Because the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek (with a little Aramaic, too), our English Bibles are translations of these original languages. Over the years, many different people and groups have translated the Bible into English from incredibly accurate Hebrew and Greek texts.
Some translation efforts have focused on writing a very literal and accurate word-for-word translation. Some of them have focused on making the Bible very readable in our modern language by paraphrasing the words. Many translations fall somewhere in the middle, aiming for a balance of accuracy and readability – we usually call these “dynamic” translations (or “thought-for-thought.”)
Note: This is not a sponsored post – I’m just a fan of these particular Bible translations!
(Don’t see a particular translation above? Click here for a chart including even more versions.)
There are many English versions of the Bible today – Bible Gateway lists over 50! I believe that each of these versions can be read as the Word of God and each is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
You probably have already chosen a couple versions of the Bible for your own personal use. The New International Version is very common, or you may like the extra-readability of the New Living Translation (my current favorite) or the Message.
Many people enjoy the English Standard Version, a relatively new edition that is highly focused on accuracy, while still being readable. On the other hand, you may enjoy the New American Bible or New Revised Standard Version.
Here is an article that explains more about Bible translations, if you are interested.
Bible Translations for Kids
My goal when choosing a Bible translation for any age is to select one that accurately conveys God’s Word while enabling a person to understand and enthusiastically read His Word.
Because of their different reading levels and different levels of understanding, children, especially young readers, would probably prefer to read a different version than adults.
For example, many people enjoy reading The Message paraphrase of the Bible, written by Eugene Peterson. It puts the Bible into very modern language, easy for adults to understand in a new way.
However, I actually don’t think The Message is very appropriate for children, because it’s filled with vague, abstract language. Until age 12, children have a hard time thinking abstractly, and The Message could be very confusing to a young child.
On the flip side, some of the more literal, high-on-accuracy versions like the English Standard Version may contain complex words that are difficult for a young child to understand.
My Favorite Bible Translation for Children
The New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) is my favorite translation for children. The writers of the NIrV took the popular New International Version and made it even easier to read by using shorter words and easy-to-understand language. The result is a Bible translation that reads at about a 3rd grade level.
Most children begin listening to Bible storybooks, where an author has taken the actual words of Scripture and written a shorter, easier-to-read version of the story.
The New International Reader’s Version is a great stepping stone from this point into a “real” Bible. It borders on the “paraphrase” category, where it’s not a perfect word-for-word translation of Scripture, but it is closer to an exact translation of the Hebrew and Greek text than just a Bible storybook.
We’ve chosen to use the NIrV for our kids’ first “real” Bibles.
Here is the NIrV Adventure Bible that we own, but these other options look good too: a kids’ study Bible, this Discover’s Bible that appears to have illustrations of some Bible stories according to this page (but it’s cheaper on the first link), and finally another study Bible.
On a side note, the NIrV is also a great version for teenagers and adults whose first language is not English!
My Favorite Bible Translations for Teenagers
As a child reaches the “tween” years, around 5th or 6th grade, I would imagine they’ll be ready for a new, more grown-up translation.
There are a few options:
I would consider the New International Version or the New Living Translation for these ages. Between the two, the NIV is more focused on word-for-word accuracy, while the NLT is more focused on readability and usually sounds more “beautiful.” (I am so touched by the lovely phrasing of some NLT passages).
The English Standard Version is also great for advanced readers as they hit their later teen years. Many of my pastor friends prefer the ESV as an accurate, precise version of the Bible, while still being pretty readable.
What about memorizing Scripture?
One question you may have is: Shouldn’t we keep reading the same translation throughout their lives so they can have verses accurately memorized?
Personally, I think the answer is: No, I don’t think you need to worry about this. Here’s my personal story to illustrate why:
I memorized a lot of Bible verses as a child. I had weekly memory verses throughout my years at a Lutheran elementary school, and attended Christian camps where we memorized Scripture too. Nearly every verse was memorized in the New International Version, and I still remember them today.
But guess what! The NIV was updated a few years ago. So now when I open up a current edition of the NIV Bible, the wording is a little different than the verses I learned as a child. Meanwhile, for the past several years, I’ve been using an NLT Bible out of personal preference, so the verses are a little different anyway.
Choose the translation that works for your children to memorize right now, without worrying about the future. We memorize mostly in NIrV at the moment with our kids. It’s not worth keeping a heavy attachment to one translation simply for the sake of memorizing Scripture.
One possible exception, though: You may choose to have them “grow into” the passages they are memorizing. It is so much easier to memorize as a child than as an adult. So, I could see you encouraging your kids to memorize a Bible verse in say, the ESV or the King James Version, which is not fully understandable to little kids.
But, as they get older, the verse will take on more meaning, years after it’s already memorized. It’s kind of the same idea as reading Shakespeare to your kids, even though it’s likely over their heads. I personally haven’t done that, but if that’s your motivation, go for it!
**What Bible translation(s) do you use personally? With your kids? At church?