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Buying a Bible

August 17, 2005

Unless you are fasting, the chances are you are going to buy a meal today. Just as important is to feed on God , as Jesus said:

Matt 4:4 Man must not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God." CSB

So if you are going to maintain spiritual health, you need a Bible – but it isn’t that easy is it? There are so many versions!

This article is aimed to help you select a new Bible.

Choosing a version
The Bible was not written in English! It has to be translated from the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). As our language evolves, we improve translations of the Bible by expressing the truth in a way we can understand. Most quality versions are translated by many scholars from multiple denominational church backgrounds. We live in Elizabethan England, but the difference in the meaning of words from the days of Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II is quite a lot!

Translation labels
Solomon said:

Eccl 12:12 Of making many books there is no end NIV

- and of making Bibles it would seem there is also no end. After quoting this verse there are the initials NIV which stand for New International Version. This is the way most Bibles are referred to so that the reader knows which one is being quoted from. So what is the difference between an NIV, NKJV, NASB, CSB or KFC? (Actually KFC isn’t really a Bible version – but I’ll have fries with mine!)

How the Bible is translated
Bible translation from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek is always difficult – the translator has to strike a balance between literal word for word rendering and trying to express the thought behind the word. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11v 30 Paul talks about those who have not judged themselves at the Lord’s table having fallen asleep (NIV or NKJV). This doesn’t mean that they dozed off, but rather that they were dead. The Message says that they “have gone to an early grave”. The difficulty for a translator is that no where in  the original language does it mention ‘grave’, or even ‘dead’. The original word means to fall asleep, but the connotation of that word in the day it was written was that it meant death.

You might think that it is always better to translate according to the thought than the literal. However, some parts of the bible have a deliberate double meaning or can only be fully understood with the literal word. So, a balance has to be drawn. The NIV has had a pretty good balance, and some would say that the NKJV (New King James Version) is a little more literal so it is better. Others would argue that The Message, which is all about the thought rather than the literal translation, is easier to read. New on the market from Holman is the CSB (Christian Standard Bible) which is particularly accurate and is gaining a lot of popularity. The fact is that there is room for many versions.

Factors to consider when picking a version:

Do I find this easy to read? (the style of some versions can be preffered) 
What version is read aloud in my local church? (it may help to be able to read along)
Is it time for a change? (There is nothing better for stimulating a new Bible reading programme than a new version to try it with)
Is it for daily readings or is it for serious study? (This may affect your choice considerably)

The main popular versions in the UK are:
New International Version – most popular version
New King James Version – considered the most literal popular version
New Living Translation – very readable and excellent for a first bible
New Century Version – aimed at lower reading ages, so very readable by all
Christian Standard Bible – very new and particularly accurate
The Message – not literal, very thought focussed. A fun read and a good second Bible – but not recommended as your only version.
But there are a lot more!

Text Comparisons

Packed with features!
Today there are many more features in Bibles that you may want to consider when choosing what is right for you. For example the following features are often seen:
Concordance – an index to help you find a verse in the bible if you can remember a single word from it. A concordance at the back of your Bible is going to be ‘thin’ and may miss out far more than it includes. A seperate concordance (e.g. Strongs) is more useful.
Study Notes – a study bible has a commentary built in – that is a set of study notes written by one person or a team of people. Study Notes may be denominationally or theologically biased and are not always dependable. Study Notes can be helpful, but shouldn’t be considered to be infallible.
Helps – extras like “where to find help in time of need” and maps can also be useful

A paperback won’t last long if you read it daily! A hardback is a good solution, but leather and other modern finishes are often the most hardwearing.

Typeface vs size
Remember that a small bible will be easier to carry around – but the typeface may be more ‘challenging’. Check that you like the size of the typeface as well as the size of the Bible.

Quick Summary
Check out the version carefully for suitability
Make sure you have the features, binding and size that you need too!




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