- The language has to have some beauty to it. I think that's why the CEB never really stuck with me; it's a serviceable translation, but there's no flow to the language. Poetic flow is something the King James Version has in spades, but it can also be found in such interesting versions as Robert Alter's Hebrew translations. Despite their stated goals, the translators of The Voice didn't achieve nearly the kind of poetry they wanted to.
- I need to be able to understand it without working too hard. This is where the King James loses some of my loyalty. If I'm in the right mood, I can grapple with the Jacobean language, just as I might do with Shakespeare's plays from time to time. But for regular Bible study and reading, it's just too much work, and I'm liable to put it down. NRSV and HCSB are winners in this area for me. They retain much of the cadence of traditional Bible language, but are more contemporary in the English they use.
- The scholarship behind the translation has to be evident. I think this is where Eugene Peterson, Kenneth Taylor, and David Stern all make me suspicious. I have no doubt they worked hard to achieve their versions, but they didn't have nearly the kind of peer review of their work that committee translations have. Even Moffatt goes astray quite often, despite the fact that he was reportedly quite a competent scholar.
- It's got to have a reason to exist. This one just occurred to me, but I think it's a valid point. There are constantly new Bible versions "throwing their hat in the ring," as it were. But have the publishers of many of these versions really made there case as to why we need yet another version in English? I think that's why I don't use the ESV very much. It's a fine translation, for the most part, but it's not really a vast improvement on the RSV or the NRSV, to my way of thinking. The HCSB is one that I like, because they do some things with the name of God, and the use of "Messiah" instead of "Christ" that I think make it useful. The CEB is different enough from other English versions that I think it is valid (I just don't care for a lot of the choices the translators made). This is a tough one to gauge, I think. I mean, each version that comes out may put just the right kind of twist on a passage or two, so I can't really say that I apply this principle consistently in my own choices.
P.S. I know I didn't mention much about accuracy, even though that's a term that gets bandied about quite often among those of us who discuss different Bible versions. I think there are definitely some versions out there that are notoriously inaccurate: The Message, the NWT, the Living Bible, and a few others. I may get some differing opinions, but I honestly think the vast majority of Bible translations currently available are pretty accurate. Certainly, there are some that set the bar, such as the NASB. But most of them are pretty decent, as far as I can tell. I guess that's why we have interlinears and other tools...