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Which Version of the Bible is Right for You?


The Bible has been translated, dissected, and studied for centuries and many contemporary versions are widely used today. In English alone, dozens of versions exist including the King James Version, the New King James Version, and the 21st Century King James Version. Confused? Wondering what's the difference between all of these different versions? Not sure which one is right for you?


Remember, the Bible is an ancient text with translations having occurred throughout the centuries. As you can imagine, an early English translation from the Middle Ages is completely different than a contemporary Bible. This is due in large part to the differences between Old English and contemporary English. 


For example, let's take a look at a single verse, John 3:16, as it appears in various versions of the Bible.


·       The Wycliff Bible (from the 1380s): "Forsooth God so loved the world, that he gave his one begotten Son, that each man that believeth in him perish not, but have everlasting life."

·       The King James Bible (from the early 1600s): "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

·       Young's Literal Translation of the Bible (from the mid-1800s): "for God did so love the world, that His Son -- the only begotten -- He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during."

·       The Message (from the late 1990s): This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.


As you can see, the language used progresses with time. Translators have long used the vernacular of their times which is why versions from centuries gone by are often difficult for contemporary readers to understand.


The verses above also show another distinguishing factor between Bible versions: literal translations. Young's Literal Translation of the Bible takes a literal approach, translating the Word of God from the original Hebrew and Greek text.  


So which version of the Bible is right for you? As with many things, your personal preferences play an important role. A seminary student may get tremendous satisfaction out of learning Hebrew and reading the Old Testament in its original form while a busy businesswoman may appreciate a contemporary version with easy-to-understand language. Meanwhile, your next door neighbor may prefer the version he grew up with, complete with thees, thous, and believeths. Your church may recommend a specific version as well, making that a factor to consider.


One of the best ways to choose a Bible is to spend time reading different versions. Online tools can help with this. For example, Amazon's "Look Inside" feature allows you to view the first few pages of many of the books featured including different versions of the Bible. features a verse lookup tool that allows you to specify one of dozens of available versions.


So, which version of the Bible do you live your life by? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.