The Bible can be difficult to read. It was originally written a few thousand years ago in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Which, by the way, is amazing: God\u2019s Word is still changing lives and stirring faith in people throughout history. \n\n\n\nHave you found the Bible to be difficult to read? Are you get stuck in your reading and felt guilty that you\u2019re not enjoying reading the Bible as you think you should? You\u2019re not alone. I have a few suggestions for you. I hope it can remove some of the barriers that keep you from receiving the benefits of studying God\u2019s Word.\n\n\n\nWhat version of the Bible is easiest to read? For many people, the New Living Translation (NLT) is the easiest version of the Bible to read because it uses normal modern English. It is an accurate thought-for-thought translation of the original languages of the Bible and is widely accepted.\n\n\n\nAlthough the NLT is the best overall choice for most people, it\u2019s not necessarily the best choice for everyone. Every version of the Bible has a slightly different aim in its translation. Here are my expanded recommendations. You can compare the text of each one on websites like Bible Gateway.\n\n\n\nOverall Best Choice for Easiest to Read Version:New Living Translation (NLT)\n\n\n\nHigher Reading Level, but Also Good for In-Depth Bible Study:English Standard Version (ESV)\n\n\n\nBest for Children and Second Language Readers:Contemporary English Version (CEV)\n\n\n\nIf you want to try the NLT, you can take a look at the reviews on Amazon for this NLT Bible (opens in a new window). And here is a Children\u2019s Bible in the CEV (also available on Amazon).\n\n\n\nAs you check out the options, you might also want to see if you like the ESV first. If you find it easy enough to read, it might be a good choice because you can also use it for more serious Bible Study in the future. It's the version that I use for this website.\n\n\n\nI enjoy the NLT but use the ESV because of its versatility. The one I use for my Bible reading is the ESV Personal Reference Bible (link to Amazon - opens in a new window).\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nWhen it comes to choosing a Bible version or translation, there is no one right answer. Some of the decision is based on personal preference. There is usually more than one way to translate from one language to another. It\u2019s a balance of being true to the original and saying it in a way that flows naturally in English.\n\n\n\nMost modern English translations of the Bible are fairly accurate to the original text. But, each version has its strengths and limitations which makes it better for some uses than others. Some are good for reading and others are better for more serious Bible Study.\n\n\n\nThe best bible version for beginners will be the one that fits the needs of the person reading. To help you decide, let's look at a few more details.\n\n\n\n\n\nWhat Is the Most Readable Version of the Bible?\n\n\n\nHere are a few more details on my Top 3 Recommendations for Bible Versions for Beginners:\n\n\n\nNew Living Translation (NLT)\n\n\n\nThe NLT aims for a 6th-grade reading level. It\u2019s not the lowest reading level on this list, but for most people, it\u2019s the best overall choice. The NLT is what\u2019s sometimes referred to as a thought-for-thought translation and strikes a good balance between being literal and easy to read. It\u2019s not a word-for-word translation, which the ESV is closer to, but is still a good choice for Bible Study.\n\n\n\nThe NLT is best for: The NLT is a good translation for most people who are looking for a Bible that is easy to read. It\u2019s a great translation for reading and is good enough for in-depth Bible Study.\n\n\n\nWhat is a good bible for beginners? The New Living Translation (NLT) is a good Bible for most people who are starting out. It's a great balance of being readable and accurate to the original text of the Bible.\n\n\n\nEnglish Standard Version (ESV)\n\n\n\nThe ESV aims for an 8th - 10th-grade reading level. It\u2019s not as easy to read as the NLT which we just looked at, but it\u2019s still clear and easy to read. The ESV is becoming a popular translation because it's close to a word-for-word translation, but still clear and readable. \n\n\n\nThe ESV is best for: The ESV is a great version for people who are looking for a Bible that is a good balance of easy to read but still great for serious Bible Study. \n\n\n\nContemporary English Version (CEV)\n\n\n\nThe CEV aims for a 5th-grade reading level. It\u2019s the lowest reading level in my top 3. The CEV is not as well known as some of the other translations, but it can be a good choice for some people. It\u2019s recommended here because it\u2019s still based on the original text of the Bible.\n\n\n\nIn terms of reading level, the CEV is the easiest bible to read.\n\n\n\nMany of the Children\u2019s Bibles on the market are paraphrases or storybooks. These are marketed as Bibles, but they\u2019re more like stories based on the Bible and not translations of the original text.\n\n\n\nThe CEV is best for: The CEV is a good version for a Children\u2019s reading Bible. It\u2019s a full text of the Bible based on the original text but aimed at a lower reading level. It is also a good choice for those who are learning English as a Second Language.\n\n\n\nReading Level of Bible Translations\n\n\n\nReading Levels of the Most Popular Bible Translations (Chart)\n\n\n\nBIBLE VERSION\/TRANSLATIONREADING LEVELNew International Version (NIV)7th gradeNew Living Translation (NLT)6th gradeEnglish Standard Version (ESV)8th - 10th gradeKing James Version (KJV)12th gradeChristian Standard Bible (CSB)7th gradeNew King James Version (NKJV)7th - 9th gradeReina ValeraSpanish TranslationNew International Reader's Version (NIrV)3rd gradeNew American Standard Bible (NASB)11th gradeThe Message (MSG)4th grade\n\n\n\nHere are a few things to note about the chart: \n\n\n\nThese are the top 10 most popular Bible translations based on data from the ECPA Bestsellers - January 2023.\n\n\n\nThe King James Version (KJV) is great for historical value and poetic language. It\u2019s not on my recommended list of easy-to-read versions because it uses Elizabethan English from the 1600s.\n\n\n\nSome of the reading levels have a range because different publishers and groups have different standards for how to measure them.\n\n\n\nThe 10th on the list is the Message, which is a paraphrase of the Bible and intended for reading, not as a Study Bible. Most paraphrases are influenced by one person and not based on a group of language experts like the other translations on this list.\n\n\n\nI don\u2019t recommend paraphrases of the Bible for beginners. Paraphrases lean more towards making the original text flow smoother in English. They can also contain biases from one individual translator rather than a team.\n\n\n\n This doesn\u2019t mean that paraphrases don\u2019t have their place as devotional-type reading Bibles. I recommend paraphrases to enhance your understanding, but not to rely on as your main version of the Bible. Most people who are starting out only have one version of the Bible, so I wouldn't recommend a paraphrase to be the one.\n\n\n\nWhich Bible Version Is the Most Accurate and Easy to Understand?\n\n\n\nThere are a lot of translations and versions, so how do you know which one to choose? Who should you trust? There are so many opinions and options out there, so I want to explain the reasons why I recommend the NLT, ESV, and the CEV. Then you can make an informed decision that you feel confident about.\n\n\n\nIt\u2019s helpful to know the two major approaches in translating the Bible from the original text. \n\n\n\nThe Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek with a little bit of Aramaic here and there.\n\n\n\nThe two main approaches to translating the Bible are word-for-word and thought-for-thought.\n\n\n\nIn simple terms: Word-for-word translations try to stick as closely as possible to each word of the original languages. The thought-for-thought translations lean more towards being clear and expressing the Bible in modern English. This doesn\u2019t mean that they are not accurate. It\u2019s just a different emphasis and approach in translation.\n\n\n\nBible Versions\/Translations Fall Somewhere in this Spectrum\n\n\n\nTranslations like the ESV are more word-for-word. The NLT and CEV are more thought-for-thought. Paraphrases like the Message would be on the far right of that spectrum. Paraphrases take the meaning and express it with words that are not in the original text.\n\n\n\nA lot more can be said about Bible versions and translations, but that\u2019s the essence of it.\n\n\n\nWhich Bible version is the most accurate and easy to understand? Word-for-word versions are \u201cmore accurate\u201d and thought-for-thought usually means \u201ceasy to understand.\u201d As you can see, that\u2019s the tension. The ESV can be considered slightly more accurate since it leans towards word-for-word. And many people consider the NLT to be easier to read since it is translated thought-for-thought.\n\n\n\nIf I have to pick just one, I\u2019d go with the ESV because people usually don\u2019t argue about its accuracy and it is still clear and easy to read. That\u2019s why the ESV is gaining in popularity as the study bible of choice for a lot of people. \n\n\n\nIf you compare the different translations, you\u2019ll probably find that most wordings are similar. The meaning is almost always the same. There are a few places where translators disagree. This is why it\u2019s usually safer to have a team of language experts rather than one person\u2019s paraphrase.\n\n\n\nLastly, there is one thing I need to mention about the NLT and the CEV. They both lean towards gender-neutral language in some places. For example, it\u2019ll say in Genesis 1:27 that God created humans whereas a more word-for-word translations like the ESV will say that God created man - which is the more literal translation of the original text in Hebrew. \n\n\n\nThe NLT and CEV are not nearly as far leaning as some other translations like the NIrV (which is not included in my top 3 list here). For that reason, I don't recommend the NIrV here.\n\n\n\nMost of the gender-neutral leanings in the NLT and CEV are more for English usage reasons in my view and less so than translations like the NIrV and the NIV. For this reason, it\u2019s not a deal-breaker for me. I have my convictions about what God\u2019s Word says but I can also see that in English, it\u2019s more natural for people to say that "God created humans" than to say that "God created man."\n\n\n\nFor serious Bible Study, I recommend the more word-for-word translations like the ESV, so this is not an issue, but for a reading Bible, it\u2019s something that I wanted to mention so you\u2019re aware of it. \n\n\n\nA lot more can be said about Bible translations in general. But for most people, this is probably way more information than needed. \n\n\n\nThe conclusion is that the most popular Bible translations are good and you can know what God\u2019s Word says. I feel confident recommending the 3 versions: ESV, NLT, and the CEV. Whichever one you decide to go with, ask Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth (John 16:13).\n\n\n\nLet me know in the comments below or through the Contact Us page if you have any questions or suggestions on what types of articles or resources would be the most helpful to you.\n\n\n\nThere will never be an end to scholarly and academic debates. If you keep your focus on wanting to know what God says and following Jesus, you\u2019ll be well on your way to receiving all that God has for you through His eternal Word.\n\n\n\n\nAll Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.\n2 Tim. 3:16-17 (ESV)\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nIf you found this article to be helpful, I think you\u2019ll enjoy 21 Valuable Benefits of Studying the Bible. In it, I share some of the benefits and blessings of reading and studying the Bible.There is a simple way to study the Bible, called the Sword Method Bible Study. In the article, I share how I personally use it, but how it\u2019s simple enough that children can use it: The Easiest Way to Study the Bible (link opens in a new window). Lastly, here are 21 Encouraging Bible Verses for Strength, Comfort & Perseverance. In it, I share Scriptures that will encourage you when you face difficult times.