What Version of the Bible Is Easiest to Read – Beginner’s Guide

The Bible can be difficult to read. It was originally written a few thousand years ago in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. This, by the way, is amazing: God’s Word is still changing lives and stirring faith in people throughout history. 

Have you found the Bible to be difficult to read? Are you get stuck in your reading and felt guilty that you’re not enjoying reading the Bible as you think you should? You’re 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’s Word.

What 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.

Although the NLT is the best overall choice for most people, it’s 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.

Overall Best Choice for Easiest to Read Version:
New Living Translation (NLT)
Higher Reading Level, but Also Good for In-Depth Bible Study:
English Standard Version (ESV)
Best for Children and Second Language Readers:
Contemporary English Version (CEV)

If 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’s Bible in the CEV (also available on Amazon).

As 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.

I 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).

Easiest to read Bible version

When 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’s a balance of being true to the original and saying it in a way that flows naturally in English.

Most 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.

The 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.

Table of Contents

What Is the Most Readable Version of the Bible?

Here are a few more details on my Top 3 Recommendations for Bible Versions for Beginners:

New Living Translation (NLT)

The NLT aims for a 6th-grade reading level. It’s not the lowest reading level on this list, but for most people, it’s the best overall choice. The NLT is what’s sometimes referred to as a thought-for-thought translation and strikes a good balance between being literal and easy to read. It’s not a word-for-word translation, which the ESV is closer to, but is still a good choice for Bible Study.

The 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’s a great translation for reading and is good enough for in-depth Bible Study.

What 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.

English Standard Version (ESV)

The ESV aims for an 8th – 10th-grade reading level. It’s not as easy to read as the NLT which we just looked at, but it’s 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. 

The 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. 

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

The CEV aims for a 5th-grade reading level. It’s 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’s recommended here because it’s still based on the original text of the Bible.

In terms of reading level, the CEV is the easiest bible to read.

Many of the Children’s Bibles on the market are paraphrases or storybooks. These are marketed as Bibles, but they’re more like stories based on the Bible and not translations of the original text.

The CEV is best for: The CEV is a good version for a Children’s reading Bible. It’s 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.

Reading Level of Bible Translations

New International Version (NIV)7th grade
New Living Translation (NLT)6th grade
English Standard Version (ESV)8th – 10th grade
King James Version (KJV)12th grade
Christian Standard Bible (CSB)7th grade
New King James Version (NKJV)7th – 9th grade
Reina ValeraSpanish Translation
New International Reader’s Version (NIrV)3rd grade
New American Standard Bible (NASB)11th grade
The Message (MSG)4th grade

Here are a few things to note about the chart: 

These are the top 10 most popular Bible translations based on data from the ECPA Bestsellers – January 2023.

The King James Version (KJV) is great for historical value and poetic language. It’s not on my recommended list of easy-to-read versions because it uses Elizabethan English from the 1600’s. I do enjoy the New King James Version (NKJV) though, which is an updated edition that preserves the beauty of the language.

Some of the reading levels have a range because different publishers and groups have different standards for how to measure them.

The 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.

I don’t 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.

This doesn’t mean that paraphrases don’t 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.

Which Bible Version Is the Most Accurate and Easy to Understand?

There 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.

It’s helpful to know the two major approaches in translating the Bible from the original text. 

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek with a little bit of Aramaic here and there.

The two main approaches to translating the Bible are word-for-word and thought-for-thought.

In 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’t mean that they are not accurate. It’s just a different emphasis and approach in translation.

Bible Translation Spectrum: word-for-word to thought-for-thought
Bible Versions/Translations Fall Somewhere in this Spectrum

Translations 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.

A lot more can be said about Bible versions and translations, but that’s the essence of it.

Which Bible version is the most accurate and easy to understand? Word-for-word versions are “more accurate” and thought-for-thought usually means “easy to understand.” As you can see, that’s 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.

If I have to pick just one, I’d go with the ESV because people usually don’t argue about its accuracy and it is still clear and easy to read. That’s why the ESV is gaining in popularity as the study bible of choice for a lot of people. 

If you compare the different translations, you’ll 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’s usually safer to have a team of language experts rather than one person’s paraphrase.

Lastly, 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’ll say in Genesis 1:27 that God created humans whereas 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.

The 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.

Most 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 newer versions of the NIV. For this reason, it’s not a deal-breaker for me. I have my convictions about what God’s Word says but I can also see that in English, it’s more natural for people to say that “God created humans” than to say that “God created man.”

For 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’s something that I wanted to mention so you’re aware of it. 

A lot more can be said about Bible translations in general. But for most people, this is probably way more information than needed.

The conclusion is that the most popular Bible translations are good and you can know what God’s 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).

Let 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.

There 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’ll be well on your way to receiving all that God has for you through His eternal Word.

All 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.

2 Tim. 3:16-17 (ESV)

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If you found this article to be helpful, I think you’ll 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’s 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.

David Kim

I'm David Kim and the Bible has been a passionate pursuit of mine for many years. This is a site where I get to share with you some of the things that I’ve been learning. I’m a husband, a father, pastor of a Parkway Fellowship Church (Dublin, CA), and a life-long student of the Scriptures.

60 thoughts on “What Version of the Bible Is Easiest to Read – Beginner’s Guide

    1. Thank you. I’m glad to hear that it was helpful. God bless you as you pursue Him in His Word!

      1. I have done a lot of research to figure out which version of the Bible suits my needs in multiple settings. Today I was looking for a version for someone I would like to encourage, but this person often says “I don’t like to read.”
        This article was the most informative and covered ever single question I’ve had about translations in general all in one place. I’m so grateful to have found it! Thank you for writing it!

        1. Thank you, I’m so glad it was helpful! These days, I enjoy listening to the Bible on my phone. Many of the popular websites or apps, like the Bible app by YouVersion, are free. It might be a good way for some people to engage with the Bible.

    2. My church uses KJV and I couldn’t figure out why I can’t bring myself to read the Bible throughout the week. I finally picked up the NLT my 7 year old reads (bought by my husband) and I loved it! I might get myself one, or an ESV, for personal use, and use my KJV for church. Thank you for this article.

      1. I’m so glad to hear you were able to try out the NLT. That or the ESV will be a great compliment to the KJV that you can use at your church.

  1. I really enjoyed your article. Great info and to the point. I am curious what your thoughts are on the GNT version. I picked up one at a yard sale and it seems easier to read than NKJV. However I am curious about accuracy.
    Thanks in advance for your time.

  2. Hello I really enjoyed your article. I was curious about your thoughts regarding the GNT version. I picked one up at a yard sale and it seems easier to read but I’m wondering about accuracy.
    Thanks for your time.

    1. The GNT is a good and accurate translation based on the original languages. It used to be very popular back in the 60s and 70s but isn’t as much these days since there are newer translations like the NLT. The GNT is actually published by the same group that publishes the newer CEV.

      The GNT aims for a 7th-grade reading level and I would agree with you, it’s definitely easier to read than the NKJV. The NKJV keeps some of the “poetic” feel and phrasing of the original KJV (which I love, but can be more difficult to understand). There’s some controversy about how the GNT translates a few verses like Romans 8:3, but other than that, I think it’s a good translation. What a great find! I hope you enjoy reading it!

      1. I forgot to mention: The GNT leans toward the “thought-for-thought” side in its approach.

  3. Like!! I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest.

  4. Hi, I was wondering why the NLT version is missing some scriptures? I really enjoy reading my NLT bible but never noticed it was missing scripture until someone pointed it out to me.

    1. It can be shocking to think that verses could be missing from some Bible versions, but our modern translations are very reliable.

      It’s true that versions like the NLT skip some verses compared to translations like the KJV. It’s because there are over 20,000 partial and complete manuscript copies of the New Testament from the past ~2000 years. And these all agree with over 99% accuracy. Where they differ, there are no major doctrines of the Christian faith involved.

      The reason the NLT and many modern versions skip some verses compared to a translation like the KJV is because these “missing” verse were not in the oldest manuscripts and were most likely added later in history.

      To preserve the verse numbers which have been around for 100’s of years, the modern versions just skip those verses numbers. Some versions will put them in the footnotes with a note that it was not in the original manuscripts. Hope that helps!

  5. There are a lot of choices when it comes to Bible translations, so I’m really glad to hear it was helpful. Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome. That’s a great way to learn English and put it to good use! I’m glad to hear it was helpful. Thanks.

  6. Thank you a lot for being obedient in writing this article! I am searching for an easy bible for my parents. I have the impression they ignore what they don’t understand e.g. in the NKJV and continue reading.

    GOD bless you and keep you!
    (Numbers 6,24-26)

    1. Wow, thank you for the encouragement! Yes, the NKJV has beautiful poetic language that I enjoy, but I’m so glad you’re able to find something that will help your parents to understand and receive more from God’s Word. You are such a blessing. May the Lord bless you and keep you too!

        1. You should be able to find them at most bookstores. You can find them on Amazon as well. Here is one that I recommend in the NLT translation at Amazon.com

  7. Hello! I just “happened” upon your site and I am so thrilled and thankful! I am setting off on a journey to read (and understand!) the Old Testament and you have helped me to decide which bible version will best suit this venture!

  8. I’m so excited for you! I’m glad to hear this article was helpful. Let me know if there’s any way I can help. I wish you the best on your journey!

  9. What about the amplified version? Could you explain the difference? Looking for my first bible this was a great help

    1. The Amplified Bible (AMP) is a type of paraphrase of the Bible. It’s based on an older English Translation from 1901 called the American Standard Version. To that text, the editors added some explanations in brackets. Since it’s a paraphrase, I would not recommend it as a first Bible, but it’s a helpful version for additional study.

  10. Thank you for your article. It answered some questions I had about Bible translations. Can you tell me the difference between ESV and New International Version(NIV) and why ESV is nowadays preferred to NIV?

    1. The NIV is a popular thought-for-thought translation. It ran into some controversy starting around 2011 when it was revised with gender-neutral language in some places. The previous NIV released in 1984 didn’t have these.
      The ESV is growing in popularity because it’s an accurate word-for-word translation but is still quite readable. Before the ESV came out, many people liked the NASB because it was a good word-for-word translation. But the NASB didn’t read very smoothly. The ESV started to become more popular because it filled in that niche for a lot of people because of its readability. Hope that helps!

      1. This was EXACTLY the question/answer I was looking for. Thank you so much! I have been researching and asking opinions for weeks. You have helped me make my decision!

        1. Wow, thank you! I know there’s a lot of information out there, so I’m so glad to hear it was helpful!

  11. For the first time I have come across your website through Google search and it seems very useful for me. I will visit it regularly. Thank your for your hard work. I liked your introduction in which you wrote about yourself as a life long passionate student of the Scriptures. I appreciate you. I am a senior Pastor and a Bible Teacher and your website seems to be of help to me in my teaching ministry. Thank you David Kim. God bless you.

  12. I’m so grateful to hear this website is helpful. May we keep growing in the knowledge of God and in the likeness of Christ. God bless you and your ministry.

  13. Thank you Bro David, it was very helpful and especially the comments section actually answered few of my queries as well. God bless you.

  14. Thank you. I’m grateful to hear it was helpful. And I appreciate all the comments and questions from people all over the world. God bless you.

  15. David, Your write up was very helpful.
    This website gave me a good insight on which version of the bible to choose from for my personal use. God bless you and your ministry.

  16. What are your thoughts on the version of the Bible called The Book. It seems to be very easy to read. I have a really hard time understanding KJV and some of the others.

    1. It looks like The Book uses the NLT, which is the one I recommend in this article. I think you’ll like it if you’re finding the KJV difficult to read.

  17. I know this an old post: I struggle between loving the NLT cos I connect with it and it touches my heart, and a more formal translation like the NKJV, ESV, NASB. I feel guilty for using the NLT but it’s the one I like best but it has inaccuracies, verses more literal translations which I find difficult to connect with. They make me feel like I’m reading a textbook and not something from my Heavenly Father. I swing back and forth and find it utterly frustrating. It started when I was a new Christian (37 years old and coming out of JWs), and I got saved using an NIV. At my first Bible Study of 6 as a new Christian the husband of the lady I did the studies with asked me what translation I was using and I told him the NIV and he was quick to point out all the missing verses which I knew was just a matter of different manuscripts. Since then (I’ve been saved 26 years now) I can’t shake the continuous problem of guilt for using a Bible I can read and understand and using a more literal translation cos I should. I hate how it makes me feel unstable. I never get past the “which Bible is the right one to use”.

    1. I’m sorry to hear the struggles you’ve been going through with the translations. Especially when people cast doubts on which is the best one for you. I’m glad you’re enjoying the NLT. It’s a great thought-for-thought translation. And as you mentioned, the “missing verses” are mostly because the oldest manuscripts, which we assume would be more accurate, didn’t have these verses, and the order of the verses was kept so it wouldn’t get confusing. Also, most people think that Jesus and His disciples probably used a translation of the Old Testament. Because many of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament look like it’s from the Greek translation of the Old Testament. So you can rest assured and know that God will guide you when you’re using a good translation like the NLT. If you want to go into an in-depth study, you can look at the other ones you mentioned, but for your everyday reading, the NLT is a very good translation.

    1. I’m so grateful to be able to help and support those who teach and draw others to Christ. I pray that God will give you a Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Eph. 1:17-19) so that you will know Him more and that God will use teachers in the Church to make known the beauty and majesty of Christ in this generation.

  18. Thank you for this article, looking for a translation for a friend who struggles to read. I think I have settled on either common english or good news.

    1. I’m glad to help. It’s great to hear you’re helping your friend find a translation that is easy to read.

  19. Pingback: What is the reading comprehension level of the bible translations and interpretations? - Sbooks
  20. Hello! I have enjoyed reading about the different Bible translations and over the years have used several from KJV, ESV, NIV, AMP etc. I’m more of a “purest” if that’s even the right word since I’ve used so many versions, but whenever God decides to speak to me through His word it’s never seemed to matter because He speaks through whatever version I happen to be in during that study time. I just like to stay as close to KJV as possible. All that being said, it’s fine for me because I’ve read the Word for many years and teach from it on my YT channel, but I have a dear friend of 30 years who just became born again one week ago today! She called and I said “Well it sounds like it’s time for you to receive Jesus!” So we prayed and she did! So tonight I suggested maybe we do a study that would take us both through the Bible simultaneously where as we do this together, I can help explain some things she might not understand and yet I too have never done a complete ‘read through the Bible’ yet myself. Is there a way to help my friend become grounded with me as her guide yet also allow me to read and learn more about the history of that period and the purpose for that book being in the Bible as well? Thank you!

    1. I’m so excited for you and your friend! I have an article about which books of the Bible would be good to cover that you might find helpful. If you’re looking for something more substantial, I recommend Unlocking the Bible. It covers every book of the Bible and how it all fits together. Make sure it’s the book and not the companion volume that only has charts, diagrams, and images. The covers look almost the same. You might also think about going through the Gospel of Mark and using a simple Bible Study method that I outline here in this article. Also, a Study Bible might be just what you need. I recommend the CSB Tony Evans Study Bible. I hope one of those, or a combination of a couple of them, helps!

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