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What Version of the Bible Should I Read?

What makes the King James different from the NIV, and how do you know which version of the Bible is best to read?

Growing Faith
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Whether you’ve been reading the Bible for a long time or you’ve never opened one up before, you may have noticed that there are different versions of the same book. What makes the King James different from the NIV, and how do you know which one is best to read? 

What version of the Bible should I read? 

Before answering this important question, let’s remember what we’re talking about when it comes to Scripture. The Bible is many things, but there are three truths that will help us be more thoughtful as we read it: 

1. The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books and letters.

It’s not so much a book as it is a library. And just like with a library, you don’t have to start with the first book and read through all of the books in order. You can simply go to the book that most interests you and check it out! If you’re new to the Bible, start with John, the fourth biography of Jesus in the New Testament, and here’s why: 

2. The Bible is the story of God’s plan to rescue us, and the world we messed up, through Jesus.

Every book in the Bible ultimately points to Jesus, the main character of God’s story—whether explicitly or implicitly (see John 5:39, for example). So a good question to ask when reading any part of the Bible is, “How does what I’m reading point to Jesus?” Starting with John will introduce you to Jesus in a big way! Finally, 

3. The Bible is the main way that God speaks to us today.

There is a mystery to this, for sure, but the Bible is not merely the writings of human authors way back when; it is ultimately God’s word to us today, and therefore, when we read it, we should be ready to hear from God! Notice what the apostle Paul said about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is inspired by God [literally, “God-breathed”] and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 

To put it another way, the Bible is where God meets us and equips us to live the life that is truly life—what a wonderful gift! 

Choosing a Bible translation 

With all of that in mind, which version of the Bible should you read? The simplest answer is, The one that you prefer and is easy to understand—at least most of the time. (Yes, the Bible includes some hard-to-understand teaching!) But if you look on the most popular Bible app, you’ll discover that there are no less than 73 options! So which one should you go with? 

Different versions of the Bible reflect different philosophies of translation—all of which have strengths and weaknesses. Because the Bible was originally written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), translators have to do the hard work of conveying what the original authors were saying into plain English, and there is no perfect way to do that. 

Some translations try to be more “word-for-word,” such as the ESV and NASB, but that can diminish readability and perhaps obscure the meaning. Other translations go with a more “thought-for-thought” approach, such as the NLT, which can miss some important details in the original languages. Still other translations seek to strike a balance of these two approaches, such as the NIV and CSB, but even these don’t get everything perfectly right. 

In the end, when you’re really digging into the Bible, it is a good idea to consult several English translations—perhaps one from each of the approaches noted above. But for normal, everyday reading, which one is best? 

The best translation for everyday reading 

Again, the best version of the Bible to read is the one you will actually read, because you prefer it and it is easy to understand—and that could be any of the ones mentioned above! 

But at LCBC, we think that the NLT (which stands for the New Living Translation) is the easiest version to understand, and therefore it is the one we use in our weekend teaching. This would be a great version to start with if you’re new to the Bible. Because it is more “thought-for-thought” in its approach, the meaning should be clear, reflecting normal, everyday English, and that should help you in hearing from God when you read. 

Get reading! 

Now the challenge is to actually read the Bible! It can be daunting to figure out where to start reading the Bible. One of the simplest ways to get started is to choose a Bible Reading Plan that will walk you through different passages of the Bible, helping you work through a specific book or connect Scripture to different themes and topics.  

It also helps to make it part of your routine. Start by choosing a time of day that you’re most able to focus, and a place to read where you’re the least likely to get interrupted and distracted. Choose that same time and place each day to read the Bible. 

As you make reading the Bible a regular habit, you’ll learn more about who God is, how he desires for you to live, and you’ll grow deeper in your faith! 


LCBC stands for Lives Changed By Christ. We are one church in multiple locations across Pennsylvania. Find the location closest to you or join us for Church Online. We can’t wait to connect with you!

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