On, at least, a weekly basis, I am asked for help in choosing a new Bible. Today, I would like to answer that question for you. There are certain criteria that should factor into your criteria.
The most important consideration for your new Bible is the English Version/Translation that you will use. The translation should be easy for you to understand but it should also be accurate to the original languages. I won’t get into the differences between form based (word-for-word) and meaning based (thought-for-thought) translations but I would like to recommend 4 English Versions for you.
NLT: My 1st recommendation is the New Living Translation. The NLT is the Bible that we preach from at Abounding Grace Baptist Church. The English is very easy to understand as it is translated at or near a 6th Grade reading level. NLT is the ideal choice for the disciple who has never read a Bible before and for the disciple for whom English is not a native language. NLT is a meaning based translation that endeavors, quite successfully, to capture the the thought of the original scriptural author.
CSB: Christian Standard Bible is what is called a mediating or optimal translation because it is pretty well in the middle of form based and meaning based translations. It reads at or near 8th Grade. CSB is perfect for the intermediate level disciple who wants to go deeper in their study and it is a great choice for academics. If you are enrolled in/considering a Christian School, at any academic level, I would highly recommend the CSB.
ESV: English Standard Bible is the translation taking the conservative community by storm. Reformed Christians of all stripes love ESV for its accuracy, its word-for-word rigor, and its liturgical feel. Listening to the cadence of an ESV being read aloud, you can tell it was designed with pastors in mind. ESV read’s at or about a 9th Grade level. When I am preparing my lessons, ESV is my normal study text in parallel with NLT.
NKJV: New King James is a perennial favorite of many excellent teachers, not the least of whom are David Jeremiah and the late Dr. R.C. Sproul. Like the ESV, NKJV is very word for word yet still easily readable. I would also rate it at 8th/9th Grade. NKJV is an ideal translation in almost any situation.
Now here is my secret: I love all 4 and use all 4 regularly. I could not choose just one so I use all 4 in different scenarios.
If I were to be pushed into making a choice of only one, it would be the NLT; I have found none better for my one to one discipleship efforts.
There are several helps that you may want to consider, only one of which I would deem essential and we will talk about it first.
There are two types of references available, end-of-verse and center-column. Center-column references are the feature that I would consider to be essential. We believe that Scripture interprets/explains Scripture and center column references are the best way to experience that. By following references, you will be able to follow the thought patterns/themes of Scripture.
There is a class of Bible called a “study” Bible. The study portion stems from the fact that they include commentary on the Scripture; some even include introductory materials for each book and an outline of each book. These features are not bad, per se, but I would encourage you to do the work yourself. My 4th grade teacher, Miss Cortell, told me that, “you must hunt, search, and dig, for what you want to know. Knowing is your payment for doing the work of learning.”
A topical concordance is a very useful tool to have. It will help you to follow what the Scriptures teach on a host of topics. Some concordances are more in-depth than others but almost every Bible has one. I highly recommend that you use the one in your Bible.
Wide margins are one of the best features available for a Bible today. It is a wide margin Bible that you make truly yours because you fill in your own notes and references. Some even go so far as to add drawings and charts etc. to help with memory aids.
Choosing a new Bible is very important, perhaps the most important choice you will make in your life as a disciple. I hope the materials above will help you to choose your new Bible. I congratulate you on your decision to answer Christ’s call and become a disciple. I pray that your new Bible will help you to grow in your knowledge of Christ.