Choosing your Bible

How to Select a Bible

Today there is a glut of Bible versions on the market. Just about everywhere you turn, there are all sorts of specialized Bibles. Not only are there a lot of translations, but each translation appears in several different forms. There are Bibles packaged as devotional aides for men, women, children, singles, and teens, and there are study Bibles for end-times enthusiasts, Lutherans, Orthodox Christians, Charismatics, and Catholics, and there are even bride’s Bibles that are intended to be used as wedding gifts.

If someone told me there was a special devotional Bible for divorced charismatic Lithuanian plumbers with brown hair, I’d be inclined to believe it.

So here are some recommendations on how to make a selection.

Which translation?

In my opinion, you should own at least two translations, one for scholarship and one for readability. Your first two translations should be at least ten years old, so that the translators have had time to get reactions and revise their work. The Bible is a huge collection of books; no one ever gets the translation right on the first stab. Everyone and his brother is translating the Bible these days, and they have to differentiate themselves so that people have a reason to buy them. The result is that Bible translations are getting more and more tendentious. So leave the newer translations on the vine until they ripen.

  • For your scholarly translation, I recommend either the (New) Revised Standard Version, the (New) Jerusalem Bible, or the New American Standard Bible. The King James Version is okay if you were raised on it and you can understand it.
  • For your readable translation, I recommend the New International Version, the Good News Bible, or the J. B. Phillips New Testament.

After that, you can add to your collection whatever strikes your fancy.

I would steer clear of Bibles that are marketed as having specific doctrinal or sectarian purposes, especially if they agree with you. What you want is the Word of God, not the Opinions of the Translators. You want to become a humble disciple of Jesus, not a self-satisfied, all-knowing Pharisee.

Choosing the right Bible takes time and it is well worth coming in to the shop personally to both ‘handle’ a selection, to get a ‘feel’ for them, also to read a few verses from different versions to see which one you are most comfortable with – All whilst enjoying a cup of coffee or tea, of course!