Which bible should I read? What version of the bible do we use at New City? What is the best translation? Why? These are good questions I hear often. Here is my crack at answering these questions.
You should read a bible that is both reliable and readable. The bible is actually a collection of 66 books written in Hebrew, Greek and some Aramaic. Since most of us don’t speak or read these languages naturally, we read English translations. These translations fall anywhere along a spectrum, ranging from paraphrase on one end and word for word literal translation on the other. A literal translation attempts to translate the original language word into English as closely as possible while maintaining the theological “Big Idea.” A paraphrase, on the other hand, is simply trying to communicate the theological “Big Idea” in common language. While the literal translation is best for deep study and is faithful to the original text, it is sometimes hard to read or understand because it isn’t written in the common vernacular.
The paraphrase also has a downside since they often miss significant theological depth or insight that may hinge on a single word or phrase. A third category is the dynamic equivalent. These translations attempt to translate the original text closely while maintaining an eye on the final reader and our historical context. These translations are far more readable than a literal translation and far more theological reliable than a paraphrase. Some dynamic equivalent versions translate on a word for word philosophy while others on a more thought for thought basis. Both have own merit and drawbacks.
I recommend having multiple translations across the spectrum and using them for comparison when you come across a difficult passage. I also recommend having a “go to” translation you use most often for study, memorization, devotional reading and casual reading. I suggest your “go to” bible be a dynamic equivalent or a literal translation since its best you stay close to the actual original text.
Here are my recommendations:
Literal Translation: New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Dynamic Equivalent: English Standard Version (ESV); New International Version (NIV); New Living Translation (NLT).
Paraphrase: The Message by Eugene Peterson.
At New City we preach and teach from the ESV. It is a word for word dynamic equivalent that is incredibly reliable and readable. It is my “go to” bible and I use it for everything including devotional reading, study, preaching and even my family devotion time.
I hope this post is helpful and would love to field questions, etc.