Which Translation of the Bible is the Right One?

I’ve been getting this question alot lately.
There are so many choices, it’s hard to know which one to read. Here’s my breakdown of the main (not all) versions and the ones I choose to use during my reading time and my study time.
It’s good to note that translations are broken down into three categories: Word for Word, Thought for Thought, and Paraphrase. It’s important to recognize these differences, especially when you are doing a study or memorizing God’s Word.
Word for Word Translations
These Bible translations are the most literal. The translators take the original language (Hebrew and Greek) and translate word for word. This leads to the most accurate translation but it can be difficult to read.
These are the translations I use for my study time and when I memorize Scripture. My favorite is ESV but I like NASB as well. When I am doing a word study, I use the interlinear Bible found at biblestudytools.com.
A quick side note about the KJV. Some scholars believe that this is the only correct Bible translation because it has additional verses that NASB and ESV do not have. The KJV was translated in the 1600’s by request of King James of England. This translation used the copies that were available at the time of translation. However, older versions/copies of the Bible were found since then and the NASB and ESV versions used these earlier copies for translations. It is now thought that the additional verses of the KJV may have been translator’s notes to help in understanding—much like we have study notes in our Bible’s now—and that these notes were written into the main text during the translation in the 1600’s. These “notes” were not found on the earlier manuscripts used to translate the NASB and ESV versions. This is why some scholars believe that the NASB and ESV are more accurate. All versions, however, are good and authored by God and will teach you about who He is—and that is the main goal!
Thought for Thought Translations
These Bible translations are not as literal but much easier to understand. The translators take the thought (or sentence) of the original text and write it in a way that reads better in the English language. This is preferred by most because it makes more sense.
These are the translations I use for my reading time and when I speak and teach. My favorite is the CSB but I am really enjoying my time in the NLT as well.
Paraphrase Translations
These Bible translations are a retelling of the passage. The translators retell the stories in their own words. I generally stay away from these translations because they are the farthest away when it comes to accuracy.
I can see how some like these versions because it can be very poetic and use words that evoke emotion and understanding. But if you use one of these paraphrase versions, make sure to also read it in a version that is Word for Word or Thought for Thought to make sure you are understanding the Scripture correctly and in context.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of Psalm 16:11 so you can see the difference.
Which is Best for YOU?
It depends.
If you have been a believer for a while and are looking to dive deeper and understand more fully the character of God, then I would recommend you use a Word for Word translation like the ESV.
If you are a newer believer or someone who has never read the Bible before, then I suggest the NLT to get started. And if you’d like somewhere in between, I would recommend the CSB.
The most important thing—regardless of which translation you choose—is to read it. God will reveal himself to you as you read his word. Linger with Jesus today and you won’t regret it!
If you have any questions, please reach out. I’m here to help!
To God be the Glory!