What Bible Version Should I Read?

While the Bible is the Bible, there are now numerous interpretations available. NASB, KJV, NIV, ESV, and many more. If you are wondering what all this means, these acronyms all stand for various versions of the Bible. Each version varies based on how certain Hebrew and Greek words were translated, what exact documents were utilized, and if the translators were trying to translate word for word or thought for thought.


Some versions are translated straight word for word from the original text, while others are translated thought for thought. When translating thought for thought, the interpreters were trying to capture the thought that the original author was trying to convey with what was written. Beyond a simple word for word, or thought for thought there is a whole slew of Bibles in the middle range that try to combine word for word and thought for thought.

Even beyond these various versions there are study Bibles, apologetics (defense of Christianity) Bibles, multiple version Bibles, and specialty Bibles for kids, teens, men or women.

So, how do you know which bible version to pick?!

Well, that completely depends on what you are looking for, and honestly what your reading level is. If you are looking for a Bible to utilize for in depth study, I would not recommend the Message version, as it is only a paraphrase of the texts. (And, in my personal opinion has many textual errors and leaves things out. Personal opinion though.) But if you would like an easy version to read and are not worried about an in depth study, you might look into the Message version (MSG), the New Living Translation (NLT), or even the New International Version (NIV).

Bible Versions I have used and currently use

I personally utilized the NIV for many years, which is probably one of the most common versions people will utilize today. To put it simply, it is the King James Version (KJV) without all the thou’s, thee’s and so forth. I then utilized an NLT Study Bible for a short time for the purpose of studying a different translation. While I enjoyed the simplicity of the language used, I then wanted something for even deeper study. I then moved into my current Bible which is a New American Standard Bible (NASB), which is the most word for word translation. When looking for my newest Bible I considered many factors, and also looked into the Holman Christian Standard Bible, specifically the HCSB Study Bible because it utilizes many study notes including some greek word study notes. I have still looked into purchasing a copy of this version just for variation. I personally currently utilize the NASB MacArthur Study Bible. I really enjoy this Bible, but I will give you a heads up, the study notes do have a bend towards Calvinism though.

Chronological Bibles

You may also consider a chronological study Bible, which as a side note, the New Testament makes a lot more sense when you actually understand the order of the texts. In present day Bibles, the books are actually printed in order from longest to shortest, with the exception to Revelation, instead of chronological order. This disordering of the texts is a common contributor to present day misinterpretation. 2 chronological study Bibles I have looked into are the Chronological Life Application Study Bible NLT by Tyndale and The Chronological Study Bible: NKJV by Thomas Nelson. I personally have not utilized either of these but have looked into purchasing one of them.

Whatever version you choose, find one that suites you and what your goal is in reading the word. I have attached a Bible Version Chart that explains and shows the varying version based on Word for word translation to the thought for thought translations. This chart is used from the Lifeway Christian Book Stores Website.

 Other Resources

On top of a good Bible I HIGHLY recommend getting a copy of The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. This is an invaluable resource that will help provide clarity on words and their background, so that you can have a better understanding of what a scripture actually means.

Also, if you have a smart phone and/or a tablet, I would encourage you to download a copy of the Blue Letter Bible, or the E-Sword Bible. These are great resources to have on hand when you don’t want to or can’t carry around a full size study bible. I personally have both on my phone, but mainly utilize the Blue Letter Bible.

I hope this has been a useful article and will help you in your endeavors to study God’s word.

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4 thoughts on “What Bible Version Should I Read?

  1. Any thoughts on Peterson’s The Message? I have used it on occasion but am not super familiar with it.

    • I have just always referred to it as the Message version or MSGV. It is more of a paraphrase of the texts and takes some liberties with the translations in my opinion. In the attached chart, it doesn’t even place it in the word for word or thought for thought array. It is placed in its own category to the side. I do not think it is a good version to utilize for in depth study, rather for simple reading and understanding of God’s word. Hope that helps.

  2. Thanks for this article. I’m surprised the chart shows the NIV as word-for-word at all. I’ve always thought of the NIV as idea for idea. I grew up on the NIV, but now I use NASB and reference NKJV when i need to dig even deeper.

    • Yeah Jared, glad you enjoyed the write up. I grew up on NIV also. NIV leans more towards thought-for-thought/idea-for-idea but does utilize some word-for-word in its translations. It still contains a few textual errors, but is a great general version all around. I love the NASB for the word-for-word translation. I can then break down the words with the concordance and gain an even deeper understanding of what a verse is saying. For study notes and pulling more information, I utilize my Logos software as well as my Bible study notes and concordance.