Bible Translation Rumination

BiblesHave you tried to buy a new Bible lately?  The choices are dizzying.

I have at least a dozen physical Bibles, in seven different translations, within my reach right at this moment.  There are probably at least as many on other bookshelves in the house.  If my count is correct, there are fifty-two English versions of the Bible that can be easily accessed at  Add to that all of the specially targeted versions like women’s, men’s, student, study, slimline, large print, devotional, children’s, and daily reading Bibles, and there are literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of Bibles to choose from.

The choices are endless.  It is understandable that publishers try to make the Bible appealing to as many people as possible.  (My cynical side, however, notices a blatant appeal to American consumerism in the marketing of Bibles.)

What translation(s) of the Bible do you use?  I use several different translations, but I tend to stick with one for general use.

The New International Version, NIV, Bible was my go-to Bible for some of the most formative years of my faith.  My study Bible was well used, and I was very sad when Genesis started falling out.  I kept shoving it back in, but eventually I had to face the fact that my Bible was coming apart.  While the same words of truth can by found in other Bibles, all of my notes and underlined passages cannot.  Sigh.  I bought another NIV Bible and proceeded to create new notes.

I often read The Message and other paraphrases of Biblical text for added perspective when studying a passage.  It’s a good idea to read several versions of a text, and I am amazed how a reliable paraphrase can expand my view.

One day my church and Community Bible Study changed translations.  Suddenly all Bible passages were read from the ESV, English Standard Version, instead of the NIV. This was unsettling.  There’s something about being told that my trusty Bible was being replaced that makes me a bit feisty.  I still primarily use my NIV Bible and consult the ESV when necessary.

A recent addition to my library came from a friend who had a dozen or so Bibles that were given to her daughter, and she asked if I wanted any.  Never one to pass up an opportunity for another Bible, I took her up on it.  The Voice, a new translation as of 2012 and one that I had never heard of, was the Bible I selected.  After reading the NIV for so long, I hope to be shaken out of my familiar by this new translation.

There are dozens of faithful translations and endless target audiences, but God’s Word still speaks powerfully to anyone with the heart to read it.

That’s my story. What’s yours?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  Psalm 119:105

What Bible translation(s) do you prefer?  Do you use different translations for different purposes?   





12 thoughts on “Bible Translation Rumination

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  1. It can be unsettling to switch translations, but I find swapping around can prove stimulating at times. Thanks for the thought-provoking article!

  2. Yesterday, I ran across this comment on a blog:
    “Blessed are the meek” in French comes out as “Heureux les débonnaires,” often footnoted “litt., ‘ceux qui sont doux'” — “mild” with all its connotations of calm weather, “good-humored” with all its connotations of an unruffled, un-ruffle-able disposition. It makes me think of the disciples waking Jesus in alarm, only to see him calm the waves with a word.

    When my husband and I read the bible together, we each use a different translation: It’s fun, and sometimes very interesting, to compare them. I’m not fluent enough in any other language to go beyond English, unfortunately.

    1. Hi Kathleen! Reading the Bible in a different language would be a wonderful way to expand understanding. It takes Bible translations to a whole new level. I’m not fluent enough in any language to do that either:) Footnotes will have to be enough for me. Thanks for your thoughts, Kathleen!

  3. Interesting thoughts. I gave my daughter the message translation a year ago and not sure if she picks it up. I gave my son my copy of the new ESV last week and I have never been so happy to give a Bible. I believe God will work in him if he will just pick it up. I sticky noted Proverbs as a great way for him to understand how God sees a 26 year old should live his life. I honestly believe God is moving in his life and by God’s grace I happen to have a Bible in my car to put in his hands! My suggestion, always keep a Bible close by!!

    1. Excellent advice Helen! Although the car may not be the best place to read:) Now we can access a Bible any time we want to on our phones, which are always with us, which is handy. Thanks Helen!

  4. I have used NKJ for most of my walk, with a few years of using the NASB and now the ESV. I still like the NKJ best, but also check the Amplified and NLT, too. The reason I like my NKJ Ryrie Study Bible best: I know where scriptures are without thinking much. Such as, “that scripture is in the top right corner of a page in one of the Gospels.”

    1. That is so funny, Larry, because I had the same experience when my NIV study Bible fell apart. I knew visually where certain scriptures were, so I could find them easily. I would know that I had underlined it in pink pen and that it was at a certain point on the page, and a quick flip through the Bible would located it. Thanks!

  5. Your right Judy, the choices seem to be endless. My favorite translation is the New King James Open Bible. Its a very readable version of the King James and It identifies words and phrases, etc., not found in manuscripts. I’ve also been using the ESV for over a decade now but I still prefer the New King James. I guess it’s just a matter of what you’re most used to reading…

    1. I agree that it’s largely a matter of what we’re used to. When I started reading the Bible I had very little idea what translation I needed or what the difference was between them, so I just read the one that people around me were reading. Now it is just familiar. Thanks for your comment, Pete!

  6. I have used the New King James, NIV, KJV, and the New American Standard versions throughout my faith walk. I have leaned more on one or the other at various periods in my life and still consult them all regularly.

    1. Hi Peter, I’ve consulted the King James version but haven’t used it all that much. I wonder if denomination or geographic location influences which translation we become accustomed to. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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