Choosing a Bible may seem like a daunting task when you consider the hundreds of options that are available. However, once you identify what your primary use will be, then you can narrow your options. Some Bibles are better for reading and some are better for study. There are Bibles for daily devotions, as well as those specifically for children. Bibles differ in margin size, type size, and notations, and the list goes on.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and has been translated into English. The differences in translations vary in reading levels and in style.
There are basically 3 types of Bible translations:
1. Literal – This is a “word for word” translation. It follows the Hebrew or Greek as closely as possible. Therefore, a literal translation will be the closest English translation of the original text. Drawback: Some of the wording may sound awkward in today’s English
2. Dynamic-equivalent – This is a “thought for thought” translation that translates the biblical words and phrases into clear and contemporary English equivalents. The priority is on the intended meaning along with comprehension. These translations are easy to read and faithful to the original message. Drawback: In a few instances the original meaning of the text is not conveyed clearly.
3. Paraphrase or free translation – These translations are more concerned with clarity than exact wording. They are easy to read, but can give the impression that the Bible was written in the 20th century. For example in Psalm 119:105 “lamp” in KJV and NAS is translated “flashlight” in TLB. Obviously there were no flashlights a few thousand years ago! Drawback: Compromises on the original meaning of the text.
Some students of the Bible may take advantage of all 3 types of translations. However, it is best to use either a literal or a dynamic-equivalence translation for your actual study. These 2 translations grasp the basic meaning of the passage. The different translations can help to provide unique insights into the text and ideas on how to better communicate the Bible to others. Be careful, however, when using various translations for your personal study that you don’t compromise the original intent and integrity of the scripture when sharing with others.