Is there a best translation out there?
There are many different versions of the Bible available today. Addressing these differences, our free booklet, How to Understand the Bible, says, "The most helpful tool for Bible study is, not surprisingly, a Bible—or, more properly, several Bible versions, among which you can compare wording. People will often seek to find the translation that is most accurate, most literal or easiest to read. However, no single translation fits all these requirements.
"More than 60 English versions of the Bible are available. We can divide them into three broad types: word-for-word, meaning-by-meaning and paraphrased. Most Bibles explain, on their introductory pages, which approach was used in preparing that particular version.
"The word-for-word versions most accurately follow the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. Generally speaking, the King James Version and its modern counterpart, the New King James Version, are word-for-word translations" (p. 12).
Because the New King James Version combines translation accuracy and modern language, most scriptural quotations in literature produced by the United Church of God are from this translation.
"What about meaning-to-meaning versions? They, too, can be valuable, as secondary sources, to put the Scriptures into more-understandable wording…The New International Version…the Revised English Bible, Good News Bible and Jerusalem Bible are other popular meaning-to-meaning translations.
"Paraphrased Bibles, such as The Living Bible, can be useful. The Living Bible can be described as an interpretive translation. Its goal is to make the Bible easily understandable. Caution is necessary in working with this text, however, because the authors exercised poetic license to transform some basic terms according to their own religious ideas.
"Paraphrased versions can be consulted to better grasp the story flow but should not be used to establish doctrine. They should be considered poor sources for accurately determining the meaning of any text" (p. 13).
Given the many choices of Bibles available today, our recommendation is that individuals use the New King James Version as their foundational Bible. Other translations can then be added to augment their biblical studies. For additional information on this subject, consult our free booklet, How to Understand the Bible .