Q: #57. I am a new Christian, and I need a Bible. What do you recommend?
By: Steve Shirley
A: These days, there are an incredible number of Bibles and versions to to choose from. Let me try and give you some ideas.
The versions today basically come in three different forms: word for word translation, thought for thought translation, and paraphrases. A word for word translation takes the best available manuscript evidence, and directly translates each word to English. Some examples of this are the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), and the New American Standard Bible (NASB). A thought for thought translation takes those manuscripts and attempts to translate the thought that each verse was trying to convey. The New International Version (NIV) is an example of this. A paraphrase basically takes existing texts and the author re-words them in his own words to make it easier to understand. The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson is an example of this.
Personally, I believe a good word for word translation is the best. My favorite is the NASB. The KJV is also good, but it was written in 1611, and uses Old English, which makes it tough for many to understand. I use the KJV in most places on this site because it is not copyrighted. The NKJV is basically like the KJV, but it takes out much of the hard to understand Old English.
For some, the word for word translations are a little tougher to understand. If you can't understand, then give the NIV or a paraphrase Bible a shot. The NIV is the best selling version of the Bible today. It is considered to be written at about an 8th grade level of comprehension.
I would say the best selling paraphrase Bible today is the Message Bible. It is quite simple to understand, and reads like a story. One drawback is that it is not broken down verse by verse, which can be bad if you are looking for a specific verse. Also, keep in mind, it can deviate quite a bit from the word for word meanings.
The Living Bible was a wonderful paraphrase that I used to grow when I was first saved. It is out of print now, but still available from some Christian bookstores if special ordered.
In addition, these Bibles can also be purchased as "Study Bibles." Study Bibles have notes that explain many of the verses you read. They can be a bit more expensive with the study notes, but I REALLY recommend saving your money to get one if you can. I have used mainly three study Bibles, and I would recommend any of them. The Life Application (Study) Bible comes in any of the major versions. It is awesome, and I give it my highest recommendation. I used this study Bible in the Living Translation when I first got saved and it helped me a LOT.
I also use the Zondervan NIV Study Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible. The MacArthur Study Bible is my most recent addition, and I have become quite fond of it. It comes mainly in the NKJV Version, although they recently added the NASB version.
I would recommend that you go to a local Christian bookstore and check out several versions and see what you like and can understand. They generally have a huge selection to choose from, so ask for help if you need it. Prices can range anywhere from about 7 dollars for the cheapest Bibles (usually called Award Bibles) to over 100 dollars. You can get a good study Bible for about 20 to 30 dollars. Walmart and Sam's Club also carry some that are cheap if you don't have a Christian bookstore nearby.
You can also click on the link from our homepage "Read The Bible Online" to read from different versions online, and get an idea of what might work for you.
If you can't afford a Bible right now, reading online can be a good way to go for the short term. However, I very strongly encourage you to get an actual copy as soon as possible. Many local churches will give you one for free if you ask. You can even get a KJV Bible at many Dollar Stores, but the print is VERY small.
As a new Christian, I suggest you check out my next topic, where I will answer the question: I am a new Christian. What study materials do you recommend to help me grow?