Showing posts with label Bible Translations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible Translations. Show all posts

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The Quest for the Right Bible Translation

Big Idea: Five useful questions to find the right Bible translation for your need.

This series is about Bible study tools including both by physical book and their electronic version, cost and how to use.

The Quest for the Right Bible Translation

There are hundreds of English Bible translations. Since the Bible was written over 2000 years ago in ancient languages, it has since been translated into many languages.

The English Bible has been translated over 100 times.

The challenge for Bible translators is to remain faithful to the original text, and make it easy to understand.


Is it faithful to what the original text said? This is called a word-for-word translation.


Is it easily readable and understood? This is called a thought-for-thought translation.

1. Why are there so many Bible translations?

Two hundred years ago there were few English translations, primarily the King James Bible written around Shakespearean times.

Updates emerged about 100 years ago, such as the Revised Standard *Version.

Bible translations come from different perspectives.  Catholic, Protestant, for children to understand, and so on. 

In the past 50 years translations and versions have grown exponentially. This is for several reasons.

  • To bring the wording into more modern phraseology.
  • To ensure the latest archaeological finds reflect the most accurate translation (i.e. Dead Sea Scrolls found in the 1940s).
  • New understanding of the ancient Bible culture and sometimes gives greater understanding to an idiom or rare word choice in the original languages.
  • To seek to create a more accurate translation (word-for-word type) or to create a more easy to understand version (thought-for-thought type).
  • To address the understanding of a specific population such as children.  

Different Bible publishing companies and groups have felt their team could accomplish a useful new Bible translation. It could be for the perspective of church use, personal study, or for someone brand new to the concept of God.

2. Who should use a word-for-word translation?

The word-for-word Bible translations can be very literal to the original language sounding awkward, but would be considered the most accurate.

Someone doing serious Bible study, such as a ministries student, or someone studying the Bible inductively will want to use this type of Bible in their studies.

Examples of this are the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the English Standard Version (ESV).

3. Who should use a thought-for-thought translation?

A thought-for-thought Bible translation is easy to read because it sounds like the way people talk. If you’re new to the Bible, it is helpful to have an easy-to-read Bible.

Anyone, even the serious Bible student, can find refreshing insight reading a thought-for-thought Bible translation. It is a valuable devotional tool.

Since it is in plain English, it can be useful for sharing with people totally unfamiliar to the Bible.

Examples are: The New Living Translation. The New International Version is closer to thought-for-thought than word-for-word. Both of these are reliable well used translations.

4. Should I pick just one Bible translation?

While every Bible translation wants you to understand what God is saying, there are many nuances in the original languages of the Bible and in our own English language.

There are idioms from the ancient languages and illustrations foreign to us.  Sometimes a Bible author has used a word that occurs only once in the Bible and we have very little information on what it meant in ancient days.  

If you read or compare more than one Bible translation you may get a better picture of the Biblical intent.

Parallel Bibles exist with 2-4 columns of side-by-side different translations. This is useful for serious Bible study to see how different Bibles translate a verse.

Understand doctrinal deviations should not occur with different Bible translations. Comparing usually gives greater understanding of a verse, not confusion.

5. How many Bibles does one need?

Honestly, it is good to have one Bible for personal study, marking it up with insights and notes to go back to. Long-term Christians may have collected several Bibles, but going out and buying many of them can be expensive.

Fortunately, today we have YOUVERSION and that provide many translations for free that you can peruse and study.

The most important thing is, just start reading the Bible! 

It is like bread for a starving soul!

*  The difference between a Bible translation and Bible version is that the translation comes in direct comparison to the original Hebrew and Greek. The words are at times interchangable. A version may still be a translation like the New International Version but less literal. Some versions take a previous translation and explain it, called a paraphrase.

Previous: Which Bible is Right for Me?
Up next: Three Tips for Choosing a Study Bible


1. What does a thought-for-thought Bible translation mean? How might that be helpful for you?

2. When might it be good for you to read a more accurate translation of the Bible?

3. How many Bibles do you have in your house?

Thursday, September 28, 2023

"Three Versions" Bible Reading

Big Idea: Read the same passage a couple days in a row in a different version each day.

Three Simple Ways to Read the Bible

This month we’ve looked at a couple simple ways to read the Bible to learn from it yourself. Read the Bible and apply it asking the Holy Spirit to teach you.  

These easy-to-remember, easy-to-use methods are great when you are just starting out, trying your hand at personal Bible Reading. 

For the seasoned Bible reader, consider this when you are on vacation and your schedule is disrupted, or when you need a break from an intense series. 

“1-2-3” Ways to Read

1. One Thing to Grab You: Read until something grabs your attention, then reflect on it prayerfully.

2. Two Questions: Read then ask yourself; What does this show me about God? About Mankind?

3. Three Versions: Read 3 days in a row in a different version of the Bible each day.

That’s Greek to Me

The Bible, written mostly in Hebrew or Greek was written in another part of the world in another era.

Bible translation into various languages enable many to hear it in their own language rather than an unknown one. This is huge!

Why so many English Versions?

There are two approaches of Bible translation.

The word-for-word approach values accuracy to the original language. However some of it may sound awkward.

The thought-for-thought approach asks what the author is saying and states the thought in a relevant contemporary way. It is not for scholarly work, but is useful for everyday life.

Both methods have a place. Both give us a different perspective.

With electronic online Bibles, we have access to many different Bible versions for free.

Three Versions Bible Reading

1. The first day, read your passage prayerfully in your typical version.

2. The second day, choose a contemporary version and read the same passage again. Version examples are: New Living Translation, The Message, or the Good News Bible.

3. The third day, try the Amplified Bible. This version sounds a bit like reading a thesaurus, as it puts in brackets more words that explain the meaning of the text.

Extra:  You may want to add a fourth day. If you are fluent in another language, read it that way. Or look at Study Bible Notes. Reflect on the passage and read it again in the version you usually read.

Has your circumstance or mood (such as a headache, a pressed schedule, recent harsh words with someone…) adjusted the way you read the same passage from one day to the next?

As you read the same passage each day, note what new insight you pick up. Is there something you missed? Something said another way that hits you freshly?  

The Bible is living and dynamic, not stale. It is valuable across cultures and moods. Let it touch your life. Let it live in you today! 


Previous: “Two Questions” Bible Reading
Up next: Devotional Bible Study Methods


1. What is your expectation of reading the same Bible passage every day for several days in a row? Boredom? Or is it a way to let it sink in?

2. What is your favorite Bible version? Why?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

IBS-4 Lost in Translation? The best translation for Inductive Study


The Big Idea: Why it is useful to use the New American Standard Bible for Inductive Bible Study (IBS).

Lost in translation?

Have you ever read a menu, sign or instructions where English is not their first language or there is a misprint? Bakery sign reads, "Do not touch bread with hands. Please use tongue." They meant tong, but you gotta chuckle!

The Bible, originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, must be translated into English for our understanding. Bible translators have a colossal task to put the Bible into understandable modern English while being faithful to the original meaning of the text.

There are two sides to the spectrum of Bible translation theory. Word-for-word, and thought-for thought.

Word-for-word translation seeks to be true to the original languages, as literally as possible, but still understandable. (i.e. NASB, ESV)

Thought-for-thought translation seeks to get the idea across using modern language, idioms, and phrases. (i.e. The Message, The Living Bible)

Both are important qualities to understanding the Bible. Word choices are critical because words matter. The idea behind an ancient foreign language should be plainly understandable to everyone. The grammar and idioms of the original languages of 2000+ years ago could be lost on us. Translating to explain the thought sometimes carries bias. It is constructive to compare different Bible versions when a verse is not easily understood.

Why the New American Standard Bible?

1. An accurate translation for the serious reader.  In college I invested in a New American Standard Study Bible in fine black leather. I was in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. This Bible version was all the rage for accurate, serious Bible study.

2. Used by Precept. Precept regularly publishes excellent Inductive Bible Study guides with leader training and support. For years all studies printed were based on the New American Standard Bible (NASB), because its literal style is as true to the original language as possible. The NASB came out in 1977 (1995 update, and 2020 update). New studies coming out may be updated to the 2020 version but many studies are sold using the 1995 edition. About ten years ago they also offered their studies using the English Standard Version (ESV) which is also a tried and true word-for-word translation.

3. Top Word-for-Word Translation. Both the NASB and the ESV are high on the spectrum for literalness and accuracy. This is important when we dig deep into the text of the Bible.

4. On the Same Page. When a Bible study group looks intimately into the Word of God together, it can be useful to examine the same translation; be on the same page, so to speak. Discussion is enriched as people share the way a verse reads in their favorite translation. Bible versions are a very personal thing. You should love your favorite version. But examining a literal translation together in deep study can be constructive.

5. Valuable NASB Tools. Two Inductive Study Bibles are published. One from Precept, one from Harvest, International. Both offer NASB and ESV versions. Thomson Chain and McArthur's Study Bibles are also popular using NASB. There is an exhaustive concordance for NASB. Some Bible apps use NASB with Strong's Greek words highlighted, such as the Tecarta e-Bible, and Logos Bible Software.

Be assured that no matter what Bible version you choose, the Holy Spirit will guide you. 


This is the fourth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.

Up next: Clean Bible Study
Previous Post: Book Overview
Table of Contents



1. Did you know there are different Bible versions? When did you realize that? Do you find it confusing or have you learned to use them for your advantage toward understanding?

2. What's your favorite Bible version? Why do you appreciate it?

3. Look at a verse in a couple of translations and ask yourself what you learn about the verse through that exercise. For instance look at Ephesians 1:9.

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He set forth in Him. NASB (New American Standard Bible)

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. NLT (New Living Translation)

God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. GNT (Good News Translation)

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Trust the Bible Because of these Dead Guys


The Big Idea: Five groups of people were especially attentive to keep the Bible copies accurate.

Nitpickers of history checked and double checked Bible copies

The Bible has been around for thousands of years. Could it possibly be accurate, you might ask? Yes! The Bible has a fascinating history. Here are the stories a few guys who had a hand in preserving its accuracy. Perhaps their stories might encourage your confidence in the powerful, miraculous Word of God!

1. The Scribes

After the Hebrew people were taken captive, and saw Jerusalem and the temple destroyed between 500-600 B.C., the Biblical vocation of Scribe emerged. It was critical to preserve the books of the Old Testament accurately. They verified word count, they spoke each word they wrote aloud, there were thirty day reviews. Any inaccurate copies were burned.


2. The Essenes

This subdivision of Hebrews lived in community near the Dead Sea (200 B.C. to 200 A.D.). Archeological finds at the community of Qumran indicate they were highly organized. Concerned that the correct way of Bible interpretation and worship was getting corrupted, they set out to safeguard the pure word of God.  Many of their preserved copies of books of the Bible were discovered in clay pots in 1947, known now as the Dead Sea Scrolls.


3. The Monks

Mont Saint Michel, France

Saint Benedict (480-547 A.D.) was a gentle, disciplined holy man with a passion for the Bible. He  gathered holy men in community to study, teach and write down the Bible, which back in that era, still had to be hand copied. The Rules of Saint Benedict established guidelines for monastic living which monks follow to this day. Monasteries had a Scriptorium, a well lit room for monks to copy the Bible word for word.


4. The Masorites

Jewish scholars, many from the same family, did more than meticulously copy the Old Testament books (500-1000 A.D). They established consistency in spelling, reading and division of passages. They counted words and syllables and made pronunciation marks and grammar guides. The Masoritic texts are guidelines to this day for Bible scholars and translators.


5. Johannes Gutenberg

Books were hand copied until a German named Gutenberg (1400-1468 A.D.)  invented a press about 1450 using mobile type to reproduce books. His first printed book was the Bible. It was a game changer for Bible copies to be a consistent text going out to multiple churches.

These groups of people and individuals are key examples of those who stood guard and made sure that the Bible you read today is extremely accurate. From the time they were originally penned, to each copy that was made, it has been preserved for you and me! The Word of God, this real and active Word from God, is for each one of us to know beyond doubt that God wants to connect with us. Explore the living, dynamic Word today!

Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar. Proverbs 30: 5-6


Up Next:  Jumpstart Reading Your Bible

Previous Post: Key Questions to Help you Read the Bible



1. What kind of documents do you safeguard? Why are they important to you or your descendents?

2. Have you ever thought about the day when there were very few Bibles around, and few people could read? What might that have been like?

3. Take a moment to thank God for those who made sure that they Bible was kept accurate through the ages.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

10 YouVersion Tips


The Big Idea: Many use the YouVersion Bible App but aren't aware of some great features.

Millions of people have already discovered the totally free YouVersionBible App. That might be you too! But did you know there are a number of options available in the app? Check out this list and see if there is something new for you to try! God's Word is worth the effort!

1. Listen to an audio version of the Bible

Not all translations have an audio version, but quite a few do. Some foreign languages do too but not all. Listening to the Bible is a fresh way to take it in. My husband is listening to the Bible as his read-through-the Bible in a year.  Another friend of mine caring for someone in her life, finds she is awoke often in the night. She listens to the Bible while helping her family member, and often falls back asleep to the Bible. As you scroll through the list of translations, you will see a sound icon next to versions available in audio. 


2. Side by side Bible translations

There are times when it is useful to look at two different Bible translations at the same time for comparison. For instance, your pastor may preach using one translation and you may appreciate to compare the verse in the version you usually read. Translation comparison can be a passage on a tablet or on the computer. It is only available by verse with a cell phone.


3. Enlarge the font for a large print Bible

If you are getting older or have poor sight, you can enlarge the type very easily. It is lighter weight than a ponderous large text Bible, and available in all translations, even with other languages.

4. Find a ready-made Bible reading plan

YouVersion has partnered with many organizations to provide Bible reading plans. There are plans available to read the Bible through in a year, with numerous options.  Some are chronological. Some have shorter passages with a devotional thought. You can start at any time, not just on January first.

Of course there are also shorter plans. Some are one month long, a week long, and anything else that fits for you.

5. Read the Bible focused on a topic or issue

Above is a sample list of emotions with readings that address whatever you might feel a need for. If you are struggling right now, this is a great way to kick start getting back into the Bible to see what God has for you today. Many plans have a devotional thought included. Some are short. Some are long. Some have links to useful websites.

There are very specific groups addressed. Men. Women. Teens.  Going through a divorce. Addiction.  Losing a job. Finance.  Parenting littles. Parenting teens. So many options interesting to scroll through.


6. Watch a Bible Video enhancing understanding

There are Bible Videos that are word for word passages re-enacted, such as the Gospel series by LUMO. Each episode of the Chosen is available though it is not word for word Scripture. There are tools for better understanding such as the BibleProject videos for each book of the Bible, themes, key words, and so on. The Spoken Word videos are dramatic, meaningful readings. There are lots more video series. Additionally there are teachings by well appreciated  Bible teachers under the category "Discovery". Check out your options.


7. Use the highlights, notes and sharing features

You can copy verses to import into another program if you are a Bible study leader or preacher, and make your own notes for future study. You can also add notes to a verse as you are taking sermon notes.  There are fewer choices online than with the tablet and cell phone apps. You can edit your notes, bookmarks, images, etc. when you click on the wheel at the upper right corner of the app for settings.

8. Prayer resource

Your tablet and cell phone version has an option that the computer app does not have, to form a prayer. It even coaches you through ideas what to prayer for. You can send it to a friend or just leave it for your own journaling memory. You find the menu on the left when you click on the More category at the bottom of your screen.


9. Make verse art of a verse

The tablet and cell phone version let's you underline a verse and then choose to make an image. You can use their images or import one of your own. You can then download it to your phone and use it as a lock screen or share with friends.


10. Subscribe to the verse of the day

The home page always shows you the featured verse of the day. You would be surprised  how often  you will tell yourself how much you needed to hear that! In the settings page you can change the version you would like for this feature. Make your own image with the verse or use one they have already made from it. A daily scriptural reminder is always a good thing! Take a moment during the day to pray the verse for your life or reflect on its meaning for you. It is a mini-devotional moment that will honor God. He likes it when you take time to reflect on His Word!

I hope this detailed list of ideas for YouVersion was helpful for you. Leave a comment on how you use the YouVersion Bible app. Inspire others with your suggestion.

Up Next: Watch the Bible

Previous Post: My 5 Favorite Bible Apps



1. How do you feel about an electronic Bible? Do you like it or avoid it? When might it be helpful to use?

2. Is there one feature you were not aware of that you might like to experiment with or try out to enhance your reading of God's Word?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

My Go-to Bible Versions

The Big Idea: I have favorite Bible translations that have helped me at different times in my life. What is different about each of them?

Diane's favorite Bible Translations

I grew up in a home with parents who loved the Bible and wanted me as a child to understand it.  Back in the 1960s my father made up a schedule how to read the Bible through in a year before other people were doing so. He would read the Bible in a different translation each year. One year about 1970, the pastor of the church asked my dad to create bookmarks to give to people in church at the New Year's Eve Service with the reading schedule he made. I still have mine.

I can recall sitting with my parents at a Wednesday night prayer meeting when the pastor was teaching on Philippians. He said, " It says, 'Be careful for nothing' in Philippians 4:6. What does that really mean?"

I, as a 7 or 8 year old, squeaked out, "That's what it says! 'Be careful for nothing!'"

All the adults laughed. I was indignant. I was sincerely trying to follow what the pastor was saying. I found the King James English just a little confusing. He explained how it means to not fuss and worry about anything. I remember vividly I desperately wanted to understand what the Bible meant. Why would they laugh?

While I studied the King James Version at church, (the version most Churches were using at that time) our family devotional time had easier-to-understand versions of the Bible so we, as young children, could clearly understand. I recall times when my dad came home excitedly with a package under his arm with a new translation to try out in his reading. We had the Phillips translation, then the Living Bible portions and the Good News New Testament.


When I was a teenager my parents gave me a Living Bible, "The Way." I started underlining it with colored markers. Sometimes I lost track of time reading the Word of God. It changed my life that year by softening my teenage heart full of angst to hunger for God and want to serve Him as a missionary.

In college I bought a heavy New American Standard Study Bible with all kinds of helps like cross references, maps, and so on. It was a very accurate Bible, good for serious Bible study. A few years later, I switched to a New International Version. I was now training to be a missionary and speaking in churches on occasion. Many Evangelical churches were using the NIV and it was very easy to listen to and understand.  And it was what the people had in the pew. I stuck with the NIV for many, many years. 


In the past 10 years or so, so many translations have come out it is challenging to keep up with the latest translation. Now apps let you cross check different versions, with charts to understand the perspective and orientation of a version. I check the background of recent versions new to me. It is good to be aware of the premise and methodology for a new Bible translation.

So what do I read today? It depends on the situation.


I find myself gravitating more and more to the New Living Translation (NLT). It is similar to the ease of communication as the older Living Bible I loved as a teen, but more reliable to the original languages the Bible was written in. I am often impressed when I study the original words used in a text how faithlly the New Living Translation expresses it. And if I am writing or talking with people new to the Bible, it is very understandable to them. I use it often in this blog because I expected my audience to be people experienced deep in Bible study, but it tends to be people just starting to study the Bible.


If I am studying seriously I usually go to the English Standard Version (ESV) now. If I am studying Precept Bible Study lessons I use New American Standard Bible (NASB) because that is the version we chose for most of the lessons we have obtained in the past. These two versions are very literal and true to the original language. Right now a Bible Study Series I am teaching, Engaging God's Word, uses the ESV as their base, so I use that in that class.


When I speak at an Evangelical church I check ahead of time if there is a preferred version used a lot in that church so I can be in sync with what people are used to.  It is often the New International Version (NIV). It is easy to read and very familiar to many. I know a lot of verses by heart in the NIV.


I will check either one of these versions for more nuance of a text. The Message is very colloquial but it often gives a fresh look at a passage. The Amplified Bible is such a delight because it writes in parentheses with amplified explanations, word choices and meanings given in the text. It is a rich

experience to check on both of these versions. I even find myself gravitating to my Complete Jewish Bible on occasion for the perspective on Hebrew background.



Now with the advent of eBibles I find myself trying to use the same translation a teacher or preacher is using. It is so easy to do on my ipad Bible app. Often I find myself curious about something in the message and I will check a Study Bible on the app with cross references, maps or original language notes.


I recently obtained a very nice black leather Christian Standard Bible (CSB) which has a lot of nice notes and references in it. It has a bit larger print for a Bible. It is big and it is heavy. It is now my read and study around the house Bible. It is always wonderful to have a Bible you treat like a best friend. One you love, where you know right where the verses are you want to find. It is sweet to see a dearly loved Bible that is starting to look a little ragged on the edges because it is used so much! I hope this will become my beloved Bible in time.

If you have been looking for a definitive idea of the best translation to use, this blog will have been of little help. You may also find a previous blogs on Bible versions useful. Choosing a Bible Translation If you find yourself switching translations for different usages, you might feel better about doing that after seeing my eclectic reading. I just want you to know all these versions are God's Word and have something useful to offer. They do not confuse me but contribute to my understanding of God's Word. God's Word is like a beautiful multi-faceted diamond with so much to see from various sides. I LOVE THE BIBLE. If you do not, I hope someday you will too! Greatest book ever! The very words of God.

 Up Next: Free ebooks on deep questions by R.C. Sproul

Previous Post: The Great Bible Project

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Animation: How to Choose a Bible Translation

What Bible Version do you prefer? Why? 

Explore with me in a quick fun video about Bible Translations. It will help you understand a little bit about the differences.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Choosing a Bible Translation

The Big Idea: Why there are so many translation today and how to choose one for my studies.

For over a century the King James Version of the Bible was read in most English Speaking churches.  Today there are so many excellent translations it is hard choose one. There are at least 50 decent translations. Some are very similar. Some sound very different from each other. Why so many? And why doesn't everyone just settle on one to use?


In the days of the Early Church, the Old Testament was available in Hebrew, translated into Greek a couple hundred years before Jesus was born (the Septuagint). The New Testament was written in Greek. Greek was clearly a widely used language in many countries, especially among the educated and literate.  In 400 A.D. A Latin translation (later version called the Vulgate) was carefully translated. Latin was another language used globally for the educated.


The early Middle Ages is sometimes called the Dark Ages. It was a time of feudalism, a church of hierarchy and territorial demands, and the Plague of Black Death. Out of it came Martin Luther (1483-1546 A.D.), a monk who wanted people to know God for themselves and learn the Bible in their own language. He translated the Bible into German for his people. Out of it Lutheranism and a fresh movement of excitement for God's Word was born across Europe. Other voices before and after him championed the Bible for non-clergy, the common man. The era coincided with the invention of the printing press.  William Tyndale (1494-1536 A.D.) was burned at the stake for translating and printing the Bible into English. The Tyndale Bible was instrumental in the careful construct of the King James Version of the Bible which came into print in 1611 A.D.


For the next couple hundred years, the King James Bible would be the most popular version of the Bible. To this day it is preferred by many. It was created in the period and language style of Shakespeare and is stunningly beautiful and memorable. It remains my favorite version for memorizing Bible verses because it is so poetic. Its unique language style makes it easier to remember as it flows in a musical manner. Many verses and sayings you know come from this Bible. However, many new to the faith who have not grown up with it find the archaic language slows down their understanding of what God says.


Up until about 80 years ago there were only a small handful of English translations of the Bible. Now Christian Bible Distributers carries 45 different Bible versions! So, what's up with that? Why are there so many? Here are a couple of reasons.

  • Language changes over time, such as spellings and word meaning.  ("gay")
  • English language differences in different parts of the world. (US-"trunk" vs UK "boot")
  • Efforts for different reading levels. (Scholarly language vs. 5th grade reading level)
  • Archeological discoveries of older Bible portions and Biblical land clarifications. (Dead Sea Scrolls)


King James reigned at a time in history where Christian divisions were sometimes violent. In an effort to bring clarity and unity to God's people, the King James Bible translation was born. King James called a conference of church scholars to discuss his idea. Ultimately almost 50 scholars worked on it. Working groups were formed, and peer review essential. The model of a large scholastic team with peer review is done still today for the best translations.

Just as a side note on teamwork, the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Old Testament is abbreviated the LXX, meaning 70. It is so called because in 3rd Century B.C. 72 Jewish scholars were commissioned to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek for the Greek King, Ptolemy of Philadelphus.


There are two basic sides to explain translation methodologies. On the one side is a word for word translation. That is, the most literal efforts to translate what the original languages of the Bible are saying into English, word for word. It is a formal equivalence of the ancient words.

The other side of the spectrum is the thought for thought method. It takes these ancient languages and explores the thought, the intention, to communicate words to God's people. It then seeks to translate that thought in such a way that the audience today, in a given cultural setting, can understand. It has been referred to as a dynamic equivalence method.

At first you might be tempted to say the word for word would certainly be the most accurate. However, the ancient writings of the Bible were used in a Middle Eastern culture a couple thousand years ago, using ancient languages that don't always have a modern English equivalent. So translators have to ask themselves, how can this be written so people can understand what God is saying to us in our world? Most of the best translations have some blend of both sides.

Jaqueline and me

We can learn from this by looking at what Bible translators have to do in a completely different culture around the world. For instance, where I worked for a number of years in Guinea, West Africa, there is a people group there, the Kissiens, who have remote towns that still do not get bread. Rice is their staple. The question, "Have you eaten? actually means, "Have you had rice yet today?"  Their nickname is "People of the Rice".  To translate "I am the bread of life" directly, inventing a word for bread, a product that has never been seen or eaten, would not be meaningful. To say "I am the rice of life," would not be an exact word for word translation. But it is a necessary adjustment for understanding. I asked my Kissien friend, Jacqueline, what is written in the Kissien Bible. It is a word that means powdered rice made into a little cake. I recall eating some. It was a treat. To think of Jesus as their rice of life is beautiful. Jesus is something they need every day, just like they need rice.

Finally there is the paraphrase. This is generally an explanation of what God's Word is saying. It may be done by one person rather than a scholarly team. It is based on another Bible in the same language, and is not a direct translation of Hebrew and Greek. A good example is the Living Bible. It started as a godly man, Kenneth N Taylor of Tyndale Publications, sought to read the Bible to his children in family daily devotions. He would write out passages in an explainable way for kids to grasp. He was encouraged to share it with others. A couple epistles were printed first in 1962. His rendition made the Bible come alive in modern language.


Here is a chart from Christian Book Distributors showing the Word for Word vs. Thought for Thought translations. You will see that the most literal translations are the New American Standard Bible (NASB) the English Standard Version (ESV) and the Amplified. The most thought for thought Bibles are the Living Bible and the Message.


  • Advantage:  Accurate and literal renderings of what the Bible says. It seriously take more attention to the text, themes, Biblical terms, and so on.  
  • Disadvantage: Sometimes the translation can sound a little wooden, or use terms that are more scholarly which need to be looked up.

Use these when you want more detailed Bible study with the desire to be true to the original text. Precept, Intl. uses the NASB and ESV for their studies. 


  • Advantage: Easy to understand, and fresh thoughts about what it in the Bible. Sometimes it is helpful for a difficult passage, to gain understanding for our world today.
  • Disadvantage: At times it may interpret the Bible too general, or miss some of the nuance of what is in the verse.

Use these when you want a fresh look at what a verse means for your life. It helps greatly with application to our lives. It is often written at a vocabulary geared for a children's audience. It is a wonderful tool for children, teens and new believers. They create a thirst for God's Word.


In the middle of the chart, with a nice blend of the two approaches is the popular New International Version (NIV). This has been used by many churches now for years. It is a very readable, understandable version of the Bible. Also somewhat near the center is the New Living Translation (NLT) and the Christian Standard Bible (CSB/HCSB). They are also beautiful to read and well understood.


Years ago, my husband, a pastor, went to a new area to work. Someone approached him and said, "Now Pastor, do you use the King James Version of the Bible, or one of those Devil Bibles?"

The feeling was that the King James was the absolute best, unpolluted version of the Bible out there and the others were tainted. Honestly, God's Word is powerful. Why shouldn’t it be? It is just that. God's Word. He is not going to give the Devil opportunity to totally ruin God's Word and cause others to go astray in hordes. Give God some credit. If we read it asking God's blessing, with the intention of God speaking in to our heart, the Bible will speak, even if it is a version that is less accurate than some might like.

There is a place for various translations.  I would expect the pastor's pulpit and our seminaries are going to look to texts that are more accurate, scholarly works. But it was on the Living Bible, the paraphrase, that I got hooked on reading the Bible at age 16. I was not worried about verb tenses in the original language or any kind of difficulty with the texts. I just LOVED to read what God had for me and it changed my life and my view of the Bible forever.

What version is right for you? You need to ask yourself if you need something right now that is clear to your understanding and applicable to your life (more thought for thought), or if you need to get into the meat of the Word, figuring out what the intricacies of study have for your soul. You might just need both types in your life. Just as someone need to live on adult food rather than mother's milk, so we should learn to take in the deeper meat of God's Word.

God's Word is GOD's Word. It will accomplish His purpose as it is read. READ IT TODAY!

"It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it."
Isaiah 55: 11