Twitter Message Tuesday--"What Bible Should I Study?"


I was recently asked what Bible they should buy and study.  My knee-jerk reaction to that question over the years has been to quote my first Greek professor who always responds to that inquiry with, "Whatever Bible you'll read!'  Now, by that he didn't mean so-called bibles like the ones passed out by The Jehovah's Witnesses or other cults.  

First of all, modern English translations are based on the study of the various ancient copies of the Old Testament in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament in Greek.  Second, all translations are based on certain interpretative philosophies such as a more literal approach that seeks, as best as possible, to deliver a word-for-word translation (e.g., the New American Standard) or a more loose approach that seeks to simply convey the idea of the passage (e.g., The Message, The New Living Translation, etc.) or an attempt to meet both philosophies half-way (e.g., The NIV).  All of these philosophies have their strengths and weaknesses.  You really need to go online to a place like Biblegateway and give these various translations of God's Word a shot to see which one you can best understand.  

I have been reading the Bible all the way through every year since 1997.  I have, to the best of my recollection read the following: The NIV Life Application Bible, The NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, The NIV Study Bible, The Oxford RSV Annotated Bible, The Harpercollins NRSV Study Bible, The Zondervan NASB Study Bible, the Oxford Annotated NEB Bible, The New Interpreter's NRSV Study Bible, The NIV Archaeological Study Bible, The ESV Journaling Bible, The TNIV Study Bible, The ESV Study Bible, The NLT Study Bible, The HCSB Apologetics Bible, The NET Study Bible, the NRSV Spiritual Formation Bible, The Message Study Bible, The Jewish Study Bible, The Voice, The Kingdom New Testament, The NIV Chronological Study Bible and the NRSV Wesley Study Bible.  

Some of these have study notes and articles that are too far left for me these days (as opposed to my emergent period where I sinfully delighted in heresy) (e.g., most of the NRSV translations).  I found no serious errors in any of the NIV, ESV, NLT, NET and HCSB study notes.  As of this year, my favorites are the ESV Study Bible, The NLT Study Bible and the NIV Study Bible.  I'd recommend giving those a look.  

Of course, it is best to learn Hebrew and Greek but if you have what I have referred to as a "life," you probably don't have the time (although I'll post on how to do that without going to seminary soon).  I grew up with a copy of the King James but only read what I was forced to in youth group before my decade long self-imposed exile in atheism.  I know many good people argue it is the only Bible worth studying.  I disagree but I am willing to give the KJV a shot.  In fact, I'm thinking that my next go round will be with the Reformation Heritage King James Study Bible.  That being said, I'll post a video on the problems with the King James below. 

One last thing to consider, each English translation carries with a certain reading level.  According to, a person needs at least a 12th grade reading level to understand the King James or the RSV.  The NRSV and NASB requires an 11th grade level, the ESV a 10th grade level, the HCSB and NIV a Junior High reading level and the NLT a 6th grade reading level.  I have used the NLT for Bible studio with mixed groups of men, some of whom never graduated high school and have found they truly appreciate the translation.  

I hope that helps, God bless and get to studying God's Word!