The following is an update to a post that we previously published here on my blog. It is specifically designed to be a supplemental resource for our first message series of January 2017 entitled, Is This the Book for Me?
I took the above picture several years ago while browsing in Barnes & Noble. I thought it was a great illustration of how difficult it is for anyone who is shopping for a Bible for the very first time.
I hope this post will help you find a Bible that will best fit your needs and can be a life-long companion for you in your journey of faith.
The first thing you may notice when shopping in a bookstore is that Bibles will be organized by translation.
Some of the most popular include The New International Version, New American Standard Version, New Living Version, New King James Version, English Standard Version, Common English Version and the New Century Version. These are the translations you are likely to find at any bookstore.
As you probably already know, the Bible was not written in English.
The main languages used in the original text were Hebrew and Greek. The differences you find in these variety of versions boil down to how the team of scholars who worked on a particular translation choose to render the original Greek and Hebrew into the English we use today.
Additionally, certain translations specifically render the Hebrew and the Greek into what those versions would describe as “modern” English. Essentially, some translation leans towards a more “literal” translation of the original text in which meaning and understanding may be less apparent. Others are translated with a greater amount of freedom so that the text reads in a way that is closer to the language we speak every day.
My personal preference is the New International Version.
This the Bible that I preach from and we have available in all our worship spaces. That is not to say that if you have another translation that you need to switch! The NIV is not the only version of the Bible that I own. I use others in my personal study and I find having a few translations available is often helpful for me to compare, but if you are looking for one, easy to understand, translation, I recommend the NIV.
The NIV version is also one of the most widely used translation in the world so you will find them in large quantities in any bookstores. You can find out more about the NIV Translation by visiting this website.
Types of Bibles
I would categorize all of the Bibles you are going to find at Mardel’s, Barnes & Noble, or some other large bookseller in four categories.
- General Bibles
- Bibles designed for certain target groups
- Life Application Bibles
- Study Bibles
A general Bible is one that has no additional study notes or insights.
Some will include a cross-reference which is the list of scriptures you often find in the center of the page or in the margins. These are the other places in the Bible that have some association to the text you are currently reading. Thinline, Pocket and other Bibles all fit into this category and are often preferred because of how easy they are to carry with you. I preach each weekend from a NIV Thinline Bible. It is also a size which makes it easy for me carry with me in my bag everywhere I go.
Bibles targeted for certain groups is where shopping for a Bible can really get confusing.
These Bibles are targeted to certain segments of people and probably began with the creation of Bibles designed for children and teens. What that means is that the notes and insights included in the margins and throughout the Bible are written with a certain target group in mind. These Bibles are targeted to Moms, Dads, First Responders, College Students, etc. The list goes on and on but I generally do not recommend these Bibles.
Life Application Bibles are similar to the Bibles geared towards a target audience.
They include lots of notes, illustrations and stories which are meant to help the reader “apply” the Bible to their life. The difference between the two is that Life Application Bibles are not geared to a specific target group but a written with a more general audience in mind.
Many do find that these Bibles are helpful in making sense of the scriptures. That being said, if you are shopping for a primary Bible for your use, a Life Application Bible would not be my first choice. The main reason is that these Bibles tend to do the work of reflecting on a particular passage of scripture for you. While I know that may sound very appealing, it can also short change the important process of reflecting on the meaning that God is seeking to communicate to you in a particular passage.
Remember that God often uses our confusion, our questions, and our search for deeper meaning to grow our faith.
In addition, particular scriptures often speak to us in radically different ways depending on the other circumstances that we may be experiencing at that time. This is a key reason why we refer to the Bible as the “living” Word. It is a tool God provides to us for the purpose of enhancing and nurturing our relationship with God. This is the subject of a an entirely different post, but reading the Bible really is meant to be a a supernatural process.
Study Bibles are the final category.
The main difference between a study Bible and a Life Application is the type of notes and other resources provided for you. In a Study Bible, you are going to find that the majority of notes are designed to help you understand historical context, ancient customs and practices and other information which are geared towards helping you understand the dynamics of the text in a deeper way.
Study Bibles often include “character sketches” on major figures in the Bible which provide a brief biography of important figures as well as additional places where they may be referenced throughout scripture. They also will include an introduction to each book of the Bible which includes details about the author, the date of the writing, as well as key themes that are addressed in the book.
Keep in mind that I personally probably own around 20 different Bibles. My assumption is that you are not looking to start a collection, but rather are looking for a single Bible that you will use over the course of your lifetime.
With that in mind, my personal recommendation would be for you to purchase an NIV Study Bible. Again, I think the NIV is a solid translation and I think over the course of your life, you will appreciate having the additional notes and insights that a Study Bible will provide. It is also helpful that you can walk into any major bookstore and say, “I want the NIV Study Bible” and they will know exactly where to direct you.
From there, you will have to decide on the 1,000 different variety of colors and textures for your cover, but that’s for you to decide.
Did I mention that buying a Bible can be a difficult process?
If I can help you in any additional way, please do not hesitate to let me know.