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The Holy Bible

Which version of the Bible?

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When you want to read a Bible, which translation should you go for? It seems as though every publisher under the sun has "its own translation", doesn't it? And this can be so confusing.

I have used a variety of translations in the past, to try and expand my understanding of what God is trying to say to us through His word. Here are some of my personal findings, but please pray about which version God wants you to read.

New Living Translation

Written in today's English, this is very helpful for someone who is new to Christianity, and wants to understand what is going on. It's very readable. To quote one reader, "I have read the bible for many years in [other] translations, but never have I been so in love with the
Word of the Lord since the NLT! It has opened up passages to me that I never quite understood and has enriched my life so very much!"

J John, the evangelist, says "I find that, in terms of communicating the meaning of the original text to our world today, it is one of the best versions around."

See the New Living Translation web site for a free online Bible text lookup.

NIV New International Version 

This is one of my own personal preferences, using the "language of today". Good quality, understandable plain English, and as accurate as English allows it to be. (By that I mean that some words don't translate from the Greek very easily - but that's another story - ask me about it some time.)

RSV Revised Standard Version

This version has been praised for its technical accuracy, whilst retaining the "thee", "thy" and "thou" when characters in the Bible speak to God. Personally I find it a bit hard going because of its style. Written a while back - "revised" in 1881-1885, then again in 1901. Updated in 1952, and again with some revisions to the New Testament in 1971.

GNB Good News Bible

This is a good translation in what I would call "easy English". Very readable, and easy to follow. Good for beginners to the faith, but later on I would recommend the NIV for deeper understanding and accuracy, or for study.

KJV King James Version / AV Authorised Version (1611)

This delightful old version has served its purpose for many years; but is out of date for two reasons.

(a) Accuracy: it was translated from fairly late texts. In the last 400 years, archaeologists have found much earlier manuscripts, which are therefore much closer in time to the original texts. This means that they have suffered less from copying errors, or from people trying to say something a different way instead of faithfully copying the originals word-by-word; the earlier the text found, the nearer to the original it is. And there are some significant discrepancies.

(b) Obsolete language: a lot of words don't have the same meaning now as they did in 1611. Let's consider a simple example - the word "charity". These days, it means giving away something that you don't want; or putting money in a collection box; or running a second-hand shop to raise money for a good cause, or it's an organisation to help the poor in third-world countries -- you know the kind of thing. However, the meaning in 1611 (and the meaning God put on it) is the all-encompassing, compassionate love that God has for us, and that we should have for one another, always doing what is right (before God) for the other person rather than for ourselves, always acting to bring more love into the world.

After all, Jesus spoke to His followers and disciples in the language of the day, not using words that were some 400 years out of date.

As evangelist J John says, "By all means use 16th century English, if that is how you and your hearers normally speak. Otherwise, be contemporary. This is not me being trendy, but me simply being anxious that God communicates effectively with us. If we are going to speak to non-Christians, we might as well do it so that we are understood."

Jerusalem Bible

The Jerusalem Bible is a lovely translation and one I sometimes go back to. It has a nice written style, and usually contains those extra books known as the "Apocrypha" - books omitted from most modern translations as not belonging to the "approved canon of scripture" - in other words, their contribution to the faith has been called into question. However, the Roman Catholic church still uses them today (and they are the largest Christian Church in the world).

The Amplified Bible

No, this doesn't mean that it shouts at you!

An interesting version to look at, particularly in the New Testament, because it attempts to convey all of the translations of particular words from the original Greek texts, and to amplify the meaning to us, not just to deliver the exact translated words.

For example, John 3:16 in the NIV says, "For God so loved the world that gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"

The AB offers this: "For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in ((trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life."

It also gives a handy introductory section before each "book".

Worth keeping on the shelf to dip into when you want to understand the feeling behind the words.

To help you study and understand


A Concordance is a book (or a section of a book) that contains words from the Bible. You look up the words and it tells you which verses to find them in. An "exhaustive concordance" is just that - exhaustive: it tells you every occurrence of every word in the Bible. Over the top for all but the most enthusiastic word scholars!

However, for us ordinary folk, there is a condensed version that matches up with your preferred Bible version. Many Bibles have a concordance at the back, and this is sufficient for most purposes.

As you get to know Bible verses, you'll remember the words, but not their address! The concordance helps you to look them up.

NIV Study

This is the NIV Bible as above, but with lots of helpful study notes at the bottom of each page, giving explanations of key verses. At the back is a concordance and maps etc.

NIV Thompson Chain Reference Edition

I found this very helpful if you want to study the Bible in more depth, perhaps for preaching, college courses and for essays. However, if you are doing a college course, please ask them and find out which version they recommend for that course; the tutor may have his preference.
Pub: Hodder and Stoughton

Deeper Study

Here are two that I would certainly recommend if you are into preaching or leading a Bible Study Group etc.

1. The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English,
by Alfred Marshall

That sounds a bit of a mouthful, but that's its name. It shows you on the left-hand page, the KJV and the NIV in side-by-side columns. On the right-hand side, it shows you the Greek text and a word-for-word translation directly beneath it. Like this:


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To show you a detail -

I find it helps me greatly in drawing out the understanding behind the translation. It helps if you also have an understanding of a foreign language or two, so that you can see the shortcomings of English when trying to translate New Testament Greek!

2. Expositionary Dictionary of Bible Words, by W. E. Vine

This I found to be a marvellous book - a great help when I want to see the different Greek words that got translated into one English word. It explains the fuller meaning behind the word and discusses alternatives. For example, there are 3 Greek words translated as "Overflow":

Use your Bible!

Please USE your Bible! It does no good sitting gathering dust on your shelf. Read it and write comments in it. It is a Handbook, a Manual about God and Jesus Christ.

If you had a manual about your car, you would write useful notes in the margins wouldn't you? In the same way, you can write comments in your Bible, where particular verses "speak to you".

And, of course, pray before and while you read, asking God "What do you want to show me about this passage, Lord?".


"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."

- from the Bible, book of John, chapter 3, verse 16.

"Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
- Colossians 3:17 (NIV).

May God bless your reading of these pages. Philip Tory