With more than 100 different Bible Translations out there to choose from, this can be one of the most challenging processes of your Christian lifestyle. However, it is arguably the most important. Without the Bible you will know very little about; The Gospel, Jesus Christ, God's will for your life, God's character, and how to test the spirits. Also, the Bible reveals our weaknesses, strengths, and flaws and how we can change to become more like the righteous people God wants His children to be. As a Hebrews Chapter 4, “For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).
Here we will discuss Study Bibles vs Reference Bibles and some of the best and most accurate translations to choose from and two of the major ones to completely stay away from!
Study Bibles and Reference Bibles
If you are Beginner, it is good idea to start out with a Study Bible. These are available in multiple different translations and they contain scholarly information designed to help the reader gain a better understanding of the Bible and the context of each passage. Furthermore, it is an excellent investment as it provides the full Word of God, historical backgrounds and context in the beginning of the Books of the Bible, explanatory notes, scholarly commentary, references, geographical maps, charts, illustrations, photos and sometimes even explanations of key doctrines.
While it is suggested to use these, please choose them wisely. Meaning, avoid Study Bibles by authors and editors who often project strong Personal Biases. The main point of this type of Bible is to give you general information to help you understand the text and not skewed information that can lead you to heretical information, false teachings or a narrow view of the Bible.
If you are more mature in your Christian walk, a Minister, Evangelist, Biblical Counselor or a Bible Studies teacher, a reference Bible might be a good choice for you. A Reference Bible contains footnotes which provide a list of other passages in the Bible that relate to the same event, issue or topic in the passage that you are reading or studying. In addition, most of them contain verse cross-references to display the interconnectedness of Scripture by revealing to the reader the way in which a particular verse may relate to other verses by word, subject, issue topic or quotation. A reference Bible is similar to a modern-day encyclopedia.
8 Major Suggested Bible Translations
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The New American Standard Bible was first published in the 1960s and is an excellent example of a formal (word-for-word) translation of the original Hebrew and Greek languages used in Bible to modern day English. This is a great Bible to use to gain an understanding of the word because it is very literal and as close to the original sentence structure as possible.
Amplified Bible (AMP)
The Amplified Bible takes both word meaning and context into account in order to accurately translate the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts to modern day English. The Amplified Bible accomplishes this by using explanatory alternate readings and amplifications to aid the reader in understanding what each passage of Scripture really says. Multiple English word equivalents to each key Hebrew, Greek and/or Aramaic words clarify and amplify meanings that are usually hidden by the traditional translation method.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The English Standard Version (ESV) is a literal translation of the Bible in contemporary English that was created by a team of more than 100 leading evangelical scholars and pastors. The ESV Bible has a high "word-for-word" accuracy, literary excellence, and depth of meaning.
Originally published in 2001, the ESV Bible is widely accepted and is used by church leaders, many denominations and organizations, and millions of individuals globally.
King James Version (KJV)
The KJV is a word-for-word (or formal equivalent) translation originally published in 1611 at the request of King James I of England. It has been frequently reprinted, and its spelling updated. Most copies today are slightly adapted from a 1769 edition. Since, many of the best and most ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of Bible books have been discovered starting 1850, the Hebrew and Greek translations in the KJV are not as accurate as compared to the NASB and ESV for instance. Furthermore, if you are using this Bible it is a good idea to read and study the KJV alongside another more recent translation because the English used in this translation is not the type of English that many of us use today and as a result could be very hard to understand.
New King James Version
The NKJV was first created in 1982 by Thomas Nelson Publishers and a team of 130 respected Bible scholars, church leaders, and lay Christians. This Bible is a modern translation that is an adaptation of the King James Version. According to Thomas Nelson, the translators used original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts and applied the most recent research in archaeology, linguistics, and textual studies to create this the NKJV.
Furthermore, the translators have also followed the principles of translation used in the original KJV, which is "complete equivalence" in contrast to "dynamic equivalence" or “thought-for-thought” used by many other modern translations.
Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
This is a 2017 update of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (2004), an original translation from Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Its scholars, most of whom are from conservative and evangelical church traditions, have aimed at a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation—as close to the original wording as possible while emphasizing clarity for modern English readers.
New International Version (NIV)
The NIV was originally published in 1978, and was strongly influenced by the tradition of the King James Version. Furthermore, revised in 1984 and 2011. It is a blend of form-based and meaning-based translation types. The NIV is one of the most popular English Bibles in use today. It is equally useful for individual study and public worship in most traditional and conservative denominations.
New Living Translation (NLT)
The NLT is a meaning-based translation in the tradition of the Living Bible (LB), a popular 1971 Bible paraphrased from English. The New Living Translation involved comparing the LB to the original-language texts, and then making changes so that the NLT is now a true translation. The NLT is a good translation to use with youth and adults who want to gain the meaning of the text in today's English Language.
Two Bible Translations That are Not Recommended
The Passion Translation (TPT)
The Passion Translation is a re-worded and re-written Bible that does not include all 66 books of the Bible and seems like it was written with an intent to support a particular type of theology. As written, The Passion Translation cannot even be categorized as a translation or a paraphrase of the Bible because no Hebrew, Aramaic, and/or Greek manuscripts were used, and it was written by an author based on his own interpretation of the text. Since this translation is; extremely biased, not even a paraphrase of any of the current widely used translations and there is a lack of evidence of the use of any Hebrew, Aramaic, and/or Greek, manuscripts, it is best to completely avoid this one altogether.
The Message Bible (MSG)
The Message Bible was first published in 2002 is a paraphrase that is loosely based on the original English interpretation of the Bible. In addition, the author himself has stated that his goal in creating The Message, in his own words, was to bring the New Testament to life for people who have not read the Bible because it seemed "too distant and irrelevant" and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become old news to them. This directly contracts what the Bible reveals to us in Hebrews Chapter 4, “For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). Based on all of this I would completely avoid this translation.
In summary, I hope this helped you in your quest to choose to an accurate translation of the Bible that you can use as you adhere to Joshua Chapter 1 verse 8 which states, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall read [and meditate on] it day and night, so that you may be careful to do [everything] in accordance with all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will be successful." Amen!