With all of the different English translations of the Bible, for example, the KJV, the ASV, the NASB, the HCSV, the NLT, the NIV, etc., it may seem confusing or hard to decide which to use if you are new in the faith.

Today, we will explore some of the best Bible translations for beginners so that you can decide for yourself which one is best for you.

Types of Translations

The Bible is not merely a book, but it is the living and active Word of our Almighty God and Creator. That is why we need to choose a translation that is not only clearly understood by us, but that retains the meaning of the scripture as God intended it.

When considering which translation you wish to use, it is important to understand the main types of translations.

Word-For-Word Translation

A word-for-word translation, also known as a formal translation, seeks to replicate each and every word of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic into English. When transliterating each of the original words into English, translators use a method called “formal equivalence”.

For each word in the original language, the translators use a modern English word that is equivalent to the original word. However, not all words in the original languages have an exact one-word equivalent.

With a word-for-word translation, the translators attempt to stay as close to a one-for-one word translation as possible and seek to retain the literal meaning of each word from the Original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

The King James Version, New American Standard Version, English Standard Version, and New Living Translation, are all examples of word-for-word translations

Thought-for-Thought Translation

This type of translation, unlike its word-for-word counterpart, strives not to translate each individual word from the original language, but rather to express the overall thoughts of the passages into modern English that is easier to understand. In this sense, it is not exactly a translation as much as it is a paraphrasing of the original text.

This type of translation, often referred to as dynamic translation, involves a more broad approach to the translation. A sentence or paragraph will be translated as a full thought rather than the individual words. Ultimately this means that some of the original words are left out periodically for the sake of translating the thought as a whole into an easier-to-understand format.

The Message Bible is one example of a thought-for-thought translation.

Moderate Translation

Otherwise known as a mediating translation, the moderate translations are a mixture of both word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation methods.

Moderate translations seek to “blend” both styles of transliteration to present a balanced translation.

The New International Version and the Holman Christian Standard Version are both examples of moderate translations.

Best Bibles for Beginners

There are so many versions available in the Christian bookstore or when shopping online for Bibles. It may seem confusing which Bible is best for you as a new believer, but as long as you truly seek God when you read the Bible and ask for the Holy Spirit to help you understand the scriptures, you should have no problem growing in your knowledge of and relationship with God.

New American Standard Bible

If you are more of an intellectual with a great grasp of grammar and complex sentence structures, the New American Standard Bible could be a great beginner’s Bible for you.

The NASB is a word-for-word translation that uses the formal translation method to provide modern English words more easily understood than previous literal translations, like the King James Version. This translation closely follows the sentence structures of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic languages in its most literal form and it attempts to preserve the personality of the author.

New International Version

The NIV is one of the moderate translations of the Bible that offers a blend of both word-for-word and thought-for-thought methods of translation.

The NIV seeks to present readers with a format that is easy to read and also accurate to the original language. This translation is great for tackling longer passages of scripture easily while also providing for deep verse-by-verse studies.

Holman Christian Standard Bible

The HCSB is another great moderate translation. The HCSB seeks to honor the literal word-for-word representation when easily understandable in contemporary English, but in places where this would likely be confusing to modern readers, a more dynamic translation is used.

This translation reads very smoothly and does not seem as “wordy” as some other literal translations. If you are looking for a smooth translation that you can quickly and easily read, the Holman Christian Standard Bible might be the choice for you.

English Standard Version

The ESV is another of the best word-for-word translations. This translation seeks to faithfully present the meaning and passion of the original languages while maintaining optimal clarity and accuracy.

For those who want to do more in-depth study while reading the Bible as a beginner, the ESV could be a great option for you.

New King James Version

The King James Bible is the most printed book in all of history with hundreds of millions of copies printed over the last 400 years. The KJV is widely considered to be one of the most influential translations in history.

The New King James Version offers the same great translation that has been trusted by generation after generation of faithful believers, but with less of the confusing language that the KJV is often known for.

If you are a beginner who wants to stick to a version that has been tried and tested for hundreds of years, the NKJV is definitely worth considering.

Stay Connected to the Word

Whichever Bible translation you choose, the important thing is to stay connected to the Word of God. God desires that each of us come to a deeper knowledge and understanding of the great love He has for us; that is why He gave us the Holy Bible.

When reading and studying the Bible, I have found it most beneficial to refer to more than one translation to get a more accurate picture of what is being conveyed. So, don’t limit yourself to just one translation as you study.

Some translations of the Bible may help us to more easily understand what we are reading, but there is nothing that will help us to truly grasp the meaning of the Word of God better than the Holy Spirit. For, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot truly comprehend the things of God.

“The Person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

1 Corinthians 2: 14 NIV

God Bless You

My prayer is that we are all encouraged to spend more time in the Word of God, seeking to know Him more.

May God bless you abundantly as you earnestly seek Him through His Holy Word, may the Holy Spirit reveal the great truths found throughout scripture, and may we all be evermore changed and shaped into Christ’s likeness with each passing day!


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