No translation is perfect. Since there is never a complete one-to-one correspondence between the words of one language and the words of another, all translations will “lose something” in the translation. And they also have the potential of adding meaning that was not in the original. Therefore to truly understand the meaning of Scripture it is essential that the original languages be studied. While comparisons between English translations can be helpful, it is never an adequate substitute for looking at the original Hebrew or Greek. Given those remarks, this page lists several English translations that I would recommend.
ESV Study Bible
Of all the traditional English translations, I think the ESV (English Standard Version) is overall perhaps the best one available. While not perfect, it makes use of recent scholarship and maintains a fairly literal but still readable style. My biggest disappointment is that they follow the tradition of translating the personal name of our Father, YHWH, as an impersonal title, “the LORD”. Nevertheless, this is my version of choice, also because it can be purchases as a “Study Bible”, with the best collection of notes and cross-references that I have seen in any study Bible. For that reason I highly recommend getting the ESV Study Bible as your primary English-language Bible. Learn more at EsvStudyBible.org.
Tree of Life Version
The TLV (Tree of Life Version) is a relatively new translation that seems to be as good as most. They include many of the original Hebrew names, which is good, but they still translate the personal name of our Father, YHWH, as Adonai which is just a title meaning “my Lord” in Hebrew. The philosophy of the translation can be found on their website TreeOfLifeVersion.com. For the most part I think they have a good translation philosophy. Probably my biggest concern is that they make choices for the reader, to “help the reader understand”. That is often good, but the problem is that man’s choices are often wrong in hindsight. For example they translate “law” in several different ways, to clarify what law is being talked about. However, they may or may not be right in their choice of how to translate it. You can purchase it from the TreeOfLifeVersion website store.
Complete Jewish Bible
The Complete Jewish Bible is a helpful translation done by David Stern. He uses many Hebraic words and provides lots of footnotes to help the reader better understand the Hebrew context of the Scriptures. In my opinion it would be a good addition to have as a second Bible to read adjacent to your primary study Bible (such as the ESV Study Bible). You can find it at Amazon.com. David Stern also has a companion New Testament Commentary to provide additional insights with the New Testament portion of the Complete Jewish Bible. You can get it at Amazon.com.
The Scriptures from ISR
“The Scriptures” is version published by Institute for Scripture Research. The great thing about this version is that they translate YHWH as YHWH. Also they are careful to use “El” and “Elohim” rather than simply translate them both as the English “God”. And they use direct transliterations from the Hebrew for nearly all names and places. I really like these aspects of “The Scriptures” and don’t find them in any other version. What I don’t like is that it based on the older American Standard Version, which has somewhat outdated English, and also hasn’t incorporated new findings such as from the Dead Sea Scrolls. I also don’t like that in the New Testament they often translate the Greek Theos “God” as “Elohim” and the Greek Kurios “Lord” as YHWH. Those are assumptions. We have been given those original Scriptures in Greek so I think we should not translate into Hebrew terms unless they are quotes from the Old Testament. They also translated a number of other terms into awkward phrases, for example where most versions translate “altar” they translate “slaughtering place”. I find this more distractive than helpful. Nevertheless this translation does a huge service in providing us with the correct Hebrew names for people and places, and most of all used the personal name of our Father, YHWH. You can find it on their website ISR-Messianic.org.
Literal English Version (LEV)
The LEV (Literal English Version), formerly called the Shem Qadosh Version, is a relatively new version that I think I really like, although I haven’t used it too much since it is not yet available in Logos format. The LEV is based on the World English Bible (WEB), which is based on the ASV. However the WEB has been updated considerably from the ASV. I like the way they handle the names in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), transliterating all proper nouns (names and places) into Hebrew, and using the Hebrew tetragrammaton for YHWH. In the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) they use the Hebrew letters for Yeshua (Jesus). For proper nouns in the Apostolic Scriptures, they seem to transliterate from the Hebrew whenever the Hebrew form can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Otherwise they use the English name, rather than transliterating from Greek. They avoid using the English “god” “and “lord”, using instead “elohim” and “master”, respectively. The LEV makes a good attempt at eliminating some of the translation bias that is present in some of the more traditional English translations. It also has lots of footnotes that reference variants found in other sources such as the Syriac Peshitta, Dead Sea Scrolls, etc., which I ind quite helpful. All in all, this version appears to be very useful for people that want a translation which accurately reflects the Jewish roots of our faith in line with the original meaning of the Scriptures. More info can be found at LiteralEnglishVersion.weebly.com. Also a free PDF version can be downloaded here: Download PDF file of the LEV.
There are several Bible study that are helpful. In my opinion the very best (and most expensive is Logos. There are other high-end programs like BibleWorks and Accordance, but I much prefer Logos. However it is expensive, so while you save up Logos, consider using some of the free Bible study software packages that are available.
www.e-sword.net. This is an amazing tool considering it is free. It lets you download many versions of the Bible, as well as public domain commentaries, lexicons, concordances, and other Bible resources. The software lets you view them simultaneously, and link the resources together for powerful searches. It’s not nearly as powerful as Logos (below), but it’s not nearly as costly either. It is downloadable so that you can use it on your computer without needing an internet connection.
Blue Letter Bible
www.blueletterbible.org. This is also free, and similar to E-Sword, however it is for online use only and not downloadable. It offers all the new translations, which E-Sword doesn’t. But it doesn’t seem quite as easy to navigate and learn to me. Like E-Sword it is a great tool that is free.
www.biblehub.com. This is another free online Bible software package similar to eSword. What I really like about BibleHub is that the old testament Interlinear starts with the Hebrew text in original Hebrew word order and then gives the English underneath. (BlueLetterBible starts with the English and gives the associated Hebrew root below.) What I don’t like about BibleHub is that it only gives the “surface text” forms of the Hebrew words. The only way you can see the root form of the Hebrew word is to click on the Strongs number. Usually what you really care about is the root form, not the surface text. So it is really nice to look at BlueLetterBible for the root form. But you need BibleHub to see the correct word order. Both packages have pros and cons. I would say use them both of together until you can get Logos which has it all.
www.logos.com. When you can afford it, invest in Logos – the best Bible study software available. It is absolutely unbelievable what all you do with this. It costs a lot, but if you are serious about Bible study, it is totally worth it. There are different levels of “packages”. Buy as much as you can afford up front, and then upgrade to higher levels if you need to. I recommend at least the Bronze Level to start with, but Silver or Gold should be your target since it comes with so much more, including the Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Scriptures, which is my very favorite study resource. Anytime you are tempted to buy other Bible study materials, I would encourage you to set that money aside until you can buy Logos.
I also recommend the Morris Proctor training seminars. If you pay that much money for the software, it’s worth the time and added expense to attend one of these two-day seminars. It really helped me make this powerful but complex tool much easier to use and understand. Be sure sign up for their free newsletter too, as it often has some useful tips, at www.mpseminars.com.
Places and locations are important. You really need an atlas of maps to help you understand were things are located. My top recommendation is the Holman Bible Atlas: A complete guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History, by Thomas Brisco, 2014 edition. It includes many colorful, readable maps & charts, along with explanatory text. Search for it on www.Amazon.com or www.ChristianBook.com. About $24.
My top recommendation in this category is the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible. This has lots of useful cultural and background information for the Scriptures as a whole, as well as for each book of the Bible. Over 800 pages full of colorful photos and interesting text. Search for it on www.Amazon.com or www.ChristianBook.com. About $21.
Sometimes getting the opinion of someone else can be helpful, as long as you don’t let anything you read hinder you from relying on the Holy Spirit to shape your understanding of Scripture.
I highly recommend any materials written by Tim Hegg at TorahResource.com. Tim is a real scholar and a Torah-keeping Messianic believer. His knowledge of the original languages and Biblical Texts, as well as his understanding the Jewish context of the Scriptures is truly amazing. He has written many helpful articles and offers some excellent topical study materials as well as commentaries. His commentaries are the very best. At this time he has published commentaries for Matthew, Romans, and Galatians. Hebrews will be published very soon. They all available on his website and come in paper and PDF form, and some will audio files as file.
An excellent free commentary is the set of teaching notes prepared by Tom Constable at Dallas Theological Seminary. Be aware that Constable is writing from a traditional “dispensational” perspective which is in contrast to what I see Scripture teaching as a whole. However his introductions and insights are generally very good. And you can download his notes as PDF files for each book of the Bible from his website www.soniclight.com.
I highly recommend learning some Hebrew – at least learn the consonants and vowels so you can sound out words. This will be a great help in doing Hebrew word studies so you can gain a better understanding of key Hebrew words used in Scriptures.
First Hebrew Primer
www.ekspublishing.com/biblical-hebrew/the-first-hebrew-primer. A good intro for learning Hebrew is The First Hebrew Primer. In addition to the book, there is also an answer key and audio CD. It is really helpful to learn enough Hebrew so you can read the letters and better understand the meaning of the words in Scripture. This is a good way to start, especially for the average person who just wants to learn the basics.
Basics of Biblical Hebrew
www.billmounce.com/biblicalhebrew. The best college-level Hebrew course, in my opinion, is Basics of Biblical Hebrew by Gary Pratico and Miles Van Pelt. The text book, workbook, and his teaching charts can all be purchased online at Amazon. The answer key to the workbook is also available, free of charge. The best part of this course is that the audio classroom lectures of both authors can be purchased and downloaded for only $64. What’s more, you can actually listen to the first 4 lectures for free. That in itself is very helpful. This is an excellent study that I highly recommend if you are serious about getting started in Hebrew. If you are independent learner, this package has everything you need to take a full college course on your own.
Learn Biblical Greek
The Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) were written in Greek, so being able know enough Greek to pronounce words and do word studies is very useful. I think it is best to learn Hebrew first and then Greek afterwards, since it is often Hebraic concepts that are being communicated using the Greek language.
Basics of Biblical Greek
www.BillMounce.com. The Basics of Biblical Greek course is hands-down the best Greek course available. And most of it is provided free-of-charge by Bill Mounce. The book and workbook are available either on Amazon or on the links provided on Bill’s website. You can purchase video’s of his lectures, OR you access the entire course online FOR FREE, including his lectures. He also offers many other free resources to use with the course. This is an excellent course that I highly recommend. My encouragement, however, would be to study Hebrew first before you jump into the Greek.