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A Quick Guide To Bible Translations

Every version of the Bible has been translated from the original language (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic) according to a specific translation philosophy. The three main philosophies fall along the spectrum below.

In the front of most Bibles, you can find a page that explains that version's specific translation philosophy.


At one end of the spectrum, a word-for-word translation seeks to translate each word in the original text into an equivalent word in English. This approach aims to provide the most literal translation but has a readability that can feel a bit stiff or difficult. (Ex: ESV, NASB, NKJV)


At the other end of the spectrum, a paraphrase translation seeks to translate the meaning of the original text using modern colloquialisms. This approach aims to use everyday language that is easy for the reader to understand. (Ex: The Message Bible)


In the middle of the spectrum, a thought-for-thought translation seeks to translate the meaning of the text into an equivalent word or expression. This approach strikes a balance between readability and exactness. (Ex: CSB, NIV, NLT)


  • Read multiple translations and see which one you enjoy reading the most.

  • Use a word-for-word or thought-for-thought translation as your everyday Bible and a paraphrase as more of a commentary.

  • Don't overthink it. Just pick up a translation and start reading!


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