One of the best ways to hear from God is to read His Word, the Bible. For those just getting started with Bible reading, it can be confusing to know where to start. Others have been told there is only one version of the Bible that is the right one, even though that particular version might be challenging to read or hard to understand. Where do you start? Which version of the Bible should you read?
Translations and Versions
The Bible is composed of 66 total books: 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament. It was inspired by God and written by over 40 authors. Originally, it was written in several languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Over time, it has been translated into over 3,000 languages! Of those translations, there are many different versions. In English, we have over 50 main versions of the Bible to choose from.
Why So Many Versions?
My wife was raised in a denomination where the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible was the only acceptable translation to use. As I mentioned above, the King James Version can be difficult to understand because it was written in the language used at the time it was written. Old English is dramatically different than modern English. Over time, the meanings of words have changed. New versions of the Bible have been developed to keep up with the changes in language while not compromising the truth of the passages.
Is the King James the Only “Approved” Version?
If you come from a denomination that only approves of the KJV Bible (or some other specific version), you might struggle to understand the text because of all of the “thees,” “thous,” and uncommon words that muddle the language. That could discourage you from getting into God’s word, and then you could potentially feel guilt for not reading the Bible. I want to free you from that guilt right now. The King James Version is not the only “God-approved” version of the Bible. Many versions are translated well and hold true to the original meaning of the text. Read a version of the Bible that you can understand!
Here are my suggestions for which version of the Bible you should read.
The English Standard Version (ESV)
If you want a solid Bible that’s easy to understand in the English language, I highly recommend the ESV. It balances the different types of translations very well. The translators used a word-for-word method and sought to be as literal as possible as they worked.
The Message (MSG)
If you want to read the Bible for understanding, I highly recommend Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message. If you find the Bible hard to comprehend, try starting with the Message. As a pastor and preacher, I don’t use The Message as a text for study because it wasn’t written as a word-for-word translation. It is more of a paraphrase. However, I do endorse it for reading for understanding.
Dake’s Annotated Study Bible
If you are looking to dig deeper into the study of the word, I recommend Dake’s Annotated Study Bible. This is a great resource for those who are preachers and teachers. The version that Dake uses is the King James, and it includes 35,000 commentary notes, 500,000 cross/chain references, and 9,000 outline headings.
Which Translation of the Bible Should You Use?
These are just three versions of the Bible that I enjoy, but many are good, solid versions. Therefore, I recommend visiting an online Bible site and comparing passages across different versions so that you can get a feel for what each is like before you purchase a Bible.
So, which translation of the Bible should you use? The one you’ll read! God cannot transform you and you can’t hear His voice unless you’re consuming His Word, so choose a version at a reading level and understanding level that works for you!
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