Summary: With so many Bible versions available to us today, we must take time to find a Bible version that helps us grow in God’s Word and become better disciples of Jesus. The best Bible version for you is the one that helps you understand Scripture easily.
In my last post, I described the many mediums we have today to listen to Scripture. In this post, I talk about the many versions available to us and how we can benefit from finding a Bible version that helps us read, listen to, study, and know God’s Word.
I love to read and study God’s Word. But how do I know what the best version of the Bible is? Is it different for every person? Does the same version work for everything I do from reading to studying the Bible?
These are great questions to ask as you look for a Bible version that’s best for you. This is the perfect place in your journey as a disciple of Jesus to fund a version of the Bible that helps you. We have just begun to discuss what to do with the Bible.
First, we read and meditate on Scripture. We also talked about listening to Scripture in its different audio forms. So it makes sense to ask the question before we come to studying and memorizing God’s Word, “What version is best for me?”
We Have No Excuse
We have access to more versions of the Bible than in the entirety of history. So you are naturally wondering which version you should use. I often get this question as a pastor. And my answer is as varied as the Christians who ask me.
Why do we have so many versions of the Bible today? And why do people keep making more? My scholarly answer is that we continue to discover new manuscripts in Greek and Hebrew of the old and new Testaments, and based on when they were made, we need to revise and refine our understanding of the biblical text.
But my more practical, pastoral answer is that no matter what age you are, your reading level, your purpose in using the Bible, and your preferred Bible version, you have no excuse to not read, meditate on, study, and memorize the Bible.
There’s a Bible version for everyone. But you must know how to find the one that best fits you. You must consider everything I mentioned in the last paragraph. Think about where you fit on the spectrum of these questions.
What is your age and reading level? By age, I am referring to both your chronological and Christian age. How old are you, and how long have you been a Christian? You could be 40 years old, and have only come to know Jesus in the last year. The Bible you choose can have a higher grade level for reading, but you need a lot of helps to understand what you read.
You could be 15 or 16 chronologically, but you have been walking with Jesus since your 5. You don’t need as many helps as you read the Bible, but you may need a lower grade level. And your purpose for the Bible version you choose matters.
If you want to read the Bible devotionally, you may choose a Bible version that gives you more context as you read. If you’re like me, you get curious as you read devotionally and wonder about a word or concept you’re not familiar with. You want a quick guide on the things that interest you, but since you are reading for your devotions, you don’t want to get bogged down by deep study.
Or maybe you want to study the Bible in depth, down to the original language words, what they mean in a passage, and how they apply to the subject you are looking at. You may need more resources than just your Bible.
Each of these situations warrants a different version of the Bible. So let’s drill down and look at what different versions attempt to do for you. Each of these has a different application. As far as your chronological age, the introduction to each version of the Bible tells you the targeted grade level for reading from a Bible a toddler can understand the whole way to postgraduate level reading.
Or maybe you want to study the Bible in-depth, down to the original language words, what they mean in a passage, and how they apply to the subject you are looking at. You may need more resources than just your Bible.
Word-for-word versions of the Bible lend themselves to Bible study. They are not as easy to read devotionally because they try to capture the word order and detail of the original languages of the Bible. Sometimes the original language does not translate well to English.
So, these Bibles are not great for devotional reading because they are more stilted and wooden. They do not flow for a quick read. They are meant to cause you to pause and wonder why the writers of the books said it like that.
While you are studying in depth, you may want a special kind of Bible that focuses on original language words in context, like the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (Available in the KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, ESV, or CSB). This study Bible shows you some of the key words in Greek and Hebrew sidebars.
When you are studying the Bible in depth, you don’t want a translation that adds contextual words not found in the original languages. This will throw you off and make you chase rabbit trails that aren’t there. That’s why a word-for-word version is best for studying.
Word-for-word Bible versions include the KJV, NKJV, NASB, Young’s Literal, and ESV. You can find these versions of the Bible and all kinds of formats from paperback, hardback, leather bound, and large print. You can purchase them from Christian bookstores to online stores.
More helpful for devotional reading and reading that doesn’t take too much to understand quickly and readily is a concept-for-concept version of the Bible. A concept-for-concept version of the Bible adds words and sometimes commentary to help you make connections more easily without having to stop and study.
These Bibles focus on helping you to understand at a glance the cultural differences between then and now, the person or subject discussed, and the flow of the passage. You want a Bible like this for devotional reading, casual reading, and for those who are new Christians just getting into the Bible.
Word for Word Bible versions include the NIV, CSV, and CEV Bibles. As with word-for-word versions, you can find these versions of the Bible and all kinds of formats from paperback, hardback, leather bound, and large print. You can purchase them from Christian bookstores to online stores.
What about children and young adults? There are Bible versions for them, too. The NIrV version is great for younger readers, children as young as five or six. For young adults, the versions I have mentioned will work. You may want to find a study Bible that keeps their interest and answers some of their questions. I will discuss study Bibles below.
Not technically considered a translation of the original languages of the Bible, paraphrases are done by individuals. They may try to modernize or contemporarize the language of the Bible, giving it a fresh approach.
Paraphrases are not good for Bible study, but they can help new Christians understand the Bible’s basic truths and concepts. They also try to make the cultures of the Bible more accessible. Perhaps you have been reading the Bible through for many years and need a version of the Bible that causes you to stop and think about what you are reading instead of reading on automatic.
Paraphrase Bibles help these audiences access the Bible afresh. The most common and popular Bible is The Message by Eugene Peterson. But there are other paraphrases you can find by searching for paraphrase on the internet.
As you grow more curious and become more interested in the original language words, cultural differences, concepts and principles, doctrines, and worldview of the Bible, you will need a study Bible. Study Bibles give you interesting facts and commentary from leading scholars and pastors.
Maybe you have a favorite pastor who has compiled many notes over the years and included them in his or her favorite version of the Bible. You can follow along and learn from them in a study Bible. When you look for study Bibles, you will find Bibles with your favorite Bible teacher’s editions. House
Or maybe you are new to the Bible and want to know more as you read. Many versions of the Bible include study notes from scholars who have either translated that version or go along with its translators. You can look up your version, followed by “study Bible” to find these study Bibles.
Some study notes come with certain versions of the Bible. A quick search on the web will help you find a study Bible that helps you learn about the world of the Bible at a glance as you read. They are available in many formats in many stores.
Study Resources to Go Deeper
After reading the Bible devotionally and then getting involved with the original language, culture, and worldview of the Bible on a deeper level through study Bibles, you will continue to become more interested in studying the Bible in depth.
You will come to the point where just a Bible version or a study Bible is not enough to answer your questions or satisfy your curiosity about the biblical world. You will need even more in depth study resources, to go deeper into the Bible.
I will cover extra biblical resources in greater detail in a later post. It will help you see how these resources are organized. God calls us to worship Him with our minds. By searching out the mysteries of who He is, we worship Him.
Your Best Version
So, how do you know what the best version of the Bible is for you? Start with the Bible that you understand the best. Is the Bible you choose at your reading level? Can you understand the English in the version?
Many people develop a favorite Bible version and learn, meditate, and memorize with that version. It’s home to them. Go with that version. Find study resources for that version. Second, use a Bible version that helps you with whatever you are doing. If you are reading devotionally, go with a concept-for-concept version. If you are studying Scripture in-depth, go with a word-for-word Bible with study notes.
The best Bible for you is one you are comfortable with, one that fits your reading ability to comprehend, and one that fits the purpose and function you are doing. Have several Bibles for different functions.
Get online and look for different Bible versions on a site like Bible Gateway and try different versions. Find one that suits your needs. Get used to it and begin using it. Start reading devotionally with it. Find a version that helps you study God’s Word in-depth. Whatever you do, read and study God’s Word.