How to Select a Bible

by Susan Treat

Do you have a preferred translation?

Bible translations can be thought of as being on a spectrum. On one end there are word-for-word translations like King James (KJV), New King James (NKJV), English Standard (ESV), New Revised Standard (NRSV), Amplified (AMP), among others. The scholars teams attempted to translate each word based on word usage. Some words don’t always translate exactly from one language to another, so much careful research and debate is involved.

Balanced versions use both word for word and thought for thought to translate. They include the New International (NIV), God’s Word (GW), Holman Christian Standard (BCSB), and Common English (CEB), among others.

Thought-for-thought versions attempt to convey the meaning of the text by verse rather than by the meaning of each word. This group includes The Good New (GNT), New Century (NCV), Contemporary English (CEV), New Int’l Readers (NIrV), and New Living (NLT).

The other end of the spectrum is Paraphrase. This version restates the meaning of the chapter or verse in modern language to give you the “gist” of the story. The category was made popular by The Message (MSG). Pro tip! Try reading your favorite chapter or verse in several different versions to find the one that is most clear for you.

How will I be using this Bible?

Consider how the Bible will be used. If you need is to prepare for a class, a Study Bible with lots of notes, references, maps and concordance would be a good choice. If size or weight is a concern, a Thinline, Travel, Compact, or Pocket Bible, which gives you the text and a few select references. If you are looking for personal devotion and reflection, a wide-margin, single-column, chronological, prayer, or Lectio Divina Bible may work.

What features would make using the Bible easier?

Features like thumb indexing, red letter, large print, illustrations, and timelines can all help you navigate your Bible usage and make the text clearer. Each translation offers a plethora of options.

Just remember, the best Bible is the one you actually use!

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