Choosing The Right Bible - Buyer's Guide

Posted by Aaron Lewendon  ·  Be the first to comment

With more than 20 English Language translations each available in 25 or more different editions the choice of Bibles excites and bewilders. Choosing the right Bible for you is important - even if you already have more than one.


Choosing a Bible for someone else is equally important. You want them to have a Bible that they'll be delighted to own and use.

Buying a Bible for personal use, for a gift or as the standard text for a study group, church or school is made easier if have a clear idea of who you're buying for and what they'll use it for.

Balancing accuracy and readability

Choosing the right translation is largely a matter of personal preferrence. The King James Version (KJV) will be popular with more experienced Bible readers who will identifiy with it's familiar words and phrases. It's less likely to be a favourite with younger readers or those new to the Christian faith.

The New International Version (NIV) is perhaps the most popular choice both for individual use and for churches, schools and other institutions. For those who love the King James (KJV), but would appreciate a more modern language style, the English Standard Version (ESV) may provide the answer.

Word-for-word or paraphrase translation

Children and young people may find the 'paraphrase' versions such as the New Living (NLT) Bible, The Message or Good News Bible (GNB/TEV) more readable. The youngest readers will appreciate Bibles designed and published just for them, many with colouful covers and pictures.

All translations of the Bible are published in a huge range of covers and styles. Editions specifically designed for children, youth culture and presentation purposes are plentiful. Soft cover, leather cover, metal and even water proof covers make Bibles practical for many uses and circumstances. And all translations come in a range of print sizes from the most compact to large, easily readable editions.

Bibles for reading out, teaching and ministry

Aside the choice of covers, colours and print size, and assuming you’ve already chosen your preferred translation, the choice is betweem a simple collection of the standard 66 books - more in Catholic Bibles, or the same but with additional material and information.

These ‘Bibles-plus’ contain information, illustrations, charts, tables, time-lines and notes from Bible scholars. They’re all intended to help you get more out of your Bible reading whether you read for personal devotion, study, teaching or public ministry.

There are three main types of Bible intended to enrich the readers experience and understanding. These are: Commentaries, Reference Bibles and Study Bibles. There are many similarities in what these Bibles provide, though each tends to specialise in providing the reader a particular sort of assistance.

Commentary Bibles for clarity and depth

Commentaries offer greater understanding with background information, notes on authorship, historical context, Bible themes and life application. Some are ordered ‘thought by thought’ and others follow a ‘verse by verse’ structure.

Every translation of the Bible is supported by at least one Bible commentary. Many cover the whole Bible in one volume. Other commentaries form a series of books each matched to a separate Testament or individual Bible book.

The great strength of a commentary Bible is the scriptural insight given by the author, usually a noted and experienced scholar. Commentaries by the great Bible teachers of the past can be compared with those written with the benefit of modern research to shows how spiritual thought has developed or remains unchanged.

Reference Bibles to link themes and ideas

Reference Bibles are put together so they read like any Bible, but provide links or ‘cross-references’ between related words, phrases, topics, themes or people throughout the whole Bible.

This means you can easily find places in the Bible where the same story is told, the same theme is discussed, the same person appears or the same idea explored.

Reference Bibles allow you to follow how God reveals his message over many centuries and through many people and events. Often this means ‘cross-referencing’ words of prophecy - the promises and warnings given by God, with the fulfilment of those words in later books of the Bible.

Study Bibles for meaning and context

Study Bibles are the most comprehensive 'Bible-plus' Bibles in terms of the amount of background and historical information they include.

Study Bibles usually include a dictionary of Bible terms, diagrams and maps, a time chart, daily reading plan, introductions and outlines of each book. Discussion starter and even puzzles might be included depending on the intended readers.

As with most commentary and reference Bibles, study Bibles usually include a life application Bible as guide and support to applying the truth of the Bible to everyday life.

Stay at home and Bibles on the move

Finally but just as important is to know if you're choosing a Bible to keep in one place or to travel with you. All Bible translations and just about all commentary, reference and study Bibles are available in slim line, pocket and easy-to-read large print editions to suit your use, preference and needs.

Quick Guide to Choosing The Right Bible

This is a simplified giude. Most ‘‘Bible-plus’ Bibles are a mix of the commentary, reference and study format. They're all useful for personal reflection, study, teaching or ministry. More information is given on the pages for each Bible type and for each individual edition.

Commentary, Reference and Study Bibles - what's the difference?

  • Commentary Bibles provide clarity and depth of understanding.
  • Reference Bibles link words, themes, people and ideas throughout the Bible.
  • Study Bibles provide historical information, context and background.

Commentary, Reference and Study Bibles - which should I have?

  • A commentary Bible: if you want the insight and guidance of a Bible scholar.
  • A reference Bible: if you want to find how God’s plan flows through the Bible.
  • A study Bible: if you want to understand the how and why of the Bible.
6th March

March 6th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Aaron Lewendon

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