So this post isn’t actually about Bible translation snobbery. But it easily could be, cuz we all know people who… Or was I the only high school church kid who sometimes thought Christianity was about how awesome I was?
I received an email this week in which the writer was a bit overwhelmed by all the options and was looking for some starting points. Pretty reasonable, seeing as 10 new English translations have come out this brand new century alone. That’s almost an average of one new English translation a year. Not to mention various sundry study Bibles.
Such being the state of Bibles in the Union (particularly), it isn’t surprising that this guy wasn’t the first to ask. So I was able to recycle that previous answer, which struck me as a good excuse to recycle it here too.
So, without further ado:
“Which Bible translation is the best?”
Thanks for writing; you ask a really good question. We in the United States are unmistakeably blessed to have such ready access to God’s Word. Not only do most Christians in the States have their own Bible, many have several copies in various translations, and each translation serves a purpose; each translation adds to the picture being painted by the biblical authors.
There are basically three different kinds of translations: paraphrase, phrase-by-phrase, and word-for-word (Click here to view a helpful chart with summaries of each different translation from Mardel Christian Bookstore). I find that having one translation from each of these categories on hand (or on your PDA, or via the Internet) is ideal for studying a passage of Scripture. But as far as daily reading is concerned, really whichever translation you like the best is just fine: whichever one is easiest to read for you, that is the one the Holy Spirit will use to work in your life. Personally, I think the New Living Translation, The Message, and the English Standard Version are the most readable. [And whadya know? That essentially lines up with our handy-dandy chart’s reading level assessments. Mardel could have hired me, paid me in books, and saved some money.]
Another consideration when choosing a translation is your personal history. For example, are you new to the Family of Faith or just new to reading the Scriptures for yourself? Or perhaps you are you quite familiar with the Scriptures. Do you already have a favorite translation, or one you’re pretty familiar with?
For me, since I’ve been reading the Bible myself for a long time, it is really important for me to mix it up. I am currently working my way through The Message, which helps me see things I never saw before and understand things in fresh ways. This is good for my heart; it helps me not to become complacent, thinking to myself: Oh, I already know this… (I used to think The Message was unreliable as a translation, but after learning about the process Peterson went through to create it, I had myself quite a serving of humble pie.)
Finally, I realize you might have been hoping for a simple answer, but the truth is, the richness and fullness of God’s Word can’t be contained by one translation (and it’s a good thing it can’t). If after looking over that website with the comparison chart and summaries you would still like help deciding which translation is best for you at this stage in your life, please don’t hesitate to email me back.