People will invariably ask a pastor: "What's the best Bible translation to read?" Pastors, being uber-geeks, begin to think about questions of Greek grammar, recent archaeological discoveries, and methods of translation. (Which do I prefer, Dynamic Equivalence or Formal Equivalence?)
Truth is, people are seldom asking that question. They really want to know which translation is the best at expressing God's Word in clear, understandable English, while preserving accuracy.
The second challenge presented by the conversation is the inevitable "alphabet soup." The modern English-speaking Christian has the choice of: NIV, NRSV, ESV, NKJV, NLT, and many others.
People being people, there are some who not only have a personal preference, but they think everyone else should share the same opinion. You can’t browse the internet very long before you come across the "KJV-only" crowd. The KJV is an excellent translation. It is not the only good one ever rendered.
So here's my confession: Many times I love reading the Living Bible. Not the updated (and much improved) New Living Translation; but the original Living Bible, warts and all.
Its language isn't dignified. Its translation can get a little free. Bible scholars can spend the rest of the day arguing about this or that verse.
One thing it is, though: it's read-able. It's vibrant, and makes the Bible feel like you're reading a newspaper account of what just happened among us. I love it.
More than loving it, I often read from it, remembering Luther's words that he "would always remain a student of the Catechism." I'm reminded that the kid inside of me needs to leave behind the seminary degree, the GPA, the desire for "properly sophisticated word choice," and I need to just sit and read the Word, letting the Holy Spirit speak to me through its inspired text.
Here's a fun sample: I Kings 4:1-6. This is a list of King Solomon's top officials, and in many translations they are referenced by words that make us unclear about what they really did for a living. In the Living Bible it's as clear as it can be:
"Here is a list of King Solomon's cabinet members: Azariah was the High Priest, Elihoreph and Ahijah were secretaries; Jehoshaphat was the official historian and in charge of the archives; Benaiah was commander-in-chief of the army; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; Azariah was secretary of state; Zabud was the king's personal priest and special friend; Ahishar was manager of palace affairs; Adoniram was superintendent of public works."
These verses aren't about heavy theology, but they're delightfully straightforward. The same feel exists throughout the translation, which gives us the feel of reading the text "afresh" (if I can use an archaic word here).
By all means, have a favorite translation. But my advice is: read and compare at least three translations to give the Word a fuller, richer feel. I guarantee that you'll find it rewarding. Even better: God will be present in that reading, and will have something to say to both head and heart.