When choosing a Bible, the foremost concern on most of our minds is accuracy. The problem is – the perfect Bible simply doesn’t exist. Pay very close attention to what I say next:
EVERY BIBLE CONTAINS ERRORS OF SOME TYPE.
If you don’t believe that to be true, then you haven’t spent very much time studying the Bible yet. Don’t worry – you’ll get there.
But moving on, what should we consider a SUITABLE translation? Check the graphic below, and then I’ll explain a bit.
Bibles toward the left of this scale are translated more literally: word-for-word. They generally have fewer words added or removed to promote clarity than those in the middle. That being the case, they can also be harder to read for some people. Many of the references and expressions have lost their meanings over time, and without study and historical reference, the true meaning may escape us.
Toward the right of this graphic are Bibles which were translated with much, much more liberty. Instead of virgens lacking oil for their lamps, they maybe didn’t have batteries for their flashlights! The philosophy behind these Bibles is to convey (the translator’s idea of) the Prophets’ and Apostles’ INTENT rather than what they actually said. This can be helpful for less advanced readers, but also very dangerous as meanings are often changes in such a way that thing are lost.
Toward the middle you have translations that try to convey the message in modern language without being too literal, and without introducing unnecessary distortions.
Scholars tend to use Bibles from the left. Most people generally have middle-of-the-road Bibles. Sixteen year-old girls who doodle “I love Jesus” on their notebooks might be seen carrying a Bible from the right.
Personally, I use the NASB (mostly). Is it perfect? Not a chance. I often change a word or two when I quote from it, but I usually have to change a LOT less than I would from a KJV or NIV or (heaven forbid) The Message!