I’m often asked, “What Bible should I read?” Associated comments and questions include: “There are so many Bibles to choose from. I don’t know which one to pick. Why the different versions? Does it matter which one I read?”
I respond by asking several more questions:
What do you like to read? The intent behind this question is to try and glean a person’s level of proficiency with the English language. If you say you don’t read much, I usually suggest an audio alternative like The Bible Experience or The Listener’s Bible. If you like reading popular literature I may suggest the New Living Translation, Contemporary English or New International Version. If you’re more academic in your reading I might recommend the English Standard or Revised Standard Version. If you tell me your favourite author is Shakespeare, I’ll recommend the King James Version.
Why do you want to read the Bible? Some people want to read the Bible devotionally for their personal enrichment while others are more inclined to study the Scriptures. Paraphrases like The Message, Easy Read Version, and Today’s English Version (Good News) make for a great devotional read. The Amplified, Life Application, New International, Holman Christian Standard and English Standard Version are popular study Bibles. For the really serious student, pastor or teacher, the Interlinear Bible may be the answer.
What version of the Bible is used in your church? If the preacher mainly preaches from his/her favourite version of the Bible it may be helpful to have that version in hand in order to better track with the exegesis of the text. There’s also the issue of communal Bible reading – when the Scriptures are read publically it can be more difficult to follow along if we’re not reading the same text.
Vocation is an additional dynamic to keep in mind. If a person is a college or university student, I may be inclined to recommend a reference Bible in the New International or New King James Version. For hunters and fishermen, The Sportsman’s Bible is a good choice. If you’re an athlete I’d suggest God’s Game Plan. If you’re serving in the armed forces, the Military Camo Bible. There are many other vocationally focused Bibles.
Age and gender are also major factors to be considered. For children aged 6-10 the New International Reader’s Version Adventure Bible is a good option. The Manga Bible is great for older children because it utilizes an engaging cartoon format. The Women’s Devotional Bible may be an option for women and seniors are usually more comfortable with a Giant Print or Legacy Bible.
If you use an electronic reading device, tablet or smartphone, then you should consider downloading the YouVersion, Glo Bible, or Bible.is App. The Bible Gateway App is another option – it gives you a choice of more than 100 English and 45 versions in other languages.
Finally, not all versions of the Bible meet the basic requirements for an acceptable translation. To be acceptable a Bible should meet the standards of accuracy, clarity, naturalness and functional equivalence. If the Church considers a translation unacceptable, it should not be used or promoted.
If you’re still not sure, you’re not alone. I’ve got nearly a hundred different printed Bibles in my personal library!
© Scripture Union Canada 2013