How to Choose a Bible Version for Your Family, Part 3: Translation Methods

We’re talking about how to choose a Bible version for you family this month.

Last week we talked about the different manuscripts translators use. Today we’re going to look at different approaches scholars use when they translate.

Obviously, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English. The Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew (though portions of Daniel are in Aramaic). The New Testament was written in Greek. And they were written thousands of years ago, so things like capitalization, spelling, punctuation, and even the meanings of certain words have changed since then.

It takes a lot of careful scholarship and some degree of interpretation to convey what those millennia-old, foreign language texts mean in twenty-first century English.

However, there are a few different ways to approach this, which is where people start to have a difference of opinion.

We’re going to get a little nerdy here for a second, but the two main schools of thought on Bible translation are called formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence. You may have also heard these called word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations.

Formal Equivalence

Formal Equivalence, or word-for-word translation is just what it sounds like. For every word in the biblical manuscripts, translators try to “ensure that every word in the original was rendered by an English equivalent,” (The Legacy of the King James Bible, by Leeland Ryken) with as little change to the original structure and word order.

This sounds like the ideal, doesn’t it? Of course we want our English translation to line up as closely as possible with what the Hebrew or Greek actually say.

However, problems arise when there isn’t a perfectly equivalent word in English to the word the Hebrew or Greek uses. If you’ve ever studied a foreign language (or even seen one of those BuzzFeed articles about words we should steal from other languages), you know what I’m talking about.

Also, sometimes trying too hard to carry the structure of the original languages into English can make for some awkwardly-worded sentences that can make them harder to understand.

Bibles that use this translation philosophy include the New American Standard (NASB), King James (KJV), and the English Standard Version (ESV).

Dynamic Equivalence

Dynamic Equivalence, on the other hand, is known as a thought-for-thought translation because of its tendency to take a whole phrase of words and try to carefully render them in the way that makes the most sense in English, even if that yields more or fewer words than the original.

The major advantage of this type of translation is its clarity, but one of the major drawbacks is that sometimes to render a thought in a way that’s clear in English, translators may unintentionally narrow the meaning of the original text.

Translations that use dynamic equivalence include the New Living Translation (NLT) and the New International Version (NIV).

A couple more things to note


A few versions of the Bible are not true translations of the text, but rather, English paraphrases. These versions tend to be very easy and compelling to read, and can be useful compliments to Bible reading, but should not be used exclusively for serious study of the Bible.

Paraphrase Bibles include The Living Bible, The Messge, and, as far as I can tell, the new Passion “translation” of the Bible.

Optimal Equivalence

Another Bible that stands out from the traditional formal vs. dynamic equivalence debate is the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). This is a recent update of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and claims to try to strike a balance between the two schools of translation. They call their philosophy “optimal equivalence” and I’m intrigued. But even if the CSB does a great job blending these two translation philosophies, I don’t think that makes it the single best translation, because I don’t think there is such a thing.

As I mentioned before, there is no perfect English translation of the Bible.

If you’re trying to really understand what a particular verse means (and you don’t speak Hebrew or Greek) the best way will always be to compare several different translations. Moreover, when it comes to choosing the right version for you, there are still other factors to consider, like our different reading abilities and study needs.

And those are the things we’ll talk about next week.



How to Choose a Bible Version for Your Family, Part 2: Manuscripts

I’m glad you’re joining me for the series about how to choose a version of the Bible to share with your family.

Today, we’re going to talk about the manuscripts that scholars use for their English translations.

You may not realize this, but even in its original language, archaeologists have never found the original copies of any of the books of the Bible.

Bible scholars believe that Jesus came when he did partly because the widespread use of the Greek language throughout ancient world allowed the Gospel to spread rapidly through the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa.

One of the ways the early church accomplished this was by making copies of the accounts of Jesus’ life and the letters apostles sent to churches. These writings allowed them to continue to study the teachings of Jesus even when Paul or Peter or someone else moved on to instruct the believers in another city.

Many of these copies have survived and are what scholars use as their basis for English translations of Scripture.

For a long time, the manuscripts used for their translations remained the same. This is one of the reasons (among others) that the King James Bible was used almost exclusively by English-speaking believers for centuries.

However, some more recent archaeological finds have blessed us with even more, and in some cases, much older copies of the Scriptures.

There is a somewhat widespread conspiracy theory surrounding a couple of manuscripts discovered in the 1800s. They are notably older than a lot of the manuscripts the church had been using up to that point, but they differed slightly.

Modern scholarship takes these differences into consideration when translating the Bible into English (and other languages), and also more recent discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even other non-biblical texts that help us better understand how certain words were used and what they meant.

I don’t have time to delve into all the issues here, but if you’ve ever heard someone claim that modern translations of the Bible “take out” things that were in the KJV Bible, you’ve been exposed to this controversy. The issue isn’t one of translators intentionally removing things that are in the Bible, but trying to find the most accurate basis for their translation as possible.

If you really want to dig deeper into that particular issue, a great place to start is Gail Riplinger’s New Age Bible Versions, which clearly outlines all the arguments against modern translations, and James R White’s rebuttal to her arguments.

But I think most believers just want to know that the Bible they’re reading is reliable.

So here’s what you should know about Bible manuscripts:

Bible manuscripts are incredibly reliably preserved.

There are considerably more manuscripts of the Bible than of any other ancient text, and they are nearly identical to each other. In his book, The Case for Christ, author Lee Strobel quotes Dr. Bruce Metzger as saying:

More than five thousand [New Testament manuscripts] have been cataloged…. The quantity of New Testament material is almost embarrassing in comparison with other works of antiquity…. Next to the New Testament, the greatest amount of manuscript testimony is Homer’s Illiad, which was the Bible of the ancient Greeks. There are fewer than 650 manuscripts of it today.”

And more than any other ancient source, the words of ancient Bible manuscripts agree with one another. Most textual variations are spelling differences that aren’t even able to be reflected in English.

And that brings me to my other important point.

Check your footnotes

Any time there are significant differences in what manuscripts say, almost all versions of the Bible have a footnote that lets you know how a verse might read instead. So if you’re looking at your footnotes, I promise, you won’t be led astray.

Now, once translators have the ancient manuscripts, they still have to figure out how to best communicate in modern English what was written 2,000 year ago or more in a different language. And there are a couple different ways they approach this.

But we’ll talk about that next week.



Our 2017 Advent Picture Books

One of my very favorite holiday traditions in our home is unwrapping a book every day in December to count down to Christmas.

We’ve been doing it for several years now, and we’ve finally amassed a big enough collection of our own Christmas picture books that we don’t have to get anything from the library, unless we just want to. Not all of these books are from a Biblical perspective, but they’re all wholesome, lovely stories that encourage generosity and kindness. Some do include Santa, but if that’s not your thing, there are plenty of good stories here that don’t.

We find a few new favorites to add each year, so I thought I’d share with you the list of books we’re reading this year, in case you want to add any to your own list.

Dec 1: A Christmas Carol // Brett Helquist

Dec 2: Gingerbread Baby // Jan Brett

Dec 3: Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story // Sally Lloyd-Jones

Dec 4: Christmas Trolls // Jan Brett

Dec 5: Stick Man // Julia Donaldson

Dec 6: How the Grinch Stole Christmas // Dr. Seuss

Dec 7: The Christmnas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey // Susan Wojciechowski

Dec 8: Polar Express // Chris Van Allsburg (The version we have came with the audiobook, which is read by Liam Neeson, and it is fantastic.)

Dec 9: Our plan was to read The Bears’ Christmas, but the boys opened it this morning (whoops!) because they couldn’t tell the six and nine apart. We went ahead and read it. I have The Baker’s Dozen ready to pick up at the library, so I’ll go by and get it today or tomorrow and read that on Saturday instead.

Dec 10: The Tale of Three Trees // Angela Elwell Hunt

Dec 11: The Legend of the Candy Cane // Lori Walburg

Dec 12: The Wild Christmas Reindeer // Jan Brett

Dec 13: Humphrey’s First Christmas // Carol Heyer

Dec 14: The Nutcracker // Ronald Kidd

Dec 15: Merry Christmas, Curious George // H. A. Rey and Catherine Hapka

Dec 16: The Last Christmas Tree // Stephen Krensky

Dec 17: The Night of Las Posadas // Tomie dePaola

Dec 18: Christmas in the Big Woods // Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dec 19: A Charlie Brown Christmas (Peanuts) // Charles Shulz

Dec 20: Cock-A-Doodle Christmas! // Will Hillenbrand

Dec 21: Bear Stays Up for Christmas // Karma Wilson

Dec 22: The Night Before Christmas // Clement Clarke Moore (we also have this version)

Dec 23: The Crippled Lamb // Max Lucado

The list only goes through the 23rd, because that’s when we’ll be opening presents as a family, before we head home for a few days to spend the holidays with our extended family. We can’t wait.

I hope you enjoy this list of books – these are some of our very favorite stories to share this time of year. Happy reading!

**DISCLOSURE: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I use affiliate links because I want to share products I love with you, and clicking them is the easiest way for you to support me. When you click my affiliate link, I get a small commission off anything you purchase on Amazon in the next 24 hours, at no extra cost to you! Thanks for your support!**



The Easiest Way to Start Discipling Your Kids (and why now is the best time to try it!)

When it comes to my kids, I tend to overcomplicate things. 

I’m always three steps ahead of them, fretting over things I worry they’re not learning, planning ahead for ways to challenge them in areas they are growing. Like when I started making baby food for my 2-month old, four months before I planned to give him any solids, because it was July and I was worried about what fresh produce would be available in November, when he turned 6 months old.

So if you’re overwhelmed with the idea of trying to help and your train your sinful, disobedient children, and show them how to become disciples of Jesus, I completely understand. It is the biggest, most important job we will ever undertake. 

Of course, to truly disciple our kids, we do have to create a culture of faith in our home. We can’t just throw soundbytes at our children without backing them up with a lifestyle of serving and following Jesus and expect they won’t (eventually) see through our hypocrisy. We have to follow Jesus ourselves, and show them how.

But beyond that, when it comes to actually teaching our kids about our faith, there’s one simple thing I think every family can do that would make a tremendous impact in your kids’ lives: read them Bible stories. 

It sounds too simple, I know, but stick with me.

Biblical illiteracy is a huge (and growing) problem in the church, but if we would all adopt this one simple practice, we could ensure that the next generation actually knows what the Bible says.

Most families with small children read some sort of stories to their kids before bed. All you have to do is swap out those fairy tales or superhero stories for Bible stories.

We read Bible stories almost every night with our kids, ( we’re not perfect!) and it never takes more than 10 minutes. But it’s made a tremendous impact in their lives already. At six and seven years old, they have a better grasp of the Bible than a lot of the kids in our youth group did when we were youth pastors.

And if you’re not doing this already, December is the perfect time of year to start. Begin with an advent storybook, and then when Christmas is over choose another children’s Bible storybook, and keep going. 

I know it’s not quite December yet, but I wanted to share this with you now so that you’d have time to order something to read with your children throughout the Christmas season. Here are some of my favorites:

For little kids:

An Advent Calendar with a Nativity story – There are a bunch of these, but something like this what what we used at Christmas when I was growing up, and it became a beloved holiday tradition. This is perfect for little ones, because each night’s reading is only a sentence (or sometimes just half a sentence), so there’s not much time for them to get wiggly and bored. You can just read the portion of the story that corresponds to that day, or you can do what we did in my family, and start over at the beginning every night. Even if you do it this way, lifting the little flaps will keep your kids engaged while you read the story.

The Jesus Storybook Bible – Okay, I know that this is in almost every Bible list on this website, but it is that good. And the stories fit an advent reading plan perfectly–if you start on December 1st and read every night, you’ll read the tree Christmas stories on December 22, 23, and 24. If you’ve never read this before, grab this one and start reading it with your kids even if they’re older. We still read through this at least once a year, and will for probably several more years.

For older kids:

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift – This is Ann Voskamp’s follow-up to her Christmas devotional A Greatest Gift, and there are downloadable ornaments you can print out and color to go along with each reading. We love this one.

The Jesse Tree – This frames each Bible story within a larger narrative of an old man carving a Jesse Tree in a church and a little boy who has questions for him. It’s a sweet, sweet story, and a great place to start if you’r unfamiliar with the Jesse Tree concept.

For teenagers:

Even if you have big kids, don’t underestimate the power of starting a family devotional time now. It’s not to late t o share stories from the Bible with your family; when Christmas is over, just pick up a family devotional, or read aloud together from a Bible reading plan.

The Story of God’s Love for You – This is the basically same as The Jesus Storybook Bible, minus the illustrations in a really nice, leather-bound format. But it’s a great place to start if you’re trying to cultivate a new Bible reading habit.

The Greatest Gift – This wonderful Christmas devotional address why the gospels include genealogies, and why knowing the major stories of the Old Testament is crucial for understanding Christ and Christmas. It stars with creation and the fall, and points out the thread of redemption through the entire Old Testament. And there are reflection questions for each days reading that you could easily discuss with your family.

Bonus: a video series

Buck Denver Asks: What’s in the Bible? – I really do believe that reading Bible stories to your kiddos is irreplaceable, but if bonding over videos is your thing, you should check out this series, too. Start this holiday season with Why Do We Call It Christmas? Then after the new year, pop some popcorn, snuggle on the couch together, and catch an episode or two together every weekend until you’ve watched the whole series.




10 Family Games that Parents Can Actually Enjoy

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission for any purchases you make using the some of the links. Thanks for supporting Faith Starts at Home!

My husband and I have always loved playing games together. Just before we started dating, he taught me how to play spades, and he kept winking at me across the table. I thought he was flirting, but it turns out that he was just trying to signal me about which card to play.

We started dating anyway, and before we were married, we spent a lot of evenings at my parents’ house, playing board games with them. And throughout our marriage, having friends over to play games has been a part of our regular routine.

So when we had kids, it was a no-brainer that we would play games with our kids. So once they were old enough to start playing some easy games, we bought a few popular ones, and tried playing them as a family.

We hated it.

We believed in the power of a family game night to build strong relationships with our kids. Games teach all kinds of great skills, like math, strategic thinking, cooperation, and the abilities to be a good loser and gracious winner. But despite knowing those things, most nights, I just couldn’t find the energy to sit through a game of Candy Land at the end of a long day. (In fact, I distinctly remember stacking the deck a few times when the boys were little so the game would end sooner).

Thankfully, not all kids’ games are terrible. After talking to some friends who were board game enthusiasts, perusing the clearance table at Barnes and Noble, and a lot of trial-and-error, we have now found several that we actually look forward to playing each week. We try to set aside at least one evening a week (usually Tuesday) to sit around the table after dinner and play games together.

Here are a few of our favorites:

My First Carcassonne Game

Sequence for Kids

Flea Circus

Battle Sheep

Ticket to Ride: First Journey


Dragon Dash


Get Bit


Some of these kids’ versions of adult strategy games that we like, and the more we play these, the better our kids are at learning new games. They’re now, at 5 and 7, able to play simplified versions of some our favorite games to play with friends. For more great game recommendations, we love watching YouTube reviews of games on channels like TableTop and Board Game Geek’s Game Night (though you might want to preview these without your kids; some of the videos contain language.)

What about you? Do you have any favorite kids’ games to share?


Coming Soon: Faith Starts at Home

To my faithful readers:

Thanks so much for sticking with me the last several years as I’ve poured out my thoughts and shared my life here. You’ve been so supportive, and because of that, I wanted to share something with you here before it was public news.

Over the last several months, the Lord has been leading me to focus my writing on one of the things I’m most passionate about: resourcing families to disciple their children and live out their faith in their daily lives. So beginning next week, I’ll be sharing tips, encouragement, strategies, and resources for building a godly family at my brand-new website. I’ve been working on moving some of the content from here over there and revamping it so that there will be tons of great stuff for your family right from day one.

I may still share on here occasionally, but for them most part, you’ll find me at Faith Starts at Home.

I would be honored if you’d join me there. If you want to stay up-to-date on everything I’m doing with my new site, you can sign up for my email newsletter, like Faith Starts at Home on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram.

Big love to you all!

Books & Reading · Faith At Home · Holidays

My Favorite Bibles for Kids (Just in Time for Easter!)

I don’t know what you’re planning to give your kids for Easter this year (if anything), but I am ridiculously excited to give my kids their first real Bibles.

They have a lot of picture-book Bibles, and they were given New Testaments when they were dedicated as babies, but since they’re both emerging readers, and since they’re going to classes where it matters if they have a Bible with them or not, it seemed like time to make sure they have their own copies of God’s Word.

So, in case you’re wanting to give Bibles to the littles (or anyone else!) in your life this Easter, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorites.

For little kids:

The Jesus Storybook Bible
I cannot recommend this Bible highly enough. I bought it for my boys when they were babies, and I just bought it for my brand-new niece, too. We’ve read through it several times as a family, and my kids love the DVDs, too. I love how it shows how the entire Bible points to Jesus, and the language of the storytelling is beautiful and fun to read.

Read And Learn Bible
This was one of the first Bibles we started using for bedtime stories when my boys were very small (as in, under two). The stories are very, very short, but what I love about it is how much of the Bible it includes (it’s the only kids’ Bible I’ve ever seen that tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Daniel 2), and how close it stays to the actual language of the Bible. This is a great Bible to read to wiggly toddlers.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
This amazing book tells the entire narrative of the Bible in 10 short chapters. It’s such a good look at the overall picture that the Bible is telling and helps kids see where all those little stories like David and Goliath and Daniel and the lion’s den fit in the BIG story God is telling throughout history. Also, the illustrations in this are just lovely.

The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook
This is by the people behind the Gospel Project curriculum. We bought this when we were considering using their curriculum for our church, but it quickly became a favorite bedtime read-aloud in our home. Like the Jesus Storybook Bible, this shows how the whole Bible points to Jesus, but it covers a whole lot more stories. This one will take you a while to get through (I think there are about 150 stories), and there’s only one illustration per story, so this one isn’t great for the littlest kids. But we’ve found 4-6 to be a great age for this Bible, and there’s a question at the end of each lesson to help you gauge if your kids are really getting what the story is saying.

For bigger kids:

The Adventure Bible
This the Bible I had as a kid, and the very first Bible I read all the way through (for my Honor Star requirements; if you grew up in an A/G church, you know what I’m talking about). This is also what we got for Caleb for Easter this year (this one). It has some child-appropriate study helps that I think will really be useful for him as he learns and grows. We chose NIrV for him (after a LOT of deliberation) because we believe it will encourage him to read this on his own, but this Bible is available in several versions.

The Big Picture Interactive Bible
This is what we got for Garrett for Easter (this version). I love that it has the same illustrations as the Big Picture storybook they’ve been reading from, and I think it will help him transition better from picture books to a big kids’ Bible, and help him stay interested in it while he is still learning to read. This isn’t available in as many versions as the Adventure Bible, but there are still a few options to choose from.

THE BIBLE STORY Complete 10 Volume Set
This is a 10-volume set. Don’t be put off by its outdated appearance; this is a fantastic Bible story set. We only have two volumes so far, so I haven’t read every single story, but what I have read, I’ve been very impressed with. Like so many of my other favorite Bibles, these show how each story the Bible tells is part of a larger whole of what God is doing. Also, when I first became a parent, I was disappointed by how many kids’ Bibles (even some I remembered loving) presented a very works-based concept of salvation, as if the whole message of the Bible was to be a good girl or boy. This Bible doesn’t fall into that trap–it explains, in kid-friendly language, how we can’t be good enough, and that is why we need Jesus. Finally, these books are beautifully illustrated with the types of pictures I hope form my kids’ imaginations as they grow.

For everyone else on your list:

The Books of the Bible
This is one of my favorite ways to really read the Bible. There are no chapter or verse numbers to distract from the text, so this is excellent for when you want to read a long passage or an entire book in one sitting. One day recently, when we were going through the hard season at the end of our church, I was feeling frustrated and read through the entire book of Job one afternoon. I don’t think I could have done that as easily in any other Bible. It’s in TNIV, which I don’t think lasted for very long, and I’m not sure why, but as far as I can tell, most of the text is very similar to NIV (my preferred version), and like I said, I use this for reading, not for study.

Journaling Bible
I write a lot of notes in my Bible, and I’m happy with the Bible that I have, but whenever I’m in the market for a new one, I imagine I’ll get something like this with wide margins to give me room for more thoughts.

Fire Bible: New International Version, Student Edition
This is Jason’s go-to study Bible. The study notes are comprehensive, and written from a Pentecostal perspective. We loved recommending this to our students when we were youth pastors, and we love it for ourselves as pastors.


***This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission for any purchases you make using the some of the links. Thanks for supporting Faith Starts at Home!