Natasha’s Study: “What’s in a Bible?”

Bible Banner from Lifeway

My Sunday School teacher is a manager of Lifeway Christian Store. Always going above and beyond the call of duty, he gave us a presentation about the various Bibles that are available. Surprisingly, people often visit book stores to purchase Bibles and leave empty-handed because of the overwhelming choices. Bibles vary in type, translation, size, color, just to name a few considerations.

The frustration of purchasing a Bible must be a growing trend, as I observed a modified and more organized Bible section in Barnes and Noble when visiting the store with my daughter last week. B&N divided the different categories of Bibles, and even had a few on display for touching and feeling.

Here’s my short summary of considerations when purchasing a Bible:

Bible Types:

A basic Bible type is referred to as a “Reference Bible.” In it, you will find a table of contents, the scriptures, and maybe an index or concordance of some sort in the back of the book. Reference Bibles are normally quite cheap, and if purchasing one of these, it’s good to have an accompanying reading plan.

Devotional Bibles are great because they can assist with morning Bible reading and prayer time with God (which I highly encourage to start the day). You can even purchase a Devotional Bible for a particular season in your life (ex. Grandparent’s Devotional Bible or Devotional Bible for Moms). In addition to meeting a need, DBs are cute and therefore make great gifts!

Study Bibles are for those who want to go deeper in study and get more out of their Bible reading. In addition to the scriptures, these Bibles normally provide chapter introductions (which oftentimes includes the author of the Bible book, its designated audience, and the cultural setting), along with additional notes and content (historical information, pictures, maps, etc.) to assist with proper interpretation.

Bible Translations:

Some people consider the King James Version (KJV) to be the only authorized translation of the Bible. My husband is one of those people, though I wouldn’t worry about that claim. I received a huge KJV when I was baptized, along with every member of our household, in a small Baptist Church in Columbia, SC at the age of eighteen. I used it as my primary resource for approximately ten years, before I started teaching, and found the “thee” and “thou” language too difficult to communicate to young women who were just starting their Christian journey.

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is considered one of the most accurate translations, and is the academic reference of choice. You do not hear pastors and teachers quote from this translation regularly, however, because it does not read well in a public setting. This translation is great for personal study. I purchased one of these during my senior year of college while attending a Fall Retreat with the Officer’s Christian Fellowship. My personal notes in this Bible pales in comparison to my KJV annotations, but I do reference the NASB when I am challenged and want to get a better understanding of a particular passage of scripture.

I am using the New International Version (NIV) (2006) for daily devotion and personal study. To quote the preface, “Goals for the NIV: that it would be an accurate translation and one that would have clarity and literary quality and so proves suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing and liturgical use.” I purchased this translation a couple years ago for all of these benefits. My version is also a Women’s Devotional Bible, so I sometimes read the devotions about the various women in the Bible and learn from their stories.

In preparation for seminary, I purchased an exhaustive English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible over the summer. It has all of the study Bible qualities I identified above, plus some. (For example, I can view, search, and annotate the entire Bible online with a personal account that they provided with the purchase.) I have not used it enough to get the full benefit, but I am looking forward to doing so.

There are other Bible translations available; however, I am including a short list of the translations that I personally use in hopes that this will limit your frustration when heading to the bookstore to make your next Bible purchase.

I know that you want a cute colored and pocket-sized Bible (like my NIV), but choosing a translation that will enhance your study of the Bible is paramount. With that being said, I think it’s important to share the difference between a translation and a paraphrase. Translations are either “word for word” or “thought for thought” English language presentations of the original Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic Biblical texts. A paraphrase is a summary or interpretation to make what has already been translated (into the English language) more readable. “The Message” and “Living Bible” are paraphrases which may be okay for easy reading, but I do not recommend for personal Bible Study.

Have you had a frustrating Bible shopping experience? What is your preferred translation and why?

Don’t forget to pick-up this quarterly book recommendation, Counterfeit Gods. I would love to read your comments.

© Natasha L. Robinson 2010

3 thoughts on “Natasha’s Study: “What’s in a Bible?”

  1. Natasha,
    I’ve heard great things about the ESV new translation and I can’t wait to get one!

    But I love my NIV Study Bible that I got when I first enrolled in seminary. Next fav. is my Greek/Hebrew Key Word Study Bible, NIV Translation. AMAZING!!

    1. Nicole,

      I have to get a Greek/Hebrew Key Word Study Bible, NIV Translation. He told us about that also. Another that I want to add to the list is a Quest (Q&A) Bible. Apparently, this particular Bible presents questions and provides answers to words that show up in scripture that we have no clue about. Like the great illustration that you did in “Divine Pursuit” concerning the oil plant and army weevils possibilities. Love and Blessings until next week, Natasha

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