A women in my church emailed me asking about what Bible I would recommend to her, as she is in the market for a new one. I have a couple of recommendations depending on what you are looking for in your use of the Bible you are acquiring.

It should be noted that the NIV is not my preferred translation, but it is my first recommendation because it is what our church has in the pews. That is not to say I don’t like the NIV, or that it is bad in any way, I just think the ESV (below) is one step – a big step – better.

1. NIV Study Bible – This is the Bible (the leather version) that I have used since college. It has served me well. The NIV is a reliable and readable translation. I prefer the Study Bible versions because they have ample footnotes that give additional background information to help the reader understand the passages on that page. The NIV has a good reading flow. We use the NIV in our church, so it will read the same as our pew Bibles. I own 2 of these NIV Study Bibles, and have a handful of NIV’s all together.

1a. NIV Life Application Study Bible – I like the Life Application version slightly less than the plain Study Bible, but it is still a really good version. I have one of these on my shelf, but because of it’s bulk and less focused footnotes I prefer the above version. This is a great bedside Bible, or one to keep around the house for reading.

2. English Standar Version Study Bible (ESVSB) – For me, this is the gold standard of Bibles. The scholarship that has gone into the ESV and the ESV Study Bible specifically is unprecidented in my opinion. If you are a King James reader from years past, the transition to ESV versions will be easier than to the NIV. The ESV is very scholarly, and reads at a much higher level than the NIV’s listed above, but that shouldn’t scare anyone away. It uses the more precise theological terms when they are the best choice – words like sanctified and justified and propitiation – words that are rich in meaning that is often losts or diluted in other translations. The ESV is currently available for purchase, but the ESV Study Bible will not hit store shelves until October 15th. I have mine ordered already! I do own 3 ESV Bibles, and they are what I use 75% of the time in my day-to-day life and studies.

3. The Daily Bible in Chronological Order – I recommended this Bible in a sermon a while back. It is also a NIV version. I really like this Bible for daily reading. It is laid out so you can easily read through the whole Bible in a year, with morning and evening readings. The thing I REALLY like about this Bible is that they have attempted to put it in Chronological order. That allows things in books like 1 and 2 Kings to make a lot more sense when trying to get the bigger picture of what is going on when and where to who. It tries to place the Psalms in the context of when they happened (where possible) so they add to the story line. I had some amazing lightbulb moments the first time I read through the Old Testament with this version. The drawback for this Bible is that it is futile to attempt to look up a specific passage. The daily readings for March 1 for example cover Numbers, Exodus, Leveticus, and Deuteronomy. The specific passage citations are in the outside margins. So you can’t just turn to the “book” of the Bible you might want to look at. Another example would be on June 19 the Minor Prophet Hosea is intermingled with 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles passages so you understand it chronologically.

4. NLT Life Application Study Bible – This is a nice reading dynamic equivolent translation with some good study notes. If you are looking to read big chunks of the Bible in a single sitting, this is the book for you. The drawback to a dynamic equivolent translation is that it is more focused on being readable than being literal to what the original language said. The NLT does a good job of keeping this in check, but it does mean the wording is not very precise, thereby making it less useful as a study Bible. But to get overall themes and big pictures I find it useful. I have a couple of NLT Bibles, and I think the NLT is a great version to give to someone who is new in faith and unfamilar with some of the words other translations will use. It is not a Bible I would suggest to be the long-term only Bible translation someone reads.

Below I have Romans 8:1-5 of all three translations referenced above (ESV, NIV, NLT) so you can read and compare.

ESV
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

NIV
1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

5Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

NLT
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power* of the life-giving Spirit has freed you* from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.* So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.

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