Making Sense of Bible Translations

Trying to figure out which bible translation to use can be an overwhelming process. Walking into a Christian bookstore or searching through internet retailers will reveal the incredible amount of translations available to us in this part of the world. This can be a problem.

However, this is a good problem to have, and one that we can address with good information.

There are two main philosophies/methods for translating the Scriptures "word-for-word" (formal equivalence), and "thought-for-thought" (dynamic equivalence). Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and the choice you make depends most on your needs, and your goals.


These translations have as their goal language accuracy and reproduction of the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, as closely as possible. This is extremely helpful for those seeking to find the most "literal" translation. This is also catered to those who are looking to do effective and accurate bible study. This type of translation is highly recommended for those who are teaching the bible in the local church.

The largest drawback to this type of translation is flow, or "readability". Due to the translation style the text is often rigid, and can be more challenging to read.

There are many good word-for-word translations; however there are a couple excellent translations currently available. We would recommend the first the English Standard Version, and secondly the New American Standard Bible.


These translations are designed with the reader in mind working to make the transition from the original languages as smooth as possible for native English speakers while retaining textual accuracy. These are great for those who read the Scriptures in large portions or even as a supplemental devotional bible to read for Spiritual growth.

The drawback for these translations is the heavy interpretive influence the translators have on the English text. It is a measure of trust, but one that is earned in some of the translations available.

As with word-for-word translations there are a couple excellent choices for modern students of Scripture. The first we would recommend would be the New Living Translation, secondly we would recommend the New International Version.

  • • Know what you want to accomplish
  • • Know what style of reader you are
  • • Know your needs in study