diagram now, I think it would be more clear if the "Thought-for-Thought" label were moved to the right so that it was directly over TNIV. The NIV was pretty much right between the two extremes, but the TNIV has moved toward dynamic equivalence.
I think it is possible to balance both sides well. On the one hand, we want an accurate translation, but on the other hand, it must be readable and as easily understood as possible. Most translations sacrifice one for the sake of the other.
I recently acquired another fairly new evangelical Christian translation, the Holman Christian Standard Bible. It first came out in 2004, but I hadn't really looked at it to evaluate the translation until now. I'm glad that there have been a number of really good new English versions that have come out in the last several years -- the English Standard Version (ESV), the New Living Translation (NLT), and now the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Any one of these translations deserves the #1 spot among evangelical Christians more than the New International Version (NIV). The updated NIV, Today's New International Version (TNIV), doesn't come close to making the cut.
If market share of the bible business can be gauged by shelf space given to the version in any bookstore, then the NIV is very dominant, and the ESV and HCSB aren't getting the attention they deserve.
In my opinion, the HCSB translators have successfully balanced between formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence with a translation philosophy they call "optimal equivalence." The HCSB is very readable. I can tell immediately that they were very concerned with using contemporary English with good English grammar and style. Like the NLT, their philosophy is to give the literal rendering when it makes sense, and to give a more idiomatic rendering when the literal meaning would not be as clear. I would place the HCSB on the spectrum between the ESV and the NIV, probably just to the left of the NIV.
One useful feature of the HCSB is that they place words added for clarity in small brackets. That adds to their accuracy because the reader can see when words that are not explicitly in the original have been added, usually for grammatical reasons.
Since they attempt to be idiomatic at times, the translation has the same issue of all meaning-based translations -- they regularly limit the potential meaning of a verse to what they think it means. In other words, they do the bulk of the work of interpretation for you and remove some of the ambiguity inherent in the text. Some translations do that work poorly (i.e., NIV, CEV, The Message), but some do it very well (i.e., HCSB and NLT).
The HCSB is one of several brand-new translations that have been finished recently. The first complete edition of the NET Bible was available in 2001. As far as I know, they only intend for it to be an online resource. The International Standard Version (ISV) is still in progress -- 83% done as of today. Unfortunately, they still think they're undertaking the first wholly new translation in decades (or at least their director said as much about a year ago - possibly he'd been too busy to hear about the HCSB and the NET Bible).
Before this current crop of "from-scratch" translations, the NIV from 1973 was the last completely new English version. So, it was definitely time for a version in today's English and the HCSB fits the bill. While the ESV is still my personal favorite because of its greater accuracy, I feel confident recommending the HCSB for anyone wanting an accurate but more idiomatic translation.