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3 Steps to Help You Choose a New Bible

  • Kathy Howard Contributing Writer
  • Updated Feb 14, 2017
3 Steps to Help You Choose a New Bible

I just counted the Bibles scattered around my house. Although we don’t use them all, we have 26 printed copies of God’s Word. Some belonged to loved ones who have gone to be with Jesus. Others are worn from years of use. For instance, the map pages keep falling out of the New Living Translation I use for devotional reading. I even have a New Testament in Russian. 

Yet with all those Bibles in my house, I still bought a new one not long ago. When I began having trouble reading the tiny print in my favorite copy of Scripture, I purchased a large print, leather-bound NIV.

Perhaps you’re thinking about purchasing a new Bible but you’re overwhelmed with the sheer volume of the choices available. Dozens of translations combined with a myriad of features yields hundreds – if not thousands – of specific Bibles to choose from. Selecting a new Bible can be a daunting task!

Before you throw your hands up in surrender, keep reading. We will walk through a simple 3-step process to help you choose the Bible to best meet your needs. 

1. Determine your primary purpose. 

Since you probably already have one or more Bibles, the first step is to determine why you need another Bible. How do you intend to use this new Bible? Your purpose will guide the next two steps. Maybe one of the following describes your primary purpose:

a. In-depth study 
b. Personal devotional reading 
c. Family devotions
d. Casual reading/simple enjoyment!
e. Journaling/illustrating

2. Choose the translation.

Unless you read Hebrew and Greek – the original language of the Bible – you must choose from one of the many English translations of the Bible. There are three basic levels or groups of translations. One of these groups will better align with your primary purpose than the others.

  • Word-for-Word (also known as Formal Equivalent) – These translations are the closest to the grammar and syntax of the original language, but they can often sound wooden. Also, this kind of translation makes no consideration for cultural changes. This kind of translation is the best choice for in-depth Bible study. (Ex: Amplified, NKJV, NAB, ESV, NASB. Note: NIV falls somewhere between the Formal and Dynamic Equivalent)
  • Thought-for-thought (also known as Dynamic Equivalent) – These translations work to keep the overall original thought rather than attempt a literal word for word translation. Although not as technically accurate as the Formal Equivalent, they are much easier for 21st century westerners to understand. For instance, Dynamic Equivalent translations change idioms, figures of speech, and measurements into “equivalent” terms that we will understand. This kind of translation is still close enough to the original to be good for Bible study, but it is great for devotional reading and personal application. (Ex: NLT, CEV)
  • Paraphrase – This translation group departs the furthest from the original language but it provides a fresh reading experience. A paraphrase is more of a big-idea-for-big-idea translation. This translation group is fine for casual and inspirational reading but not recommended for study. With the paraphrase’s “storytelling” format, it would be great for family devotions with young children. (Ex: The Message)
  • Parallel Translations – Parallel Bibles display multiple translations side-by-side so readers can compare different versions of any given passage for deeper understanding.

3. Select the features you want.

Ah, there is no end to the possible tools, special editions, and unique features you can get in the different Bible translations. Select the ones that best meet your needs and circumstances. At you can refine your Bible search by translation and features! Here is a sampling of the many features available:

  • Study Bible – This category of Bible includes lots of study aids like book introductions, character studies, notes, and more to help you get as much information about the passage as possible.
  • Tabs – Need help finding individual books of the Bible? These small markers at the beginning of each book makes it easy!
  • Cross-references – These Scripture notations point you to other verses closely related to the one you are reading. Cross-references are usually listed in the margin or a center column.
  • Concordance – A concordance is an alphabetical index of words used in the Bible with a list of Bible passages where that word appears. Thorough concordances can be purchased separately, but many Bibles include smaller concordances in the back.
  • Dictionary – Like a concordance, if you’d like a full, comprehensive Bible dictionary, you will need to purchase a separate volume. However, many Bibles include condensed, but helpful dictionaries in the back that alphabetically list, define, and explain biblical terms, people, places, and more.
  • Journaling space –If you like to make notes right in your Bible or love to creatively illustrate the truths you encounter in God’s Word, then a “journaling Bible” may suit you best. These Bibles include extra-wide margins and lots of white space.
  • Large print – Anyone who has vision trouble could benefit from a Bible with a larger font size!
  • Maps, charts, timelines – Want to grasp the “big picture” of Scripture? These types of features will help you see where any given event, person, or place fits in the overall biblical story. 
  • Devotional – These types of Bibles include devotional writings designed to help readers apply God’s Word in practical ways.
  • Targeted Demographics – These Bibles focus on a select audience like women, students, men, children and often include devotional writings particularly pertinent to that audience.
  • One-year Bible – Want to read the entire Bible in a year, but aren’t sure how? This version breaks the Bible into 365 daily readings.

You’re almost there! Choose the translation based on your purpose. Then add in the features you’re most interested in. Enjoy your new Bible!


Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life. The author of 7 books and a former “cultural Christian,” Kathy encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God through difficulties or ease by embracing real, authentic faith. Find out more and get free discipleship tools and leader helps at:

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Publication date: February 14, 2017