Every now and then someone will say to me, "I want to buy a Bible, which one should I buy?" Usually I'll point to the one I read from, and say, "This is a good one." Then comes the follow up question, "Why this, rather than some other Bible?" It is a good question. There are so many choices of Bibles available, how can a person decide? Here are a few questions you will want to ask yourself when buying a Bible.
First, are you buying the Bible to read in a sit-down study fashion, with maybe a cup of coffee, pen and paper? Or, is this a Bible that you want to put in your purse or jacket pocket so that you can look for words of comfort while waiting in the dentists office?
If the Bible is for personal study, then get a Study Bible. This is a Bible with maps, a concordance, and with scholarly notes on the bottom of the page - notes give insights into the passage and offer cross-references. The more helps the better. They make reading the Bible more enjoyable. Look to the beginning pages of the Bible to find out more about the contributing scholars, like name, denominations or theological school.
If you are looking for a Walk-Around Bible, then you are looking at the smaller ones. They come in a variety of shapes, degrees of thinness, and importantly, size of the words in the text. Small is nice, but if the text is too small you will soon tire of squinting. These Bibles are generally just the biblical text. They are even available with less text, as just New Testaments, or New Testaments and Psalms. With less text, the type can be larger with the Bible still being compact.
Once you have determined if you are buying a Study Bible or a Walk-Around Bible, the next decision relates to translation. Popular translations are New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV), and the New Living Version (NLV).
Of course they are all good, but there are differences. The most obvious difference is that some translations are more literal than others.
For example, the gospel of Luke was originally written in Greek. A literal translation of Luke 9:51 would read, "Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem."
The NRSV in fact, reads "Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem." The NLV here reads, "Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." Eugene Peterson's translation, "The Message," reads "He gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem."
For study purposes I prefer the more literal, you can almost see Jesus looking toward Jerusalem, with a set face. "Jesus resolutely" may imply that Jesus was looking at the ground, putting one foot in front of the other.
"He gathered up his courage" may imply that Jesus was afraid. While this may or may not have been true, it is not what the Bible says at Luke 9:51. (This is the problem often found in a paraphrased translation - in the attempt to be clear they are sometimes misleading.)
The most literal English translation is the New American Standard Version.
Almost as literal are the King James, New King James, Revised Standard, and New Revised Standard. The New International Version is a partial paraphrase.
Full paraphrased editions would include the Today's English Bible, the Living Bible, the New Living Version, and The Message.
I hope this makes your choice easier. It may help to know that various translations are nothing new. In Jesus' day the Bible (which was just the Old Testament) was available in both Hebrew and Greek translations.
The translations had some differences. Sometimes the New Testament writers would quote from the Greek version, and sometimes they would quote from the Hebrew one.
God bless you.
John Donaldson is the pastor at Newborn & Mansfield UMC. Send e-mail to