How do you know which English Bible translation to get when there are so many different translations?
This is a good question to ask when you are searching for a Bible version that helps you to grow in Christ. The answer to the question can only shed light on your personal situation. The best you can do is find one that works for you in whatever situation you need it for.
Here’s what I mean by that. There are different reasons for different versions. Some versions are better for deep Bible study while others are better for devotional reading. Bible translators have different reasons and methods when they translate and interpret the Scriptures.
For instance, one extreme is to translate the Bible in what is called Word for Word, or formal equivalency. These are Bibles like the KJV, NKJV, NASB, and any literal translation you see like Young’s Literal Translation. These get as close as they can to the original wording of the Bible.
On the opposite extreme is to translate the Bible concept for concept. Bibles like this include the NIV, NLT, and a few other approaches. Even farther than these on that spectrum are what is called paraphrases, like The Message. These do not even attempt to follow the Bible in its strictest sense, but try to contemporize it so that it is easily understood.
There are also Bibles in the middle to try to get the best of both worlds. Some of these are like the ESV. They try to maintain the format and concepts of Scripture while getting each of the original language words.
As you can see from how translators translate and interpret the Bible, this will matter a great deal in what your use is for each Bible translation you have. For instance, if you want to do a deep Bible study, using the paraphrase or even a concept for concept approach will not give you the words used by the original languages. You may end up studying a word that isn’t actually there in the originals.
In the same way, if you want to devotionally read, a concept for concept based translation may be your best option. It will allow you to see the concepts of the Bible instead of getting stuck on each word. Each translation has its own pros and cons.
After you know what you need a Bible for, you can choose the kind of translation that fits your purpose and desire for the Bible. While I don’t know your situation, it may be a good idea based on your maturity as a Christian to get one that is in the middle or leans toward a word for word translation. If you are new to the faith, concept for concept Bibles really help you to get a good understanding of Scripture, to get your feet wet, as it were.
So to sum up, the Bible version you choose depends on your purpose, your maturity in Christianity, and it can also affect things like your reading level. If you are getting a Bible for your child, you don’t want to get one that has a reading level in 6-8 grade or higher. You want to get one that works for that grade level, perhaps a second grade reading level.
All of these things factor into what kind of Bibles you seek. You may find a Bible that becomes your favorite translation. You become familiar with it and you memorize Scripture in that version. Many people have a favorite and protect it sometimes quite ruthlessly.
There’s nothing wrong with having a favorite and endearing translation. But you must be able to understand it when you read it or it is of little use to you and will not help you grow in your faith.