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A Bible for every age and reading level

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on daily Bible reading, I think it would be good to say something about Bible translations.

Personally, I prefer reading from my New American Standard Bible, but I would not recommend everyone to jump right into this version. For some readers, its heavy, literal style would feel too wooden and cumbersome, and might actually discourage daily Bible reading.

If someone is younger, or relatively new to reading the Bible, I would encourage them to start with a more readable translation, then gradually work toward a more literal, advanced-level translation.

Here's a recommended list of English Bible translations for every age level:

Young children:
The Jesus Storybook Bible
The Big Picture Story Bible
(We started using these Bibles even before our children were a year old. We love using them for family devotions!)

Beginning readers:
The International Children's Bible, aka the New Century Version
(4th grade reading level)

Intermediate readers:
New International Version
The New King James Version
(both 7th grade reading level)

Advanced readers:
English Standard Version (8th grade reading level)
New American Standard Bible (10th grade reading level)

It's not that there's anything "super-spiritual" about reading a Bible that is more advanced. After all, God always intended the Bible to be read by the common people! In fact, He chose for the New Testament to be written in the koine, i.e. common, Greek instead of the more sophisticated classical style Greek.

Nevertheless, I believe the ESV, and particularly the NASB, best reflect the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languges of the Old and New Testament, and thus are most accurate for in-depth Bible Study.

When I read my NASB, I feel confident that I am hearing God speak with the very words and grammatical emphases He intended. It's the next-best thing to reading from the original languages.

December 2010 Update: I'm becoming more and more impressed with the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and have been giving it a "test drive" from the pulpit this month. With the Apologetics Study Bible, HCSB Study Bible, and a 2009 revision, I believe this translation has really matured and gone more mainstream. Here's a paper by Dr. Bill Barrick showing the exegetical accuracy of the HCSB. 

October 2011 Update: After sixteen years with the NASB and another year trying out the Holman Bible, I've made a permanent change to the ESV for personal Bible reading and our ministry at First Southern Baptist Church. This was not an easy decision, but the ESV is a great translation and has tons of study resources available. Click here to read more reasons I made the switch.

Photo credit: univrsltransl8r


  1. I've been pretty impressed with ESV. You are right, NAS is a little wooden. Seems like ESV keeps the literal with some life.

    What do you preach out of? I use NIV because it is easy to understand.


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