There are many believers who are asking me about a healthy Bible version that they can use for personal Bible study. I took some time to research some of the most common versions that believer themselves encounter. I hope you find this helpful.
If you want to study the Bible, go for the literal scholarly word for word or formal equivalence version like English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), Jewish Publication Society (JPS), and Amplified Bible (AMP). The problem, however, with some of these versions is the readers difficulty in understanding the thoughts because of the literal rendering of each original word.
And if you can’t understand some passages in the literal version then you may move on to read the scholarly dynamic equivalence version like New International Version (NIV), Christian Standard Bible (CSB, formerly HCSB), God’s Word Translation (GWT), Good News Bible (GNB) or Today’s English Version (TEV), and New English Translation NET. These versions connect more to the readers by using their modern-day language without much compromise on the original word.
The last set of translations are under the category of scholarly functional equivalence or paraphrase versions. Some of them are the Living Bible and J.B. Phillips of the New Testament which was translated by J.B. Phillips, an Anglican clergyman.
Some versions that need to be read with caution are those of the gender-sensitive or gender-neutral versions like The New International Version (TNIV), Revised Standard Version, Contemporary English Version (CEV), New Living Translation (NLT), New International Version Inclusive (NIVI), and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). As Dr. Wayne Grudem comments, “Such erosion of trust in our English Bibles is a high price to pay for gender-neutral translations.”
On the other hand, the Message Bible is very loosely paraphrased that it disconnects so much from the thoughts of the literal language because it blurs the terminology and some meaning of the text. Although it was translated by a premier scholar named Dr. Eugene H. Peterson.
Some versions of the Bibles were translated by Roman Catholic scholars like the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) and New American Bible (NAB). While the Church of Scotland were soon joined by the Church of England and Roman Catholics to come up with the New English Bible (NEB).
A few of them are bias and are not even endorsed by known leading biblical scholars like the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Recovery Version of the Lord’s Recovery, the Clear Word Bible which was published by a former dean of an Adventist university, the Joseph Smith Translation (aka Inspired Version) produced by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka “Mormon Church”), and that of James Mofatt and George M. Lamsa’s translation used by an indigenous Filipino religious group.
Of course, the best Bible version is that scholarly version that you can understand and live to apply in your life.