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.

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