Resources for Your Ministry: Bibles, Bibles, Everywhere

DMayBy Dr. David May
Professor of New Testament


Hardly a month goes by without a new translation of the Bible appearing on the shelves of bookstores.  We are flooded with options for reading the Word of God.  The good news is that we have many choices for reading.  The challenge is to know which translation one should choose.

Before suggesting a few translations and study Bibles, I want to note just a few points.  First, no perfect translation exists; every translation is an interpretation.  Each translation is influenced by the culture and theology of the translator, and no translator can capture all the original cultural elements of the original language.  Second, everyone should consult and compare several translations.  Just as diversity strengthens a bio-environment, so does the variety of translations strengthen a spiritual environment.  Third, some important and favorite translations will be omitted.  Consider these options listed below only as a small sampling of a much larger pie of possible translations.

Study Bibles.  Study Bibles have well-researched and presented notes.  Each study Bible will have its own perspective and assumptions; however, the ones below represent well-known and respected study Bibles.  Good study Bibles include the extra works found between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament called the Apocrypha.

  1. HarperCollins Study Bible (New Revised Standard Version).
  2. Oxford Annotated Study Bible (NRSV).
  3. The Interpreter’s Study Bible (NRSV).
  4. Oxford Study Bible (Revised English Bible).

One should also consult a study Bible that deals with the Tanak, that is, the Hebrew Bible.  This study Bible is prepared by the Jewish Publication Society.  As one uses this study Bible, be prepared to note that the order of the books in the Hebrew Bible is not the same as found in the Christian Bible.

  1. The Jewish Study Bible (Tanak Translation).

Contemporary Translations. Several newer translations have appeared over the last few years and merit some reading time.

  1. Common English Bible (CEB).
  2. The Kingdom New Testament.  This translation is by the British scholar N. T. Wright that attempts to put the New Testament into brisk contemporary English.
  3. New English Translation (NET). This translation is unique in that is totally online and free.  It has extensive notes.

Older Translations.  Many translations from the past should not be overlooked.  They also help to fire the imagination and to hear the Word of God in a different tone.

  1. Centenary Translation of the New Testament.  This translation has the distinction of being by a Baptist woman, Helen Barrett Montgomery.  It was prepared in 1924.
  2. The Cotton Patch Version.  This translation, prepared during the 1940s-1960s, was by a Baptist named Clarence Jordan.  It is a colloquial modern translation set in a Southern context.

The choice of translations can seem overwhelming.  Perhaps, therefore, the most important task for a Christian is to follow the simple directive heard by Saint Augustine as he sat in a garden with copy of Scripture, “Tolle lege.” These Latin words encourage us to, “Take up and Read.”