How do I choose the best Bible?

Have you ever walked into a Bible bookstore and been overwhelmed by the options?

ESV, NASB, CSB, NIV, NLT, NIV, NKJV

It can feel like an alphabet soup of options! If you check out blog posts or ask for opinions, you’ll find as many opinions about the “best” Bible as there are translations and types of Bibles.

Do you need a study Bible? Journaling Bible? Thinline Bible? Compact Bible? Illustrating Bible?

I know I’m not supposed to give you the takeaway, the punch line at the beginning of this blog post, but if you stop reading now, just hear this one thing: The best translation and type of Bible is the one you are reading. That’s it.

With that, here are my thoughts on translations and types, so if you are interested, keep reading!

Why are there so many translations of the Bible?

Have you ever thought about this question? If the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, shouldn’t we be able to settle on one translation?

As I have considered this question myself, I remember when I was in Spanish classes in high school and college. When you learn another language, sometimes you find that the exact word in one language does not exist in your native language. You also find that common idioms and phrases in one language lose their impact and meaning when translated into another language. As the Bible was not originally penned in English, we have to know that translating it comes with issues.

For example, do a Google search of Greek gender pronouns. The Greek language has 3 different words for “they.” One is masculine, one is feminine, and one is neutral. I am sure you can imagine how easy it would be for our English language to misinterpret scripture because of this type of issue.

With that, I have learned that Bible translators and Bible scholars fall along a continuum in how they approach translating the Bible into English. Some are more focused on getting a word-for-word translation, and some focus more on a thought-for-thought translation.

Internet scholars debate which is better. Some insist that a word-for-word translation is the only way to truly comprehend the original text. Others point out that if the word-for-word skews the meaning (due to cultural or linguistic reasons), the translation is faulty, and therefore, a thought-for-thought interpretation is necessary.

I tend to believe both are necessary. Depending on my focus in my Bible study and Bible reading, I intentionally choose different translations.

When do I choose a thought-for-thought translation?

One of my favorite translations is the New Living Translation. My church uses it. I have multiple Bibles in this translation, and it is just easy to read. I find a thought-for-thought translation most helpful when I’m reading larger amounts of scripture at one time. This thought-for-thought translation really helps me to discern themes, character traits, and other big-picture ideas in scripture.

NLT Thinline Filament Bible

One of my favorite NLT Bibles is my Filament Bible. This one has an app that comes with it, so when I scan a page, the app will link to commentary and other resources to better understand the scripture on each page. This is the Bible I have been reading this year in the Chronological Bible Study – Eden to Eternity. (Feel free to join me! We start the New Testament on October 1.)

NLT Inspire Prayer Bible

I also enjoy my Inspire Prayer Bible. This one is just beautiful! It is full of graphics, prayers, and prayer prompts. I love to open this Bible when I just want to spend time in conversation with the Lord. Again, the NLT version is helpful, as it lets me easily comprehend and make connections as I am praying.

NLT The One Year Chronological Bible Expressions

My last favorite NLT Bible is my One Year Chronological Expressions Bible. This Bible is formatted chronologically. I loved reading it cover to cover a few years ago, as it beautifully weaves the Psalms into the chronology of the Old Testament. Reading the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) side-by-side was incredibly insightful!

When do I choose a hybrid translation?

Sometimes I do not necessarily need a full thought-for-thought or word-for-word translation. Sometimes I need a more middle-of-the-road translation. I generally grab my Christian Standard Bible (CSB) in those cases, but several translations fit in this category!

NIV Journal the Word Bible

This NIV is a Journal the Word Bible. I love the lines and extra space to take notes. Though NIV is not my translation of choice typically these days, I do love this Bible, and this is the one I carry to church each Sunday. I use it to highlight text read in sermons, note key message points, and write additional thoughts from Sunday morning. Though my church uses NLT, I find it helpful to have a different version on my lap during service. Having a different version helps me to concentrate on the message differently. Instead of just hearing all of the words from my pastor, seeing a different translation makes me think more critically about the message. Though my pastor is amazing, he would be the first to tell you not to take his word at face value, but always validate sermons with God’s Word. Using a different version on Sunday morning helps me do just that!

CSB Rainbow Study Bible

Another translation (and Bible) that I love is my CSB Rainbow Study Bible! I love to grab this version when I want to read scripture with fresh eyes. Have you ever read a text that was so familiar that when you finished reading it, you read what you had memorized from familiarity, instead of reading it for the message it conveyed? For this reason, I love my CSB Bible! This Bible in particular is a favorite, as all of the text is highlighted in this Bible to create a visual of the various key themes in the Bible. It makes studying, especially when connecting ideas across scripture, so helpful!

When do I choose a word-for-word translation?

Finally, the most tedious of all translations are the word-for-word translations. These Bibles are the “go-to” when I am wanting to dig deeper into God’s Word.

NASB Tony Evans Study Bible

My newest Bible is The Tony Evans Study Bible. I was so excited to get this one! Not only does it include commentary notes in the Bible, but it is also the latest revision of the New American Standard Bible, the NASB 2020. This version has had mixed reviews, but the more I learn about it, the more I am a fan! This version clarifies pronouns to help the reader understand if a passage is about “brothers” or “brothers and sisters.” Remember the pronoun issue that I mentioned above? This Bible helps to clarify when scripture is only talking about men, only talking about women, or talking about both. Next year, the Proverbs3Three Facebook study group will be diving deeper into the New Testament. I plan to use this Bible for that study!

NASB The New Inductive Study Bible

My other NASB is the older version, which has a reputation for being one of the best word-for-word translations. I purchased this Bible when I discovered Precept Bible studies. It was so helpful for that inductive study method that includes word studies.

ESV Crossway Journaling Bibles

Finally, one of the fastest-growing translations currently is the English Standard Version. My first journaling Bible was an ESV from Crossway. They have tons of options, colors, sizes, and price points. This word-for-word translation is so helpful when I am doing Bible art. Often my Bible art comes from my wanting a deeper dive or deeper meditation on a particular scripture. I prefer a word-for-word translation during this type of study, and my ESV does not disappoint! For more on Bible art or Bible journaling, be sure to check out this blog post.

Do I really need another Bible?

As I read this post, I am almost embarrassed to admit to you that my Amazon wishlist has other Bibles on it. There is a new Journaling Study Bible and Church History Study Bible that I wouldn’t mind adding to my collection. As you read this blog post, you may have added some of the Bible I referenced here to your own wishlist. But hear me say this, it does not matter which Bible is in your collection or on your shelf if you are not reading it every single day. Do I need another Bible? Of course not, and neither do you. What we both need is to open God’s Word and delight in it always.

In the way of your testimonies, I delight as much as in all riches.

Psalm 119:14, ESV

I have a dear friend who carries her Bible everywhere. Yes, there are digital Bibles, but she carries her study Bible (which is quite large) everywhere. I have never asked her why, but I bet one of her reasons relates to how much she loves the Lord and how much she LOVES HIS WORD! That is my prayer for you. I pray that whatever Bible you open, you fall in love with the words from your Creator. I pray that you never forget how wide and long and high and deep His love is for you.



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3 responses to “How do I choose the best Bible?”

  1. […] and the beauty of these prayerful creations. A few weeks ago, I shared my Inspire Prayer Bible in this blog post. It is absolutely beautiful, and I love to open it and pray through some of the prayers in […]

  2. […] and what translation is the best. While I have talked about this topic in other blog posts such as this one, the best Bible is the one you are […]

  3. […] I sip my morning coffee. I can rejoice in the fact that I have God’s Word available in my favorite translation. I can rejoice in knowing God’s mercy is new every […]

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