Which Bible is the best one to use? Great question! It’s almost as challenging as ordering a specialty drink at Starbucks. Longtime customers rattle off their beverage with ease, “I’ll take a half-caf, skim, non-foam latte. Venti.” When I face the barista, I can barely manage “One medium mocha, please.”
Discussion of the best Bible version is often one of the first questions I receive when leading a new Bible Study. My response is a definitive, “It depends.”
Whether gazing at the shelves of a Christian bookstore or scrolling through an online store, the options seem limitless. Versions multiply annually. All seek to provide an accurate resource of God’s word. Translations vary, however, and new resources are added throughout the pages.
How to Choose A Bible
1) What translation do you prefer?
You will need to decide which translation is best for you. Editorial boards translate the Scripture into English through a continuum of methods. At the far left of the spectrum is word-for-word translation. At the far right of the spectrum are the paraphrased, thought-for-thought translations. In between is a blend created to be true to the original language usage but also easily understood by the present-day reader.
Confusion mounts when a favorite translation is updated. The first edition is not more sacred than the new one. Versions need to be updated for various reasons. Sometimes the words of the original language (Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek) become better understood; other times the English-translated words have changed meaning.
Language is a funny thing. It is dynamic. Even meticulously translated words today may evolve to mean something very different in the next decade. Google’s Ngram is a fun look at the change in word usage over the past 200 years. The word “tool” used to mean the instrument that I use in the garden. Now it also means “ ” according to Dictionary.com.
Furthermore, new words are added to the dictionary every year. Last year Miriam-Webster added 1,900 words! Did you know that “jegging” is now in the dictionary? Yes, the tight-fitting jeans made of stretchable fabric is an official English word (by the way, the proper use is usually plural).
Christian Book Distributors offers an excellent look at the plethora of translation options. You can easily compare and browse translations as well as read overviews of various editorial board’s philosophy of translation.
2) What additional resources do you want?
The number of types of Bibles grows every year. New editions add notes, indexes, maps, devotionals, and special sections on a wide range of subjects. Study Bibles, for example, provide scholarly insights in lengthy footnotes and sidebar cross-references. The most popular is the NIV Study Bible. Devotional Bibles, on the other hand, blend daily or weekly meditations and life application as text boxes throughout the biblical texts. Women’s devotional Bibles are one of many age and gender specific options.
Topical Bibles highlight specific issues throughout the pages. For example, are you a gardener? The God’s Word for Gardeners Bible includes botanical-themed pages with details about the plants noted in Scripture. This version also contains hundreds of devotionals and essays focused on the biblical metaphors of gardens and gardening.
Not all types of Bibles come in all translations. So if you love the Poverty and Justice Bible, for example, you’ll need to be okay with the Contemporary English Version (CEV). This is a new translation for me but I love how the editors highlighted verses about God’s passion for the poor and included informed essays about social justice topics. The CEV is more of a thought-for-thought translation so it compliments the more literal versions that I typically use.
3) What size Bible?
Again, publishing houses provide a plethora of options. The large-print Bibles and study Bibles are the largest and the heaviest. The trimline Bibles are the smallest. They are great if you carry your Bible outside the house. The best Bible I have found for extensive travel, however, is the indestructible and compact metal Bible!
For You to Choose
It’s your turn. If you need a Bible, look around at the options. What translation is most used at your church? Ask friends about the Bible that they have. Be aware, though, that some people are quite passionate about the translation that they use. Decide what works best for you. The Bible Study Toolkit (free eCourse) offers an entire lesson focused on this topic.
What Bible do you currently use? Please share in the comments below! It would be so helpful for people searching for the best Bible for their own study and use.
Posted by Sharon R Hoover