How to Choose a Bible


There are at least five important criteria for distinguishing among different translations of the Bible and evaluating their appropriateness for a given audience.


1. The reliability of the original language manuscript on which the translation is based:

For the Old Testament, most English translations are based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible. For the New Testament, translators tend to follow one of the three major textual traditions. These are:

a) the Greek New Testament Critical Text (United Bible Societies and Nesle-Aland editions);

b) the Textus Receptus;

c) the Majority Text.

While the relative merits of these three major textual traditions is hotly debated in some circles, the reality is that there are very few substantial differences between them. Only a limited number of these differences are reflected in translation, and in no case is a doctrinal issue at stake.


2. The faithfulness of the renderings given in the translation.


3. The level and style of English used:

When evaluating the level of English used in different versions, it is relevant to note that the Greek used in the New Testament is known as Koine Greek, which was the language commonly used in everyday life in the first century.

a) archaic (old);

b) liturgical (church language);

c) literary (university level);

d) contemporary (current usage);

e) common language (widely used and understood).


4. The theory and style of translation followed:

A variety of terminology is used to refer to different types of translation, and some of the terms are overlapping in meaning. The most common terms are:

a) formal correspondence (also popularly referred to as literal);

b) functional or dynamic equivalence;

c) idiomatic or meaning-based

d) free (also popularly known as paraphrase).


5. The intended audience and use:

a) worship, as in a church setting;

b) serious Bible study;

c) evangelism;

d) personal devotional reading

e) children;

f) memorization;

g) teaching theology and doctrine.


Which is the best Bible version for people today?

That will vary from person to person.  A person who is highly educated or is thoroughly familiar with the teachings of Scripture may prefer a version quite different from a person who is encountering the Bible for the first time or who reads very little beyond the newspaper.  The best version is the one whose message accurately reflects the original and speaks most clearly to people today.  Ultimately, the best Bible is the one that is well-used and whose message is expressed in the way we live our lives each day.