Which Bible Version Should I Use?

I’ve received this question quite a bit over the last few weeks. So I thought I would write a short post about what every Christian should look for and look out for in regards to the translation they use for their Bible reading. There are many choices out there and one needs to be careful about the translation that they use because not all translations are the same in quality and faithfulness to the original manuscripts. Here are some questions to think about.

Is it faithful to the Original Manuscripts?

This is is place to start. You see the Bible wasn’t originally written in English, it was written in Koine Greek and Ancient Hebrew. These original manuscripts were then copied and handed down throughout the generations. These manuscripts have been wonderfully preserved by God and so we can be confident as we look at the original languages that we have the Word of God. Modern translations must remain faithful to these original manuscripts and what God intended His people to read. 

Some translations, in an attempt to be more readable, relatable, and relevant, take liberties with the wording and distort what God wrote. Most of the time, translations that would fall under this category are those that paraphrase God’s Word (like the Message), these are known as dynamic translations. Yet, this can also be those translations that do more of a "word-for-word" or formal translation. Now the everyday Christian doesn’t know Greek or Hebrew, so what should you do? Look to Godly men, institutions, and websites for help in understanding if a certain translation is faithful to the original languages. Just because you don't know the languages, doesn't mean that no one you trust doesn't know the languages. Talk to your pastor or look online. More on that in a minute. 

Can I understand it? 

If a translation is faithful to the original languages but cannot be understood by the modern reader, is it still a good translation? No. Christians today need to find faithful translations that can also be understood without having a dictionary on them all of the time. This does not mean we compromise on the intended meaning of the text, rather we add another layer of necessity to our translations. A good translation can be both accurate and understandable. Nor does this mean we find a translation that does not stretch us in our understanding. A good translation should cause us to study. We don't have to compromise on either end. Several translations have come out in the last 20-30 years that are both accurate and easily understood. 

Have I studied this out?

If you go into a Christian bookstore and pick up the first Bible you see without doing any research whatsoever, you have not done your job. Every modern Christian should look up reviews online, read several versions at the same time, and/or talk to their pastor if they are wondering about which Bible is best for them. Don’t just assume that the Bible you’re using is a good translation. Most likely it’s fine, but it could be a poor translation or perhaps another translation would help you understand God’s Word better. If we take the time and effort to do a little bit of research, we might benefit ourselves in the long-run by having a deeper understanding of God's Word.

As for me...

I preach and do my personal reading out of the English Standard Version. Although no translation is perfect, I trust the ESV and have found it be very close to the original manuscripts. I believe it is a good balance of both formal and dynamic equivalency (It’s both accurate and understandable). I would also feel comfortable to recommend the New King James Version and the New American Standard Bible. Also I am looking forward to getting my hands on the recently released Christian Standard Bible which is the updated Holman Christian Standard Bible.

- Dean

Dean Lentini