Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What English Translation/Version of the Bible should I use?

This question was asked of me recently by one seeking to learn more about God and His word. 

If you were not aware, the Bible was originally written primarily in Hebrew and Greek. We live in an English speaking society, thus we are dependent upon the work of translators.

A quick google search for a "Bible Version Chart" will give one a basic understanding of the different versions and their philosophy of translation (some philosophies of translation are better than others for study).

When seeking out an English translation for personal study, I recommend a version that is accurate (preferably a word for word translation) and readable (preferably in modern English).

You have basically 3 different types of translations (In order from most accurate to least). 
  • 1. Word for Word
  • 2. Thought for Thought 
  • 3. Paraphrase. 
I only recommend "Word for Word" translations. "Thought for thought" and "paraphrased" Bibles are great for comparisons, but not for deep study of the Word. The most popular Bible in America is The New International Version. The NIV claims to strive for "a balance between word for word and thought for thought". Although a very popular translation, one would be better served using a "Word for Word" translation as their primary study Bible and save the others for casual or personal devotional type reading.

The most common "Word for Word" translations in use today are the King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Version (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). One would not be doing themselves a disservice in choosing any of these translations. 

Of the "Word for Word" translations available, the three I recommend (in this order) are: 
  • #1 The New American Standard Bible (NASB) (1995 Update). 
  • #2 The English Standard Version (ESV).
  • #3 The New King James Version (NKJV).
  • (These 3 versions successfully balance accuracy with readability).

Due to its older English, I do not usually recommend the King James Version to new Bible students and I have not spent enough time in the Holman Christian Standard Bible to offer a recommendation as of yet.

My primary study and preaching Bible is the New American Standard Bible, which I will often cross reference with the English Standard Version. - These versions are the ones I will usually give to a new Christian or recommend for a person to purchase (The New King James in a very close 3rd).

Side Note: I recommend that you also familiarize yourself with the many free electronic tools available today. You can download many great Bible apps for your smartphone (this way you can study wherever you go). I have an ESV app on my iPhone by Crossway publishers that is free and very easy to use. There are many other apps that contain multiple versions.  When on my computer I will often use www.bible.cc or blueletterbible.org. These sites are free and contain all of the common English versions plus dictionaries and more.

Remember the best Bible is the one you read! Spend time in the Word of God... it will change your life.