Reading, studying and memorizing Scripture is essential to every Christian life. Jesus compares the impact reading the Bible has on your spiritual life to the impact eating food and drinking water has on your physical life. You simply can’t have a healthy spiritual life if you don’t read the Bible.
But there are a lot of Bibles out there. Some of them are easier to read than others. And some of them are more accurate than others. With so many options available, how do you know which one to choose?
Here’s how to pick a Bible translation.
#1 Understand The Reason For Translations
You probably already know this, but the Bible was not written in English.
The Bible is a collection of books written by about 40 different people over a period of time that spans 1400 years.
One of the things that makes the Bible so remarkable is that it was written by so many individuals over such a great length of time, and yet its message is still perfectly consistent. There is no other book like that!
The Bible was written primarily in Hebrew and Greek but some portions of it were written in Aramaic.
We have English translations of the Bible because the Bible wasn’t written in English. So, unless you are well versed in ancient languages, you need a translation of the Scriptures.
#2 Understand The Purpose of Translations
However, not all translations are created equal because not all translations have the same purpose.
Some translations are written for accuracy. The primary purpose being to maintain the integrity of the original language as much as possible.
Other translations are written for clarity. The primary purpose being to put the Bible in common, everyday language.
There are pros and cons to both types.
Translations that come in common language are easier to read. But you sometimes sacrifice accuracy. Translations that stick closely to the original language better preserve God’s word as it was originally written. But they can also be more difficult to read.
Here’s some good news: you don’t have to choose between translations that are more understandable and translations that are more accurate. There is one translation that is both easy to read and true to the original languages.
More on that later.
#3 Understand The Variety of Translations
When it comes to choosing a Bible translation, there are basically three categories to choose from.
Word for Word Translations
Word for word translations do their best to translate the original language into English with the highest precision and accuracy. The goal is to be as faithful to the original text as possible.
Examples of word for word translations would be the English Standard Version, which I used for a long time, the New American Standard Bible, which is favored by many seminary institutions, and the King James Version, which stands in a class of its own.
Thought for Thought Translations
Thought for thought Translations aren’t as concerned with translating the original language word for word as they are expressing the meaning of each thought and sentence into modern day English. The goal isn’t necessarily to reproduce the original text in English, but to accurately translate the meaning of the text into English.
These translations are often easier to read than word for word translations.
Probably the best example of this type of translation would be the New International Version, which many churches used for a very long time. Another example would be the New Living Translation.
Unlike word for word translations and thought for thought translations, paraphrase translations have a different purpose all together.
Paraphrase translations aim primarily to present the Scriptures in the simplest, clearest terms possible. Because of this, there is often times a lot of interpretive work imposed on the text.
But this is not always a bad thing. And paraphrase translations can be very helpful. Especially for teenagers and people who are brand new to the Bible or Christianity in general.
Examples of paraphrase translations would be the Good News Translation, The Living Bibe, and Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible.
My Favorite Bible Translations
I frequently use Bibles in each category. And I have my favorites.
In the word for word category, my favorite is the English Standard Version. I used this Bible for a long time. It is easier to read than the King James Version, but still maintains the integrity of the original language.
An added bonus to using this translation is that Crossway, who publishes the ESV Bible, produces some beautiful Bibles.
In the thought for thought category, I prefer the New Living Translation. It is easily accessible to any person young or old, whether you are new to the faith or a long time follower of Christ.
My favorite paraphrase translation is the Good News Translation. I frequently cross reference this version in my studies.
The Best of Both Worlds
But if you are looking for a translation that leans toward the word for word category but remains easy to understand, my favorite Bible is the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
I personally read this Bible on a regular basis. I preach from this Bible every week. And I haven’t found a better translation than this because it reads both literally and easily. It’s a fantastic translation, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
Holman has recently revamped the HCSB and will release the newest version, which they are calling the Christian Standard Bible, this March. Visit their website for more details.
Question: What translation do you use? Join the conversation clicking here.