What Bible(s) Will I Give My Kids?

My fiancée thinks it’s a bit amusing (but also sweet, she’d say) that I think so often about this, but I really do: What Bible(s) will I give my kids?

Let’s tick through the options:

  • KJV: I want them to be familiar with it for its cultural value (both in American culture and in evangelical culture going back through Spurgeon to earlier times), but not at the expense of misunderstanding God’s words. Because the latter is so weighty to me, the KJV is probably out—though they can read it when they get to exegesis courses in home school =) because of its relevance to the history of interpretation.
  • ESV: I like it. It’s my main version. There are lots of editions. The editors and backers are generally people I can trust for sound hermeneutics. This translation is catching on, I think, better than the NAS has. And Crossway has become a wonderful conservative publisher.
  • NAS: Wooden, sure, but not so bad. Already I think it’s available in fewer editions—and certainly fewer adventurous or innovative ones—than the ESV, despite being substantially older. I plan to have my kids make regular use of this translation.
  • NIV: I want even my youngest readers to read the Bible. For that reason, I’ve considered the NIV (and the TNIV). A little of the old irrational fear of the NIV persists in my heart, grabbing at me from the early 1990s. And I can’t shake the feeling I get from reading the regular criticism of the NIV in, of all places, the Expositor’s Bible Commentary. The EBC is based on the NIV, and the commentary’s authors often find what they consider poor renderings.
  • NLT: The NLT goes a bit too far afield into interpretation for my tastes, even for young readers, but I admit that making the Bible text easier to read necessitates interpretation. The translators for the NLT were some real theological heavy-hitters: Carson, Bock, etc.
  • NET: Great for strong readers who have some experience asking questions of the Bible text. I know I would have loved to have those notes when I was in 7th grade and beyond. I really imbibed the notes in my King James Study Bible during those days. I could have soaked in some good advanced hermeneutics if I’d had a NET.
  • HCSB: Not sure what to think here yet. Seems similar to the NIV.

Probably I’m just going to be eclectic, to have each child read one translation per year and to have them all using different ones at any given time. A regular feature of family devotions will be low-level comparison of translations. I want to inoculate my children against any kind of -Onlyism. NAS-Onlyism or NIV-Onlyism is just as bad as KJV-Onlyism. It’s just not as popular or virulent.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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