Picking a Bible

In order for you to grow as a Christian, you have to know God’s word; and in order for you to know God’s word, you must have understanding.  2 Timothy 2:15 tells us that we are to, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” 


Over the years many different bible translations have evolved making it a challenge for one to purchase a bible.  The different translations have many literary styles with the aim of helping you to better understand what the bible is saying through translation of today’s modern language. 


As with any translation, portions of original meanings can sometimes be lost.  Scholars have done a great job to minimize loss of meaning across translations, but as you will come to know some translations are better aligned to the original text than others.  In choosing a bible, pick a translation that you feel is best for you; where you can understand what the writer is saying; in the end it is the Holy Spirit who will ultimately giv you the true revelation of God’s Word (2 Peter 1:20-21).  To help minimize any confusion, below is a list of the more popular translations with brief descriptions:


Adult’s Translations

King James (KJV)

(also known as the Authorized Version) is a word-for-word translation (or formal equivalent) originally published in 1611 at the request of King James I of England. It was frequently reprinted and its spelling updated, and most copies today are slightly adapted from a 1769 edition. The translators mostly aimed at making a clear and accurate translation from the original languages. So many people have used the KJV over the centuries that it has become the single most important book in shaping the modern English language. Many of the best and most ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of Bible books have been discovered since 1850, and so the KJV could not make use of them. The KJV is still the most widely owned and used English translation in the USA.

New King James Version (NKJV)

Released in 1982, involved 119 contributors. It updates the vocabulary and grammar of the King James Version, while preserving the classic style and beauty. Although it uses the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the original, it indicates where other manuscripts differ. Published by Thomas Nelson.

English Standard Version (ESV)

An "essentially new literal translation" follows the tradition of the King James, American Standard Version, and Revised Standard Version. Published in 2001 by Crossway, it was developed by a translation team of more than 100 scholars, with the goal of being very accurate (word for word), and yet very readable.

New International Version (NIV)

Completed in 1978, was the product of 115 evangelical scholars. The NIV was a completely new translation, but it was strongly influenced by the King James tradition. The full Bible was published in 1978 and revised in 1984. A blend of form-based and meaning-based translation types, the NIV is one of the most popular English Bibles in use today.  It is equally useful for individual study and public worship, especially among more traditional and conservative denominations. The NIV is copyrighted by the International Bible Society.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Published in 1996, is the product of 90 Bible scholars from around the world, from various theological backgrounds and denominations. The NLT is a meaning-based revision of the Living Bible (LB) that tries to keep its sound and feel. The Living Bible was a popular 1971 paraphrase of the 1901 American Standard Version. (A paraphrase is different from a translation.  For a paraphrase, authors take an English text and put it into their own words, that is, the way they would say it themselves. A paraphrase does not begin with the Hebrew and Greek texts as a translation does.) The NLT revision involved comparing the Living Bible to the original-language texts, and then making changes so that the NLT is now a true translation.  The NLT is a good translation to use with youth and adults who have difficulty with the traditional language of a formal equivalent translation. Published by Tyndale.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Completed in 1971. The NASB, first published in the 1960's, was produced by 54 conservative Protestant scholars sponsored by the Lockman Foundation, and is an excellent example of a formal translation of the Bible in English.  It is probably the most “word-for-word” type translation available today. Because of this, the NASB is a good version to use in Bible study where one is concerned with the form of the original Hebrew and Greek. The most recent edition of the NASB was published in 1995.

Children’s Translations

New International Reader’s Version (NIrV)

A children's version of the popular NIV. It also is on a third-grade reading level. Both of these Children's Bibles are excellent resources for children. The NIrV comes in several study Bible formats designed especially for children. Published by International Bible Society.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

A completely new translation published by the American Bible Society in 1995. The CEV is a meaning-based (or functional equivalent) translation done in a contemporary style using common language. It was designed to be understood when read and heard out loud, not just when it is read silently. It is one of the best Bibles for children and youth, as well as for new Bible readers who are not familiar with traditional Bible and church words.


A study Bible is an edition of the Bible that is highly recommended for all students.  Such a Bible usually contains an extensive apparatus, which may contain such features as:


  • Annotations explaining difficult passages or points of theology and doctrine;
  • References to indicate where one passage of the text relates to others;
  • A concordance, a word index that indicates where various key words are used in the Bible.
  • Variant translations or interpretations of certain debatable passages, or possible textual emendations (i.e. alterations of the original Hebrew or Greek);
  • Introductions and historical notes for each book of the Bible;
  • Maps that illustrate the Holy Land during Biblical times;
  • Harmonies of the Gospels, pointing out parallel incidents in the life of Jesus;
  • Timelines of Bible history that relate it to world history.