I collect Bibles. Not that I collect EVERY Bible (mostly because I have this thing about not ever throwing away a Bible), but when I find one I really like, I either buy it for myself or give it away as a gift. A good Bible is like a good doctor. When you find one you like that works for you, you should stick with it. But if you find one that gives you misinformation or doesn’t provide you with an accurate interpretation, you could be doing more harm than good.
Personally, I stick with mostly NIV, NRSV, NLT, or NIrV as my translations of choice. The New International Version is the one most popular in churches and is a solid choice. The New Revised Standard Version is the one we used in seminary and is more gender inclusive and a very accurate translation. The New Living Translation and New International Reader’s Version are more reader-friendly and the NIRV is made for younger readers specifically, but us older folks like it too. I don’t ever use interpretations like The Message in worship, because they are just that – interpretations instead of translations. But I do like to read The Message once in a while, just for clarification or to “interpret” Biblical meaning in a more modern context.
Having said all of that, here are my Top 5 Bibles:
Inspire Bible: I love this Bible! Not only is it reader friendly (NLT) but it has room in the margins for notes (if you like that sort of thing) AND it has things to color! Since adult coloring books are all the rage right now (in 2016), this book is not only timely but fun. And it’s beautiful. I bought this one for my daughter, Emma, but seriously thought about getting one for me just because it is so nice. If you like journaling or note taking, this is the Bible for you.
The Manga Bible: Personally, I’m a fan of manga (Japanese cartoon art) and so this Bible is perfect for me. And if you know someone who likes manga or just thinks having an illustrated story throughout their Bible is cool, this is a great choice. Now, there are many different manga Bibles, but this one is the best (click on link to see the exact one I’m talking about). It’s not only a good translation of the Bible NLT, is also the WHOLE Bible (some manga Bibles are just Bible stories done in a manga format), but the imitation leather version has manga drawings on sides where the pages are. It’s really ingenious.
The Apologetics Study Bible: One of my favorites. Apologetics is not the art of saying your sorry. Apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith and this Bible helps you to better understand the questions you may have about your own faith and help you to better answer friends and family who ask you why you believe what you believe. I have the imitation leather cover which I don’t know if they still make it, but got it as a gift from my wife who had it autographed by my favorite apologist – Dr. Ravi Zacharias. I actually got to meet Dr. Zacharias and correspond with him on occasion and he is not only kind-hearted by a true defender of God. He along with many other astute authors fill this Bible with answers to questions many people have about faith. Although not one of my normal translations, this one I have found to be very good and reliable.
NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: I just bought this Bible (literally while I was doing this post) and it definitely deserves top status. One of the difficulties in interpreting Biblical passages is the context in which it is written. This study Bible helps out with that with interesting articles that give Scripture context. I bought the Kindle version ($14.99) which is great but nowhere near as pretty (or as expensive) as the imitation leather edition you could purchase ($52.71 right now). If you want to get this one as a gift, the hard copy is beautiful and would be a welcome edition. If you want it for yourself and just want something lightweight – can’t get lighter than an e-book which still comes with all the articles in the hard copy.
The Jewish Study Bible: There were so many Bibles vying for this fifth spot including the Wesley Study Bible which was a close runner-up, but I love this one. Obviously, since it is the Jewish Study Bible it is only the Tanakh and does not include the New Testament. It also is ordered differently which I think is great. For the Biblical scholar, this one will be a treasure trove. Very well done with great explanatory notes, highly recommended.
My absolute favorite Bible is one that has personal meaning for me. When I was baptized in 2001, my then fiancee, Cassie bought me a simple NIV Bible with red lettering where Jesus spoke. I have brought that Bible and used that Bible at every important event and every Sunday when I preach. It’s getting pretty worn out from use and will probably have to start using another one so I don’t ruin this one, but I love it. A Bible makes a great gift for someone who is new to their faith journey, ready for another one (like transitioning from grade school to middle school or high school to college), or just loves reading the Bible. And a meaningful one will last forever.