How to Choose a Bible Translation

Read the following tips on how to choose a Bible translation, as the Bible you select will influence your Christian life for years to come. Choosing a study Bible is not like choosing any other book.

We read in Scripture, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).

You will likely own other Bibles, but the one you've chosen for studying the Word of God, with your added handwritten notes and colored underlining, will reflect every step of your Kingdom journey with the Lord.

How to Choose a Bible Translation for Study Purposes and Easy Reading

By Don Bell | Reading Time: 8 minutes

Open Study BibleRightly Dividing the Word of Truth —2 Timothy 2:15
Source: ©Designus/

Here's a concise overview of the types of Bibles that are available in local Bible bookstores and online stores. Knowing how to choose a Bible translation will save you time and ensure getting the best version for your study needs.

For instance, features a wide variety of Bibles in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle editions, and you can use their handy "Look inside" feature to actually view a portion of the text to see whether it's suitable for you.

Literal Translation

  • King James Version (KJV)
  • New King James Version (NKJV)
  • English Standard Version (ESV)
  • Revised Standard Version (RSV)
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Excellent for Bible study!

Essentially "literal translations" from the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts.

The NKJV is my personal choice for a study Bible. —Don

Here's a good tip on how to choose a Bible translation:

Always look for a "literal translation" when choosing a study Bible, and you cannot go wrong. They are also known as a Formal Equivalence (Word for Word) translation.


The NKJV Chronological Study Bible by Thomas Nelson Publishers deserves a special mention.

I love the Chronological Study Bible, as it reads like a historical epic. —Don

This Bible is also a literal translation, but it presents the complete text of the New King James Version in chronological order — the historical order in which the biblical events actually happened — complete with notes, historical context, time charts, colorful graphics, and detailed maps.

You'll find this Bible very engaging to read, but it's not always easy to look up a specific verse because of its unique format. That said, it makes a great companion to your regular study Bible, as it helps to place biblical events in perspective.

Thought-for-Thought Translation

  • New International Version (NIV)
  • New Living Translation (NLT)
  • Good News Bible (GNB)
  • New Century Version (NCV)

Good for general Bible reading, but not for serious study.

These Bibles are also known as a Dynamic Equivalence Translation. Instead of translating each word as it was written, the writers try to translate the original thoughts and intent behind each word and phrase in the original manuscripts.

There's always the risk that the translators were influenced by their doctrinal biases.


  • The Living Bible (TLB)
  • The Amplified® Study Bible (AMP)
  • The Message (MSG)

Okay for casual Bible reading, but not recommended for serious study of the Word.

Paraphrase Bibles are NOT translations of the Word and cannot be considered the inspired Word of God in the true sense. Generally, they are an author's commentary of the Bible and can reflect the author's doctrinal biases.

A paraphrase can be useful in bringing the Bible text alive to our understanding, but when choosing a study Bible, we must always be aware that a paraphrase is not a literal translation. We cannot assume paraphrased text to always reflect the original meaning of the text of Scripture.

A paraphrase version of the Bible should always be read with a literal translation Bible nearby for comparison purposes.


  • The Passion Translation of the Bible (TPT)

NOT recommended for Bible study or for casual reading!

The Passion Translation is NOT a translation in the traditional sense, it's the work of its sole author, Brian Simmons, and it lays somewhere between a paraphrase and a thought-for-thought translation. It strongly reflects one author's doctrinal views and understanding of the Bible.

Knowing how to choose a Bible translation that hasn't the potential to lead you astray can involve a bit of study in itself. For example, here's a verse from the New King James Version of the Bible:

And to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

(1 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV)

Now compare the NKJV's literal translation to the same verse from The Passion Translation of the Bible:

And to another the power to work miracles.
And to another the gift of prophecy.
And to another the gift to discern what the Spirit is speaking.
And to another the gift of speaking different kinds of tongues.
And to another the gift of interpretation of tongues.

(1 Corinthians 12:10 TPT)

Did you spot the difference? The Passion Translation interpreted the gift of "discerning of spirits" as the gift "to discern what the Spirit is speaking."

It's an obvious translation error by Simmons, and a dangerous one at that as it misrepresents the true meaning of "discerning of spirits" and could potentially prevent someone from knowing they could exercise the ability to discern an evil spirit.

The above example clearly demonstrates error in The Passion Translation and its author's ignorance of that gift of the Holy Spirit. And that's only one instance!

The Passion Translation alters Scripture to a completely different meaning at times. For example, here's a familiar verse from the New King James Version of the Bible:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.

(Psalm 23:5 NKJV)

Now, again, compare the NKJV's literal translation to the same verse from The Passion Translation of the Bible:

You become my delicious feast even when my enemies dare to fight. You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit.

(Psalm 23:5 TPT)

Brian Simmons once described in an interview1 how Jesus appeared one night in his bedroom and commissioned him to a "translation project." Jesus promised to give him "secrets of the Hebrew language, secrets of the Bible."

Simmons went on to reveal that he named his book "The Passion Translation" after an angel named Passion whom he saw in a church meeting.

But that's not all, Simmons said that on one visit to Heaven, Jesus took him to the library room where he was given two books, one titled "The Spirit of Revelation." However, a third book titled "John 22" also caught his eye (John only contains 21 chapters), and Jesus said that He would give it to him at another time.

Scripture clearly tells us, "Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:5-6, emphasis added).

You would do well to AVOID this so-called translation when choosing a study Bible! As British Bible scholar Dr. Andrew Wilson has noted:

"The Passion 'translation' inserts all kinds of concepts, words and ideas of which the original gives no hint whatsoever (despite the occasional footnotes which say 'implied by the context')."2

Interlinear Bibles

Have you wondered how to choose a Bible translation that will reveal the Word of God in the original Greek? When choosing a study Bible, some students also consider getting an "interlinear" Bible to have as a companion resource.

Interlinear Bibles are not exactly translations. They present the Greek word in one line and directly below is the equivalent English word (or words) that translates the meaning of the original Greek word.

Sample Page of Interlinear Greek-English BibleExample of Interlinear Greek-English Bible (Matthew 2:1-7)
Source: Qualifies as Fair Use

One example of a hardcover version is The Interlinear Bible Greek-English (Vol. IV New Testament) by Jay P. Green, Hendrickson Publishers (see sample image above).

The hardcover 720-page edition weighs in at almost 2 1/2 pounds, so it's not what you'd call light reading (sorry for the pun), but it's great for home study purposes.

You can try this FREE online Greek-English Interlinear Bible to see whether investing in a hardcover version would be of interest.

Very few Christians ever develop the ability to read the Bible in its original Greek texts. So, an interlinear Bible can help those studying the Bible with no prior knowledge of Greek to discover the nuances and layers of meaning within the original Greek texts.

However, interlinear Bibles are not for everybody's taste, and some students find that having access to a Strong's Exhaustive Bible Concordance is just as useful.

Bible Software

Olive Tree Logo

The Olive Tree Bible app is what I use for all my Bible studies, and I absolutely love it. —Don

Would you prefer to study the Bible on your computer or mobile device?

Here's how to choose a Bible translation and receive a library of inspirational Christian study books — Get the Olive Tree Bible App!

You will have easy access to various Bible translations along with familiar commentaries, outlines, ancient maps, and more.

Your study Bible(s) is always accessible, even without WIFI, and the software is very easy to use. Enjoy easy Scripture searches along with highlighting, copy-and-paste, study notes, and numerous other features.

And the amazing thing is it's FREE, although there is a charge for certain add-on Bibles and reference books. Visit Olive Tree to read more about this amazing app.

Final Thoughts

Translators of the Bible's original texts must sometimes interpret the thought and intent of the original languages from a range of possible meanings, and on occasion it can be difficult to avoid a bias toward one's doctrinal beliefs.

Therefore, even the best literal translation is potentially someone's interpretation of the original Scripture, and this is especially true of thought-for-thought translations and paraphrases.

So, it's always good to have and use more than one literal translation and possibly an interlinear Bible for determining yourself what the Scriptures reveal of the Word of God.


1 Roth, S. (2016, June 13). "Brian Simmons - Sid Roth – it's supernatural!" Retrieved May 8, 2023, from

2 Wilson, Andrew. "What's Wrong With the Passion 'Translation'?" Andrew Wilson, 6 Jan. 2016. Web. 15 Apr. 2021.

Don Bell of Kingdom Anointing

By Don Bell, follower of the Christ.

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