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 choose from. Let me try and give you some ideas.
The versions today basically come in three different forms: word for word translations, thought for thought translations, 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 New Living Translation (NLT), or the Message Bible by Eugene Peterson are examples 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, word for word translations are a bit 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. The primary problem with a paraphrase Bible like the Message is that it can deviate quite a bit at times from the available manuscripts. In addition, some are not broken down verse by verse, which can be bad if you are looking for a specific verse.
The Living Bible was a wonderful paraphrase that I used to grow in my early walk with the Lord. It is out of print now, but is still available in some places like Amazon, Ebay, or Christian bookstores if special ordered. The "New" Living Translation is somewhat like it, but not quite the same. It is more readily available today.
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 the Bible I use the most now. In my opinion, it has the most thorough and complete study notes (although I disagree with most of MacArthur's reformed doctrine / Calvinism views). It comes in several versions: NKJV, NASB, ESV.
The easiest way to find a version that you can understand and like is to go here. At this site, they have pretty much every version of the Bible that there is. Once you find the right version for you, you can read it on the site through pretty much any electronic device you might have (PC, phone, tablet). However, (perhaps because I am old-fashioned) I recommend buying an actual (book) Bible. You can do this in numerous places: i.e. Amazon, Ebay, Walmart, or a Christian bookstore (if you can find one in your area). Prices can range from around $5 up to $100. You can get a good study Bible for around $20 - $30. If you want a physical copy of the Bible, but cannot afford one, many local churches will give you one for free if you ask. You can often find 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?"