What’s the Best Bible Translation to Read?
Should they read the King James Version? The NIV? Or something else?
In this post, I’ll do my best to help anyone who has this question to figure out which Bible is the best one to read.
The best Bible translation to read is…
For starters, the best Bible translation is whichever one you’ll actually read. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says:
All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.
The Bible, as we see in these verses, is God’s very breath. It’s the breathing out of God and His speaking to man. As we read the Word, we not only touch God as the Spirit, but we also breathe in more of who He is.
Not only so, but as we read the Word, we’re “completed” and “equipped” for our service to Him. We breathe in more of God Himself, and we’re prepared and furnished with the tools we need to serve the Lord.
Thus, when deciding which Bible translation you should read, consider which one you will actually read. If you have an NIV Bible at home on your shelf, you don’t have to put off reading the Word because you’re afraid it’s not the best Bible translation out there. You can always pray to the Lord about difficult or confusing parts. The point is to make sure that you’re reading.
Every Christians goal should be to daily read God’s Word. In Acts 17:11, the apostle Paul said that those in Berea were noble “for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily.” We want to be this kind of a Christian. We want to be ones reading and examining the Scriptures daily.
So instead of worrying too much about which is the best Bible translation to read, we should focus on daily reading and praying over God’s word. However, there are some things that we need to know about different Bible translations.
#1: Make sure to read a Christian Bible
The first thing to do is to make sure you’re reading a Christian Bible. The Christian Bible spans from Genesis to Malachi in the Old Testament and Matthew to Revelation in the New Testament. It includes 66 books total, and in the very last chapter, Revelation 22:18-19 says:
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this scroll; and if anyone takes away from the words of the scroll of this prophecy, God will take away his part of the tree of life and out of the holy city, which are written in this scroll.
Thus, we cannot add to or take away from the Bible. The entire contents of God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation, comes from God and is divinely inspired. We can’t cut out verses, remove chapters, or add books. The Bible is God’s Word and His speaking to man, so we have to make sure that we’re reading His very word in the 66 books of the Bible.
But there are some “bibles” that add to or take away from God’s Word. They may add a book or two (or more), or they may alter key verses.
For example, the Jehovah’s Witness’s bible translates the last part of John 1:1 to say that “the word was a god” instead of saying “the Word was God.” This is grossly inaccurate. The full verse of John 1:1 should be translated this way:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Through this verse, we see that the Word who was with God in the beginning was also God Himself. This Word refers to Christ, who was in the beginning with God and who is God. A central item of the Christian faith is that God—not part of God and not another god, but the God—became the man named Jesus Christ so that He could save us.
Thus, it’s a gross misinterpretation to say that Christ is “a god.” He is not “a god;” He is “the God.” He is the eternal God incarnated to be a man. Hallelujah for such a wonderfully mysterious verse that describes our wonderfully mysterious Christ who was with God and who is God!
As you can see, we need to be careful to read a Christian Bible that includes all of the verses from Genesis to Revelation, that doesn’t remove or add any books, verses, or chapters, and that doesn’t misinterpret key verses and change the meaning. This is the first thing we need to know about which Bible translation to read.
#2: Some Bible translations are more accurate than others
The next thing we need to know is that some Bibles are translated more accurately than others. Yes, we can read whichever Christian Bible we have available to us, because as has been mentioned earlier, the main point is to read and to know God’s Word. So instead of not reading for a period of time because we don’t know if we have the perfect Bible translation, we should read and pray over whichever Bible is available to us. God’s Word is awesome and our lives will be changed by reading it.
Nevertheless, there are some versions that are more accurate than others. Some Bibles, for example, attempt to get a passage’s point across in colloquial language without translating the text literally, word for word or even phrase for phrase. Examples of this kind of paraphrase Bible include The Message and The Living Bible.
Other translations, like the Recovery Version and the English Standard Version, focus on translating the Bible word-by-word, producing a more literal translation. These types of translations stick as close as possible to the original language.
All of the Bible versions fall on a spectrum with paraphrase versions at one end and literal, or word-by-word, at the other. And the majority of versions fall somewhere in the middle, leaning one way or the other.
Of the versions available, the more literal translations are generally better for studying the Bible because they more accurately communicate what is written in the original language.
No translation is perfect, however, so it’s never a bad idea to keep several different Bible versions around for comparison. There are even some excellent sites online where you can compare English translations not only with one another, but also with the original languages.
How to respond
Now that you’ve learned that the main point is to read whichever Bible translation is available to you as long as it’s a Christian Bible, and that some translations are more accurate than others and better for reading and studying, how should you respond? Here are some practical ways:
- Take some time to daily read whatever Bible version is available to you and build up a life-long habit of reading God’s Word every day. By reading the Bible daily, you’ll be equipped and completed for your Christian life and allow God’s Word to dwell in your heart richly.
- Pray about which translation you should read. Since some translations are more accurate than others, ask the Lord which translation is the right one for you to read. When you genuinely open to the Lord and ask Him questions like this, He will lead you and guide you about which Bible is the best one for you to read.
- Collect different translations and compare them. Not only is it good to have a translation that we read daily, but it’s also good to have multiple translations for study and comparison. As you read and compare different translations, you’ll learn more about each one and figure out which is the best one for you to read regularly.
As you go through this process of searching for the best Bible translation to read, ask the Lord to guide you to the version that’s best for you. I’ve personally found the Recovery Version to be an excellent version that is both accurate and easy-to-read. It also includes footnotes and cross-references that help to guide the reader into a better understanding of the Scriptures and a deeper experience of Christ. If you’d like to give it a try, you can order a free copy of the Recovery Version Bible (New Testament only) from Bibles for America.
What’s your experience? Have you been wondering about which Bible version is the best one to read? Leave a comment to share your experience.
Photo Credit: agent_mikejohnson
About Joe Putnam
Hi. My name is Joe. I live in Irvine, CA, and I help with some of the technical aspects here at Holding to Truth. I also contribute posts from time to time. Please leave a comment to let us know what you enjoyed from this post. Thanks!