If I want to really study the Bible (even as a skeptic) which Bible should I use? Is there one divinely-approved version?
Whatever version you use, make sure it is a translation, not a paraphrase. I like the Revised New Standard Version for study: it is quite scholarly and has nice notes. It also is relatively ecumenical: Anglican and Lutheran origins, but approved (for some purposes) by the Catholics. It is not so partisan as many translations, nor does it impede the reader with archaic language--not just the "thees" and "shalts," but the words that have shifted meaning over the centuries.
If you have a version with poor notes, a commentary is extremely helpful. If you can't afford one, consider something like the Anchor Bible series: you can get individual volumes on the various books as you need them or are interested. Some series are quite reasonable, just $10 or so. If you are wondering what is good, it might help to ask a clergyman or minister you know, or drop by a local college and check out the library holdings, or ask a professor of religion.
Another option: ask a local Bible study group if you can join them. Some will gladly let you in, as long as you respect their beliefs and don't cause too much fighting.
As for the Gnostic gospels (per esconsult1): I suggest you avoid them at this point. The view they give of Jesus is too unhistorical to help you. More, the God they present is a liar and a fake (Jesus only seems to be human), and elitist (he comes to save only the few to whom he imparts secret knowledge). Are nearly 2 billion Christians, not to mention the many who have gone before us, handing down the traditions we have received, are they all wrong? If they are, why trust the tiny minority of Gnostics?
When I first got saved.. I cut my teeth (so to speak) on the King James Version... with the help of the Holy spirit, I gained a good understanding of it, and now, I have several diff. versions.. but, I always refer back to the KJV... it is what I am comfortable with.. and it is interesting to compare other versions to it...
However, as an unbeliever, I do not believe that you will come away with the answers that you desire.. because the bible is spirit inspired and you need the spirit to interput what is written.. without coming humbly and in faith, I am not sure that the bible will be much more than a reg. book to you... the key element is faith...
But, God can speak to you out of his word... I just urge you, that in order to be saved.. you have to apply faith...
new international version.
it's modern english and fairly accurate.
if you're serious about studying the bible, and i mean serious, then do this:
buy three bibles a king james version a new international version buy a book that walks you through the bible.
this way, you get two different versions (which you'll find that they are less similar than you'd think) and a christian commentary, which will give you an idea how a modern church interprets the bible.
if you're a scholar, learn hebrew and greek. then go read the torah and a greek version of the new testament. it'll shock you how different the translation is into english, in parts.
New International Version is the easiest to follow. Things will be different when you are following along in your bible if someone is preaching and using a King James, but it will be close enough that you can keep up. Also if there is a word he uses or a word in your bible that you don't understand just see what the other version says and you've learned something. Kudos for wanting to study the bible. :)
The Gnostic gospels should be the one to study most if you're skeptical about the mainstream versions of the bible: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnostic_gospels
Check out this page for a list of other versions of the bible as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible
The Gospel Of John is a good place to start for someone who wants to know the bible. It is also good to go to a church where you live and check out their bible classes. Thats where you can ask the Pastor of the church some questions and maybe he/she can help.
NIV! As a Southern Baptist girl, I ask you to be open to all religions. Understanding is power, you will have a different point of view that may make you grow spiritally.
I believe that the King James is the best but if you don't understand it then go to the NIV.
I prefer the King James Version. I have the Nelson Study Bible KJV. I think it's the best.
theere all good! close your eyes and enie meenie minie moe it!