Which version of the Bible?

When one starts the study of scripture, we quickly realize there are many translations out there since the majority of studying scripture is not done in the original languages the various texts were written in. Because it is necessary for modern readers to use translations since few know Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, we must use a translation. Translations are then dependent upon the person translating there are two approaches to how translations are made. A translation tends to be formally equivalent where the final product stays “as close as possible to the structure and words of the source language”[1] and is often called “word-for-word.” The other method that tends to arise is the functionally equivalent method, which produces a “thought-for-thought” translation by expressing “the meaning of the original text in today’s language. Here the translator feels a responsibility to reproduce the meaning of the original text in English so that the effect on today’s reader is equivalent to the effect on the ancient reader.”[2] This then begs the question of what is the best way to study scripture since there are two vastly different approaches.


Some people will see the differences in interpretation making it necessary that for Christians who “can’t read Hebrew and Greek, then Christians should use at least 2 Bibles: one formal and one functional equivalent. That way they can see some of the nuances in the languages as understood by the translators.” This can be a great practice. For those that have time for it, using multiple translations, specifically one formal and one functional can be a great help in understanding what the Biblical writers were trying to get across. It is definitely good to get as much insight as possible into scripture so if you can use multiple sources it is definitely the best way to go.


However, since many believers are either too busy or don’t make the time to use multiple translations, so it often makes sense to have at least one to stick with. From everything we know of Bible translation, great care is typically taken for all translation processes, and while the language barriers can be difficult to overcome, there are several good versions that can be used. For a new believer, my recommendation is to use either a New King James Version or a New International Version since they tend to both have a good balance between thought for thought and literal interpretation. Ultimately my recommendation would be for the new believer to use one of those two versions regularly and if the pastor at the church they attend uses one of them primarily for teaching to use that version so they don’t have to constantly go back and forth between versions while listening to a sermon. My personal preference tends to be toward New King James Version now, but originally it was the New International Version and so many of my memory verses are in NIV still so I still end up using both translations depending on the situation. However I do also use other translations when doing studies in scripture to see point of emphasis and to see how others have translated the different parts of the Greek and Hebrew.

[1] Duvall, Scott & Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2005. 168

[2] Duvall, Scott & Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2005. 168

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