I took the above picture several years ago while browsing in Barnes & Noble. I thought this picture was a great illustration of how difficult it is for someone who is shopping for a Bible for the first time to make a good choice.
Today I thought I would share a couple of things to help you find the Bible that is right for you.
Bibles in the bookstore are usually organized by translation. There are really an amazing number of translations, but some of the most popular include The New International Version, New American Standard Version, New Living Version, New King James, English Standard Version, Common English and the New Century Version. These are the translations you are most 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 versions boil down to how the team of scholars who worked on a particular translation choose to render the original greek and hebrew into English.
My personal preference is the New International Version. It is a very easy to read translation which also preserves the intent of the original authors. The NIV version is also the most widely used translation in the world so you will find them in large quantities in most bookstores.
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 three categories.
- Study Bibles
- Life Application Bibles
- Bibles designed for certain target groups
The last category is really where it gets 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.
Life Application Bibles are similar to the Bibles geared towards a target audience in that 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 group but a written with a more general audience in mind.
While most find these Bibles helpful in making sense of the scriptures through the notes that are included, I do not recommend a Life Application Bible. The reason is that these Bibles tend to do the work of reflecting on a particular passage of scripture for you. In other words, they tell you how to think or feel about a certain section of scripture. That is not always a bad thing, but I worry that it can shortchange the reader in their growth.
God often uses our confusion, questions, and search for deeper meaning to grow our faith.
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. 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 seek to help you understand the text in a deeper way.
Study Bibles often include “character sketches” on major figures in the Bible which provide a brief biography and references throughout scripture. They also will include an introduction to each book detailing the author, date of writing, and key themes to look for in each book.
My personal preference is a Study Bible.
I would recommend purchasing The NIV Study Bible.
If you go to any major bookstore and tell them, “I want the NIV Study Bible” they will know what you are talking about!