Episode 79: Finding the Best Bible for Our Kids with Pastor Dave Brown

In this updated replay of an episode from two years ago, Dave and I discuss Bible translations and what ones work well with children. Of all the books that spark conversations with our kids, the Bible is the most important one. 

Our Guest Today: Pastor Dave Brown

Dave is the interim pastor at First Baptist Church, Weleetka, Oklahoma. He is my husband, and he has been a pastor in the ministry for over 35 years, 15 of those years, he was a missionary pastor in Taipei, Taiwan. He speaks regularly about prayer, our search for God, and seeking after God’s heart with all of our hearts. If you have questions or wish to contact Dave, you can reach him by commenting below or by going to weleetkafirst.com.

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today for the first time on “Books that Spark,” we are playing a rerun of an older episode. It is from the first couple months of this podcast, when my husband and I shared about Bible translations, and we felt it was an important discussion to share again. Before we start, though, I wanted to add a couple notes that were not included in the first episode. We have to add the caution that we are using a good, reliable translation or paraphrase. We didn’t make that distinction before, and today we have some “translations” that are not true translations such as The Mirror Bible, The Passion Translation–neither of these follow the guidelines and requirements one would use in truly calling a Bible, a translation. I have a hard time calling either one truly a Bible. Please don’t read these two. Please don’t give them to your children. The Mirror [a paraphrase with a Universalist bent] is just an abomination of the word of God. And The Passion Translation does exactly what we are commanded not to do. It adds to the scripture about 50% more than was originally in scripture. And the writer, Brian Simmons claims that he has more revelation from God that he is not allowed to reveal yet. He alluded to extra chapters he is going to add to the Bible in the future. He claims to have received this through visions and expects us to treat his addition to the Bible as just as inspired as the Bible itself. I have a serious problem with that, and I hope you do too. It is so imperative that we use discernment when we are choosing books for our children, when we are choosing what we read and who we listen to, and what we believe. The world, including the world of the church, is adding to the scripture, taking away from the scripture, changing scripture, to try to fit into our culture or to try to fit into our church culture. We either believe it, or we don’t, we accept it or reject it, but we have no right to change it. I just really felt strongly that we need to add that to this episode before we jump in and talk about some of the more reliable translations out there. And I know some of you may have very strong feelings that we should only be using the King James Version of the Bible. And that is perfectly fine if that’s how you feel. I am not one of those people who thinks that’s the only way to read the Bible. We’ll explains some of that in the episode, but we did look at many different translations, and I hope this episode blesses you and helps you as you seek to decide on the best Bible to use with your children and for them to start reading as they become believers.

Terrie:

I’d like to introduce you to our guest today. His name is Pastor Dave brown. He is my husband, and he has been a pastor in the ministry for over 35 years, 15 of those years, he was a missionary pastor in Taipei, Taiwan. He speaks regularly about prayer, our search for God, and seeking after God’s heart with all of our hearts. I asked him to join me today because we’re going to be talking about what is the best Bible to use with your kids. And we’re going to be discussing the different types of Bibles and what’s best for each age group. Welcome Dave.

Dave:

Well, thank you.

Terrie:

First. I have three points that I want to share personally, when choosing a Bible. When I became a Christian, I was seven years old, and my mom’s best friend gave me a Bible. Of course, it was King James Version, because that’s really all we had back then. As I got a little older, I would try to read it and I didn’t understand any of it. And so I prayed and asked God to help me understand what I was reading, and the very next day when I got up and read my Bible, all of a sudden I understood it. So the first thing I want to mention is we don’t want to discount prayer. When we’re using the Bible with our kids, the Holy Spirit can help them understand what they’re reading and can make the Bible come alive to them and open up God’s word to them. The second point I want to make is the Bible definitely has some PG and even R-rated sections. How would you suggest handling that with your kids?

Dave:

I keep thinking about how Veggie Tales did it. If you notice they dealt with some of those subjects, and they kind of told the story without necessarily sharing the PG or R-rated content while still managing to get the point across. That was very well done. I think having the right translation can help. There are children’s translations.

Terrie:

Yes, there are. And so you can pick and choose–and choose wisely–for the age of your child. The third thing is please get a translation and not a paraphrase. A paraphrase is almost like having a commentary or a story book. It’s not the Bible. It’s not the full translation. They’re fun to read. Sometimes I enjoy reading The Message [since we recorded this, I realized I made a mistake. The Message is considered a translation, but it is not a reliable translation. I referred to it as a paraphrase. I would not rely on it as a good translation at all. If you read it next to other reliable translations you will see the places where it appears much more like a paraphrase or where it seems the writer has added to the scriptures inappropriately], but I wouldn’t use it as a gift for a child or an adult. I certainly wouldn’t use it for Bible study. When you have a paraphrase it’s limited in its scope. It’s related to what the person interpreted it as. Do you have any comments on that?

Dave:

It is exactly that. Probably the most famous paraphrase would be The Living Bible. The Living Bible was written by a man who wanted to give a Bible to his daughter that he thought she could understand. Basically, he went verse by verse and then interpreted it. A paraphrase is good for reading. If you’re wanting to study the Bible, it’s not the best way to go.

Terrie:

So, I want to go over some of the main and most respected translations that are available and we’re just dealing with the English Bible today. If you speak a different language and have questions about that, please post a comment, and we’ll be happy to try to answer that question for you. We know about Spanish and Chinese Bibles. We don’t know about all the others, but we have experience with Spanish and Chinese. We’re just going to talk about the English translations today. And of course the most famous English translation is probably the King James Version. What do you think of the King James Version?

Dave:

Well, the King James Version–Two issues I have with the King James: one is that it was written in English that’s 400 years old or older. They spoke different back then. It was wonderful for that time, but it’s not how we understand English today. And for the average person, especially a young child, who’s trying to understand God’s word, it’s not the best choice because the language poses a challenge and a struggle. The second thing is that we now, because of the Dead Sea scrolls, have more current information on the Bible. There were more scrolls that completed things that made the Bible more, I guess, complete is the best way I can say it. And because of that, the King James Version is okay, but it’s probably not the best.

Terrie:

And there’s also a New King James Version and the KJ 21. And there’s also the Third Millennium Bible [and another version called KJVER-King James Easy Reader Version], which is a version of the King James, and all four of those still use the older English, even though they’ve updated it and tried to make it more contemporary. The one thing I hear as a positive for King James is if you’re wanting to study and memorize scripture, it’s very poetic, and it’s easier to memorize sometimes. So that’s something to keep in mind. And it is a word-for-word translation from the manuscripts they had at the time–does not include the Dead Sea scrolls.

Terrie:

One that I really like. And I think probably the two top translations for word-for-word would be the New American Standard and the Revised Standard. My favorite is the New American Standard. If I’m doing a word study or trying to do an inductive study, I’m going to pull out my NASB every time, and I may read it alongside my other translations, but that’s one of the main translations I’ll look at when I’m doing an inductive Bible study. What do you have to say about the NASB and the RSV?

Dave:

The NASB, it’s not the easiest reading, but when you’re doing word studies and you want to delve into more accurate word studies, the New American Standard is definitely the way to go. It benefits from having the scrolls that came from the Dead Sea scrolls. So we have a more accurate, more current translation when it comes to that. But the sentence structure in the New American Standard Bible is, especially for children, a little hard to read because it doesn’t read like a typical person would speak or understand. And it also uses some of the older language that the King James used. It’s definitely the most dependable go-to Bible if you’re going to do word-for-word study. It’s definitely the best. Revised Standard is a little older. It’s also a word-for-word, accurate Bible. And it’s a little bit of a different feel. Same thing–It has a lot of the old language. And so it’s a little bit harder to understand. But it has its merits. It has its benefits. You know, it’s not the kind of Bible I will read every day, but when I’m digging down into deep Bible study, I will certainly–probably more likely go for the New American Standard version.

Terrie:

Now the New American Standard Bible is written at about an 11th grade level. So if that helps you also understand. If you have a child who is preparing for ministry–you know they’re called into ministry and they’re in high school, this might be what you would want to get them as a study Bible in the NASB for them to start preparing word studies and inductive Bible studies and to really dig deeper into the word.

Terrie:

Another word-for-word translation is the English Standard Version. And it’s become quite popular as well. But I think overall I prefer the NLT–New Living Translation–which is about a sixth-grade level of reading. So it’s still not going to be first grade, second grade level of reading, but a sixth grade level is certainly easier to tackle than 11th grade. It’s a thought-for-thought translation. So you have your word-for-word translation, your thought-for-thought translation, and then your paraphrase. And so the most reliable as far as going from the original languages of Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic would be your word-for-word. And then thought-for-thought is, well, would you like to tell us a little about what it means by thought for thought?

Dave:

Sure. Well, first of all, let me just say that any of our English translations are not really the original God-inspired translations. Those you have to go back to the Hebrew and the Greek. These are translations from those texts. The word-for-word we talked about is literal word-for-word, the thought-for-thought Bibles, basically take the sentence and actually put it in an accurate translation. But speaking more about the thought in a way that we can understand in today’s English that is helpful. And once again, the paraphrase is just a person’s personal interpretation rather than going to the text and actually drawing out what we would call exegesis–the actual translation from the language. Paraphrase is coming from the interpretation of what the writer of that paraphrase thinks that it means. And because of that, it’s not as dependable, but a thought-for-thought Bible is definitely a dependable translation. It is actually derived from the original text, but done so more with a thought-for-thought understanding rather than a literal word-for-word description.

Terrie:

Probably the most popular thought-for-thought translation would be the NIV. And we both agree–we like the 1984 version much better than the 2011 version of NIV. That’s the New International Version. And it’s probably the most widely used in churches today. If they don’t use KJV–King James Version–they usually use NIV.

Terrie:

Another one, of course, I mentioned a minute ago, the sixth-grade level one is NLT–New Living Translation–which was to take the place of The Living Bible paraphrase. They wanted to make an actual translation. And so the same people who did The Living Bible did the New Living Translation to make it an actual translation. But what I like about it–because I’ve taught ESL for so long–that’s why I fell in love with the NLT because my ESL students could understand it. With children I enjoy using the NLT as well.

Terrie:

The HCSB

Dave:

Holman Christian Standard Bible Translation.

Terrie:

It has now become the CSB. They’ve updated it, and they call it the CSB and the New Century Version, which is one you like. Why do you like the New Century Version?

Dave:

It’s simple. It uses less words. So you think of different age levels. I know because I grew up overseas, Chinese characters, they have 2,800 characters in all, but modern day they only use about 600 to 800 of those characters in everyday language. Well, think about the kinds of words that might be used in a stronger translation that is meant for older readers and bring it back to a childhood level where children use a smaller vocabulary. It uses a smaller vocabulary that keeps it in a very simple, easy-to-understand format. And it is a translation.

Terrie:

And from that translation, actually it came about from a children’s translation, the International Children’s Bible, which is a popular children’s translation of the Bible. The New Century Version came from that. I mean, they updated it to the New Century. The ICB is available in children’s Bibles. We’re looking at the Bedtime Devotions with Jesus Bible. It’s a kid-friendly, early-reader edition of the Holy Bible with selections from the ICB the International Children’s Bible. This does not have the entire Bible. It takes out the PG and the R rated parts of the Bible. It’s just the parts that are kid-appropriate. It has some prayers and devotionals in it as well. So it is the Bible, but it’s not the whole Bible. So it’s just like, it would be a great first Bible for young children.

Terrie:

My two favorite versions of the Bible–I love to read the New Living Translation on a daily basis and the Amplified Bible. Now the Amplified Bible takes each word and expounds on it. I’ve read some comments on the Amplified, and some say it involves paraphrase a little bit because it’s the interpretation of those words beyond just a literal simple translation. But what I love about it is it kind of expands the language because English is limited sometimes and the Greek is much more specific. And so it expands that word more to give us the nuances that the word might hold. And sometimes in the simpler translations, language-wise, you lose some of those nuances. So I love to do side-by-side studies with the New Living Translation and the Amplified. And then, again, if I’m doing inductive, I’ll include the NASB. How about you?

Dave:

I also am a fan of the New Living Translation. Most of the time, I’m a little bit different. Every year I choose a translation that I’m going to read from, and I try to mix it up a little bit just so that it doesn’t become so repetitious to the point that you’re reading and saying, oh yeah, I remember that. And you just kind of ignore the rest. I want to hear it from different perspectives, but I definitely lean on the New Living Translation when I’m working in my sermons. I use the New Living Translation as my base translation when I’m dealing with my sermons and stuff, but I also use other translations frequently. I will read different translations to kind of help me see a different perspective or just hearing it a little bit differently maybe allows that verse to jump out at me a little bit differently. It doesn’t change the meaning at all. It just, like Terrie was mentioning earlier, the nuances can kind of, with the Amplified, it kind of gives you, “Oh, that’s what that could mean.” I kind of like that. The Amplified–I love it because it definitely helps you to look at that verse, you can just take the Amplified Bible and read it and you can stop at a verse and just think about the different ways that it’s saying a particular word. It just opens things up a little more. So I definitely like that.

Terrie:

As we were preparing for this podcast, we read through several different versions of the Bible that we hadn’t necessarily been reading a lot of. And we actually found one that we really like for children, and it’s not necessarily written for children. It just is such a simplified translation that we both agreed we liked it a whole lot. We looked at the International Children’s Bible, and it’s good. We actually liked the Easy-to-Read Version (ERV). And this Bible was originally the English Version for the Deaf. And I think they’ve done a really great job for a child to understand scripture. Would you agree with that?

Dave:

Yeah. In fact, one thing I liked about it, especially when you’re dealing with children and their ability to focus. Some of the versions, as we were reading them side-by-side tended to be really wordy. They took a simple verse that we know, and it made it longer. It seemed simplified but longer. And the ERV, what we appreciated about it was that it kept the words few and made the meaning very clear. That’s probably why we liked it the most.

Terrie:

We thought if we were going to buy a Bible today for a child that’s probably in grade school, we both agreed the ERV would be our first choice and our second choice would be NLT. And then third would’ve been New Century, right?

Dave:

Correct.

Terrie:

Yeah. So that’s kind of, and ICB, and New Century are basically the same thing. So one or the other. We both, as we went through all these different translations, we both felt the same way. So that would be our recommendation. If you have a child who’s in early elementary, I would say the ERV would be an excellent translation to get for them. If you have a child who is in higher elementary, then I would say the NLT, and if you have a child who is just infant to toddler age, either get a Bible storybook or get The Bedtime Devotions with Jesus Bible that I mentioned. That’s the ICB version and is only part of the Bible for your child to start reading.

Terrie:

If you have any questions, you can certainly put those in the comments as well. We love your questions. We love your comments. And if you have a favorite Bible, put it in the comments and tell us why it’s your favorite. And I’m very glad you joined us today. Thank you Dave, for being here and sharing your words of wisdom.

Dave:

Thank you for inviting me.

Terrie:

And I hope that our discussion sparked some ideas for you that will lead to some great discussions with the word of God with your children. I hope you are blessed today and that you have a great week. Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to join my mailing list, you can find me at TerrieHellardBrown.com. You can also comment on this episode and ask questions. Or share with us what Bible translations you use with your children and what has blessed your kids at what age. That would be wonderful. We would love to interact with you and hear from you.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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