Bible, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?

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I was saved out of Mormonism but, as a new Christian, spent some time in the Word of Faith movement. I want a Bible that hasn’t been tampered with by a false religion, but I’m not sure which one I can trust. Which Bible do you recommend?

What a blessing it is to even be able to ask this question! You would not ask this question if God had not graciously saved you, and you could not ask this question if there weren’t a ton of different Bibles available in English, nor if you lived in a country where it is illegal to own a copy of God’s word. It’s a dilemma, but it’s a good dilemma to have.

The good news is that there are many fantastic Bibles out there- far more good ones than bad, and far more than I could recommend in this brief article. So, please don’t take this as an exhaustive list or think that because I’ve left a certain Bible out that it isn’t any good.

The first thing you want to look for is a good translation, not a paraphrase. You want to know what God said through Paul, not what somebody 2000 years later thinks about what God said through Paul. You’re looking to get as close to the original wording as is possible.

There are several great English translations on the market. I started using the English Standard Version (ESV) about four years ago, and I love it. Prior to that I used the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for about 20 years. It is also an excellent translation. If you’re familiar with various Bible translations, ESV is, in my opinion, like a more accurate, more linguistically sophisticated 1984 New International Version (NIV). NASB is like a cross between the King James Version (KJV) and the 1984 NIV, but more accurate. In my opinion, ESV and NASB are the two best translations out there today.

There are, however, several other solid translations such as the Legacy Standard Bible (LSB), the New King James Version (NKJV), the Lexham English Bible (LEB), the Christian Standard Bible (CSB– This is a newly revised version of the Holman Christian Standard Bible {HCSB}, and they’re dropping the “Holman”. So HCSB and CSB – whichever one you happen to see – are the same thing.), and the “old” or “1984” NIV (You want to stay away from the TNIV {Today’s New International Version}, now out of print, and any 2011 or later NIV, as those both contain gender neutral/inclusive language. The 1984 edition is also out of print, but you may be able to acquire one from a second hand store.)

The KJV is a good translation and the language is beautiful, but if you have trouble with 1611 English, it’s not the only game in town anymore. Some of our modern translations are actually more accurate than the KJV because thousands more biblical manuscripts have been discovered since it was first published, allowing translators to be more precise.

Below is a helpful chart from Brent MacDonald of Not Just Another Book comparing a number of different translations and paraphrases. (On this chart, it’s good to be a “leftist”).

bibletranslationcomparisonsmall

You can try most of these translations out for free at Bible GatewayThere’s even a great feature that allows you to compare several versions side by side:

Just as there are a number of good Bible versions I would recommend, there are a few I’m familiar with which I would strongly recommend againstThe Message, The Voice, The Passion Translation, The Amplified Bible, and any “translation” that uses gender neutral language.

peterson-shack

More than a few articles have voiced concerns over The Message’s – a paraphrase – often misleading texts. (I would add that Eugene Peterson {author of The Message} frequently shows poor discernment. One recent example is his front cover endorsement of the heresy-laden book – and movie – The Shack.)

The Voice is not only a paraphrase, its contributors include female “pastors” and false teachers such as Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Chris Seay, and Leonard Sweet.

The Passion Translation is a New Apostolic Reformation version of the Bible which actually changes the wording of many verses in order to fit the NAR agenda. Click here for a Bible translation scholar’s review of Passion’s version of Psalms.

The Amplified Bible falls prey to an improper translation technique called illegitimate totality transfer, which, in its attempt to clarify a particular word or phrase, may actually end up causing you to misunderstand the correct meaning of the verse.

I’ve already mentioned the post-1984 versions of the NIV, but be sure to avoid any “translation” of the Bible that uses gender neutral language extensively or exclusively. And you certainly don’t want a “Bible” that uses neutral or feminine pronouns or references to God – those should always be male.

There are some perfectly reliable and accurate newer Bible translations that will, for example, occasionally render (or add a footnote) “brothers” as “brothers and sisters” when it’s clear from the context that Paul is talking to or about the entire church. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about changing passages clearly referring only to men to include women. Thus, these “translations” are actually changing God’s words. Let me give you an example from the Common English Bible (CEB). This is 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

This saying is reliable: if anyone has a goal to be a supervisor in the church, they want a good thing. 2 So the church’s supervisor must be without fault. They should be faithful to their spouse, sober, modest, and honest. They should show hospitality and be skilled at teaching. 3 They shouldn’t be addicted to alcohol or be a bully. Instead, they should be gentle, peaceable, and not greedy. 4 They should manage their own household well—they should see that their children are obedient with complete respect, 5 because if they don’t know how to manage their own household, how can they take care of God’s church? 6 They shouldn’t be new believers so that they won’t become proud and fall under the devil’s spell. 7 They should also have a good reputation with those outside the church so that they won’t be embarrassed and fall into the devil’s trap.

Compare this to any reliable translation, and you’ll see the problem (and not just with the gender neutral language). I recently saw a woman “pastor” defend her right to serve in that office from this passage in the CEB “translation,” which, I imagine, is precisely the reason it was rendered this way. (It appears that there are likely a number of other problems with the CEB, as well. I looked only at the passage above and 1 Timothy 2:11-15, and the translation of that passage is completely botched as well, erroneously rendering “woman” and “man” as “wife” and “husband,” removing the “for/because” at the beginning of 13, and completely mangling the meanings of verses 14 and 15. This passage could also be used to support the sins of women preaching, pastoring, and holding authority over men in the church. Again, compare this to any reliable translation.)

If you’re looking for a good study Bible (or want to avoid a bad one), I’ve discussed that a bit here (#4). I frequently use and highly recommend both the ESV MacArthur Study Bible and the Faithlife Study Bible (which is FREE!). When shopping for a study Bible, do you homework and vet the contributors. Avoid any study Bibles whose contributors are false teachers, theologians from apostate churches, female “pastors,” etc. Some in particular I would recommend you avoid are the CSB LifeWay Women’s Bible, ESV Women’s Study Bible and the YouVersion app (all feature false teachers). And check out this article from Tim Challies: What Makes a Really Good Study Bible?.

Looking for a great Bible app? Check these out.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.