Choosing The Right Bible Translation For Your Bible Study

Posted on: 17 February 2015

So you want to purchase a Bible, but you're not sure what to do when you're faced with all the translations on the bookstore shelf. Whether you plan to study the Bible on your own or you're joining a Bible study group from a church like Church of Christ, here's a simple explanation of some of the favorite Bible translations.

Some Bibles are word-for-word translations, meaning the editors have tried to accurately follow the languages of the original texts (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). Other Bibles are thought-for-thought translations, where the editors use more contemporary language and try to help modern-day readers understand the ancient figures of speech that would not make sense to readers today. The thought-for-thought translations are generally easier for the modern reader to understand, while the word-for-word translations are truer to the original language meaning.

The Christian Booksellers Association reports that the five best-selling Bible translations in 2014 are the New International Version, the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New Living Translation, and the English Standard Version.

New International Version (NIV)

The NIV, used by Christians of all ages, is a combination of word-for-word translation and thought-for-thought translation.  First published in 1978, the NIV is widely read and considered to be a very trustworthy translation. The NIV has an 7.8-grade reading level.

King James Version (KJV)

The KJV is a word-for-word translation first published in 1611.  With its poetic, traditional language, it is generally loved and used by Christians from a wide variety of denominations. The KJV has a 12-grade reading level.

New King James Version (NKJV)

The NKJV was published in 1982 in an attempt to update the language used in the original KJV. Like the KJV, the NKJV uses word-for-word translation, attempting to hold on to as much of the KVJ language as possible. Using the language of the KJV as their guide, the translators' goal was to produce a more accurate and modern-sounding version of the Bible. This translation is good for readers who like the poetic language of the KJV, but want a more readable Bible. The NKJV has an 8-grade reading level.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Like the NIV, the NLT Bible combines word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation. Published in 1996, the NLT is based on the original Bible languages while using natural-sounding contemporary English. The NLT has a 6.3-grade reading level.

 English Standard Version (ESV)

The ESV is a word-for-word translation written for all ages of Bible readers. Published in 2001, it has a reputation for balancing literary excellence and readability. The ESV is an update of the Revised Standard Version translation. The ESV has an 7.4-grade reading level.

For children or people who are just learning English, there are a couple of plain language versions of the Bible that are very popular. The Living Bible and The Message are two paraphrases that are simple to understand and known for their everyday language.

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