Bibles for Studying


People have strong feelings about the Bible version they use. That’s a good thing when it reflects our devotion to the gift of Holy Scripture. You are welcome to offer your thoughts in the “comments” section below.

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Study Bibles have concise introductions that are no more than a page. For instance:

The NIV Study Bible (Zondervan)

The ESV Study Bible (Crossway)

The most popular versions of the Bible sold in English today are:

English Standard Version—an “essentially literal” update of the widely used Revised Standard Version.

New International Version — a standard translation using universally used English (thus, “International”).

New Living Translation—an easy-to-read thought-by- thought translation from Hebrew and Greek.

King James Version—the classic 1611 translation that is a landmark in English literature, but far removed from contemporary English.

New King James Version—a very literal translation, updating the language of the King James Version.

Common English Bible—a new translation blending word-for-word and thought-for-thought approaches.

New American Standard Bible—widely seen as the most literal translation produced in the 20th century.

The Message—a free translation by Eugene Peterson using everyday modern English, idea for idea.


27 thoughts on “Bibles for Studying”

  1. This is a VERY interesting list ! (I followed the link from today’s email). After looking at different translations over the years, I settled on NIV a few years ago because it seems appropriate to go back to grass-roots and start again, rather than “translate a translation” (we know that is very risky from our experiences on overseas vacations !).
    The NCV is, I think, very good for children and people whose first language is not English, but want to study in English. The words are kept simple.

    I must admit that I’m a bit uncomfortable with things like NLT and Message. Yes, they do have some inspirational pieces in them, but there are so many pieces in the Bible which nobody claims to fully understand, so a unilateral translation seems risky to me.

    People like your good self help us a lot to better understand the Bible and to put things in context, and in doing that, I feel better working with a “clean” translation.

    Finally, we have a lot of Greek friends and although our command of the language is still very basic, we learnt early on that there are many Greek expressions that are almost impossible to translate in the exact sense they are used there. Modern Greeks also often use a “play on words”, so I wonder if that was also the case in ancient Greek ? Therefore, we would be very interested in a kind of “back to basics” study guide that focuses on a number of the trickier (but important) chapters or verses in the Bible and explains a bit about the original Greek with the options on how it may be interpreted.

    kind regards,

    David C

  2. I have to use the ESV bible for school. (I go to a Christian School). I own an NIV bible that I use at home. I like this article and how it sums up the Bibles themselves. -Judah

  3. Pastor Darcy Cust

    I so appreciated your article on which Bible to use to study – the whole Bible. I have said this for years. You cannot understand parts without capturing the picture of the whole “counsel of God.”
    In your list of translations, might I also humbly suggest (and trust me, I get no credit or compensation for this) the Holman Christian Standard Bible. One of the reasons I use it (along with other translations by the way) is because I find it has the readability of the NIV and the acuracy of the NASB. But, as you aluded to in your aritical, when I am asked which is the best translation, I always say, “it is the one you can read and get an ‘ah-ha’ moment in capturing what it is saying and then can apply to your life.” Thanks for the article and may the Lord bless you in your ministry.
    When I can, putting them on my book ‘bucket list’, I will watch for the two books mentioned here as well – “How to Understand the Bible” and “Overcome Guilt and Shame.” They look like a great read. Blessings!

    Cheering For You!
    Pastor Darcy R. Cust
    New Hope Baptist Church
    Box 147
    Smeaton, Saskatchewan
    S0J 2J0

  4. In my fifth semester of Greek I did a comparison of translations for accuracy. I was shocked at how poorly the (1984-85) NIV was translated, especially considering how widely-praised it was. The emperor has no clothes!

    The old NIV falls considerably below “acceptable” should not be considered when choosing a Bible.

    The latest edition of the NIV has corrected hundreds of errors, perhaps because of William Mounce’s addition to the board. Some people will find it unacceptable because of a certain amount of forced “gender neutrality”, but the 2015 edition is a massive improvement in accuracy for those who like or at least don’t mind the gender issues. (I have not looked closely at intervening editions.)

    I think most serious scholars would say the NASB is the most accurate widely-available translation and the ESV a good choice for combining accuracy with a bit more readability. The newest NIV appears to be pretty good. The KJV is great in ways, and was excellent in its day, but was based on an earlier and less accurate Greek text. Also, besides the issues of “old-timey” language, some of the meanings of English words have actually changed since the early 17th century.

    I love the Message – especially Proverbs! – but it was not intended as a primary Bible. And I also will turn to the Living Bible for long Old Testament passages, e.g. Deuteronomy.

    1. I disagree. The Message Bible is not a study bible by itself, but one that helps people, especially those new to even reading the Bible with language comparisons. I love its sheer joy sometimes and I recommend using it alongside a good version such as the NASB. We so rarely speak in our common languages the “bible speak” words. this is where I think The Message can be a great link between generations without losing the truth of God’s Word–something Eugene Peterson would never do!

  5. You left out the New Jerusalem. I understand that this isn’t on your web site for copyright reasons, but it is still an important translation, widely used in the English speakig world.

    1. I us the New Jerusalem as my base text, and find its study notes very good. As an R.C. I also like a full apocryphal. But I also have a shelf full of King James, new King James, Douay-Rheims, NIV, revived ESV, New Oxford annotated, Catholic Truth Society. And I still know absolutely squat.

    2. Lawrence F Collins

      I us the New Jerusalem as my base text, and find its study notes very good. As an R.C. I also like a full apocryphal. But I also have a shelf full of King James, new King James, Douay-Rheims, NIV, revived ESV, New Oxford annotated, Catholic Truth Society. And I still know absolutely squat.

  6. I did not see the New Revised Standard Version listed here. When I was in Seminary in Canada it was the translation of choice and strongly encouraged. Do you have reasons for excluding this translation?

  7. Interesting list. Its worth reading G.A. Ripplinger’s book, New Age Bibles. It makes some interesting comparisons between the translations.


  8. I find it very disappointing that absolutely no one prints a Study Bible for people who have vision problems and must have Giant Print in order to read and/or Study. My favorite used to be Thompson’s Chain Reference Study Bible; I can no longer see to read anything less than 15 font.

    1. Focus on the Family has great tools for the visually impaired. They have giant print which is large, my mom is bnlind in one eye and see less than 22% in the other, the one eye she has left there is also a contrast issue. Try FOTF I pray they have something for you.

  9. I’m very glad we have so many different versions. Depending on the Holy Spirit, how I feel, what I’m doing and the brain power I have when coming to the Word that determines which version I will use.

  10. I like the NIV Bible, but have been reading the NLT online. I believe I understand more with these two translations than I do in the KJV. I am excited about studying the Bible with you and am looking forward to the emails to help me study. Thank you.

  11. I do accept as true with all the concepts you have introduced for your post.
    They are very convincing and can definitely work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for novices. May you please prolong them a
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  12. You fail to mention the different texts used for the NT. The differences are sometimes important, such as Matt 5.22 in KJV and NKJV vs all the others.

  13. First let may say. I pray that God continues to work thru u & bless u and urs!
    I love the article having just coming upon on it. As I was searching for a Men’s Devotional Bible online. I have one at home with Devotions written in it by men. And want to share them by coping and pasting them to groups I help admin on Fb. All r Christ Centered Recovery groups, and one open to all in recovery. As well as some Christian groups I belong to and on my timeline.
    I myself am 6 yr Reborn & Recovering. At my 3rd month into recovery. I switched from a secular 12 step program to a Christ Centered one! TGBTG on that!
    I’m highly intrigued by the way the Bible has been translated over the many yrs since first being comprised. I have tried to research and learn about this as much as I can. I personally feel that over the yrs we have lost a connection & relationship with God. And by studying His word we can begin to get closer to Him. Personally I use the NIV version but do have many versions at home and refer to them at times.
    I would love to be able to read the most oldest text available at this time.

  14. The Bibles that I have used during my studies that have increased my understanding of the Scriptures are
    1)The Ryrie Study Bible Expanded Edition (New American Standard)for my daily readings
    2)The Companion Bible by Krugel Publications Grand Rapids Michigan (King James) for the most detail and in-depth meaning of the Bible Passage and it also has an appendixe of many Bible related topics.
    3)The Bible really came to life for me and an understanding of the Scriptures when I stopped trying to have religion fit the Bible and let the Holy Spirit guide me.

    Jack Henning

  15. I love this list and I use all of these, but the NASB is still my “go-to” version for in-depth study.

    I teach several Bible study groups and one thing we love to do is take the verses we are studying, and read them out of several versions, ending up with The Message – it is fun to draw out the colorful adjectives, the more archaic words to how we speak today, and what I find is that we truly begin to paint a visual picture of the verse in our mind. I so love how God is inspiring these different versions to open up our minds and soak in the perspectives!!

  16. Whenever I see the NIV listed on recommended Bibles to read, I can’t help but cringe. It seems publishers omit Jesus from verses as much as they can. You can do some research on it if you’d like. I use the KJV right now but I’ve been looking into getting an NLT Bible for when I can’t figure out the Old English.

  17. The NLT is my daily “Bible of Choice”, but I also have, and use, the old standard King James as well as the NASB (New American Standard), the CEB (Common English Bible) and the new translation, The Voice. As others say, the best version for you is the one you read. However, I also have grave reservations about the NIV. I read it through – once – because it was a Women’s Devotional Bible that I was determined to finish, but I heartily disliked the obvious tinkering to make it politically correct. God is not PC – and neither should His Word be made to be! I have the NASB MacArthur Study Bible for really in-depth study, and I love the extensive commentary, cross-references and Study Guides.

  18. the King James Version is where our teachers learned from, so that is why I love that version
    the revised versions are also good but I love the King James

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