How to Choose a Bible
The first step to Bible Study is of course the Bible. In a world where we want choice there is literally a buffet of Bibles. Not only do we have a multitude of translations, but they come in every shape, size and color. It can seem overwhelming. A few months ago I purchased a Bible for a friend, I remember when the choice for a leather or bonded leather Bible was one of the following: Black, Navy, or Burgundy. Today you have duo-tone and every color imaginable. Now I am not going to give any tips on what color or pattern of Bible you might wants, you can figure that one out on your own. But I am going to give some tips on how can you pick the Bible that will help you study it for yourself.
First, there is no such thing a perfect translation. As someone who has studied the original languages of the Bible, translation is not easy. There are many good translations, where godly scholars have worked hard to make the Bible accessible in English. They are very careful and often get more harsh criticism then is deserved or justified. You also want a Bible that is done by a committee that has representatives from many different denominations (or else you will just get a biased translation). You also want a translation done by many and not a paraphrase done by one person (those are helpful for devotional readings, but not studying the Bible).
There are two basic philosophies of translations
- formal equivalence (an attempt at word-for-word, but none of them are actually able to accomplish that perfectly).
- dynamic equivalence (a thought for thought). its it actually a good idea to have one or two of each, no translation gets it 100% right so having more than one can help in getting into the Bible. There are parallel Bibles that have more than one.
- Formal Equivalence: King James Version; New King James Version; English Standard Version; New Revised Standard Version or New American Standard Bible 1995 Update
- Dynamic Equivalence: New International Version; Today’s New International Version; New Living Translation or New Century Version
So the first thing to truly consider is what Bible you will be able to understand and study. Before going to a store and buying one spend some time reading some of the Bible from each (reading the same passage) a way to do that is using internet Bible sites. Several that include many translations are:
You can sample many different Bibles and find one that you will be able to understand and read.
Next, when you purchase a Bible decide what you need from it as far as helps goes. Do you want a Bible with room for notes? There are Bibles with Wide-Margin or a whole page for each page of text available. Do you need notes that will explain the Bible’s historical context (check out the NIV Archaeological Study Bible) or how to apply it to your life (The Life Application Study Bible is available in many translations). Go to your local Christian Bookstore or even Barnes & Nobles, and then spend some time looking at the different types (paying attention to the options available in the translation you’ve picked).
Then get the Bible that you will understand, read and study!