Updated: Jan 22
If you have been to a Bible bookstore recently or if you are new to Christianity choosing a Bible can be overwhelming. There are so many translations available today, which one is the right one? Is there a right one? The answer to that question may depend on the reason to read a Bible.
Let’s back up for a moment, “What is a translation?” The Bible was originally written in the languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The process of bringing these ancient languages to modern readers requires the work of many different scholars who specialize in these ancient languages. This is the process of translation. Without their work, most of us would never be able to read the Scriptures.
Because of advancements in scholarship, archeology, and other fields, today we understand and we know more about these ancient languages than we have in the past. This has led to the many translations we find available today.
But why are there so many different translations? We understand the need for the Scriptures to be translated into different languages, but why are there so many, say, English translations?
Bibles are translated for different purposes. Basically, there are two major groups that modern Bible translations are arranged in, a “Word-for-Word” or a “Thought-for-Thought” translation. Each tries to balance faithfulness to the original languages with readability.
A Word-for-Word translation will try to match each Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek word in the Scriptures with an English equivalent. This type of translation is good for understanding the original words used but is very difficult for modern readers. A Thought-For-Thought translation focuses on readability. These translations will word portions of the text so that the intention of the text is communicated while providing a better reading experience. Any number of translations will fall somewhere along this line. No Bible translation will be perfect, languages are different. However, it is helpful to understand these principles of translation as you look for your next Bible.
The Right Translation?
Which Bible translation is the right translation? In large part, this depends on the reason you are reading the Bible. If you are studying, concerned about original languages, or you want to do word studies, a word-for-word translation may be more what you are looking for.
If you are new to the Scriptures and Christianity, you might prefer to get the big picture of the Bible. In this case, a thought-for-thought translation may be better. Which is the right Bible translation? The answer really depends on your purpose for reading.
As you become more familiar with the Scriptures, I would recommend reading from multiple translations. Notice the difference in translations.
Doing so will help you form a better understanding of the Scriptures as a whole and Jesus, the One whom the whole story of the Bible focuses on.
Here are a few helpful tips as you search for your Bible. First, open a Bible to those front few pages we often skip over. Typically, the preface of a Bible will explain the translator’s purpose, intent, and method of translation. Was it a translation more concerned with a word-for-word approach or readability? The preface should give you a good indication of the translation you hold in your hands.
Second, take advantage of free sources. There are a number of good websites that support multiple Bible translations that can be accessed for free. Sites such as “bible.com" and “biblegateway.com" are two I use often. Each of these sites has hundreds of translations available. Spend some time reading different translations online, find the one you are comfortable with.
Right For You
Which Bible translation is right? The translation that will captivate you and draw you to learn more about Jesus and His restoration of all things. This is the right translation for you.