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What is the Easiest Version of the Bible to Read? A Complete Breakdown

Woman's Hand Stack of Bibles Isolated Background

The easiest version of the Bible to read is the New Living Translation (NLT), for most people.

While there are a lot of Bible translations out there, many of which are easier to read for those who speak another language or for children, or even for the average adult, the NLT is the go-to for a lot of people.

Personally, I didn’t even know how many versions of the Bible there were until I started researching this article. But there are an insane number of translations, and I’m not just talking about other languages here.

Seriously, there are so many English translations alone.

From everything from the old King James Bible or the William Tyndale Bible, to all of the many modern variations today. How do you know which one to read?

Well if you’re looking for versions that are easy to read, I recommend that you keep reading. While I have mentioned that the NLT is the most common for those looking for an easy version to read, there are situations when you might want some of these others.

So strap yourselves in and get ready because it’s about to get biblical.

As always, here is a brief list of all of the major editions that I recommend, followed by my full breakdown of every single one. Feel free to read on if that strikes your fancy.

1. The New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible Text Edition NLT
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 5160 Pages - 06/01/2008 (Publication Date) - Tyndale House Publishers (Publisher)

As I mentioned at the top, the New Living Translation is one of the most popular forms of English language translations for the Bible. It is exceptionally easy to read, and is translated into modern, normal English.

A lot of biblical translations are a little hard to understand these days because a lot of words that used to mean one thing now mean something different. The New Living Translation make sure to account for this, and accurately translates the Hebrew and Greek words to fit with our modern understandings.

But is the NLT a reliable translation? Absolutely. The NLT is considered one of the best translations of the original Hebrew and Greek, while remaining easy to understand.

Now I will say that there are more accurate versions of the Bible out there, but these are not at the same reading level as the New Living Translation. The new living translation keeps things simple while remaining as accurate as possible, but the simpler you get, the more difficult it is to convey the exact message from the original translation.

For that reason, the new living translation is just one of the options that I present here.

This version is commonly used by those who use other versions of the Bible, such as the King James Bible, or the New International Version.

2. The English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References): Old and New Testaments
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • ESV Bibles (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 6070 Pages - 02/09/2011 (Publication Date) - Crossway (Publisher)

Now if you want a more accurate version of the Bible, the English standard version is one of the best you can get.

It is a literal translation of the Bible into contemporary English, as specified by an enormous team of scholars and writers. It strives for pinpoint accuracy, down to the word, and has done so without losing the original meaning of each of the passages.

The English Standard Version has become a standard for biblical readers and translators around the world.

3. The Contemporary English Version (CEV)

The Illustrated Children's Bible: Contemporary English Version
  • Hardcover Book
  • Thomas Nelson Publishers (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1735 Pages - 03/02/2010 (Publication Date) - Thomas Nelson Inc (Publisher)

The Contemporary English Version is another one that is incredibly easy to read.

In fact, this one might be easier to read than my previous recommendation of the New Living Translation. But the Contemporary English Version is for those who are less literate, or for children. It is simple language and syntax to a large degree, making it much easier to understand for most readers.

What this does, however, is that it causes simplicity to take a slight edge over word-for-word accuracy. So sometimes it might not follow the literal translation of a phrase, but conveys the same meaning in simpler language. That is why it is less commonly used than the New Living Translation, but I still recommend it nonetheless.

This translation is definitely one of the best if you’re trying to get your young one to start reading the Bible. It was developed for a 3rd-grade reading level.

This version is also great if you have a learning disability, or if English is not your first language. That said, if English isn’t your first language, perhaps you would prefer a version of the Bible that is in your language. But I digress.

4. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

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The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha
  • NRSV Bible Translation Committee (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1712 Pages - 08/15/1991 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

The New Revised Standard Version is one of the most popular versions of the Bible, especially among Protestant circles.

Like many of the other items on this list, the New Revised Standard Version does not use any archaic language, but is relatively easy to understand. But it does try to follow the original text meaning pretty closely, sticking to a word-by-word literal translation.

It’s largely considered to be one of the highest quality translations and is widely used by the United Methodist Church and many other Protestant congregations.

The NRSV’s main goal is to provide an accurate text that is faithful to the original languages while still being easy to read. And in most cases it manages to do this, though there are a few outdated word choices here and there, such as the use of “thou” instead of “you”.

5. New International Version (NIV)

NIV Study Bible, Fully Revised Edition
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Zondervan, (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10785 Pages - 09/15/2020 (Publication Date) - Zondervan (Publisher)

The New International Version is another of the most common Bible translations that are easy to read. Like the others, it focuses on simplicity, while trying to remain as accurate as possible.

This one in particular focuses largely on Greek manuscripts, like the Codex Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (Aleph), but is considered similar to the ESV, although the ESV is generally thought of as a more literal translation.

So basically, if you’re looking for an easy to read and reasonably faithful translation, this one will do it, just like many of our others. But if you’re looking for something more accurate, the ESV might be a better option.

6. The New King James Version (NKJV)

NKJV, Holy Bible: Holy Bible, New King James Version
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Nelson, Thomas (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 6499 Pages - 07/03/2005 (Publication Date) - Thomas Nelson (Publisher)

As the name suggests, the New King James Version is based directly on the original King James version of the Bible. It takes that original language and updates it for our modern syntax and vocabulary, particularly removing old words that were common in Shakespeare’s time, such as “thee” and “thou”.

For those who are fans of the King James Bible, this is definitely one of the best options on the list. I, for one, grew up with the King James Bible, so I enjoy reading this one as an updated, more modern version of that Bible that I am most familiar with.

However, if you are not familiar with the King James Bible, you may prefer one of the other Bibles on this list that were specifically designed with ease of reading in mind.

But I will admit, this addition holds a special place in my heart, because it’s kind of a natural progression of the rich history of English language Bibles.

Why Multiple Translations?

All of this research got me thinking, why are there so many English translations of the Bible?

Foreign languages make sense, because obviously the Bible is best when it can be understood in everyone’s native tongue. But why so many for just one language?

There are a lot of factors that go into translating a book, such as a focus on literal translation, or a focus on translating the intent of the message, or a focus on the ease of reading, which is obviously the topic of this post.

Plus, languages change over time. A translation that was good several hundred years ago (like the King Jame’s Bible) might not be as accurate or easy to understand given our current language.

In truth, there is no “best” version of the Bible. The best version of the Bible for you is whatever you prioritize. If you prioritize literal accuracy, then you will enjoy one particular type of Bible. If you enjoy ease of reading or connecting to the message of the Bible, then you might enjoy another one.

Overall, it’s up to you which version is the best.

Reading Levels of Different Bible Translations

I’ve covered six different versions of the Bible that are all easier to read, but there are many other additions as well. What are the reading levels for those additions?

Check out this handy table for a brief look at which one is the best for younger or less experienced readers:

Bible EditionReading Level
The Contemporary English Version (ESV)3rd grade
The Message (MSG)4th grade
New Living Translation (NLT)6th grade
New International Version (NIV)7th grade
Christian Standard Bible (CSB)7th grade
New King James Version (NKJV)7th – 9th grade
English Standard Version (ESV)8th – 10th grade
New American Standard Bible (NASB)11th grade
King James Version (KJV)12th grade
Which Translations of the Bible Will You Read?

As I mentioned above, the Bible you choose will depend on your priorities. When it comes to finding the easiest version of the Bible to read, I still recommend the New Living Translation in the #1 spot, but I would still use the following as my breakdown:

  • Best Overall: The New Living Translation
  • Best for Accuracy: The English Standard Version
  • Best for Children: The Contemporary English Version

But there are many reasons why you might want to try the others.

Perhaps all you want to do is compare versions, which can be a great way to gain new insights on a particular passage.

I actually do this all the time, I look through my New Living Translation and King James Bible to see how they differ in their wording. (side note: I also love to read chronologically, it’s fascinating)

Comparing the two actually results in some pretty interesting insights that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

So I definitely recommend you do this.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this breakdown of the easiest versions of the Bible for reading.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts, and what you’re reading these days. I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!
Same

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