“What translation of the Bible should I use? Which one do you use? What is the best one for studying? What is the best one for internalizing? What is the difference between “word-for-word” translations and “thought-for-thought” translations? What do you think of “The Message?”
I get asked these questions almost every time I speak somewhere (including this past weekend). At least every month or two, someone emails me or sends me a Facebook message asking about translations.
So…here is a podcast episode dedicated to answering these common questions. Whether you are looking to buy your first Bible, grab a new study Bible, find a good translation for doing a Bible Read Thru, or you’re simply curious as to why there are so many different translations in the first place, today’s episode is for you.
Main Topic: The 4 translations I use the most…
[callout]NOTE: At the bottom of each section is a link to lots more information about each translation.[/callout]
New International Version
This is the most popular contemporary English translation. On the episode I share why I started using it, and why it is still my go-to translation for most of my internalization.
The stated purpose of the NIV:
…to produce an accurate, beautiful, clear, and dignified translation suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and liturgical use.”
New Living Translation
The NLT is quickly becoming a very popular translation. I can see why. I love it! It is extremely readable and accurate. This is the version I used for Bible Read Thru 2014.
Their purpose for creating the NLT:
The New Living Translation was founded on the most recent scholarship in the theory of translation, with the goal of communicating the meaning of the ancient Bible texts as accurately as possible to the modern reader. It seeks to preserve the freshness and readability of the original paraphrase while providing the accuracy and reliability of a translation prepared by a team of 90 biblical scholars.”
English Standard Version
When it comes to a “Formal Equivalency” translation (more “word-for-word” than “thought for thought”), this is – hands down – my favorite. It is a fantastic comparison when studying a book or passage.
Here is what the creators of the ESV had to say:
The ESV seeks to faithfully capture the precise word-for-word meaning of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic languages. Not only did the creators of the ESV make every attempt to ensure accuracy, transparency, and clarity of the original texts, they also sought to retain the personal style of each writer of the Bible.”
Seems like people either love the Message, or tell people to avoid it. I’m in the first category…with a caveat. The Message is not a translation, per se. It’s a paraphrase. It is not intended to replace your study Bible. It is a supplement. If you treat it the same way you would treat a commentary, The Message has a lot to offer.
When asked why he wrote it, this is what Eugene Peterson had to say:
While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realize that the adults in my class weren’t feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way. I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat.'”
Listener Question (Listen at 19:48)
The God of the Old Testament and New Testament seem very different. Can you help?”
I give a brief answer to this question on the podcast. My full answer is available in this post.
Can I answer your question on a future episode?
I have several ways you can submit a question – or an idea for an episode topic:
- Call the dedicated Podcast Voicemail Line: (425) 522-3487
- Shoot me an email: podcast– at – keithferrin.com
- Record a voicemail – up to 90 seconds – at www.speakpipe.com/keithferrin.
- Leave a comment here on this page.
Resource of the Week
In this episode, rather than highlight a specific resource, I am including links (and descriptions) for the exact Bibles I actually use. (They’re also in the picture at the top of this post!)
- The NIV Ultra-Thin Classic – This is the Bible I use for most of my reading and preaching. It is thin, light, and has very few notes on the page. It is not a “study” Bible. It’s a “reading” Bible. (NOTE: The exact Bible I have is out of print, but this is very, very close.)
- The NLT Parallel Study Bible – This is a terrific Study Bible. It combines the historical, explanatory notes of their traditional Study Bible with the “practical application” notes of their Life Application Study Bible. The Bible text and both sets of notes are all on the same page.
- The NLT Slimline Reference Bible – This one is very similar to the NIV Ultra-Thin Classic listed above, but is obviously, in the New Living Translation. Very few notes. Small and light. I used this when I internalized James.
- The ESV Study Bible – This Bible has more notes, commentary, articles, graphs, maps, etc. than any study Bible I have ever seen. It is truly terrific. (NOTE: The link above is to the bonded leather edition I was given. Here is the link to the more common – and cheaper! – hardback edition from Amazon…with Kindle and paperback options.)
- The Message – When it comes to just sitting and reading the Bible, The Message by Eugene Peterson is a really good option. Not a study Bible…a reading Bible. Good for comparison or to provide new thoughts on very familiar passages.
Links (People, Info, and Resources) from Episode 015:
- Powell River in British Columbia, Canada – Poke around and discover one of the most gorgeous places on the planet!
- Dynamic (thought-for-thought) and Formal (word-for-word) Equivalence – This article on Wikipedia does a good job of explaining the difference as well as provides a list of the translations that fall into each category.
- New International Version (official site)
- New Living Translation (official site)
- English Standard Version (official site)
- Eugene Peterson – He is the author of The Message.
- Podcast Art – Pipe & Tabor (Vancouver, WA)
- Intro/Outro Music – Dan Carollo of CeltoGrass Music
[callout]Help spread the word!
- If you enjoyed this episode, would you do me a favor and share the love? (pre-written tweets and Facebook posts)
- Or…write a quick review or rate this podcast on iTunes?
- Or…you can TWEET THIS:
‘Struggle with LIKING the Bible? Want to like it more? Check out @KeithFerrin’s podcast http://wp.me/P2rPgQ-FS #LikeTheBible’
[reminder]Have you ever read the Bible all the way through? How would you describe the experience in 1-2 sentences?[/reminder]