Here's my take on some French translations of the Bible. In my hopeless quest to find the best version, I have bought and sold a number of them. This is a brain dump more than anything else.
For a long time, I was looking for the French equivalent of the King James Version: i.e. the most influential ancient translation. It took me some time to admit that there isn't one. France is, after all, mostly Catholic, and for the Catholic church, the official version was the Latin Vulgate: most French-speaking Catholic intellectuals just read the Vulgate directly. Protestants were too fragmented to generally adopt a single translation (unlike the Reina-Valera in Spanish); instead, they kept making new ones. So, no French version had the same impact as the KJV in English, or the Luther Bible in German; indeed, no version is even in the same league.
Still, some translations have some historical interest.
- Olivetan Bible and revisions
The first widely-read Protestant bible was the Olivetan Bible, released in 1535. It's based on the original Hebrew texts and the Textus Receptus. It does include the Deuterocanonical books (separately, as Apocrypha). Also, it was the first to translate YHWH as "l'Éternel" (the Eternal), which became a tradition in Protestant Bibles.
It had several extensive revisions: the Bible of Geneva in 1560, David Martin's Bible in 1707, and Ostervald's Bible in 1744.
The latest made a surprising comeback in the late XXth Century. Some fundamentalists, certainly influenced by the King James Only movement, began saying that all Bibles not translated from the Textus Receptus were corrupt, and they decided to republish some old translations. An update/revision of Ostervald's Bible was released in 1996, and I did in fact own one at one point.
- Bible de Port-Royal (also known as Lemaître de Sacy)
The first Catholic translation to have a real impact. Finished in 1696, mostly based on the Vulgate. Traditional order, with the Deuterocanonical books included in their logical place. YHWH is rendered as "le Seigneur" (the Lord).
Port-Royal was a place where many intellectuals gathered, notably Blaise Pascal. This Bible was an occasion to apply their theories about the French language.
Some people say it's the most beautiful version of the Bible in French. Personally, I find it a bit too watered down and euphemistic. Besides, I find a bit jarring that everyone uses "vous" when speaking to each other. When talking to God, sure, why not. But parents talking to their children?? This decision was controversial even at the time; in most translations of the Bible, everyone always uses "tu" (as does the KJV with "thou", actually).
- Bible de Jérusalem
Well, I've already talked very much about it. Catholic, traditional order, includes the Deuterocanonical books, uses "Yahvé", faithful yet well-written (if a bit flowery and bombastic at times). Interestingly, it adds subtitles and breaks in places that sometimes differ from the traditional chapters (after all, they were only established in the 13th century, and are far from perfect).
- Louis Segond and revisions
The most widely-used Bible by French-speaking Protestants. Louis Segond released his first edition in 1880, the first French translation based on a critical edition of the New Testament. It only includes the Protestant canon, and YHWH is "l'Éternel". It's supposed to be very faithful to the original texts.
There have been several revisions, the first one in 1910 (probably the most common version). Two in the 1970's, one known as the "Edition de Genève" (it's the one I have), another as the "Bible à la Colombe".
The latest one, released in 2002, is the Nouvelle Bible Segond; supposedly, it's even more faithful to the original texts, though for what I've read, I find the prose a bit kludgy and unwieldy. This one actually switched to "le Seigneur" for YHWH.
Another version is "Segond 21", released in 2007. It's written in a simplified style, more adapted for a younger public or non-native speakers. It's sold at a very affordable price (about 2 euros). Actually, that was the first Bible I bought, but I found it unsatisfying and ended up selling it.
I also talked about it before. This is a Jewish translation, in the Jewish order, though it does include the Deuterocanonical books and the New Testament. The aim was to get as close to the original as humanly possible, even if it ends up completely weird.
Unlike other Bibles, all names are transcribed from Hebrew, so it's "Moshé", "Ieroushalaïm" and "Yeshoua" instead of "Moïse", "Jérusalem" and "Jésus". YHWH is "IHVH" with "Adonaï" overlaid on top. This is supposed to reflect the Hebrew text (which has the consonants "YHWH" with the vowels of "Adonai", since that's what you're actually supposed to be saying).
It gets well into crackpot territory for the New Testament: the author tried to reconstruct an Aramaic original, and translated that into French. I keep it around as a curiosity, but I may very well end up selling it.
Some Bibles that I haven't closely looked at, but that I find intriguing.
- Bible du Rabbinat
The first published Jewish translation, first released in 1906. Includes only the Tanakh, in the Jewish order of course. Actually follows the Protestant tradition of translating YHWH as "l'Éternel". A very important release for French Jews, though apart from that, it's apparently not a particularly great translation.
- Traduction œcuménique de la Bible (TOB)
Well, exactly what it says on the tin. This one was made by a team including Catholic, Protestant, and even Orthodox scholars, to make a translation that would be acceptable for all (Jewish scholars were apparently invited but declined). It actually uses the Jewish order, with the Deuterocanonical books separately. The latest edition also added some books only found in Orthodox Bibles: 3 and 4 Esdras, 3 and 4 Maccabees, the Prayer of Manasseh; it's actually the first time these texts have been translated into French in a widely-released book. YHWH becomes "le SEIGNEUR" as the least controversial choice.
- Nouvelle traduction Bayard
This "new translation" caused some controversy back in 2001. It's a cooperation between translators and writers, some of them non-believers, in a deliberate attempt to make the text "new" and more relevant to the current world. Includes the Deuterocanonical books. YHWH is kept as "YHWH". Honestly, what I've seen of it seems a bit too weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird.
- Traduction officielle liturgique
This recent translation (2013) has been specifically made to be used in Catholic Mass. It's optimized for public reading, avoiding convoluted grammar and possible homophony. If I was a practicing Catholic, I would certainly get one, since it would be the one I'd hear during Mass.
Traditional order with the Deuterocanonical books, of course (we are talking about the Catholic Church). YHWH is "le Seigneur".