WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DIFFERENT BIBLES?
Well, there are actually only two Christian Bibles: the Protestant Bible and the Catholic Bible, and the differences between them are minor. These differences are described at the Catholic Bible link.
There are however, many translations of the Bible.
The Bible was originally written in three languages. The New Testament was written in the Greek language and the Old Testament was written in the Hebrew language with a few chapters written in Aramaic. When a language is translated there are many different words in the second language that mean the same thing as the word used in the original. This accounts for why there are so many translations (versions). Many people, committees and publishing companies have translated the Bible from the original languages into English. They are all translated from the same original text, so the differences between the versions are modest.
Which Bible is the best translation? Pastors and other church leaders are often asked this question. The answer is: The best Bible is the one you’ll read.
So, the first thing you should decide about the Bible you will buy is the translation you want to read. The chart below lists the most popular translations available at Christian book stores. And many of them are also available at any bookstore. All are available to buy online. Choose the link from the chart to further explore the ones that interest you. The versions are listed in alphabetical order.
Each entry indicates the following:
- The text of the Bible is in verse format or paragraph format
- Poetry sections are formatted as poetry
- Personal pronouns (he, him, his, etc.) referring to God and Jesus are capitalized
- See the Basic Features page for more information about these three options
Click on the name of the translation. This will take you to more information about that version and will provide a sample of verses. To get a more thorough comparison you can go to the Bible Gateway website (www.biblegateway.com). This website provides about 50 English language translations (and other languages) that you can contrast.
A list of study and devotional Bibles is also provided for each translation. These lists may in some cases may be quite long, but may not be complete. If you find any that you think should be included, drop me a line with the contact form and I’ll be happy to check them out.
The Translation Process
All the Bibles listed on the chart above were translated from the original language texts.
Bible translation is both a science and an art. There are two approaches when translating the text of the Bible: formal equivalent and dynamic equivalent. Formal equivalent is generally thought of as “word-for-word” translation and seeks as much as possible to keep the structure of the original text. Dynamic equivalent tries to translate the meaning of the text in “thought by thought” and return it such that it makes the same impact on modern readers that the ancient text made on its original readers. Both approaches are solid translation techniques and equally valid, scientific and artistic. The page on each translation will indicate which process was used by the editors.
Some publishers are attempting to make the Bible text more gender neutral. They translate the masculine singular pronouns (he, him, his, etc.) as gender neutral (they, them, their) when the Biblical text is clearly addressed to men and women equally. Other publishers think that the gender language of the original text should be retained. They believe that to do otherwise is to risk promoting a cultural ideology. I have tried to describe which approach is taken on the page for each translation.
The information provided on the specific translation page should help you settle on one translation and which copy you want to buy. Once you’ve purchased your Bible come back to this website and check out the Next Steps page. It will give you helpful tips on how to read the Bible you buy. Why not bookmark this website to make it easier to return.