Bible translators do their very best to create English Bibles that accurate translate the original text.The goal is to make is easy to understand and read. There are three broad types of translations that many Bible version fall under. Knowing the philosophy behind the three types can help you study the Bible better as well as help you make an informed decision when purchasing a new Bible.

The Three Types are:

  • Formal
  • Functional
  • Paraphrased

Formal is a word for word translation. It considers each individual word and tries to keep the word order and structure as close to the Hebrew or Greek original text. The formal version is best suited for teaching because it’s a literal translation. Some examples are, King James (KJV), New King James (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV) and Christian Standard Version (CSB).

Functional is a thought for thought translation. It is also referred to has a Dynamic Translation. This type considers producing a text in the readers language that more clearly communicates the meaning based on today’s readers and the original text. Often they use more up-to-date words that are easier to understand. This type of Bible is great for individual reading and studying. Some examples are, New Living Translation (NLT), New International Version (NIV) and New English Standard (NEW).

Paraphrase is a story like version. It’s the easiest to read in our modern language because of the story flow. However, caution should be used when using a paraphrased Bible. Authors tend to exercise freedom when interpreting words and terms based on their own ideas or experiences. While this type of Bible can be helpful it should not be the sole source of Bible reading. Some examples include, The Living Bible and The Message Bible.

Here is a simple example of Psalm 23:1 in formal (KJV), functional (NLT) and paraphrased (MSG):

  • “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 KJV
  • “The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need.” Psalm 23:1 NLT
  • “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.” Psalm 23:1 MSG

Any serious Bible student should consider having several version of the Bible at hand. While one version might be your day to day reading, the addition of other translations will enrich and enhance your Bible study. I always recommend reading the Bible verse you are studying in three different version to gain deeper insight. My go to Bibles are NLT Study Bible, ESV Study Bible and Amplified Bible.

Whatever Bible versions you choose to use in your studies, I hope and pray your Bible knowledge and understanding grows deep roots. Nothing is more exciting than learning God’s truth…it leads to knowing God more, seeing Jesus in every aspect of our lives and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in our Christian walk.

Many Blessings My Friend!