Episode 9: Finding the Best Bible for Your Kids

In this episode we explore different Bible translations and which ones are best for children at different ages.

Books Discussed in this Episode

Our favorite Bible for children over all is the ERV (Easy-to-Read Version) of the Bible. Second choice for children is NLT (New Living Translation) and, third is ICB (International Children’s Version). 


Terrie: Welcome to books, the spark, a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. 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 has a website called finding God and 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. 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. I would try to read it 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 the 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. So that part is, is imperative that we pray first and let the Holy Spirit work. But I think then we can choose wisely and make the best choices for our kids. 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: Well, that’s a good question. I keep thinking about how VeggieTales 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. And so, I thought that was very well done. And I think having the right translation can help there are children’s translations that do that.

Terrie: Yes, there are in some don’t talk about, they just talk about how well, especially with Bible story books, Bible story books, sometimes talk about how Adam and Eve had a baby and they don’t talk about how Adam and Eve got the baby. And then there’s others that talk about them having relations or whatever. So, 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 storybook. It’s not the real Bible. It’s not the full translation and they’re fun to read. Sometimes I enjoy reading the message sometimes, but I wouldn’t use it as a gift for a child or an adult. And I wouldn’t certainly 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 it is exactly that probably the most famous paraphrase would be the living Bible. And the living Bible was written by a man who wanted to give a Bible to his daughter that he thought she could understand. And so basically, he went verse by verse and then interpreted it. A paraphrase is good for reading, but it’s not. 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, but 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: 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, and 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, 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 a, it’s probably not the best.

Terrie: And there’s also the New King James version and the KJ21. And there’s also the Third Millennium Bible, 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 is 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. Okay. And it is a word for word translation from the manuscripts they had at the time does not include the dead sea scrolls. Okay. 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 my NASB out 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 NRSV?

Dave: Well, the NASB, it’s not the easiest reading, but when you’re doing word studies and you want to delve into a more accurate word studies than the New American Standard is definitely the way to go. It benefits from having the, the, 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 and 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, you know, it’s, it’s also a word for word, accurate Bible, and it’s a, it’s a little bit of a different field, 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, 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 then 11th grade. And 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 what 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 translation. Those you have to go to the Hebrew and the Greek, the original Hebrew and Greek that were inspired, but 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, a person’s personal interpretation rather than going to the text and actually drawing out a, what we would call exit Jesus. The actual translation from the language, a paraphrase is coming from the interpretation of what the reader is or the writer of that paraphrase things 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 and description.

Terrie: And the 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 the KJV King James version, they usually use NIV. Another one, of course, I mentioned a minute ago, the sixth grade level one is NLTNew 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 [English as a Second Language] for so long, that’s why I fell in love with the NLT because my ESL students could understand it. And so that when I found out it was a sixth-grade level, that fit pretty well with children. I enjoy using the NLT as well. The HCSB, the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation. It has now become the CSB. They’ve updated it and they call it the CSB and the New Century Version, which is when you, like, why do you like the new century version?

Dave: It’s simple. It uses, uses less words. So, you know, if you think of, you know, 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 six 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: 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. And 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. Okay. So, 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. And I’ve read some comments on the amplified in 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 in 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 and I will read different translations to, to kind of help me to see a different perspective or, or just to 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 Terry was mentioning earlier, the nuances can kind of with the amplified, it kind of gives you, Oh, that’s what that could mean. And so, I kind of liked 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 and think, well, how does that apply? And it just opens things up a little bit more. So, I definitely like that.

Terrie: Okay. Now, 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, but we actually preferred (you want to do a drum roll?) We actually liked the Easy-to-Read Version. The ERV and this Bible was originally the English version for the deaf. I don’t know if you know about the deaf language, the American sign language, but it is not a literal translation from English. It is a different language. And so when they read the Bible, sometimes deaf people would have trouble understanding what was being said, because we speak differently in English than we do in American Sign Language. The syntax is different and, and we say things differently. And so they wrote this easy to read version, which was taken from 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 and had, you know, it’s like it, they took a simple verse that we know, and it made it longer. It seemed and simplified but longer. And the ERV what we appreciated about it was that it kept the words few and made the meaning very clear. And so that’s probably why we liked it so much.

Terrie: So our second choice when we were just looking at versions together that 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 have been new century. Right? Correct. Yeah. So that’s kind of an ICB and new century are basically the same thing. So one or the other, but 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 than 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.

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. Thank you for inviting me. 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. And if you’d like to get notifications of our podcasts, to be sure to subscribe, I hope you were blessed today and that you have a great week. Thank you for joining us for books that spark a podcast, celebrating books that sparked imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope our discussion will spark meaningful conversations with the children in your life. You can sign up for my mailing list to get weekly reminders of this podcast. And my blog, my website is terriehellardbrown.com. When you join my mailing list, you automatically have several freebies that you can download and enjoy with your kids.

Our Guest:

Pastor Dave Brown
Dave is the English pastor at Life Change Baptist Church in San Leandro, California. The church has Indonesian, Mandarin, and English congregations.
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 has a website called Finding God and speaks regularly about prayer, our search for God and seeking after God’s heart with all of our hearts.

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, and discussion. For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

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