Choosing a Bible

If you are wondering what version of the Bible to use this year, we have some suggestions.

Walking into a bookstore, especially a Christian bookstore, to buy a Bible can be daunting. You may be tempted to abandon the entire project. There are an unbelievable number of Bibles to choose from. There are different translations, different versions, and different formats. There are red letter and green letter versions, versions for moms, for teens, for men, and for soldiers. There are versions for every demographic you could possible sell a Bible to. Aisle upon aisle of Bibles are enough to overwhelm anyone. If you feel like throwing your hands up in despair when faced with all these choices, we don’t blame you.

Here’s what we would suggest. Just a few things…

Get a translation rather than a paraphrase. While many are quite fond of The Message, ( and rightly so) if you are serious about reading the Bible you need to use a translation. If you are thinking about using your confirmation Bible from years ago, you should consider getting a new translation. Scholarship in the Biblical languages and about ancient texts has been quite fruitful. The new translations we have available today are greatly improved over earlier versions.

Which translation? We would suggest the New Revised Standard Version, (NRSV). It’s the choice of most mainline Christian scholars and seminaries. The New International Version (NIV) has its fans and is a suitable choice also. Both translations were carefully done by teams of Bible scholars. As a rule of thumb, when translation issues came up, as they are bound to do, the NIV scholars take a more theologically conservative approach and the NRSV scholars take a more mainline approach. While scholars and others worry and debate about which of the two is better, for the average reader the differences between them aren’t that significant. You might want to spend some time comparing passages between them.  There are many other English translations but the NRSV and the NIV are arguably the top two.

We also suggest you get a study Bible. These are different from gift Bibles or devotional Bibles. Study Bibles have articles written by Bible scholars for non scholar readers. These articles will help you understand the history, archeology, and culture of the biblical era. There will be articles that explain how the Bible is organized. There will be introductions to the different books of the Bible to help you better understand what you are reading. In addition, study Bibles have footnotes and explanatory notes in the text. Take a careful look at the New Oxford Anotated Study Bible, the HarperCollins Study Bible and the New Interpreter’s Study Bible. Zondervan publishes a study version of the NIV


1 thought on “Choosing a Bible”

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