BY STEPHANIE K ADAMS
REAL WOMEN MINISTRIES
Whether you are a brand new christian or just find yourself looking for a new Bible, if you have been Bible shopping lately it’s most likely you are overwhelmed with the numerous choices.
There are two main reasons people search for a new Bible—either you don’t own a Bible or you own a Bible (or two, or three) but are frustrated because it’s hard to understand so you are hoping, with fingers crossed, to find something that makes Bible reading come alive for you.
There are so many choices that without really knowing what you are looking for it is all too easy to collect a large pile of Bibles, all gathering dust because they don’t fit your needs or are too hard to understand.
I’ll be the first to admit I have accumulated so many Bibles in the search for the one that is ‘perfect’ that it’s almost embarrassing.
What I’ve learned with each purchase is how to narrow down exactly what I was in search for and what would best suit my needs.
If you are looking to find the right Bible, I hope asking these questions will help you narrow down the right Bible for you.
WHAT IS MY GOAL?
The first question you want to ask yourself when it comes to purchasing a new Bible is:
“what is my goal?”
That may sound a little odd because obviously you’re looking for a Bible to read. But knowing your goal will play a significant part in the selection process.
Are you looking for an easy-to-read Bible for quiet time or do you want to study the Scriptures in more depth?
Are you looking for a way to incorporate your creative side while reading Scripture or do you need space to take notes?
Will you need a Bible that is easily portable for church, study groups, or teaching?
Answering these questions will help you decide which version and type of Bible is best to achieve your goals.
WHAT VERSION FITS ME BEST?
Each publisher of the various versions had a specific goal in mind when they commissioned their team to translate the original Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible.
Some publishers are focused on translating in a Word-for Word method that seeks to remain as true to the original texts as possible. Others seek to translate the original texts in more of a Thought-for-Thought method, helping to convey the meaning of the scriptures.
So which version is right for you?
If you are new to the Bible or just want to focus on reading, the Thought-for-Thought translations are usually easier to understand and are a good choice.
However, if you want to study the Bible more in-depth, the Word-for-Word translations are a good option.
Some of the most common versions of the Bible are listed below. You can find a helpful guide of these and other translations at Mardel:
New American Standard Bible (NASB) – This translation is a word-for-word translation and is good for studying. This is one of my favorites for Bible study lesson plans, devotional writings, and preparing for speaking engagements.
English Standard Version (ESV) – This is also a word-for-word translation and has a slightly easier reading level making it great for people of all ages. This one is great for reading comprehension and study.
Christian Standard Bible (CSB) – This translations takes a middle-ground balance between readability and literal translation. According to the CSB website, they follow “a translation philosophy called ‘optimal equivalence.’“
New Living Translation (NLT) – Also a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought. This version is often a good option for other children and young teens because it has a reading level of around 6th grade.
New King James Version (NKJV) – This version uses the King James Version as it’s foundation and seeks to use a modern word-for-word translation. This is popular with people who enjoy the poetic nature of the KJV, but prefers a slightly easier-to-read version.
King James Version (KJV) – This translation uses a word-for-word approach. It is widely used in many traditional churches. The reading level of the KJV is approximately 12 grade.
You can see how each of these fall within the spectrum of the word-for-word and thought-for-thought in this chart from Christian Book
Over time, as you become more familiar with the Bible, you will find reading from both types of translations of Bibles will help bring both reading comprehension and understanding of the Scriptures.
WHAT TYPE OF BIBLE DO I NEED?
Now that you have narrowed down what version(s) of the Bible will suit you best, you are faced with a few other options. For each translation you will find there are several types of Bibles.
Again, your answers to “What is my goal?” will help guide which type is best for you.
Bible – This is just a plain, regular Bible. It will not have anything fancy other than maybe a map or two in the back. It will contain the book, chapters, verses, and some may have red letter for the words of Jesus.
If you are looking for a simple solution to reading the Bible without extra information cluttering your view, this is a good option. Also, if you need an easy-to-carry Bible, these are usually thin and/or compact. I have two of these, ESV and NASB, for carrying in my purse for church/study groups or to use when I am speaking.
Study Bible – These are usually very thick and heavy but contain loads of information to help you study the Scriptures more in-depth. Typical features in a study Bible is information regarding the author of each book, the audience to whom it was written, historical facts around the time it was written, commentary notes (which is written by Bible scholars who have spent many years studying the Scriptures), maps, charts, cross-references to similar verses, and more.
If you are looking to move beyond just reading the Bible for comprehension and what to understand more about the Scriptures, a study Bible in the translation you understand best is a worthwhile investment.
Life Application Bible – Life application Bibles are often labeled as ‘study’ Bibles, but they tend to focus more on helping the reader apply the Scripture to their everyday life than diving deep into the meaning of the text.
This would be a good choice for daily Bible reading and prayer time or to help if you are putting together a group study lesson.
Devotional Bible – Devotional Bibles are usually written to a specific audience such as mothers, students, teens, couples, singles, etc. They contain a short devotionals or stories throughout the Bible that usually correspond with nearby context within the Scripture. These are great for daily reading time.
Journaling Bibles – These have become very popular in the past few years. They contain lots of margin space for writing notes or creating beautiful Bible art. Some journaling Bibles have lined margins and others do not. Other options are designated space on each page or blank pages spread throughout the Bible. These are great options for those who are creative.
MAKING THE FINAL DECISION
Hopefully, you have asked yourself these questions and now you are ready to narrow down your search to one, or maybe two, Bibles that are right for you.
As you visit the book store, remember you don’t have to search for perfection. No matter which version and type you choose, it’s all God’s Word. And with your faithfulness to seek Him through His Word, He will be faithful to speak through whichever one you choose.
- If you have recently been looking for a new Bible, did you find this information helpful?
- If you have used this information to help you decide which Bible to purchase, which did you choose and why?
- If you’ve had a favorite Bible for years, share with me what you love about it?
Ellen Chauvin says
I always tell my class that the best Bible/translation is one they will read daily! 🙂
Stephanie K. Adams says
That is absolutely correct, Ellen. If we don’t understand what we are reading we don’t get excited about reading and often give up.
I hope this guide will help others to get a version of the Bible that excites them and motivates them to read/study on a consistent basis.