Bible Study

Choosing a Bible Translation

Sibleys here.

We're happy to have ya here in our cozy virtual living room. Get your beverage of choice and let's learn and grow together.

hey hey!

Useful Resources:

free download

Guide to Studying Your Bible Theologically

Follow our tiktok

@thesibleys on TikTok for Bible Trivia, Theology Shorts, and more!

subscribe to our podcast

The One Degree Podcast



Digital library of theological trainings with guided notes

Exegetical Bible reading plans and studies with daily videos going deeper

Monthly Theology Couch Chat discussing a theological hot topic


Did you know that even in English there are many different Bible translations? Having access to countless English translations of the Bible is an enormous privilege. There are people all over the world who don’t even have a single translation of the Bible in their language.

But while we acknowledge that privilege, it is also true that it can be overwhelming to decide which translation we want to use in our personal use and study. If you’re starting to take the spiritual disciplines seriously, this is likely a question that has come up for you.

So let’s break down the differences between them to help us answer that question!

The Fundamentals of Bible Translations

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and a little bit of Aramaic.  Therefore, every single English Bible is a translation from the original languages. This is a good thing- this means that people in those languages can read the Bible in their own language.

There are different approaches taken for the various translations around many different factors: context, culture, tense, voice, and parts of speech.  

The three main translation philosophies are Formal Equivalent Translations, Dynamic Equivalent Translations, and Paraphrase Translations. There are also what are considered Optimal Equivalent Translations.

Check out this spectrum graph to help you visualize the different philosophies:

Let’s break all of those down!

Formal Equivalent Translations

These translations are word-for-word and prioritize the literal accuracy of the original languages. The goal is to stay as similar to the original text as possible (preserving lexical details, grammatical structure, vocabulary, and syntax). The downside is these can sometimes be clunkier to read and not as easily readable. Sometimes the context and general idea of the passage can get lost.

Some Formal Equivalent Translations include the NASB (New American Standard Bible) and ESV (English Standard Version).

Dynamic Equivalent Translations

These translations are thought-for-thought and prioritize readability. In this translation philosophy, the target audience is taken into account. The goal is to preserve the response of the reader. AKA, the goal is for a modern-day reader to respond in the same way the original reader of the Hebrew/Greek text would have.

The NIV (New International Version) and the NLT (New Living Translation) are examples of these translations.

Paraphrase “Translations”

We wouldn’t even really call this a translation per se, but beyond “thought-for-thought” on the spectrum are paraphrases. It’s kind of like a No-Fear Shakespeare version of Shakespeare.

The Message is the most popular paraphrase out there right now.

Optimal Equivalent Translation 

These translations are considered “meaning-for-meaning.” They pursue both linguistic precision to the original languages and readability.

The CSB (Christian Standard Bible) is a prime example.

So, Which Translation Should I Use?

We personally use ESV most often, but we like reading CSB as a supplement to our studies.

The goal of each Bible translation is to present and deliver God’s Word in a way that is both accurate and easy to understand by the reader.

What translation you are drawn to may depend on what you are using it for or what context you’re in.  If you’re preparing an exegetical teaching, a more word-for-word translation, such as ESV may be the way to go.  

Or, if you’re reading for fun or in longer chunks, a more thought-for-thought translation, such as NIV or NLT may be ideal. 

A lot of times when I’m (Nathaniel) deep in a study, I’ll pull out a few different translations to get a more well-rounded understanding of a text.

Ultimately there’s not a huge difference between most translations (since they are all translating the same original texts), so finding one you like and just being consistent to read it is the ultimate goal.

One Degree Shift

Find a translation that you feel is the best for you and read it!

Want to Stay a Little Longer?

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We're the Sibleys.

Welcome to our cozy virtual couch on the internet. Our biggest prayer is that you'd feel welcomed into an honest space to be real, and ultimately, to grow to be a more faithful follower of Jesus.

We truly believe the Gospel transforms every area of our lives – our relationships, work, parenting, school, and everything in between – and our heart is to have conversations and make resources that equip you and support you in that transformation. 

Grab a cozy drink, pick your favorite spot on the couch, and stay a while. 


Your new straight-shooting pals and encouragers.