“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Obviously, a Christian must have a Bible, the Holy Word of God, the Scripture. We are called to read and study this Word daily.
It is among the most important things you can do, perhaps THE most important thing. As newly reborn (born again) beings, our spirit is actually now fed by the Word of God, as it is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Friend, that is literally true!
Just like your fleshly body needs food to live, your new spirit needs the Word of God fed to it to live. If you do not read, study, and meditate on the Word every single day, you will drift away from Christ, back towards this world and sin – towards spiritual death again.
In this section I cover some of the considerations in choosing your first bible. There are many different kinds of Bibles, along with a myriad of translations available. It’s like navigating a maze. I once again focus on what has worked best for me, as that’s really the only advice I’m qualified to give you.
Bible Types. Let’s cover the easy part first: which type of Bible to get. There are a few types of Bibles, let’s go over them briefly. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive but it’s pretty complete:
- Compact (easy to carry) Bibles
- Regular (for lack of a better word) Bibles
- Study Bibles
- Life Application Study Bibles
- Journaling Bibles
- Specialty Bibles (e.g. women’s, men’s, teen, prophecy, recovery, etc., etc., etc.…)
For your first and main bible, it is by far best to get a study bible of some kind, which has commentary/notes in it to help you understand it, along with helping you understand how it can be applied in your life.
I’ve found that the Life Application Study Bible has been by far the best for me. While it’s a bit bigger to carry than some of the others, the study notes with each verse helped me figure out how the verse(s) apply in my life. They help make the Bible more “common sense” in how to apply it. When starting out as a new born-again Christian, it really is very helpful to have commentary along with the verses.
The difference between a “Life Application” study bible, and a regular study bible is that the life application notes help you see how the bible can be applied in your daily life. The study bibles proper help you understand scripture to scripture references at a deeper level. For me, I needed to know how to use the scripture in my own life to start with.
If you want, get a second compact or regular bible to take with you while traveling, etc.…but for the first year or two, it would be highly profitable to spend your time mainly using a study bible. Don’t be afraid to get it all marked up and worn…bibles like that kind of treatment!
I’m making these suggestions based on adults, with reasonable reading skills, not for kids, teens, those with learning disabilities, etc., …as I don’t have any experience with those areas personally.
These bibles are available today usually in both print and electronic versions that you can take along with you on your phone or tablet. It’s amazing to be able to have both; in fact, on my phone and tablet I have about 15 different translations all easy accessible, wherever I go!
Bible Translations/Versions. Now we’ll tackle the hardest part: which translation to read. I’m only covering English language bibles here. There are many to choose from, with new ones seemingly being added every day. There are many heated opinions on why one translation is better than another, or that one is “the only one” to use (see the “KJV Only” false teaching).
In fact, this subject perhaps causes more “debate” among Christians than almost any other topic around (except baptism of course). Once again, I’m simply going to go with what I think works best.
Below is a list of the translations that you will probably be able to choose from (in alphabetical order). In my opinion, the translations marked in bold are worthy of serious consideration for today’s Christian:
- 21st Century King James Version (KJ21)
- American Standard Version (ASV)
- Amplified Bible (AMP)
- Bible in Basic English (BBE)
- Bishops’ Bible
- Common English Bible (CEB)
- Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
- Contemporary English Version (CEV)
- Douay-Rheims Version (DRV)
- Easy-To-Read Version (ERV)
- English Standard Version (ESV)
- Geneva Bible
- God’s Word Translation (GW)
- Good News Bible (GNB) / Today’s English Version (TEV)
- Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
- Jerusalem Bible (JB)
- King James Version (KJV)
- Modern English Version (MEV)
- Modern King James Version (MKJV)
- New American Bible (NAB)
- New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- New Century Version (NCV)
- New English Bible (NEB)
- New English Translation (NET)
- New International Readers Version (NIrV)
- New International Version (NIV)
- New King James Version (NKJV)
- New Living Translation (NLT)
- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- Open Bible
- Revised English Bible (REB)
- Revised Standard Version (RSV)
- The Living Bible (TLB)
- The Message (MSG)
- Today’s New International Version (TNIV)
- Tyndale Bible
- World English Bible (WEB)
- Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)
Wow, that’s quite a list! So once again, with the caveat that this is one of the most hotly debated topics in all of Christianity, I’m simply going to give my opinion based on what I’ve found to be true for me.
But before I do, I must also mention the “KJV Only” false teaching a bit here, which is shouted at you in the loudest way possible, in order to scare you. They claim that the 1611 KJV Bible is the only correct and inerrant English Bible translation (ever)! Friends, this is complete nonsense; furthermore, even the mighty KJV translation itself has some issues of its own where the translators made some unfortunate choices (all translations involve choices by the translators). And what about our friends who use Spanish, Chinese, French or Inuit languages? This false teaching is covered more in the Wolves Chapter. So, while the KJV Bible is certainly a good and regal one (one of the better ones in fact), please keep reading to find out the best approach to studying the Bible.
Translation Types. The final point is that there are three basic styles for (types of) translation:
- Literal which attempts to keep a word for word translation (e.g. KJV, NKJV, NASB)
- Dynamic Equivalence Translations (thought-for-thought) (e.g. NIV), and
- Paraphrase translations (e.g. NLT). Anytime you are dealing with a paraphrase translation, you are now reading what the interpretors “thought” the verse was saying; this is wide open therefore to abuse (even unintentionally) and man’s insertion of his opinions and particular theology. Be very careful of these. Because of this I do not recommend this type as your main bible.
The majority opinion seems to be, and I agree with it, that the literal translations produce the most accurate results. I do think it’s best to have a literal Bible as your main study bible.
The NLT in particular starts to take great liberties with what the translators “thought” the bible was trying to say and restating it from scratch. This of course introduces also opens the door wide for man’s agenda to be inserted into the Word, instead of God’s; sometimes you are reading the translator’s theology, not God’s Word.
Recommendation. I bolded the translations in the list above which I’ve found to be best. And here’s my advice: I strongly recommend that any diligent studier of Scripture (which all Christians should be) always have (and read) at least 5 different translations and sometimes up to 10 translations and compare them side by side.
I’ve found that you need to do this to get the most accurate understanding of any verse. This helps greatly to weed out any particular idiosyncrasies or poor translation/word choices made by any one translation. By comparing multiple translations at the same time, you can see if the different translations give you another flavor of the verse. You can also see if the divinity of God, the Trinity, or Jesus has been diminished in any of the translations, which is by far the greatest concern.
This comparison process is made much easier today with the help of technology and digital Bibles, where multiple translations can be displayed side by side very quickly and easily. I’ve found that I come away with a much better and fuller understanding God’s Word when I study in this manner.
Over time, you may decide therefore to favor one translation over another. There are also parallel bibles which list translations side-by-side. So instead of sticking to one translation, being fluent and capable of using several is far and away the wisest choice.
1) On the Amplified Bible (AMP): I did not bold it because I do not think that should be your main bible (similar to the NLT), however if I’m struggling with a verse, or want to just hear “more words” about the verse, reading the AMP version can sometimes be helpful. However, I only regard the notes added to the AMP verses in the same way as I would study notes – they are the words of man, which may add some clarity, but they carry zero authority! (See 3 below also).
2) On the NIV: There is quite a lot of disagreement on this translation as to whether it is altered too much or not in the way of diluting the divinity of God. I personally don’t utilize it very often, if at all, except as one of many translation comparisons.
3) As a final note, when reading any bible, be careful of any of the words of man that have been added. These include things such as section/chapter headings, study notes and words added inline to verses (in the case of the AMP bible above). These words just represent the opinions of the men/publishers that have added them. I’ve found cases where they can be downright misleading or reflect a bias that the translator/translation team or publisher has. This is especially important in areas related to eschatology (end-times) verses or matters, as those areas are highly corrupted today. These words of man that have been added I’ve found tend to suggest the motives and desires of false teachings (see false teachings section later in this book). It is through these words where, once again, the opinions and particular theology of men or publishers can sneak into the bible unawares. See also the chapter on “Being a Berean.”
False Teaching(s) You Will Encounter:
- The “KJV Only” Bible Movement
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth. – Psalm 119:142
The sum of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. – Psalm 119:160
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. – John 17:17
However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. – Romans 10:16-17
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – John 8:31-32