How to Choose a Bible

The original text of the Bible was in Ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Most of us don’t read those languages! Therefore everyone needs to choose a translation. Anyone who understands a second language will know that a one-to-one equivalence doesn’t exist for words. That means, every word in a given language doesn’t have an exact equivalent in another language. The implication is that when Bibles are translated from the original languages they exist on a spectrum from ‘technical word-for-word to thought-for-thought to paraphrase’.

The central position is called ‘dynamic equivalence’ and is the best choice for a person new to the Bible. You can find this in the description or preface of a Bible translation. Here is an example from Exodus 34.6:

Language scholars spend a lifetime ensuring that the ‘word for word’ translation is acurrately reflected in the ‘thought for thought’ and paraphrase editions. This is why there are many translations in multiple languages, so choosing one can be complicated but not difficult.

Here are some tips:

Ask your Christian friends what version they are reading.

If you have Christian friends, they will be able to recommend a range of Bibles. Most people read Bibles that are in the central ‘dynamic equivalence’ range.

Ask your church what version is being used for preaching.

If you’ve found a church, it can be helpful to read the same version of the Bible that is being used to for preaching. You will understand and recall more.

Find a translation in your mother tongue.

The complexity of the ideas in the Bible mean, if possible, it’s best to read in your first language. Unless you are very fluent in your second language, you will always understand more in your mother tongue. The exception to this would be if there are not Bibles in your language, or if they are in archaic language.

Find a translation that has language you find easy to read.

The spectrum from technical to informal also impacts readability. Therefore, choose a Bible that is in the thought for thought range, but suitable for your reading capacity. There is no point choosing a bible that is technical, but not understandable.

Choose one that has a recent publication date.

All languages change over time, English more than most! Words can change their meaning in a surprisingly short time. Eg ‘terrific’ used to mean something that evokes terror, and now means something wonderful. Therefore a recent translation is likely to be closer to the language you speak.

If you’re still uncertain about which bible to get contact me here