Monday, September 22, 2014

P1 - What to look for when picking a Bible

2 Timothy 2:15 "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."

Choosing the Right Bible is important for your Christian growth
Years ago I had worked for a Bible bookstore and was amazed at the wide variety of Bible translations and versions that were available.  Choosing a Bible is a major part of growing in the Christian faith, since Christian growth and stability cannot be done without the scriptures. (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17)

3 general types of Bibles
When categorizing the way in which Bibles are translated from the Hebrew/Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) into English, three general categories are helpful in classifying Bible Translations and Versions:

a. Literal Translations (word for word faithful to the Original Languages, good for Bible Study)
This first grouping prioritizes faithfulness to the style and wording of the original language.  Preachers, Bible teachers and those who study the Bible regularly prize these versions for helping them get as close to the underlying Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek as much as possible.  The top four translations in this category tend to be the King James Version (KJV); the New King James Version (NKJV); the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the English Standard Version (ESV).

b. Readable Translations (Good for regular Bible reading, devotions)
This second type of Bible translation aims more at being readable than corresponding to every word to the original Hebrew or Greek.  Thus if I were using this approach to Bible translation, I may take a sentence in the original that 10 words along and summarize it into 6 or 7 words to increase the understandability of the passage.  For everyday Bible reading or devotional reading, Bibles such as the New International Version (NIV) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) are the best examples of this category.

c. Paraphrases (Good for getting a summary or commentary on a verse)
This last category refers to those versions which function more like a commentary than a translation.  If the literal versions focus on the author's wording, and the second category aims more at the reader, then this final group emphasizes the interpretation given by the actual translator.  Bibles such as The Living Bible (TLB), Today's English Version (TEV) and the New Living Translation (NLT) are the best examples of those Bibles that are more on the paraphrase side.  Reading these alongside the first two categories can be sometimes helpful in gaining a clearer understanding of the text.

The Best Version is the One that Will help you grow in Christ
Using a literal translation as your primary Bible, along with a readable translation and a paraphrase as your secondary Bible is a suggested way to ensure you have all the bases covered in your understanding of the scriptures.  Each type will get you to study the Bible, read the Bible and have a clearer understanding.  

Sometimes reading a familiar passage like Psalm 23 or John 3 in each version helps in the choosing process.  Another rule of thumb to follow when choosing a translation is to find out what version your church uses in their services. Noting what Bible version your pastor preaches or what the congregation reads together in the worship service helps in your overall Christian growth with the body of Christ.   As a final note, if you desire to memorize Bible verses, using one of the more literal versions is the best approach, since the emphasis is on the translation corresponding to the original wording.  

With those categories defined, we can begin to look closer at determining what to look for when picking a Bible.  Tomorrow we will look at various features found in today's Bibles as a means in helping you choose your Bible. 

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