Choosing a Bible Translation

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At this point the question "Which translation of the Bible should I use?" should be answered. Although there is a great deal of discussion between the supporters of each of the various translations the best answer is most likely this: As long as your main study Bible is a trustworthy translation created with the aim of portraying as accurately as possible, and as readably as possible, the thoughts originally presented in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic you cannot go far wrong.

When choosing a translation you will need to be sure that it is relatively free from such dangerous bias and poor translation methodology as would cause a distraction from the Bible study itself; we are, after all, embarking on our Bible study to learn more about our God, not to be annoyed by the foibles of our fellow man. No one translation is entirely free from bias but some are far more serious than others. If you know where errors of this nature occur in your Bible you can overlook them but over time they may become annoying and also begin to act as a detriment to Godly study.

A good selection of the translations discussed below are available in most of the current selection of study Bibles so your primary question will eventually become: "Which set of study helps do I wish to have accompany the Bible I use?" It is recommended that the study Bible you use for yourself not be one of the special interest Bibles currently on the market such as the Spirit Filled Life Bible, or others of its kind. While these Bibles will contain worthwhile study helps they are generally concentrated along a narrow topic of interest or doctrinal stance and may overlook other areas of study. Be sure to look for a study Bible that has a proven history of limited bias, and a conservative interpretation of doctrine.

One drawback of study Bibles with in text notes is that the notes are often an abbreviated or condensed form of commentary and that there is consequently a great temptation to allow the textual notes, which are printed on the same page as the verses to which they refer, to determine how the text itself is to be interpreted. It is important to realize that any study notes, all chapter and verse divisions, as well as all section headings were not originally part of the Bible and have been added subsequently by human editors as study helps to the reader. They are very often trustworthy and can enhance our understanding of the text but they can never be placed on the same level as the text itself. Remember that the purpose of inductive Bible study is to allow the Bible to speak to us as we study, keeping in mind that the Holy Spirit will teach the willing heart just as Jesus promised:


But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.

John 14:26

Many guides to Bible study will encourage the Bible student to compare various Bible translations to have a good understanding of what the Bible is saying in a particular passage. But, how can we do this since most of us have little or no understanding of the languages that the writers of the Bible used and have not had sufficient education to accurately determine which translation is correct in the instances where one translation uses different words or phrasing than an other translation. One of the best methods of comparing translations is to read the passage in question several times in your favourite translation. Read it until you are familiar with the flow of the passage, the words that the translators used and how they determine your understanding of the passage. Once you have familiarized yourself with the passage in your translation of choice read it several times in one or more alternate translations. Make notes of instances where you feel the alternate translation says things differently than the first translation did. Then use various of the tools referred to in the section Important Bible Study Tools to determine why the translations differ; asking yourself questions such as:

Why did the translators use this particular selection of words?
Is there a reason why the translations differ?
Is my understanding of the passage affected by the alternate readings?

Commentaries are quite often useful when comparing translations as many explore these very questions in far greater detail than you or I might be capable of. Of special value is the use of an exhaustive concordance, such as Strong's or Young's (where the words in our modern translations can be traced back to the Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew words of the original writers). With such a concordance, you will be able to see for yourself the various alternatives available to the translators and perhaps learn why they chose the translation that they did.

Remember, all translations, commentaries and other Bible study helps have a bias. Bias is not wrong in and of itself, but it is good to be aware of the particular bias of the author(s) of the tools you are using, especially if that bias is different than your own.

Also remember, no matter how good the Bible translation is that you use, it is only as good as your willingness to allow the Bible to change you. A  paraphrase that is allowed to speak is infinitely superior to a translation that is forced into silence.

Below follows a brief description of several of the more popular Bible translations; you may also wish to visit Wikipedia's page on English Bible Translations as a place to start on a more in depth analysis.