Choosing a Bible
Best study Bible? Best Bible translation? There are many versions of the Bible available in English. Over the centuries, scholars have worked to put the original Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible into accurate and understandable English. Because it is difficult to translate the words of one language into another, the results sometimes differ. Nevertheless, we can be confident that we have available to us an accurate rendering of the text of Holy Scripture.
It is perhaps worthwhile, at this point, to note the difference between a translation and a paraphrase. A translation seeks to give us, as nearly as grammatical differences will allow, an exact rendering of the words of the original in English words. With a paraphrase, the translator tries to capture the ideas of the original in his own words. Thus, it becomes more one person's commentary on the text. While paraphrases are helpful, your main Bible should be a translation, rather than a paraphrase.
One more general observation. As well as thinking about which Bible version you will purchase, if this is to be your main Bible for study, taking with you to church, and so on, it is well to consider such things as the quality of the binding, the size of the print, the general appearance, and so on. There are copies of God's Word which are relatively inexpensive, but they will not stand up to regular use. Your personal Bible should be attractive, durable, and easily readable. The extra it will cost will be worth the investment.
Here are some fine Bible versions for you to consider, with brief comments on each.
The King James Version (also known as the Authorized Version) has been the standard Bible of the Protestant Church for hundreds of years. Its accuracy and beauty of phrasing is exceptional. Originally produced in 1611, it has gone through many revisions. The one in current use was produced in 1769.
The New King James Version was completed in 1982. While following the phrasing of the 1611 version, it has modernized the English for today's reader. (It is helpful to know, for example, that "We do you to wit of the grace of God" means "We made known to you the grace of God," II Cor. 8:1.) This version effectively bridges the gap between the old and the new. The notes on this website are based on the NKJV. It is highly recommended.
The New American Standard Bible was published in 1960. It provides an extremely accurate translation of the original languages of the Bible. Even if the NASB is not your main version, this is a good one to have in your library.
The New International Version was completed in 1978. It is a widely used version today. The NIV is an easy-to-read Bible version, usually employing simple language and phrasing. If it has a fault, it lies in the NIV's frequent paraphrasing which takes us away from the precise wording of the original.
The Amplified Bible came out in 1965, the work of the same committee of scholars that gave us the NASB. It is based upon the fact that in the Greek language many words have a variety of nuances and meanings. These are given in the text, "amplifying" it. For example, John 3:16, which begins, "For God so loved the world..." (NKJV), in the Amplified reads, "For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world..." This is helpful in the New Testament, but less so in the Old (because Hebrew words do not have the some complexity of meanings as Greek words).
The Online Bible is available on CD ROM, and over the Internet. It is constantly being updated and improved by the originator, Larry Pierce. He offers, in the 1997 edition, 10 English Bible versions, plus Spanish, French, German, and Dutch Bibles. The entire Strong's Concordance is included, as well as a dictionary of 5,000 Bible topics, and 644,000 cross references, plus The Matthew Henry Commentary, and more. If you own a computer, you should have a copy of the Online Bible!
Various Study Bibles are available, in the KJV, NKJV, NASB and NIV. They can provide you with a wide range of helps. To learn more about them, see Choosing a Commentary.