The Bible was written over the span of about 1,600 years by over 40 different divinely inspired authors. The Old Testament was written primary in Hebrew. If you were even fortunate enough to know how to read at all, you would have had to have read Hebrew. As Alexander the Great expanded his empire, he made an effort to unify the language. Many people started speaking Greek but that language was simplified as it spread further away from Greece and become a common man's Greek, called Koine Greek.
Before the time of Christ, translators embarked on an effort to translate the Hebrew Old Testament into Koine Greek because so many more peoples and nations spoke this language as the language of business. That first translation from Hebrew to Greek is called the Septuagint, often indicated by LXX. A while after the canonization of the New Testament (originally written in Koine Greek), Jerome translated both the Old and New Testaments into Latin. This late Forth Century or early Fifth Century translation is called the Vulgate. (There was also an early Syriac translation called the Peshitta, but we'll reserve the discussion on this translation for another time.)
Sadly, the only way many people could read the Bible (if they knew how to read) was in Greek, Hebrew, or Latin. Around the time of the Protestant Reformation and slightly before, efforts began to provide a Bible in the language of the people. Martin Luther, provided a translation in German. Guys like William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, John Rogers, and John Waycliff worked on various English translations. It was around this time that the world got the King James Version of the Bible as well as the Geneva Bible, Bishop's Bible, and the Douay-Rheims Bible.
Moving forward a few Centuries we now find over 200 English translations as well as hundreds of non-English language translations of the Bible and an even greater variety of translations of select parts of the Bible. In the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, with the aid of greater archeological efforts, disciplined academic pursuits, and computer technology, many of the translations in English are outstanding! Of course not every translation is as careful as others and some translations carry with them troubling theological issues or politically motivated choices.
As I examine the many options, I've found that the English Standard Version or ESV is one of the best translations for readability, devotion, study, and preaching. It is a well-rounded mediating translation of the Bible. (If you would like more information and videos comparing the 2011 NIV, HCSB, and the ESV, check out "Translating the Bible, NIV11, ESV, and HCSB.") But really, you don't have to take my word for it; others highly recommend and endorse the ESV translation of the Bible, too. Some of these leaders include Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, David Platt, Kevin DeYoung, Matt Chandler, Darrin Patrick, John McArther, Francis Chan, Tullian Tchividjian, and many others.
* I have no material or financial connection to the ESV Bible other than my use of it in my pastoral and writing ministries.