My husband and I are asked at times what Bible translation is best. If you visit a Christian bookstore, the selection of translations and bindings is overwhelming, so people may ask the pastor for his preference. Friends and family who do not attend your church may need a little help choosing too, and of course, you’re the expert on all things God! Here are 5 ways to help others choose a translation wisely.
- Some people like to use whichever translation the pastor preaches from. That way, they can follow along word for word as passages are read from the pulpit. Additionally, people trust a pastor’s judgment, and rightfully so! Make sure you share information about the translation you preach from.
- Some folks simply want to stick with the translation they grew up with, even if they don’t understand it. Be aware of this and make it known that you are available to talk about different translations with those who seem a little lost.
- A Sunday school class I was a member of used a very traditional, hard-to-understand translation. Now, the teacher of this class was a proponent of that translation, and she understood it well. But one Sunday, she called on a woman in the class to read the focal passage out loud. When the woman was finished, the teacher said, “That passage says it all, doesn’t it?” The woman replied, “I don’t have a clue what it said.” Regardless of your personal preference, make sure that you’re advocating the use of a translation others can understand.
- Because some people say the Bible translation they use is God’s pure Word, some are more attached than others to the particular translation they use. It’s good to remind folks that any Bible that has been translated into English is a translation. So a person who says there is only one true Bible translation is misunderstanding God’s purpose for giving us His Word. Be kind and sensitive to their attachment, but suggest that the person read passages from multiple translations before selecting one. The Internet makes that much easier. There are websites where you can enter the verse or passage you are looking for and read it in many translations. Biblegateway.com is a good resource for that. Have the person read his or her favorite verses online to see which translation seems like a good fit.
- Figure out what translations you feel will best suit different types of people, so you feel prepared when someone approaches you for advice. The New King James Version as a good middle-of-the-road translation. It is easier to read than the King James Version, but it preserves the beauty the King James offers. A good translation for those who are just starting out with the Bible or for those who love the Bible and want a good translation for daily reading is The Voice translation. Readers have raved that they‘ve been able to get lost in The Voice like a novel. But if you ask me which translation is the best one, I will tell you what a good friend of mine says: “The best Bible translation is the one you will read.”
Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee.