So You Want to Read the Bible?

So You Want to Read the Bible?

Apparently, loads of people want to read the Bible.  Check out these interesting facts:

  • According to the Guiness Book of World Records over 5 billion (with a “B”) copies of the Bible have been printed.  It is by far the best selling book of all time. (1)
  • The Bible has been translated into 704 languages in its entirety and the New Testament alone has been translated into 1,551 languages. (2) 
  • In the United States, 50 Bibles are sold every minute and 2 copies per second are given away by the Gideons.  Worldwide, there are over 80,000 versions of the Bible. (3) 
  • The YouVerson Bible app is installed in over 485 million unique devices with 2,062 different Bible versions in 1,372 languages for free, without advertising. (4)
  • It all began for the common folks in 1454 when Gutenberg produced the first Bible, printed from an alloy movable type printing press. (5) 

All of this can be a little overwhelming when choosing a Bible for yourself, maybe even for the first time.  I can remember shortly after I dedicated my life to Christ, my soon-to-be husband took me to the local Christian book store chain to pick a Bible.  (Mardel if you’re interested.  I love their stores.)  I remember that they had this laminated chart of different Bible versions and sample verses from several different translations so you could see the differences in the wording that is used.  After what seemed like hours of stressful comparison, I finally chose a New King James Version.  If only I knew then what I know now.

In my Biblical Hermeneutics class at Oklahoma Baptist University (in regular English that means biblical interpretation), How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth, by Gordon D. Fee and Mark L. Strauss was required reading.  It’s a very informative book and I highly recommend it.  The following is the Cliff Notes version.

There are basically three different types of Bible translations:  a formal equivalent version, a mediating version, and a functional equivalent version.  Different versions are written by different translators who choose different methods depending on their goals.   The formal equivalent goal is to stay as close to the original languages as possible while keeping the translation readable.  A mediating version basically translates ideas and original phrases into contemporary English in order to preserve and convey the original meaning of the text.  The functional equivalent version goes one step further and actually paraphrases the original text.  

It goes something like this:

⇒Original Meaning

⇒In Between


(Formal Equivalent)


(Functional Equivalent)



NLT CEV  The Message



As for me, I retired my New King James in exchange for a New American Standard.  After college, I went to the English Standard Version.  My husband prefers the New International Version.  Whatever version you prefer, the best advice is to USE IT!  Read a passage in different versions when you study.  Some theologians like N.T. Wright do their own translations from the original languages in their books.  If you are really industrious, learn Greek or Hebrew.  

Read a one-year Bible.  Read a chronological Bible.  Read a story-like Bible.  Read them all.

The thing I like most about the Bible is that no matter how much you learn, there is always more.  


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