Emily Kirchner is a freelance writer for Discount Catholic Products, an online retailer of Bibles, scapulars, First communion gifts, and many more. The family’s Bible—passed down from several generations—is one of the most precious gifts her mother has given her. I would like to thank Emily for providing this short article.
Tips in Choosing the Best Bible Translation
Buying a Bible can be more complex than you might think. There are rows upon rows of Bibles at the bookstore, each copy having its own special features. More importantly, numerous translations of the scripture exist, with texts transcribed from the original Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. Every translation is different, as words can be interpreted differently by each new translator.
Aside from the different language translations, there are also a variety of biblical translations in English, of which the major ones are as follows:
• Literal Versions: These versions give priority to accuracy. Included in this classification are the King James Version, New King James Version, New American Standard Bible, Revised Standard Version, and English Standard Version. One could also include in this list the New American Bible Revised Edition.
• Free (Dynamic) Versions: Readability is given focus in the writing of these translations, the most common of which is the New International Version.
• Paraphrase Versions: These aren’t translations in the strict sense but are written in such a way as to increase readability and gives attention to relating the Bible with culture. The Living Bible and New Living Translation fall in this category.
While we can say that the reference is one same original book, these translations can differ in accuracy and readability. Translation, after all, is a difficult process because the translator must represent what is written without adding personal interpretation. As you veer away from literal translations of the Bible, there is more room for error because of the increased possibility of misinterpretations or wrong analyses.
Which brings us to the question: “which translation is best?” Perhaps the more apt term to use is not the “best translation,” but the “most suitable.” When choosing a Bible, be clear about your purpose or needs are for buying one. While literal versions are said to be the most accurate, they’re better suited for academic, detailed study rather than for personal use. Such versions, for example, are difficult to read because they still use the olden time suffixes like –est or words like “thy.”
If you’re buying one for daily mediation, then a literal version may only bring you words that seem like gobbledygook, making God’s words difficult to ponder upon. Free versions are generally more readable and easier to understand for personal use.
To fulfill my family’s biblical needs, I have two versions in our home: a literal one and a free one. If you have younger kids, it also helps to have an illustrated children’s book. This way, you can always cross-reference when unsure of one version’s contents.
Whatever version you have, it’s important that you read the Bible with family or friends to be able to discuss its meaning. You can always ask someone to help you out when you encounter verses that are unclear, be it a family member or the parish priest. After putting down the Bible, the only thing left to do is to put its words into practice.