The Ark

How to choose a Bible

Unless you are fasting, the chances are you are going to buy a meal today. Just as important is to feed on God , as Jesus said:

Matt 4:4 Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." HCSB

So if you are going to maintain spiritual health, you need a Bible – but it isn't that easy is it? There are so many versions! This article is aimed to help you select a new Bible.

Choosing a version

The Bible was not written in English! It has to be translated from the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). As our language evolves, we improve translations of the Bible by expressing the truth in a way we can understand. Most quality versions are translated by many scholars from multiple denominational church backgrounds. We live in Elizabethan England, but the difference in the meaning of words from the days of Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II is quite a lot!

Translation labels

Solomon said:

Eccl 12:12 Of making many books there is no end NIV

- and of making Bibles it would seem there is also no end. After quoting this verse there are the initials NIV which stand for New International Version. This is the way most Bibles are referred to so that the reader knows which one is being quoted from. So what is the difference between an NIV, NKJV, NASB, CSB or KFC? (Actually KFC isn't really a Bible version – but I'll have fries with mine!)

How the Bible is translated

Bible translation from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek is always difficult – the translator has to strike a balance between literal word for word rendering and trying to express the thought behind the word. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11v 30 Paul talks about those who have not judged themselves at the Lord's table having fallen asleep (NIV or NKJV). This doesn't mean that they dozed off, but rather that they were dead. The Message says that they "have gone to an early grave". The difficulty for a translator is that no where in the original language does it mention 'grave', or even 'dead'. The original word means to fall asleep, but the connotation of that word in the day it was written was that it meant death. You might think that it is always better to translate according to the thought than the literal. However, some parts of the Bible have a deliberate double meaning or can only be fully understood with the literal word. Metaphor and idiom shift in meaning through the years. So, a balance has to be drawn.

The NIV has had a pretty good balance, and some would say that the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) is a little more academic so it is better. Others would argue that The Message, which is all about the thought rather than the literal translation, is easier to read. There is no such thing as a literal translation - the nearest thing to that would be what we call an 'interlinear' - greek on one line and english underneath. The problem with an interlinear is that it is very hard to read! For this reason there is no such thing as 'the best translation'. On this page are a number that we recommend - why not have a good look and pick one to read. New in 2003 from Holman was the HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) which is gaining a lot of popularity. Another excellent verison the New English Translation (NET) was launched initially on the internet in 2005, but can also be purchased in a hard copy now. The fact is that there is room for many versions.

Factors to consider when picking a version:

Do I find this easy to read? (the style of some versions can be preffered) What version is read aloud in my local church? (it may help to be able to read along) Is it time for a change? (There is nothing better for stimulating a new Bible reading programme than a new version to try it with) Is it for daily readings or is it for serious study? (This may affect your choice considerably) The main popular versions in the UK are: New International Version – most popular version. Totally updated and much improved in 2011 - only buy an NIV which says (c)2011 inside. New King James Version – a revision of the old King James Version, and therefore not strictly a fresh translation. This is based on the popular King James Version which when it was translated did not have access to the oldest and most reliable originals. New Revised Standard Version - recommended by most Bible schools as the definitive scholarly edition New Living Translation – very readable and a good choice for your first bible. New Century Version – aimed at lower reading ages, so very readable by all. Ideal if you struggle with books. The Message – not literal, very thought focussed. This is a true translation, a fun read and a good second Bible – but not recommended as your only version. Other versions we would particularly draw your attention to are: Holman Christian Standard Bible – very new and refreshing New English Translation - downloadable free and comes with translators notes But there are a lot more!

Text Comparisons

Packed with features! Today there are many more features in Bibles that you may want to consider when choosing what is right for you. For example the following features are often seen: Concordance – an index to help you find a verse in the bible if you can remember a single word from it. A concordance at the back of your Bible is going to be 'thin' and may miss out far more than it includes. A seperate concordance (e.g. Strongs) is more useful. Study Notes – a study bible has a commentary built in – that is a set of study notes written by one person or a team of people. Study Notes may be denominationally or theologically biased and are not always dependable. Study Notes can be helpful, but shouldn't be considered to be infallible. Helps – extras like "where to find help in time of need" and maps can also be useful

Binding A paperback won't last long if you read it daily! A hardback is a good solution, but leather and other modern finishes are often the most hardwearing.

Typeface vs size Remember that a small bible will be easier to carry around – but the typeface may be more 'challenging'. Check that you like the size of the typeface as well as the size of the Bible.

Quick Summary Check out the version carefully for suitability Make sure you have the features, binding and size that you need too!

Steve has also shared a video exploring this:

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