We are privileged today to be able to choose which version of the Bible we read and to be able to have more than one. There are dozens of Bible translations. The King James, the New King James, the English Standard Version, the New International Version, the New American Standard, the New Living Translation, and many others.
Each version has good and not so good points. Some versions are published by their own denomination to fit their teachings whereas others are mainstream and available in bookshops. Some Bibles are very easy to read and some follow traditional text which can be confusing to read.
When looking for a Bible you need to consider which translation suits you best, or if you are able, whether you should buy more than one type. What are the ‘types’ we hear you ask?
The three main types are:
- Formal equivalence – literal and word for word (ie. King James Version, English Standard Version)
- Dynamic equivalence – thought for thought (ie. New International Version)
- Paraphrase – some interpretation involved (ie. The Living Bible, The Message)
Not only is there the version to consider, you will also need to think about the format of your Bible. Some have wide margins around the text giving you space to make your own notes. Some have cross references, usually in the middle of each page or at the bottom of the page, which link verses in the chapter you are reading to other books in the Bible to help you in your study. Some Bibles have maps and charts in along with a concordance which will help you to find key words in a study.
What we would suggest from personal experience is to consider buying one main Bible that you use for reading and making notes in, as well as at least one other version to compare and contrast when you encounter difficulties.
Talk to your friends – discuss with them what they use and why they feel it’s for them. You could ask to borrow from the selection they have in order to compare the difference – open them all up at one particular verse and see how the text translates them then pick which feels most comfortable for you.
However, the most popular translations are not always the best translation. For example, the Living Bible, the Message, or the Amplified Bible are very popular today but they tend to paraphrase a bit too much. This leaves too much room for the compiler’s personal interpretation and the Bible is not for private interpretation – 2 Peter 1:20 tells us that.
When authors try to translate the Bible into the modern day vernacular, they sometimes take too much license in the wording and as has been said: Take text out of context and it makes it a pretext. They may be the most popular, but that does not mean they are the most accurate. It is important to understand that every translation is going to water down the original. This is especially true when we start talking about “contemporary” language. Greek and Hebrew are ancient languages with grammatical systems quite different from modern English. The watering down that occurs from using plain-spoken normal English is necessary to make the text accessible to us today.
If you are interested in reading the Bible but simply don’t know where to start, we offer a simple Bible reading plan on this website to get you started with questions to think about while you’re reading. It is important that we do read the Bible and therefore essential that you find a version that you are comfortable with.
At the end of each blog post there is a comments box. Please feel free to ask questions in there, or leave feedback for us. We are here to study Gods word together.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
(Psalm 119:105 English Standard Version)