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Recommended Study Bibles

As a pastor, I am often approached with recommendations on study Bibles and about how to pick a translation. While there is much that can be said on both of these, I created an Amazon list with my recommendations on study Bibles. 1 of the recommendations is NIV and 2 are ESV. A brief discussion comparing the NIV and ESV follows.

Given that list, let me briefly share what a “translation” is. Obviously, the Bible was not originally written in English. The Old Testament was primarily written in Hebrew and the New Testament was primarily written in Greek. Groups of scholars come together to translate from the original languages into English. As would seem obvious, not every group comes up with the exact same wording.

Now, the NIV (New International Version) is probably the most widespread English translation. It uses a “thought for thought” philosophy where the goal is to capture the essence of what the original authors were trying to say. The strength here is that in Hebrew and Greek, like English, they had expressions and colloquialisms that only make sense as an expression, not as individual words. The NIV seeks to preserve these expressions.

The ESV (English Standard Version) is probably the fastest growing in terms of adoption and use, especially among Reformed people. It is more of a “word for word” translation, meaning they were attempting to get every individual word as accurate as possible. The strength of the ESV is that it gets you very close to reading the original words, preserving the authors’ vocabulary.

Anyway, both the NIV and ESV are acceptable and excellent, each with their own strengths. Personally, I still lean a little toward the NIV only because of how widespread it is. It’s easier for me, as a pastor, to being using what I know most people are using. That said, all three of the above study Bibles are excellent and offer insights consistent with Reformed doctrine.

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