by Pastor Melissa Scott, Ph.D.
When people ask me, "What Bible should I use?" my first answer is usually "The one that you will read!" There are a plethora of Bible translations available today, which vary in both their reading level and their accuracy.
I teach primarily using the King James Version. If you find the King James Version too difficult to read, then start with a Bible that is easier for you, and then later you can move up to a translation with a higher reading level. Such translations will have a richer vocabulary that will enable you to better understand the intended meaning of the inspired writers of the Scriptures.
When choosing a Bible, it is important to remember that every English Bible translation is just that—a translation.
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew (with a few sections in a related language called Aramaic) and the New Testament was originally written in Greek, a language much more precise than English. An English translation can never be as clear or accurate as the original. English is a relatively young language and, like all languages, its vocabulary carries with it certain cultural connotations that may not at all reflect the mindset of the inspired writers.
Generally speaking, Bible translations are made using one of two methods, or a combination of the two: "word-for-word" or "thought-for-thought." Word-for-word translations strive for literal accuracy to the original Hebrew and Greek texts. Thought-for-thought translations aim to communicate the original ideas to modern readers by rewording certain passages that are hard to read or are likely to be misunderstood if rendered literally.
The following infographic provides a comparison of a number of popular English Bible translations, including their reading level and a brief description. It also summarizes the history of English Bible translation and shows how we arrived at our current versions.