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What’s the Best Bible Translation to Read?

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The best Bible translation to readMany people have a question about what Bible translation they should read. Whether they’re newly saved or have been saved for some time, they’re unsure about which Bible translation is the best.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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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!

26 Replies

  1. There’s also another category of translations I really like called “expanded” translations. The Amplified Bible and the Wuest New Testament fall into those categories. They really unlock some of the meaning that would be lost in translation. But I’ll just say that they’re TERRIBLE for sequential reading. Better for study like the literal category of translations.

    1. Hi Clark, I completely agree. The Amplified Bible can really help to bring out the meaning of certain verses.

  2. The question of which Bible version to use typically doesn’t come up until someone is semi-attached to a version they’re already using. A person’s first Bible is usually a gift and whichever version it is, it often becomes their standard. In my experience a lot of people take this subject very personally. To speak of deficiencies in their translation is tantamount to a personal challenge. So the best thing is to come at this objectively and try and understand the “why” behind different translations. Or, compare a few versions to get a general impression of how others understand a passage and then see where the version you prefer fits in. If it’s different, try to find out why. In my experience, a lot of people couldn’t really tell you why exactly they use a certain version.

    1. Joe Putnam

      It’s really true that people can become very attached to whatever version they’re used to reading. My hope is that this post will help some people to realize that it’s possible that there may be another version that’s better for them to read and study. In the beginning, it’s good to start by reading God’s Word, whatever that translation may be. Then, as you go on with the Lord, it’s good to pray about which translation to read and to study and to try new versions. Hopefully this post will help some people to be open about praying to the Lord regarding which translation is the best for them.

    2. yes, Kyle is right. As one who have grown up with my family in the Lord’s Recovery, I already get used to using the Recovery Version. Once a classmate asked me why I used such version, I can only say “because I think it’s the best”. But I did not exactly know how it became better. Thank you for pointing this out brother Joe!

  3. Besides the two differences you describe in #1 and #2, the other obvious difference is style of English. The language has changed over 400 years. If KJV does not appeal to you, get a version translated in the past 40 years in current English (not a revision of KJV), of which there are many.

    I agree that the main point is to READ at least a little day by day. In our first reading of the Bible we miss many details but get some idea of the main topics. It might not be until the fourth or seventh reading that minor differences between versions become significant in our reading although for study of particular passages, as Joe says, it is useful to compare several translations.

    1. Hi Don, thanks for bringing this up and great point. One of the benefits of reading a Bible such as the Recovery Version or the English Standard Version is that they both use modern language that’s much easier to read than the King James Version (especially the original). Some people like the older language because it seems important, but I prefer modern translations since they’re much easier to read and understand.

  4. Hutch

    Hi Joe,
    Really like your website and look forward to your future posts. I am always saddened to hear someone tell me, “I am KJO”. I heard this just recently from a dear brother who really loves the Lord, but as you know, KJO means “the King James ‘Bible” only”. The Lord is after the one new man, but the King James Bible refers to the one new man as the one new self. The verse is Ephesians 2:15, and if I may use the Recovery Version to quote the verse, it reads, “Abolishing in His flesh the law of the commandments in ordinances, that He might create the two in Himself into one new man, so making peace…”

    A new believer, or even a believer in the Lord of many years would certainly miss the significance of this revelation of the Lord’s heart’s desire of the one new man, who is Christ with all His believers by referring to the “one new self”. But this would be the problem with only reading the King James version.

    May the Lord richly bless the release of truth both here and everywhere for the sake of the building up of His Body in love and truth. Praise Him!

    In HIm,
    Hutch Gantz

  5. sharath

    Hi Joe,

    I have Heard that NIV has changed the meaning of many verses is it true ? for eg john 3:16 , Begotten word has been removed in the NIV and also 1 John 5:7 . Can you please tell me which one gives the actaul meaning , because i dont know greek and i dont know what the original bible says.

    Thanks
    Sharath
    India

    1. Tom Smith

      Hi Sharath, I’m responding on behalf of Joe at his request. I can sympathize with your concerns about finding an accurate translation of the original Greek. “Only begotten” in John 3:16 and 1 John 4:9 is the correct meaning. To respond to your question, I have referred to my copy of the Nestle Aland Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. A form of this Greek word, pronounced monogenes in English is used in John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18 and 1 John 4:9. The New Testament Recovery Version uses this translation, “only begotten,” in all of these passages. I’ve found it repeatedly to be a faithful rendering of the original Greek text. If you’d like a further understanding of this word you may want to read about it in An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine…Just follow the link.

    2. Hi Sharath,

      I’ve personally found the NIV to be less accurate than other translations and recommend reading the New King James Version, the English Standard Version, the American Standard Version, and the Recovery Version. The Recovery Version is my go-to translation and the most accurate and readable one I’ve found. With that said, I would recommend reading the NIV over not reading the Bible at all. It’s still the word of God, and He’s able to speak to us through the Word. But as you grow and mature in the Lord, I’d recommend considering to read one of the translations that are mentioned above.

  6. I really align with the text as well as the responses thereafter. Every Bible scholar starts from some point of reading. At a later stage as one compares precept with precept, one can fully determine which version is best for the original message. However, having the closing words of Revelation in mind we must be careful enough not to take the words ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED for granted. By no means can we be reading or fulfilling the WHOLE SCRIPTURE with respect to REVELATION 22:18-19 if we continue reading the versions which have omitted several meaningful words and phrases from the original versions. Therefore when you detect error in the text you are reading, take the rightful step and acquire the right version. Personally i recommend the original King James Version.

    1. gawynne

      I agree with you here as the new version changes some doctrine

    2. Hi Mule,

      The King James Version is an excellent translation, and I respect it very much. It has helped countless Christians to know God and understand His word in a deeper way. With that said, I wouldn’t rule out other translations and have found the English Standard Version, American Standard Version, and the Recovery Version to all be good translations as well. Yes, some are better than others, but none are perfect. I recommend comparing translations when doing in-depth study and learning the Greek to really understand the Bible in the deepest way. Some translations are also poorer than others and I would recommend the translations that have previously been mentioned above some others that can be read. But with that said, God speaks through His word, and I believe He’s able to speak to all of us no matter what translation we’re reading. Then, over time, we can ask Him to lead us to a more accurate translation so we can be ones who are cutting straight His word.

  7. gawynne

    Its is said that different bible versions changes doctrine, its is true that the prophecy isn’t changed but if wont aren’t reading the correct bible instead that of the satan inspired version then I growth in our faith will cease and this could then eventually lead us away from God has these other translation will become more and more absurd in the future, would you agree on this or what is your meaning

  8. Along the line of Joe’s recent comments, God speaks through His word. For detailed study it is good to compare several accurate translations such as ESV, RecV, ASV, Darby. For general reading, especially for a first or second reading, read whatever you have. “Blessed is he who reads” (Rev. 1:3). The first few times I read the NT it was a paraphrase version but I got some nourishment from it, then moved on to other versions.

  9. i feel the best bible translation for memory and quoting is the NASB and the best bible translation to study form is the NIV.

    I like to keep a Formal, Functional and a free translation handy so that I can compare passages from each one.

    NASB NIV & NLT

    Grreat Post!

    Britt

  10. Josh

    I am rather young in my walk. An have a hard time picking a good study bible can anyone help me with this?

    1. Tom Smith

      Josh, I believe you can quickly tell by reading a few of the Holding to Truth posts that we frequently refer to the Recovery Version Study Bible. That’s because the Recovery Version with it’s outlines and footnotes brings us into the divine truth in the Bible and ministers the life supply to nourish us spiritually so that we can grow in Christ. The Recovery Version always points us to Christ so that we can experience and enjoy Him. For more appreciation, I would recommend that you read another one of our posts called Why the Recovery Version is My Go-to Study Bible. That’s also why we have a link on the blog to the Bibles for America website where you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version. We hope you’ll try it and see for yourself.

  11. Andy

    Enjoyed ur insight :) Thnx for being honest and standing for Christ !
    His Peace be with you :))

    1. Tom Smith

      Glad you enjoyed it. May your time getting in God’s Word fill you with spiritual light and divine life. Grace and peace in Christ.

  12. Dean merchant

    I’ve read on another web site that many of the original writting don’t exist anymore, is this true and if so were did we get the bible from. I’m only new to the path and I’m reading all these things and seeing no clear answers from people that are suppose to be experts on the bible, almost everyone has a different idea. Please help me with this as I only want to follow the right path.

    1. Tom Smith

      Dean, the Bible has been given to man in a number of stages. First, there was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God working through many types of godly men in both the Old and New Testament times. God inspired men like Moses, Samuel, and the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah in the Old Testament. He also spoke in His Son, Jesus and through Christ’s believers especially the apostles like Peter, Paul and John.

      Then there was the translation of the Scriptures into many languages so that people all over the earth could read it in their own language. God did much to preserve the accuracy of the Bible for us.

      Then there was the transcription over the centuries. Have you ever heard of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” for example? They were the transcribing of some of the Old Testament books like Isaiah that were found in the caves by Qumran near the Dead Sea. They were more than a 1000 years older than any copies of the Scriptures archaeologists had found up to the time. These manuscripts validated the accuracy of the Scriptures we had up to that time. I believe there are more substantiated facts validating the Scriptures including fulfilled prophecies and historical records confirming events that will give you the assurance to trust the authenticity of the Bible.

      However, for serious students of the Bible, it is still worthwhile to obtain a literal and transparent text that does not bring in many interpretations of the translators, something that is common with many paraphrased Bibles and modern translations.

      This is why I prefer the Holy Bible Recovery Version as it is very literal, yet readable text. I often compare its text to my Greek Interlinear and find it to be extremely accurate. You can read it online at: http://online.recoveryversion.org/ or order a free economy sized New Testament from Bibles for America at bfa.org (in the USA). You can also purchase the entire Bible from the publisher at: http://www.recoveryversion.org/order.html.

      You may also want to read a related post on Holding to Truth entitled “What is the Best Bible Translation to Read?

    2. Dean, it is true that the original writings of the New Testament are not with us. But we have many copies of copies (and copies of copies of copies) of the originals. Some Christians gave themselves over the past 200 years to gather and compare in detail all the Greek manuscripts (a word meaning handwritten) of the New Testament. From this extensive work, for which we thank our Lord, we have good records in New Testament Greek from which to translate into any language. (The Old Testament is similar but my education there is lacking, so I comment only on the NT.)

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