Read with Me: Choosing a Bible

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with one another! Are you all still with me? Who’s reading? Who’s wishing they were?

I’m happy with how I’ve done this week. Since I’m on the two-year plan, it’s difficult to say if I’m “on track” or not. More important than the plan or the track, however, is the fact that I am reading on a pretty regular basis. I’ve restarted the habit of reading before I get out of bed. This helps me to (1) not forget to do it and (2) center my focus before the day begins.

Oh, and Ellie is still with us! She is reading through the Psalms this year in her own Bible, a pink NIrV that she prizes.

Do you know about the NIrV? The New International Reader’s Version is distributed by ZonderKidz (a division of Zondervan Publishers) and targets emerging readers, ages 6-10. The language is very similar to the traditional NIV (which I am sorry to say got a new revision in 2010), but the sentence structure is slightly more simplistic. She still comes across a number of words she doesn’t know or can’t sound out,  but for the most part it is perfect for her. As with most Bible versions, you can find this in a number of covers. Hers is pink leather with a bright green dragonfly. Zach’s is a two-tone blue with an icthus. But you can also find it in paperback or hardback, with adventure devotionals, super hero illustrations or in a read-to-me format.

Last year we talked a little bit about Bible versions. Because of the nature of this challenge, many of us who were raised in the church chose to read The Message. It’s less familiar and flows very naturally. But at some point in the year, I stopped reading that. I found a few too many discrepancies between that and other versions of the Bible. I still read it from time to time, but I grew tired of feeling like I always needed to check another source to see if what I had read was right.

This reminds me of a very interesting conversation I had with a taxi driver in London. It was more than ago, but it still sticks with me. While on our way to the airport, I asked the driver what he believes about God. He was very excited to talk and shared his testimony of how he was raised Muslim and then became a Christian, but converted back to Islam for his wife. He tried to convince me that Islam and Christianity are exactly the same — exactly the same except that the Bible frequently changes and the Koran never does.

I ran into this same argument against Christianity while witnessing to Muslims in Bosnia. That was more than twelve years ago.

This frustrates me because, while I know the Bible is the unchanging Word of God, I understand what they mean!

Go into any bookstore and look at the section on Bibles. You’ll find hundreds of different kinds! True: many of the differences include specific devotionals or formats. But forgiving those, there are still dozens of different versions of the Bible. How does anyone new to Christianity know where to start? Or which one is right? Which one is best?

Maybe you’re wondering the same questions.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a Bible.

  • Is it a translation or a paraphrase? The Message is a paraphrase. So is the NIV and the NIrV and most versions used in children’s Bibles. Paraphrases word the truths of the Bible into common, contemporary language. They re-state it in a way similar to how people normally talk in a certain time or culture. These are wonderful if you’re doing a challenge like Read with Me in which you just want to see the big picture. They can, however, reflect personal commentary or interpretation by those who wrote the paraphrase.

A translation is exactly that: a translation from the original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic into English or whatever language chosen. Good examples of this include the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the NET Bible.

    • What will you use it for? We are very blessed to have many Bibles available and affordable to us in this nation. You may want to have different Bibles for different reasons. If you want do an in-depth study, you need a translation. If you’re doing a reading challenge or preparing something for younger audiences, paraphrases are usually best.
    • Does it make sense to you? The reason we have so many different versions is because we have such an extensive vocabulary within English. We have a vast range of educations which leads to many different reference, inferences and understood meanings within our language. Find a version that makes sense to you, one that engages you and makes you WANT to read more.
    • Is there anything else that would help you get into your Bible more often? Some people are naturals at independent Bible study. Others need a devotional or a journal. Some want commentary notes, while others prefer historical details and archeological supports. Some require cross-references while other people find those distracting. There is something available for just about everyone and every purpose. Find one that works for you.

      Enough from me.

      YOUR TURN: Are you still with us? How do you choose a Bible for yourself or others?

      Talk to me!

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