Best Bible Translation
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One of the most common questions that we are asked is about what bible someone should buy. In all honesty, that is a great question. On the rare occasion that I am looking for a new bible for myself, I quickly become overwhelmed with all the different options that are out there. What version should I get, what size font do I want, do I want a study bible, what about a journaling bible and I could go on and on. The sheer number of bible options out there can make it overwhelming for someone who doesn’t fully understand what all these Bible versions mean. Well, today we are going to try to dig through the noise in order to help you understand what you should be looking for while you are trying to find yourself a perfect bible.
First, let’s look at a brief history of the Bible. I won’t bore you with all of the details about how the Bible was created and formed into the collection of books that we have today, but instead I want to focus on the different translations that are available. The original bible was written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Over time, members of the church translated those original writings into languages that were better understood for the reader. However, those translations were few, typically hand written and only used by a select few who had proper access to them. So, they were not publicly available for the average citizen to read. It wasn’t until the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany in 1455 that the idea of making the Bible available to the general public became a reality. Many of you may have heard of the Gutenberg Bible but only for what it was, the first printed bible. Gutenberg didn’t print many copies of his German version of the Bible due to the difficulty and the extensive amount of time it took to print each copy. However, from that point, the printing press spread and many books on various topics were made. Then, in 1525, William Tyndale printed the first version of the New Testament in the English language, but he never finished translating the Old Testament. It was Myles Coverdale in 1535 who finally printed the first complete bible in English. In 1609 the King James Version made its debut and then was revised and re-released in 1611, but that original version contained the fourteen non-canonical books which are known as the Apocrypha. Those fourteen books were not removed until 1885 leaving us with the KJV version that we know today. In 1901 the American Standard Version (ASV) was published and was the first major American revision of the KJV. In 1971 the New American Standard Bible (NASB) was published which is known as the most modern and accurate word for word English translation from the original Greek and Hebrew texts. In 1973 the New International Version (NIV) was published which is known as the most modern phrase for phrase version of the Bible. In 1982 the New King James Version (NKJV) was published which is a more modern interpretation of the KJV. From that point to the present day, more than a thousand bible versions have been translated and printed.
Next, I want to highlight the fact that there are two main ways for interpreting the Bible. The first is a word for word translation. This concept will take the original languages of the Bible and translate them as accurately as possible to our current language. Yes, we have always spoken English here in the United States, but that English language, like all languages, has changed and evolved over the years. You can see this by reading the KJV which uses an old, out of date version of English. Compare that to a modern day English Standard Version (ESV) and you can see a huge difference in the way the English language is used and how it reads.
The second method of interpretation is thought for thought or phrase for phrase. With this method, the interpreters won’t focus so much on the actual words, but what the original author was trying to say. These versions will have the same biblical principals as the word for word versions, but will read easier and smoother. Both versions are good and accurate versions to read, but your individual level of understanding, along with your motivation for reading, will determine which version is best for you.
Which Version of the Bible Should I Read?
The answer to this question, as hinted above, is that it depends on what you want from the Bible version you choose. If you want a Bible to read and understand with little studying involved, then I suggest a thought for thought Bible. However, if you are more interested in understanding what the original language was trying to say or if you want to do more in depth Bible studies then I would suggest a word for word version of the Bible. Here are my top three picks for a thought for thought Bible:
Here are my top picks for a word for word Bible:
Although I have given you my top choices for Bible versions, that isn’t going to be the end of your selection process. The next step in your decision process is deciding what you want to do with the Bible translation that you have selected. There are multiple types of Bibles for each translation. The most common, and the one I would recommend, is a study bible. A study Bible will have some brief commentaries, explanations, study notes and even maps to help you understand the text that you are reading even better. It is like a built in study aid to go along with the actual text. Every Bible translation has a version of a study Bible. If you are interested in a study Bible then you can go to christianbook.com to search for a study Bible in the translation that you have selected.
You also have the option of getting a Journaling Bible. These Bibles are typically in a single column with wide outer margins for you to journal and take notes directly in the Bible. If you are not sure what journaling is or are interested in learning more about journaling then you can see our article on “What is Bible Journaling?”
There are also Bibles that are directed for a particular audience. For example, you could get a Bible for men, women, teens or children. Each one will have notes and commentary that is directed for the particular audience chosen. There are also devotional Bibles for those who want to incorporate daily devotions in with their Bible reading. Then to add one more level to it, you can get Bibles in different font sizes or different physical dimensions. You could get anything from a small pocket sized Bible to a large, giant print Bible. There are more options than what I have already listed, but I think I have given you enough information to make an informed decision. I know there are a lot of options, and I don’t want to completely overwhelm you. The thing to remember is that the most important thing to look at is the translation. I personally have a “Every Man’s Bible” in NIV which I love, but have had for many years now. Though my Bible is still in good shape, my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. For that reason, no matter what translation of the Bible you choose, I would recommend getting a study Bible with at least a large print. However, the best version you could possibly get, is the one that you will actually read and spend time in. At the end of the day, that is the most important thing. To spend time in God’s Word.
If you are interested in learning more about the Bible then we suggest you check out Pure Faith Podcast. If you want to learn more about prayer then we suggest "What is Bible Journaling?", "PRAY Acronym", and "ACTS Prayer Model".