With so many Bibles available today, it can be confusing to figure out which one to buy. Here’s what I suggest for those looking to get a Bible. I recommend three translations, and offer suggestions for Study Bibles for children, youth and adults.
Here are my Top 3 Favorite Bible translations:
CEB (Common English Bible) I use the CEB most often in our worship services here at Pikes Peak MCC. The language is accessible and clear, and it also uses inclusive language when it is appropriate. It is my go-to Bible these days.
The Message I use this Bible ocasionally for worship–almost exclusively for the Psalms, since Eugene Peterson loves the Psalms. The language of The Message is vibrant and lively. I love that Peterson set out on this ambitious project of translating the Bible when he realized, as a local pastor. that his congregants needed language that was more accessible and connected to their lived realities.
NRSV (New Revised Standard Bible) I have been using the NRSV for my personal study and devotion since my first year of college. The language and images and phrasing of this translation is how I’ve memorized many Bible verses. This translation–being more literal than the other two, however, can be more difficult to understand for beginning Bible readers.
You can compare verses of the CEB, the NRSV and the NIV (New International Version) here.
Here are my favorite versions of Bibles for children, youth and college kids:
Children’s Bible: Children of God Storybook Bible . This Bible is such a delight! The illustrations are done by artists from around the world, the stories are inclusive and perfect for young children, and each story concludes with a prayer. Even more amazing is that each book includes a free download of Archbishop Tutu reading the stories. We used this Bible for a year of our Children’s Church program. The kids and teachers loved it.
Elementary School Age Bible for Kids: Deep Blue Kids Bible
Middle/High School & College: CEB Student Bible
Recommendations for Adults
As for adults who are looking to read the Bible, sometimes for the first time, I recommend a study Bible of any of the above translations (CEB, Message, or NRSV). Some adults I know prefer to use a Kid’s Bible–like the Deep Blue Kids Bible above–or a Student Bible–like the CEB Student Bible above. That’s great! It’s best to find one that works best for you and what feels most comfortable. Study Bibles are important because they help us understand the historical and cultural context of the various books of the Bible. It is also important to find Study Bibles that can help folks in MCC better understand and connect with the Bible today.
Taking all this into account, here’s my top recommendations:
The Access Study Bible: This Bible uses the NRSV translation and comes from Oxford University Press. It is broadly ecumenical and a great resource with in-text articles, a concordance, maps, and notes in the body of the text. Several folks in our Monday Night Bible Study bought this version. From the publisher’s description: The Access Bible has long been the go-to study Bible for mainline Christians looking for insight into and background for the Bible. Designed for the individual reader, it’s accessible to new readers but also offers enough depth for those who are already familiar with the texts but want to delve deeper into the culture and context of their authors and origins. A unique feature of the Access Bible is the running commentary which is interspersed with the Bible text. Difficult concepts are clearly explained in terms which everyday readers can easily understand. There’s no need to have a dictionary by your side when you’re using the Access Bible, Updated Edition. When a technical explanation is required, all of the terms are defined right on the page, as well as in a glossary at the back. History, social contexts, religious practices, the beliefs of ancient peoples-all are explained when the Bible text requires it. In addition, this Bible was designed to contain all the background information needed by believers from a wide spectrum of churches. The Access Bible sets a new standard for ease of understanding.
CEB Study Bible: From the publisher’s description: The CEB Study Bible gives you the tools, illustrations, and explanations necessary for making informed decisions about the meaning of the Bible. The notes in this study Bible don’t tell you what to believe. Instead, they give you the context for what the books of the Bible meant to their earliest readers and what the Bible means right now. The CEB Study Bible is for encouragement and challenge, for guidance and reflection, for study and prayer.
I hope this helps you as you take the next step in your journey exploring the Bible!