There are so many English language translations of the Bible that it can seem very confusing for a new(er) Christian who has not considered which one(s) they should read. This page is intended to offer you some information about translations which I recommend.
For a list of Bible translations you should avoid, click here.
You should be aware of the following when choosing a Bible translation:
Committee Translation – Bible translations committees should be comprised of educated individuals with expertise in linguistics and translation of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. When Bible’s are translated by one individual they are prone to theological bias and other errors. A committee offers a system of checks and balances against this.
Literal vs. Dynamic Equivalence – There are good English translations which fall on this spectrum. At one end are translations which stick to more literal renderings (for example, preserving the original language’s word order when possible). At the other end are translations which offer a “dynamic equivalent” (explaining the meaning of the passage without much emphasis on the original word order). Both sides offer unique challenges. More literal translations can tend to be less easy to read through, while dynamic equivalent translations make a number of interpretive decisions for you. Both sides also offer unique benefits. More literal translations allow you to study bible words and details in more depth, while dynamic equivalent translations can be excellent for devotional reading.
Theological Bias – A bias is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if you are not aware of it. Some Bible translations are translated with a distinct bias toward a group (such as the Roman Catholic Church, or cults like Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses). Other Bible translations are produced by representatives from multiple, similar, backgrounds (such as evangelical protestants from various denominational backgrounds). I would recommended investing in a Bible from the latter of these two.
Translational Notes – The original language documents from which our bibles are translated offer a number of translational challenges. Any good translation will have some system of notation to indicate to the reader when a decision had to be made in this. These challenges sometimes stem from variant readings and ancient copyist mistakes.
Age – There are English Bible translations dating back hundreds of years. Historically speaking, these older translations are not incorrect, but they were translated from a much smaller pool of available manuscripts by people with less linguistic resources available to them. The translators behind newer English language Bibles have been able to consult a more complete corpus of ancient documents previously unavailable to older generations. In most cases these newly discovered manuscripts confirm what was known, but in some cases we have been able to make corrections.
In addition to the number and quality of manuscript evidence, the English language is evolving with every new generation. The Bible you read should not sound drastically different from the way you would speak or write. Older Bibles with “thee” and “thou” no longer reflect current language.
With that said, I would recommend reading the following English Bible Translations. More information about each specific one can be found in the preface material at the beginning of each translation.
English Standard Version
New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update
New International Version
The Holman Christian Standard Bible
The NET Bible
Should I only read one Bible translation?
If you are brand new to the Bible, I would say yes. Stick to one of these translations, make underlines, highlights, take notes (whether in a paper copy or in a Bible app). Get to know God better. At some point in your bible study you will want to visit a different translation. No single translation is perfect and having studied and compared good translations will be of great benefit to your Christian walk.