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Q. Which translation and study Bible should I use? There are so many on the market that I find it confusing. I would like to settle on just one.
Thank you for your question. Almost everyone we know has the same question. Maybe some of our churches could become more active in deciding what translation members should use in church and for study.
1. So we generally recommend that believers use the translation recommended by their pastor and church. This way the congregation can read along with the pastor during selected readings and studies.
Many Protestant churches use the NIV (New International Version) or the NKJV (New King James Version). Either of these is fine although the NIV is less faithful to the original languages than the NKJV. Catholics often use the NAB (New American Bible) which is a good translation close in accuracy to the new English Standard Version. At any rate, most churches tend to recommend good and conservative translations. Unless you attend a Christian Science, Mormon, or Jehovah's Witness church, I wouldn't worry too much about it.
In Acts 8:30, Philip asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading. The Ethiopian answered that he could not understand the bible passages unless someone explained it to him. In Nehemiah 8:8 we read that Ezra the Scribe read the law to the people while the Levites explained it plainly to them. These two statements provide us with a biblically defendable reason to seek help in understanding the 66 documents which form our Bible.
A good study bible offers commentary, explanatory notes, maps, charts, outlines, and other useful tools to the serious student. These notes shed light on history, culture, archaeology, science, languages, and other biblical insights. Notes are not inspired, however, and these added tools tend to make the Bible more bulky. This is why a plain reference bible containing cross references and a few short footnotes is smaller than a study bible.
2. However, our second recommendation is to encourage you to use the study bible recommended by your pastor and church for the same reasons we listed before.
Reformed churches often suggest the Reformation Study Bible edited by R.C. Sproul in either the New King James or the English Standard versions (Ligonier Ministries).
Dispensationalists prefer the Scofield Study Bible (Oxford University Press), the MacArthur Study Bible (Nelson), or the Ryrie Study Bible (Moody).
Baptist churches often recommend the new Holman Christian Standard Bible now available in the Holman CSB Illustrated Study Bible (Broadman&Holman), or the NIV Study Bible (Zondervan).
More liberal mainstream churches often recommend the NRSV Harper Collins Study Bible or the NRSV New Interpreter's Study Bible (Abingdon).
Many conservative denominations recommend the NIV Life Application Study Bible (Zondervan).
Charismatic churches tend to recommend the NKJV Spirit Filled Life Bible (Nelson) or the NIV Life in the Spirit Study Bible (Zondervan).
This is just a sample list. But, your choices are almost endless. This is why we suggest you simplify things and stick to what your pastor and church recommend.
What do we use?
I prefer the New King James Scofield Study Bible and frequently consult the MacArthur Study Bible. My wife uses the NASB Ryrie Study Bible and the NKJV Study Bible. However, we own and consult almost all of the study bibles listed above. Our church recommends either the NASB or the KJV. But, our pastor primarily uses the NASB and refers to other translations for illustration purposes. So there you have it. Good reading!
Ryken, Leland. 2002. The word of God in english. Wheaton, ILL: Crossway.
Thomas, Robert. 2000. How to choose a Bible version. Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus
Author Ken Emilio holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University.
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