Bible, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?


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”).


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.

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.

16 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?”

  1. Excellent post! Thank you! I would add, at least from my understanding – the NIV after 2011 is also gender neutral and not listed as TNIV. The NIV before 2011 was the standard I understand. Please correct me if I am wrong. Thank you!!!!


  2. Michelle Leslie on best Bibles

    Just curious as to why you didn’t include the Reformation Study Bible by R. C. Sproul. I’ve studied it and find that compared to Dr. MacArthur’s study Bible it is less to the point supporting a Reformed Doctrine and almost too subtle.

    Please don’t misunderstand because I listen to, read and totally appreciate the many wonderful resources available through Ligonier Ministries. However, it has always struck me that Dr, Sproul’s ministry has a great deal more emphasis on marketing God’s word where it is quite unusual to find any of Dr. MacArthur’s resources not totally available without charge on GTY.

    I attended a PCA Church for many years only to discover after I had retired and moved away that the PCA Church I had attended now incorporated an evangelism course sponsored by the Billy Graham Ministries and had discontinued using EE which was designed by D. James Kennedy.

    I was also very taken back by the debate raging in the PCA over Federal Vision and the fact it took so many years for them to discard that theory. And although R. C. Sproul was ultimately the one to end that discussion, I had to wonder why it took him so long to exert his influence.

    I’ve asked these same questions too many I believe are born again believers only to receive responses that dance all around the issue I posed. Maybe you can be the one to enlighten me.


    1. From the article: “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.


  3. Yes, I read your disclaimer and totally appreciated your candor and honesty. But your response did not address the concerns I raised nor did they seem responsive at all to the questions I shared openly with you in search of answering some of the issues I expressed.

    My thoughts were reasonably expressed without malice of forethought and in an attempt to hear a response from you addressing my concerns. I’m disappointed, to say the least, but will not pursue this further in view of your reluctance to address the issues I raised.


    1. I apologize if my response came off as curt. That was certainly not my intention. I was trying to answer your initial question: “Just curious as to why you didn’t include the Reformation Study Bible by R. C. Sproul.” I’m sure it’s a very good study Bible (I’d expect no less from Sproul, whom I have deep respect for) but I’m not personally familiar with it.

      Regarding the remainder of your concerns, I’m sorry, but I simply don’t have the time to address them in the way they deserve. I’m overwhelmed with blog comments, e-mails, and social media messages to the point that responding to them is taking too much time away from my family. You might have missed it, but I posted an article explaining this yesterday. I wish I could help, but, unfortunately, I’m spread too thin at the moment.


  4. Michelle, I have been studying the chart that compares Bible translations… My question is.. It seems the Christian Standard Bible (which I thought was the same as the Holman Christian Standard Bible..) says that it has inclusive language just like the new NiV from 2011… Am I reading that correctly?? And, I am trying to understand the exact difference in the ones that say gender neutral language, and the ones that say inclusive language..? Thank so much, Tammy


      1. Michelle,

        Thank you for the articles. The chart only differentiates between gender neural language and inclusive language. It lumped the CSB with the 2011 NIV. So, are they the same? Wondering because you want against the 2011 NIV, but it is listed the same inclusive language as the CSB. But, you recommend the CSB. Now just to differentiate, it does list the TNIV as having gender neutral language. So, I understand why no TNIV. But, not sure about why 2011 NIV is different than the CSB? The articles only speak to why the CSB is still a valid translation. If the chart is accurate it seems to say the 2011 NIV is as accurate as the CSB. Do you know if there is truly a difference? Just trying to make sense of my choices.

        Thanks again,


      2. Did you get a chance to read the article that’s hyperlinked in the 5th paragraph (“gender neutral/inclusive language”)? It’s called “A Fair Analysis of the New NIV”. I hate to simplify it this much because that article and the previous two I gave you do a better job of explaining and giving examples, but one of the main differences is that the 2011 NIV changes words that the author/context meant to be gender specific to gender neutral (similar to the RSV/NRSV example in the Denny Burk article), whereas the CSB does not change words the author/context meant to be gender specific, it is, instead, gender accurate. For example, if you’re reading in Genesis about Joseph and his brothers, CSB would not change “brothers” to “siblings.” However, in the pastoral epistles where Paul is speaking of the whole church and refers to them as “brothers,” CSB would clarify to “brothers and sisters” to help the reader understand that Paul means the whole congregation, not just the men.

        Hope this helps :0)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for the clarification. I did look-up some other articles also. I read the two articles you shared. I did not read the one about NIV. But I did some research. I did come across an interesting article about the CSB. The man who wrote the article was there when the original version of the Colorado Springs guidelines were written in 1997. They have since been modified. The author of the article is against the current CSB translation. I thought his article had merit. Especially considering the guidelines were updated so that it would be in agreement with the CSB when it was updated. Wondering what you think? I shared it to my Facebook wall. I will tag you. Hope that’s okay.. I’m wondering your thoughts on the article. Thanks, Tammy


      4. Thanks, but I think I’m going to go ahead and stand by the research I’ve done, and what I’ve written in the article. If you’re uncomfortable with the CSB for any reason, I would suggest the ESV. They’re pretty similar in style and vocabulary. Blessings to you, Tammy! :0)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Michelle,

    I just ordered the soft cover ESV MacArthur Study Bible on Ebay and am so excited for it to arrive! I’ve used the NLT Life Application Bible for many years, but see now that that probably isn’t he best version to be using as far as translation. I did notice on the graph above by Brent MacDonald that he has the Amplified Bible (AMP) on the far left, which is surprising given the example you gave as to why this is not a recommended bible. Thank you for these wonderful tips and links to help all of us be better informed. Many blessings to you!


  6. I came across your post while doing research on illegitimate totality transfer in the Amplified Bible. I have examined over 15 published works on the subject, comparing translations of over 50 Bible verses, in a 106-page paper called “Context is for Kings: Is the Amplified Bible Guilty of Illegitimate Totality Transfer”:

    Click to access context-is-for-kings.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

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