What Bible Translation Should I be Reading?


The question that I got this weekend was: What Bible translation should I be reading? It’s a great question for a couple of reasons. First, it means that New City Church is reaching people who aren’t familiar with God’s Word–in other words, we’re helping people find and follow Jesus, and that’s our mission. Second, it means that people are interested in generally learning more from and about God’s Word. In any case, we all should be reading God’s Word with regularity, so here’s a little help when you’re looking for a (new) Bible.

First, there are essentially 3 types of translations.

  1. Literal — a word-for-word translation that aims at being as close to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts as is possible. (Ex: English Standard Version; New American Standard Bible)
  2. Dynamic — a thought-for-thought translation that aims at giving the balance of translation and readability. (Ex. New International Version; New Living Translation)
  3. Paraphrase — a translation that is aimed at readability. (Ex: The Message; Phillips Translation)

As you can probably see, it’s both simpler and more complex than most think. But here’s the gist:

  • What translation is used in your church? It’s always helpful to be on the same page as your pastor when he’s preaching.
  • Do you enjoy reading? If you do, then you shouldn’t have a problem going with the literal, “stiffer” translation.
  • Are you going to use the Bible for in-depth studying? If the answer is yes, you’ll benefit from a literal translation. If the answer is no, then you can lean toward the a dynamic or even a paraphrase.

For most readers, the important question isn’t, What translation should I be reading? but, Am I reading the Bible enough? 

The truth is, with Bibles and apps available by the hundreds, there’s no reason why anyone who calls themselves a Christian shouldn’t be reading God’s Word voraciously. Although I personally enjoy and read the ESV, I own a large variety of translations. I read and appreciate them all for different reasons. For most readers, the important question isn’t, What translation should I be reading? but, Am I reading the Bible enough?

So here’s the real question: Are you reading the Bible regularly? I can assure you that reading a paraphrase of the Bible is far more beneficial than owning a literal translation that’s never read!




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