Before I go into discussing how to purchase Bible translations that fit your specific needs and tastes I want to talk a bit about how it works when God talks to me through a specific Bible scripture. Just to give you an idea on how the Bible scriptures work when they become alive inside of you.
(If you'd rather just skip further down to purchase options, you can do so here...But if you want to hear about my experiences and recommendations, read on...)
Let's say that I'm having a conversation with a friend. It may start off with just a superficial chat about this and that. At some point, however, the conversation may take a turn in a bit more personal direction (with me it often does -- as I'm not big on small talk). Or maybe we just remain on a superficial level, but still in one way or another manage to touch on an important topic that has to do with a life skill or lesson that one of us has been working on. It could even be just some silly thing, some every day mental puzzle that we've been trying to crack. Either way, as the conversation touches on that specific topic, suddenly a thought pops up in my mind about some Bible scripture that directly relates to that topic and brings insight and understanding to it. Like an answer to a crossword puzzle. It's one of these light bulb moments that makes me go: "Aha!"
All of a sudden I feel that I get the point of that scripture as I see it relate to that problem. It gives me an idea of what my attitude and approach should be towards it from a Biblical point of view. I realize that God has just taught me something through that conversation. It's very inspiring when it happens, usually to both us - if I tell the other person, (I don't always, it depends on the situation) - and whenever it happens, it always catches me off guard - in a good way. It reminds me that He's constantly near us, listening to all our thoughts, deeply interested in all of them and always ready to help. No topic is too small or insignificant for His undivided attention, His involvement.
The same thing can easily happen when I'm by myself. When I'm in deep thought, thinking about something and trying to figure out a problem, especially if I'm praying about it. God will comment on my thoughts by planting scriptures in my mind. It also very often happens when I'm in the middle of the writing process, especially if I'm writing about God. A lot of the Bible scriptures I refer to on this website came that way, through those sudden thoughts. I don't know about all of them, but many.
Now some of you may think that my experience of spontaneous Bible scriptures dropping into my mind is some special thing going on with me and could never happen to you, but don't underestimate yourself - or God. Because there's nothing unusual about this at all. It's just God's way of using the Bible as a tool to make His point. It happens to a lot of people! And very naturally (- because it is natural!). In fact, I've heard of many people starting to have these types of experiences as soon as they become serious about studying the Bible. Just watch for it during your Bible studies and listen to your own thoughts. Pay attention to them. They might surprise you.
On the other hand, maybe that particular thing doesn't happen to you, and that's fine. Since we're all different, God has to communicate to each of us in slightly different ways. But what I do know is this: When you start investing yourself in seeking Him, you start noticing little messages from Him showing up here and there. Like little signposts along a dark road that say, "here, walk this way!" This is how it works. When you take a step towards God and start seeking Him (His wonderland - within you), He'll take ten towards you and starts calling for you louder and louder, cheering you along, so you'll feel like you just have to take another one. He's always doing that anyway, running towards you and talking to you, circling around you, all the time, all day long, but it becomes more apparent to you when you start turning your focus in His direction. Just remember: God talks to all of us all the time in so many ways, we just need to learn to LISTEN and IDENTIFY those different types of communications and the messages that they hold.
We must learn to listen to ourselves.
Before I get into Bibles, I want to tell you about a very useful guide that has helped me tremendously to find those random scriptures that pop up in my mind.
Because, as it happens, I almost never remember those scriptures word for word. They just come in as fuzzy ideas. That's because I don't have the scriptures memorized in my head. I just remember a few words from here and there, and the general point that the passages are making - at least, as I understand them. Also, I almost never remember the exact location where those scriptures can be found in the Bible. I may have a vague idea of where they might be, what Book in the Bible or what part of the Book, but that's usually it. And to go hunting for a random scripture in the Bible is like looking for a needle in a haystack, because the Bible is thick! (Yeah, like a brick...like the law of the United States...Which can be quite intimidating for a person, not to mention discouraging - without the proper tools!)
Now I've read the Bible from cover to cover X amount of times, but I've never felt that memorizing Bible scriptures or their locations in the Bible is a particular goal that I should have. In fact, I find the emphasis on over-rationalizing and glorifying head knowledge of the Bible a quite concerning trend in churches, because I absolutely believe that the Bible should be read with the heart! With an open and unassuming spirit. Because, when it's read like that, in the spirit of innocence, with the heart, and away from the head, then God, the Holy Spirit in you, can come in and comment. When a person has left room for Him to do that!
So anyway. Despite the fact that I don't know where a particular scripture is, I usually find it pretty quickly. And the reason for it is my helpful little guide, this tip I have for you, which involves a concordance. What's a concordance? A concordance is a word index that takes different words used in the Bible and arranges them in a list, showing their context and where they can be found. Some Bibles already come with limited concordances, but only those Bibles that are specific Study Bibles or Reference Bibles. These Bible concordances can vary greatly in extensiveness from Bible to Bible. Since I know the value of a good concordance (and the value of a Bible study!) I wouldn't recommend going without one, because I know how useful one can be.
Some Bibles also come with dictionaries or encyclopedias, which also have wordlists of Bible words. But these words will not be as random as in the concordance. Usually the words have some Biblical significance and the focus is on the meaning and origin of the word, the language root of it, historical backgrounds and so forth, all that fancy stuff. This can sometimes be useful, depending on what your'e looking for. But for my scripture hunting needs they're usually not that helpful.
Since most of the time I'm just interested in finding the actual scripture, the concordance is my main search tool. With this type of alphabetical listing of just about any type of random word used in the Bible text I can look up some random keyword for a scripture that I only remember a word or two of. If the word is listed in the concordance, and includes the specific Bible verse that I'm looking for, then I can find its location in the Bible.
Here's an example of my scripture hunting: Let's say I remember the scripture where Jesus is washing the disciples feet. But of course I don't know where it's in the Bible. So I look up "feet" instead. If "feet" is a keyword and the verse is listed below "feet", I'll find the scripture in the Bible. So anytime I go looking for one of these random scriptures, I first ask myself, "what random words might that scripture contain?" And then I open up my concordance, and look for those words.
Let me make this even more clear with another example: Once I was having a conversation with a friend about the nature of love. The scripture that popped in my mind as the perfect scripture to exemplify the nature of love was the one often quoted at weddings, and found in the book of Corinthians, a scripture that describes in length the many different characteristics of love. Only back then, I couldn't remember where to find that scripture, of course. All I remembered was that the passage contained a phrase that said that love "always hopes." So I flipped to the alphabetical index and looked up the word "hope." I found it between "hooks" and "horse." The entry for the word looked like this:
HOPE (HOPES): 1Co 13: 7 always h, always perseveres.
From this entry I now knew that I needed to go to the First book of Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 7. (By the way, if the abbreviations of the Books of the Bible confuse you, most, if not all Bibles have a list of them decoded somewhere in them, in the beginning or back. You can also google the abbreviations here.)
You are definitely going to want to get a Bible with a concordance, it will make life much easier for you. But before we get to those, here's a great separate paperback Concordance that I found at my local bookstore. This concordance has more words than the ones usually found on the back of most Study Bibles, and is therefore a good addition in the bookshelf for anyone who likes to go "scripture hunting." Especially if you don't have a concordance in the back of your Bible you are going to need this.
Purchase Bible Concordance (Paperback):
Or, if you want to go with an even more extensive one, here's Strong's New Expanded Exhaustive Concordance. Many people consider it the best one out there.
Purchase Bible Concordance (Hardcover):
Moving on to Bibles. If you don't own a Bible yet, for goodness sake, get one! Familiarize yourself with it, take it wherever you go, make it your backpack. Start listening to your own thoughts whenever you read it. Ask God to help you understand and see what you (specifically you, and not, say, your mom or cousin) need to see in the scriptures. He knows what it is. I certainly don't. Once you get the hang of how this works, how you can talk to God all by yourself and how He answers you, DIRECTLY and PERSONALLY, without anyone else in there as the middle man, interfering and meddling, I guarantee that this knowledge will powerfully help you and protect you on your path in life!
And what you'll learn, the insights that'll come, will be secrets and gems inside of you, something between only you and your Heavenly Father, and no one else. Something that no one else can ever steal from you. Because they're stored INSIDE of you:
Jesus said, But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Mt 6:20-21)
Now about those Bibles. I want you to have a Bible that will last you forever. As forever as a temporary book can last. I don't want you to get something that will be in dog ears in six months (paperback), or that will be so uncomfortable to read that you'll just give up (stiff to hold open, confusing layout). I don't want the text or the book to be so small that you suffer when you read it. I also don't want it to be so BIG and heavy that you'll never take it with you when you leave the house.
Just like Goldilocks, who preferred a chair that wasn't too hard or too soft, but JUST RIGHT I'd like you to have the perfect Bible, the one that fits you perfectly. In other words: A Perfect Goldilocks kind of a Bible. So it can really become a part of you, so you'll take it with you -- so it can be your backpack.
I want it to be as EASY to read as possible, provided with as much additional support and background info as possible, but not so much that it becomes too heavy and big. I want it only to help your understanding and not add to the confusion! The Bible is challenging enough to read through without any of these additional obstacles! I want to minimize all these challenges for you to the best of my ability.
I have several purchase options listed below. (You can go to them directly from here, or continue reading my recommendations) Here's a couple of words on language.
Language can be tricky. As a person with English as my second language, I know this first hand. Especially when it comes to the Bible, there are several things people need to consider when they purchase Bible translations.
First off, your age. How old are you? 9? 19? 99? We all know that the language needs of a child can be quite different from those of an adult or an elderly person. Is English your second language? Do you speak more languages than one? Do you have dyslexia? Do you struggle with language comprehension and need things explained to you? Or are you rather confident in your ability to comprehend context? Finally, are you a first time Bible reader or have you already read the Bible, and in fact already own one, and are now looking for another Bible translation to add more perspective to your previous knowledge?
Depending on what type of reader you are, and what you're looking for there are several English Bible translations out there to choose from. And since I actually want you to read your Bible, and not just buy it, and then leave it in the bookshelf to collect dust, I want you to really think about what option would be the best fit for you. So you can find that perfect Goldilocks Bible translation specifically made for you.
Sometimes people have strict ideas on what Bible translations they consider as the "true" ones out there, and view other, newer or different translations as simply "wrong." For example some people consider the King James Version of the Bible as the only trustworthy English Bible translation out there (an example of the discussion around that topic can be found here). However, since the King James Version of the Bible was written in the 16-hundreds, the language can feel very outdated and difficult for modern day readers, especially the younger generation. Phrases such as "thus sayeth the Lord" can make God sound very foreign and stiff, which is not the impression I want anyone to have of Him. After all, He's our Heavenly Father, our dad, the closest thing there is, who speaks to us on our level and in our language. But if you're not bothered by the archaic language and can look been it, and you don't have difficulty with language comprehension, and maybe already have some previous knowledge of the Bible, then the KJV Bible is an excellent choice for you. Also, you can always have the KJV Bible as a back up and compare scriptures between different Bible translations if you feel unsure.
To sum up my personal thoughts on Bible translations: All language has an element of interpretation in it. It's important to remember that the original Bible was not even written in the English language. And even, in the original scriptures where the original speakers and writers of the Bible sought to express their thoughts in their original language, even then there was difficulty. Because the thoughts that were being expressed were filtered and translated through an imperfect code system, through human language, a barrier which always puts its own twist on our thoughts. Writers especially know about this. It is difficult to give accurate expressions to thoughts through words. It could always be said better, more clearly, truthfully and perfectly, because words are never perfect!
However, what I put my trust in, is in my belief that God has the ability to communicate to us THROUGH these imperfect language barriers, and despite of them. I believe that God can fill whatever language holes that need to be filled in our imperfect communication systems, because He is God and He has His ways. I believe that whatever messages the scriptures were meant to communicate to people, God will make sure that they will communicate just that. I believe this based on my own experiences where I have felt God communicate directly to me about the meaning of the scriptures. I also believe it based on the following scripture that I think talks exactly about this:
God speaking through the prophet Isaiah:
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isa 55:10 -11)
Therefore I recommend that you don't concern yourself too much about "correct" Bible translations according to someone else's opinions. Instead, I recommend that you put all your energies in finding your perfect Goldilocks Bible translation, which ever it is, and next, just reading it. That's what I think is important.
When I look for a Bible for myself, the kind of Bible that would be a perfect Goldilocks Bible that can become my backpack and forever Bible, there are some specific features I look for. Here they are:
- Large enough text (fonts). Since Bibles are so thick many tend to have tiny tiny letters so they can squeeze all that info in there. Tinier than in a regular book! While some people can handle reading tiny letters, most of us prefer reading letters that are at least normal size, like in a regular book. So consider the font size. There are Bibles with large size fonts (12 pt, which actually isn't large at all, but normal size, and 14 pt) and even super large fonts (16.5) out there. When I pick a Bible, I want at least large size fonts, because they're just so much easier to read. I always look for easy-to-read Bibles.
- Layout and Lack of Stiffness: I want the layout of the Bible to look easy and logical. I like clarity. Since I'm used to reading the Bible where the text is placed in two columns (as in most Bibles) that's what I prefer. Some people like it as one column, and that option is out there too. Look for it, if you prefer that. I also want my Bible not to be stiff, but easy to open. Some Bibles specifically state that they are designed to lay flat when you open them on the table. That's nice.
- Christ's words in red: I like it when they put Christ's words in red, because that way they stand out in the scriptures and are so much easier to find.
-Cross References: You find these references to other scriptures at the end of some scriptures that relate to the scripture you just read. Very useful.
- A Concordance: As explained above. Also, a couple of maps and a small dictionary are nice, but not necessary. I can always buy a separate Bible encyclopedia that I can keep in my bookshelf for those situations when I need to find something. Too much reference material will just make the Bible too big and bulky and difficult to carry with you. Which brings me to size...
- Personal Size: That's the size I prefer. To find a Bible with all these features AND personal size is a task easier said than done, but there are some out there, depending on the translation. If you can't find a personal sized Bible, go with something close enough. Something manageable. A pocket size Bible I do not recommend, because the text will be too small. I'll rather have a Bible a little bigger than too small. But personal size is my first choice.
- The Right Bible Translation for me: Whichever that I'm looking for, depending on my need. There's no right or wrong here.
- Ribbon: I like a Bible with a ribbon, or two, so I can bookmark where I'm at.
- Tabs: Tabs make finding the different Books of the Bible easy. If you can find a Bible with them, get it (as long as it has those other important features too...). But, if you can't find a Bible that has them, don't worry! They sell them separately too, and you can just add them to your Bible, if you'd like. Just read the instructions first! You can purchase Bible tabs following the link below. Also note that there are several color and style options available. The ones in this link are silver, but if you go to recommendations you can see other options, such as gold and multicolor.
Purchase Bible tabs:
Leather Cover: That's what I like, because it's the most durable one. Imitation leather is fine too, and actually most Bibles with leather covers are made with imitation leather. There are all kinds of cover options out there, some with a more traditional look (a black church Bible), some with a more feminine look with flowers and things on them, or a hip one, or one with a masculine look...whatever you're looking for. Obviously the covers of this book is not the main thing, but if you find a Bible that features all the other things that you want and ALSO comes with a cover you like, what could be better?
...However, if you find a Bible that has everything else you want except for the cover you can always buy a separate cover for your Bible. For example if you buy a Bible with a hardcover, then purchasing a separate leather cover is a good way to protect your Bible. You can also put extra paper and pencils inside it and keep all your notes together. Just make sure that the cover fits the size of your Bible (measure it!)! Note that this cover comes in both medium and large - this one is large. But if the Bible cover in this link doesn't fit your Bible scroll down and look in the Amazon recommendations for other sizes and/or styles:
Purchase Bible Cover:
This is the New International Version Bible (NIV). It's the most widely used English Bible translation. More people read this version than any other English Bible translation. (I myself have an old NIV Bible, a different version from this one, not sold by Amazon - it's my Goldilocks Bible and I like it!) Most people like the NIV because it's fairly easy to read and understand. It's suitable for readers all ages. There's a balance between word-for-word (literal) and thought-for thought interpretation in this Bible translation. This particular Bible copy is a super giant print Bible, so it's good for someone with bad eyesight. The font size is 16.5 pt. (It's good for others too! A nice read!) The Bible has end of paragraph references, dictionary/concordance, and the words of Christ written in red. Many good features. Follow the link and read more. Published by: Zondervan.
Purchase Bible (NIV) super giant print:
Here's another New International Version (NIV) Bible with large text, 12 pt, instead of super giant. This is a reference Bible that comes with a concordance/dictionary and an end of the paragraph reference system. The cover is burgundy. Published by: Zondervan.
Purchase Bible (NIV) large print:
Here's one more New International Version (NIV) Bible option with giant sized text, 14 pt. It's a reference Bible with an end-of-paragraph-system, concordance and dictionary and full-color maps. It also has a thumb index so you can find the Books of the Bible easily. Published by: Zondervan.
Purchase Bible (NIV) giant print:
The New International Reader's Version Bible (NIrV). This Bible translation is based on the NIV Bible, but is a simplified version of it, written at a third-grade reading level making it a good choice for children 10 and under. This Bible will make the reading experience much more enjoyable for those of you who struggle with language and comprehension. Those, who use English as their second language would also fall into this group. Also, since this Bible is written with large print, it's very easy on the eyes. The cover is made of durable imitation leather, which will make this Bible last you for a long time. Published by: Zondervan.
Purchase Bible (NIrV):
Here's another NIrV Bible: This one has a pink imitation leather cover. Large print for easy reading, reference dictionary, 8 full-color maps. Published by: Zondervan.
Purchase Bible (NIrV):
This is a King James Version Bible (KJV), which I recommend for more advanced readers and someone who's not purchasing their first Bible. For someone who already has some background in studying the Bible this one would be a very good choice! It's a reference Bible with scriptures imbedded within the text. It also comes with a concordance. The cover is made out of durable black and dark red imitation leather that would appeal to both men and women. The Bible is visually the easy-to-read type, because it has giant fonts. The words of Christ are printed in red. This Bible is very well made and has Lifetime Guarantee! Published by: Holman.
Purchase Bible (KJV):
I also found this King James Version Bible (KJV) at the bookstore and thought it was adorable, so I had to put it here as another, KJV Bible option, with a more feminine look. Its cover is made out of pink, white and brown leather, which I think looks very attractive. It would even make a great gift to someone, because it looks so nice and is of such good quality! This is a personal sized Bible, so it's easy to take along. (The KJV Bible above is slightly bigger than this one). This Bible is also the easy-to-read-type with giant fonts. It is a reference Bible with a concordance. Published by: Holman.
Purchase Bible (KJV):
This is a New King James Version Bible (NKJV). The authors used the King James Version Bible as their base, but made a new, more modern and readable version of it. It is close to the reading level of the NIV Bible, but slightly harder. This is a personal sized reference Bible with a purple imitation leather cover. It has end of verse references, words of Jesus marked in red, stars marking messianic prophecies, concordance, full-colored maps and more. Publisher: Thomas Nelson.
Purchase Bible (NKJV):
New Living Translation Bible (NLT). An easy to understand version of the Bible suitable for both adults and children. Durable black imitation leather cover. Personal size, so easy to take with you and easy-to-read with 12 pt. print. Words of Christ in red. Ribbon marker. Has a dictionary/concordance as well as concise cross reference system. Publisher: Tyndale.
Purchase Bible (NLT):
This is an English Standard Version Bible (ESV): Similar in reading level as the NIV Bible. Good for Bible readers of all ages. Focuses on a word-for-word translation of the Bible. This is a Study Bible with large size print, 11 pt. It comes with a concordance as well as maps and articles. Cover is made out of a mahogany colored imitation leather. Publisher: ESV Bibles by Crossway.
Purchase Bible (ESV):
The Message Bible: This Bible translation is written for contemporary Bible readers, imitating modern day American speech and focusing on the thought-for-thought translation of the scriptures instead of the word-for-word (literary) interpretation. It has a conversational style. The reading level varies in difficulty depending on the passages. This Bible is for people that are looking for a fresh approach on the scriptures, which may appeal especially to young adults. What makes this particular Bible copy very good is that it is a side-by-side reading of the NIV and the Message Bibles. Therefore you can compare the two translations together, side by side, while reading the scriptures. This can provide many insights. This Bible has a double column format, large print and a ribbon marker. Published by: Zondervan. Message Author: Eugene H. Peterson.
Purchase Message Bible:
Here's another Message Bible: This personal sized Bible has only the Message translation. It also comes with a concordance. The cover is made out of imitation leather. Comes with verse study helps, charts and maps. By Eugene H. Peterson.
This is a New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV). In reading difficulty it would be slightly harder than the NIV, but easier than the KJV. This Bible translation uses a mix between the word for word (literal) translation and the thought-for-thought translation of the Bible. What makes this particular Study Bible special is that it is a C.S.Lewis Edition. For those of you who don't know C.S. Lewis, he was one of the most influential Christian thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. He taught literature both in Oxford and Cambridge Universities and is non for his Narnia books. If I would want anyone's thoughts to be written in my Bible it would be C.S. Lewis'. He was a profound and inspired Christian thinker.
The font style, layout and design of the book makes it very pleasant to read. This book is hardcover, so I would recommend buying a Bible cover for it.
Purchase Bible (NRSV):
But if you think you already know what you're looking for, or want to explore other Bible options you can certainly purchase Bible copies here with a general Amazon search: