What Bible Translation Do You Read?

Happy Tuesday, friends! This post is the first on the Bible Study series. I will be covering a few topics on Bible study over the next few weeks. I hope this series will bring you something to think about! As always, I love and appreciate all the comments you leave.

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What Bible Translation Do You Read?

What Translation Do You Read?

A while back, I asked on my Instagram what translation of the Bible people read. This was not to push my preferred translation on people. Or even to advocate it. Honestly, I was just interested in what translation of the Bible people read. But it turned out to be such an interesting topic.

For myself, I read and study the Bible using the New King James Version (NKJV). In all honesty, this is because my first own Bible (that was given to me by my brother and still is the Bible that I use) was a NKJV. My pastor teaches from the KJV because that is the one he has always read. Our church doesn’t require us to use the KJV or NKJV. However, those are both solid translations so we recommend them at our church.

I also use the New Living Translation (NLT) at times. I find it is easier to read, for sure. Sometimes, it also has a beautiful way of wording verses. Finnish is actually my first language but I have always read the Bible in English. Of course I have a Finnish translation of the Bible, too. Now, I don’t often read the Finnish Bible since I prefer my English one. I have found, however, that the NLT actually words some verses in a similar way that the Finnish translation that I use, does. That is also why I like the New Living Translation.

Why Should We Consider the Bible Translation We Use?

When I asked about the translations on Instagram, I found out something interesting. Many of us read the translation of the Bible that we were first given. That, I find, is very understandable. We start reading a certain Bible translation for reasons and then we get used to it. That’s the reason why I read a NKJV Bible — because it’s the one I started reading when I came to Christ.

However, people actually weren’t really sure about how the translations were different from one another. Also, they weren’t sure why it mattered. So I’m here to tell you that it does matter. Or at least I think it matters.

As far as translations go, there are a few clear differences between them. Some translations are Word-For-Word, as in, they translate word for word. Some translations are Meaning-For-Meaning, so they look more at the meaning behind the passage and translate that. Then some translations are Thought-For-Thought, whereas the rest are Paraphrase.

This is why it can matter what translation we use. If we want to understand the original text, I would recommend going for Word-For-Word or Meaning-For-Meaning translations. Such would be NASB, ESV, and NKJV, for example. On the other hand, Thought-For-Thought translations usually are easier to understand as the language they use is easier. These kind of Bibles (like NLT or NIV) could be better for teenagers, new believers, and such. However, I think it’s then important to point out the differences between translations at some point.

Then there are the Paraphrase translations. A well known one is The Message Bible. And honestly, I have a bit of an issue with these ones. I keep reading posts based on a verse or a passage from the Message. And I get it. The Message really does sound nice. But we need to consider that it’s paraphrasing the Bible. So while it is okay to read a verse here or there, I don’t think anyone should study the Bible using the Message. Mainly because it is all paraphrasing, which is the same as someone telling the stories of the Bible in their own words. It sounds nice, yes. But it isn’t the original text.

What Translations Should I Use Then?

The hard question is, then, what translation should we really use? Honestly, I don’t really have an answer for you. I also don’t really have a preference for one translation over the other. Like mentioned, I use the NKJV. I know many love ESV. Of course, NIV is very common, too.

Now, I want to point this one out. There is a difference between a Bible study and doing devotions. I think it’s very important to consider the translation we use when we study the Bible. As was pointed out earlier, some translations are Thought-For-Thought translations. I would say that those are not the best ones to use for Bible study, though they usually are a lot easier to understand.

So I would venture out to say that it isn’t necessarily about which translation is the best out of all. Rather, I think it’s important to reflect on when and where we use it. Is it for Bible study only? For devotions only? Or do you want a Bible you can use for both of those?

In the end, I would say the most important thing is that you do read the Bible. Which translation, is less important.

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22 Comments

  1. In my part of the world there are churches who insist on using only the KJV, which I find to be alarming because usually their stance is based in fear. I use the NKJV because it retains some of the lyricism of the KJV while correcting most of the problems and updating the parlance. Therefore, I tend to memorize in NKJV, but when I really love the way the ESV has rendered something, I memorize in ESV. It’s fun to get several versions open all at once on Biblegateway or on my dining room table.

    I think you’ve give us the best approach here. Just read. Getting our heads into ANY version of the Bible is better than wasting time quibbling about versions. God the Holy Spirit knew the text even before it emerged from the end of a pen in Hebrew or Greek. He is our interpreter.

    1. Michele, I haven’t really read ESV at any point but I know many love it for how it words verses. But yes, reading any version of the Bible is better than not reading it at all! Thanks for sharing all this with me, Michele!

  2. I actually like NIV. It’s good to read from a variety of different translations, I find. You get to discover the subtle differences and maybe catch a nuance you wouldn’t have if you just read one.

    1. I think that it’s good to read from a variety of different translations, Laurie! It can open up the words so much more.

  3. This is such an interesting question. I’ve actually switched translations. I was always NIV, but then NIV made some changes and strayed a bit more from the original text. Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is a middle ground between the original NIV (easy readability) and ESV (great word-for-word text). I’m loving it.

    I also love finding verses in The Message (MSG) because it brings a new, fresh light to them just when I need it!

    1. That’s so interesting that you actually changed translations! I’ve heard good things about CBS though I’ve never read it!

  4. Such a good topic! I primarily read NASB, but I was taught that its best when doing a in-depth Bible Study to read the same passage from a few different translations to see what is the same and what word has been translated differently. That sometimes leads you back to the Hebrew or Greek in a word study.

    A good thing to note is, that while several versions are as close to word for word as they can manage, no Bible in English is actually literally word for word in the same order as the original text. For example in Greek, sentence structure is much more flexible than English, and if we were to simply translate word for word into English without rearranging order, it wouldn’t make any sense to us. This is where the translators work together to rearrange the text into English sentence structures without losing the original meaning, and why sometimes changes are made later in efforts to keep improving the accuracy. I am by no means a Greek scholar, but I’m so grateful for an introductory class that helped me understand this little bit!

    1. Katrina, you make such good points! As Finnish is my first language, I totally get the differences in English translations compared to the original language, say Greek, as the Finnish translation sometimes renders a word in a sentence quite differently. And then of course some things are very specific to one language — like in Finnish, we have only one word for both mercy and grace! But yes, these make Bible study quite interesting and we definitely should look into the original language as well.

  5. I am a Ducth believer in Jesus Christ and I read the HSV. It is a revised States Translation. The States Bible (States Translation) was the first translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages to Dutch. I used both. The old one and the new translation.

    In English I use the KJ and the Hebrew Bible in English also called the Tanakh

    Good topic. Love it.

  6. Raised in the south KJV was it, but I read all of them, mostly on Bible Hub. I used to hear that words had been changed, it was in effect, dumbed down. But I don’t believe that, so far I haven’t found anything too far off. I do Hebrew and Greek word studies, and was so happy my blog translates into many languages, the Holy Spirit guides you.

  7. Having several translations on hand for Bible study I find rather useful, to get the correct context especially the Hebrew & Greek Interlinear Bible, NKJV, Amplified Bible, NIV, The Message etc.

    I started out with the Good News Bible which was a gift from my grandparents & progressed to KJV & then found The Open Bible (NASB) great with its inbuilt Bible Cyclopedia.

    I think any good translation is good to help understand (at times) difficult texts, the most important is to get the Scriptures in context which I agree with Michele The Holy Spirit will guide, direct & enlighten to our spirits. Just keep on reading 😉
    Bless you,
    Jennifer

    1. NASB is a good translation for sure! But I agree, having several translations on hand for Bible study can be really helpful for understanding the verse. 😊

  8. I guess NASB would be my favorite. I have memorized most of the verses I know in that translation. I read KJV when I first came to the Lord, but switched to NASB at a point in my life where I got very serious about my walk with God. I do like the ESV. It’s the translation my pastor uses most. And I often go to the NLT to see passages expressed a different way. I seldom read paraphrases like the Message. I much prefer a translation, but I believe KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, NCV, NIV, and NLT are all good.

    1. I use NLT as well as it’s easy to understand and sometimes it words verses really beautifully. Finnish is my first language and the NLT actually words verses similarly with the Finnish translation at times, especially in the Psalms.

  9. I personally read a word-for-word because I like the be able to look up words in the concordance. That would be really hard with a thought-for-thought version. Also, I would point out that the ESV is the preferred version of Calvinists (which I most definitely am not, after really studying it). So if you do not agree with Calvinism, be careful with the ESV.

    1. That’s interesting! I definitely like word-for-word translations better as well as it makes it easier to study not just the meaning of the passage, but the words as well.