Shopping for Bibles can be both a rewarding and an overwhelming experience. Every year it seems like more and more new Bible translations are hitting the marketplace. In this article you’ll discover why there are so many different translations and which Bible translation is best for you!
Do You Remember Your First Bible Shopping Experience?
Do you remember the first time you tried to purchase a Bible?
If your experience was similar to ours, you probably visited your favorite bookstore or online retailer, excited about the prospect of finding the perfect Bible. Most likely, you approached the process with a plan. You thought you’d look at a few Bibles, compare their features and prices, and purchase the Bible you liked the most.
You may have even looked forward to the process, thinking it would be fun!
What you didn’t anticipate, however, was the vast quantity of Bibles you’d have to choose from. By the time you finished examining your choices, you probably felt more overwhelmed than invigorated by the process!
Most of us don’t realize that publishers have created a Bible for every person and purpose. We have no idea that so many Bible translations exist until we must choose the best one for us. Suddenly, we find ourselves faced with these questions:
- Why do so many Bible translations exist?
- What are the main differences between Bible translations?
- Which Bible translation is best for me?
In this article, we’ll demystify the Bible translation process and provide tips to help you choose the best Bible translation for you!
Why Do So Many Bible Translations Exist?
There are certain things we should know before we read the Bible. For instance, did you know that the Bible was not originally written in English? Bible authors wrote their original manuscripts in ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Since most of us are not well versed in ancient biblical languages, we rely on linguistic experts and biblical scholars to accurately translate the original biblical manuscripts into our native tongue.
This explains why we need the original biblical manuscripts translated into English. You may still be wondering, however, why not create one definitive English Bible translation? Wouldn’t that be less confusing than creating translation after translation?
Well, in 1611, King James tried to do just that. He authorized a team to translate the “authorized version” of the Bible for use throughout the English-speaking world. The result – the King James Version (KJV) – was a huge success. In fact, the King James Bible was so well received that it remains the 2nd most popular Bible translation to this day.
But, language changes over time. Words that meant one thing centuries ago mean something entirely different today. Because language is constantly in flux, Bible translators must continuously keep up with linguistic changes while striving to faithfully communicate the timeless truths found in God’s Word. This is one key reason Bible translators are continuously creating new Bible translations.
What Are The Main Differences Between Bible Translations?
Bible translators do more than simply translate the words of the Bible from one language to another. They identify what the author intended to communicate to the original audience and accurately convey the author’s original message to us. As you can imagine, this is an extremely difficult task!
Because we live in a different time and culture, we have an entirely different perspective on life. The way that we understand ideas is different than people who lived thousands of years ago. For this reason, Bible translators have developed three distinct approaches to Bible translation.
Word For Word Translations
Word-For-Word Translations provide us with the most literally accurate translation possible. Word-for-word translation teams examine the original text, find the English words that most accurately correspond to the original biblical words, and translate the manuscript accordingly.
While 100% correspondence is not possible because many ancient biblical words simply do not exist in modern-day English, word-for-word translations offer serious Bible students a high degree of accuracy.
Popular word-for-word translations include the:
Thought For Thought Translations
Thought-For-Thought Translations approach translation in a slightly different way. Instead of looking for one-to-one correspondences for each word, the translation team focuses on communicating the overall meaning of the original sentence or paragraph as a whole. While accuracy matters, readability and communication of the overall thought is more important than precision in every last word.
Popular word-for-word translations include the:
Paraphrases are not actually Bible translations. Instead, they represent an author’s attempt to render an existing Bible translation into contemporary English in order to communicate the stories of the Bible in a way their readers can understand. The author’s primary concern is readability and comprehension, not accuracy. While paraphrases may be interesting to read, they should never be mistaken as or serve as a substitution for a solid Bible translation.
Popular paraphrases include:
Which Bible Translation Is Best For Me?
Now that you know a little more about Bible translations – why they exist and what the primary differences are between them – you’re probably wondering how to choose the best Bible translation for you.
Our advice is to choose the Bible translation that you find easiest to understand, provided it accurately conveys the Word of God. The reason is simple: this is the Bible you are most likely to read!
How do you make this determination?
Compare Bible Translations Before You Buy – It’s Easier Than You Think!
- Begin by praying. Ask the Lord to guide you through this process!
- Go to BibleGateway.com and choose a passage like Psalm 23 that you are familiar with. Use the parallel function to compare different word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations.
- As you compare different passages in different Bible translations, you will begin to discover which translation you like the best.
Once you have decided which Bible translation you like the most, you still need to determine what type of Bible is best for you. Some Bibles contain Scripture alone; others contain extensive study notes; still others are created for specific purposes like note-taking or Bible journaling.
Over time, as you spiritually mature, your needs may change. Some people are happy using their original Bible for life. Others collect many Bibles over time to fulfill different spiritual needs. Whichever camp you fall into, acquiring a new Bible is an exciting milestone. Your Bible should be your spiritual companion day in and day out – read it with joy!
Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
What’s Your Next Step?
Now that you understand why so many Bible translations exist and what distinguishes one type of translation from another, which Bible translation are you leaning towards purchasing? Or, if you are familiar with one or more translations, which one is your favorite? Please share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!