It doesn’t matter which version of the Bible you read, as long as you read it
People often ask me, “Which version of the Bible should I use?” My answer is quick. They should select a version of the Bible that they will actually read. An unopened Bible means nothing.
In my decades of reading and studying the Bible, I’ve enjoyed seasons where I focused on a particular version. While this gives me a pleasing variety, it makes memorization hard. Though I can paraphrase many verses, which is a compilation of the different translations I’ve read, I can quote few with complete accuracy.
Here are some of the versions of the Bible I have read at some point in my life. For many of these, I have read the entire Bible in that particular translation.
King James Version (KJV): As a child the only Bible available to me was the King James Version. I struggled to comprehend its words then. I still do now. However, many of the verses that I can quote are from the KJV, no doubt due to learning them in Sunday school is a small child. Yet as soon as other versions became available, I set the KJV aside.
The KJV remains popular for three reasons. First, it’s still used today in some fundamental churches, many of which insist it’s the only version to use. Second, it’s in the public domain, which means it can be freely copied and reproduced without any fear of copyright violation. Virtually all other versions of the Bible are under copyright which restricts how they can be used. Third, is that the KJV is what is commonly quoted when a Bible verse comes up in a movie or TV show. This helps fix the KJV in our mind.
Good News for Modern Man: The first alternative I had to the KJV was Good News for Modern Man. This made the Bible accessible to me in my early teens.
The Living Bible: This was soon followed by The Living Bible, which was the first version I read from cover to cover. Multiple times. I wore out my copy, with it literally falling apart. It was my go to version for several years.
New King James Version (NKJV): For a time I attended a conservative church that entertained the NKJV as an acceptable alternative to the revered KJV. While this removed the old English words from the Bible, it only made it a bit more accessible. I never really connected with this translation.
New International Version (NIV): After a time, I settled on the New International Version of the Bible. It is both accessible and understandable. I have read the entire Bible several times in this version. It’s also the one I usually study from. Many claim the NIV is the most popular version of the Bible (though others insist it’s the KJV).
The Message (MSG): This version of the Bible is perhaps most accessible to me, making the words come alive in a way that’s easy to apply and to convict.
Amplified Bible (AMP): My first exposure to the Amplified Bible left me a bit frustrated, for it used many words to convey its thoughts. But that’s why they call it amplified. I then lacked the patience to consider its verbosity. However, later in life I begin to appreciate its amplified portions for the deeper insight they provided.
New Living Translation (NLT): This is the most understandable of all the versions listed here. But as the easiest to comprehend, it must sometimes sacrifice nuance for simplicity. For someone new to the Bible, I recommend they start with the NLT.
The New Jerusalem Bible and New American Bible (NAB): I’ve explored both these versions of the Bible for access to the books of the Apocrypha, which was removed from the Protestant Bible, including the King James Version, a couple centuries ago. Though these translations allowed me to explore the books of the Apocrypha, I missed the clarity I enjoyed in the NIV, NLT, MSG, or AMP.
Common English Bible (CEB): I’m currently reading God’s Word in the Common English Bible. I selected this version simply because it contains the Apocrypha. I studied all the books of the Apocrypha in this translation and am currently reading through the New Testament. In many cases its slightly rephrased sentences capture my attention and provides insight that I missed up until now. However, other verses provide a different sense of their meaning. But this gives me an opportunity to contemplate those words more carefully.
I have read and studied the Bible in these versions, plus a few more. Additionally, I have read the entire Bible in the Living Bible, NIV, MSG, AMP, and NLT. And I’m presently working my way through the CEB.
I share my summary of these books and my experience reading them to encourage you to explore the Bible in all its fullness. The version you select doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find a translation you can immerse yourself into.
Explore the Bible, and let God reveal himself to you.