Bible+Theology, Spiritual Practices

How to Choose a Bible Translation

One question we often hear: which translation of the Bible should I use?

Well, it depends on what you’re looking for.

Let’s take a closer look at the three translations Charles mentioned.

The Message

Strengths: Clear and powerful, contemporary language, good for devotional reading

Weaknesses: Less accurate in regard to the underlying Greek/Hebrew

Example: Ex. 3:1–6

1-2 Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up.

3 Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

4 God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

He said, “Yes? I’m right here!”

5 God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”

6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”

Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.

English Standard Version (ESV)

Strengths: Reflects the underlying Greek/Hebrew, good for in-depth Bible study

Weaknesses: Not as easy to read, takes more work to understand

Example: Ex. 3:1–6

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the

angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

New International Version (NIV)

Strengths: Easier to read and close to the original language, a solid in-between option

Weaknesses: Not as contemporary as the Message, not as faithful to the Greek/Hebrew as ESV

Example: Ex. 3:1–6

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Remember, there is no single “correct” translation. The most helpful translation for you depends on how you’re looking to use your Bible. And even if you find one version that you really like, try using a different translation every once in a while! Reading various translations can help us notice new things and open our eyes to the ways that God is speaking to us.