Inside BST

Inside BST

Inside BST goes behind the curtain of and into the minds of our editors and developers. You'll discover encouraging stories, information about the site, links that interest us, and devotionals.


John UpChurch, Senior Editor (

Alex Crain, Managing Editor (

Stephen McGarvey, Senior Director of Editorial

Stephen Sanders, A/V Editor

Tales of Translation: Paraphrases

You could think of translation styles as varying levels of zoom on a camera. Word-for-word zooms in the closest and gets right to each word. Thought-for-thought zooms out a bit and looks at sentences as a whole. And if you zoom out even more, you’ll get to the area of the paraphrase.

A solid paraphrase focuses on a section of Scripture, which might be an event, a speech, or even a whole chapter. Instead of trying to capture the exact wording, the paraphraser attempts to convey the meaning in modern English. This might require changing the order of words or how something is phrased. They may even change a metaphor or comparison to a similar one in our culture. Beyond this, they also focus on making the poetry of the original language sound poetic in ours.

That doesn’t mean they have free rein, though. The paraphrases on our site do not change the basic facts of Scripture. They maintain the people, places, events, and theological truths found in God’s Word. In fact, if you compare them to a word-for-word translation, you’ll see how similar they are.

For many Christians, a paraphrase helps them cross the cultural divide and get into the Bible. They more readily understand the purpose of the text when it’s presented with the language and rhythms they’re used to. We certainly recommend that you try one out along with the other translations.

If you’re interested in a paraphrase, we have the Message (MSG) on our site.

Next week, we’ll wrap up this series by answering the big question: Which type of translation is best?

Tales of Translation: Thought-for-Thought Translations

Last week, we saw that word-for-word translations do just that: give us (approximately) one English word or phrase for every word or phrase in the original language. They even focus on keeping the same word order if possible. To explain the differences between that and thought-for-thought translations, it might be best to consider an analogy.

You’re probably familiar with the two basic types of printers available today: inkjet and laser. Inkjet printers shoot out ink a line or a few lines at a time. Laser printers, on the other hand, churn out pages by reproducing a single image on the paper. It’s all done at once, not line by line.

Thought-for-thought translations are like the laser printer. Instead of focusing on moving each word to English, thought-for-thoughters examine the whole sentence and do their best to move it over as an easily understood unit. That is, they rearrange the order of the words so that it makes the most sense to a modern English-speaking audience. They’re going for the meaning, not the exact wording.

That’s what makes thought-for-thought translations very readable to us. The scholars who produce the text are all committed to holding true to what God’s Word says in a way that’s easy to understand.

Here are some popular thought-for-thought translations: New Century Version (NCV) and New Living Translation (NLT)

A few others that start with word-for-word, but also blend in thought-for-thought when necessary: Common English Bible (CEB), New International Version (NIV), Holman Christian Standard (HCSB)

We’ll dive into paraphrases next week.

Tales of Translation: Word-for-Word Translations

Last week, we looked at why there are so many different versions of the Bible. Moving languages across time and culture takes a great deal of effort to get right. And there are three main ways translators can go about this: word-for-word (which we’ll discuss today), thought-for-thought, and paraphrase.

Word-for-word is probably the easiest to explain. At its most rigid, this simply means that a translator takes a Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word and renders it as an English word or phrase. The translators even try to keep the word order as close to the original as they can. This isn’t always possible because English word order is much more restrictive than those ancient languages.

You might say that this type of translation is the most literal. And that’s its biggest selling point. These translations get about as close to the original text as you can get.

But, on the other hand, word-for-word translations can also be more difficult for a modern English speaker. The more literal, the more cumbersome some phrases may be. After all, there are some major cultural divides involved. A phrase that made sense in ancient Israel makes little or no sense to us. That’s why even the most direct translations have to make a few updates or add footnotes.

Here are some examples of word-for-word translations: English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), New American Standard (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

Next week, we’ll tackle thought-for-thought translations.

Tales of Translation: Why So Many Different Versions of the Bible?

Why are there so many different translations of the Bible? Wouldn’t one for each language be enough? Not necessarily, and that’s because there are several approaches you can take to translating the original languages of the Bible: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

Bible translations usually come in three basic styles, which we’ll call 1) word-for-word translations, 2) thought-for-thought translations, and 3) paraphrases. You may have heard other, fancier names for these categories, but we’ll stick with those. (See Choosing a Bible Translation for more detail on that.)

The basic challenge of translating anything is that language doesn’t exist in isolation. Language exists to transmit ideas and culture. We want to communicate something because we want to share our experiences, thoughts, and values. The same is true with what God inspired the authors of the Bible to write. They wrote with the language of their experience.

In other words, the Hebrew writers communicated from their Hebrew-oriented worldview, the Greek from theirs. That may seem elementary, but it means that translating those words involves dealing with how they thought about the world.

Now, to be sure, the Bible presents fundamental truths about who God is and how He acted in history. Those basic facts won’t change. God will always split the Red Sea down the middle, Jesus will always die for our sin and rise again, and Paul will always see Jesus on the way to Damascus. Those are set facts.

But taking Hebrew and Greek ideas and rendering them in English, for example, is complicated. The languages don’t line up exactly. For example, Greek has four words for types of love; English has one. That’s why it takes scholars years of prayer and study to make sure they get it right. Add to that the fact that modern languages such as English keep changing, and you can see why new versions keep coming.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll examine the different approaches translators take for moving the original languages to English. Up next week? Word-for-word translations.

How Do I Change My Password?

To access personalized content on this website, you have to register and provide a password. This just makes sure that all your data is secure. While we're not dealing with bank accounts or sensitive data, we still want to make sure that no one has access to your account.

As with any password, you should make sure that you change it regularly and make it unique for BST. In fact, it only takes a few seconds to do. Here's how:

  1. First, head to your user profile page, which you can jump to by clicking on your name/username in the upper right-hand corner of any page or by clicking here. (This works for both the current and beta sites.)
  2. Scroll down to your "Login Information."
  3. Click the "edit" link.
  4. Type your old password.
  5. Enter your new password twice. (Make sure you know it.)
  6. Click "save."
  7. Go back to studying.

[Note: If you ever forget your password, use our Password Assistance page to reset it. When you reset it, wait a few minutes before you try to log in.]

Looking Back at Galilee

When you're looking back at Galilee in Scripture, you see hints of the tensions that existed--cultural, social, and theological. But really understanding this area where Jesus grew up requires a bit more digging. Here's how Alfred Edersheim describes it:

Impartial history, however, must record a different judgment of the men of Galilee from that pronounced by the Rabbis, and that even wherein they were despised by those leaders in Israel. Some of their peculiarities, indeed, were due to territorial circumstances. The province of Galilee— which the name might be rendered "circuit," being derived from a verb meaning "to move in a circle"— the ancient possession of four tribes: Issachar, Zebulon, Naphtali, and Asher. The name occurs already in the Old Testament (compare Joshua 20:7; 1 Kings 9:11; 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 6:76; and especially Isaiah 9:1). In the time of Christ it stretched northwards to the possessions of Tyre on the one side, and to Syria on the other; on the south it was bounded by Samaria— Carmel on the western, and the district of Scythopolis (in the Decapolis) on the eastern side, being here landmarks; while the Jordan and the Lake of Gennesaret formed the general eastern boundary-line. Thus regarded, it would include names to which such reminiscences attach as "the mountains of Gilboa," where "Israel and Saul fell down slain"; little Hermon, Tabor, Carmel, and that great battle-field of Palestine, the plain of Jezreel. Alike the Talmud and Josephus divide it into Upper and Lower Galilee, between which the Rabbis insert the district of Tiberias, as Middle Galilee. We are reminded of the history of Zaccheus (Luke 19:4) by the mark which the Rabbis give to distinguish between Upper and Lower Galilee—former beginning "where sycomores cease to grow." The sycomore, which is a species of fig, must, of course, not be confounded with our sycamore, and was a very delicate evergreen, easily destroyed by cold (Psalms 78:47), and growing only in the Jordan valley, or in Lower Galilee up to the sea-coast. The mention of that tree may also help us to fix the locality where Luke 17:6 was spoken by the Saviour. The Rabbis mention Kefar Hananyah, probably the modern Kefr Anan, to the north-west of Safed, as the first place in Upper Galilee. Safed was truly "a city set on an hill"; and as such may have been in view of the Lord, when He spoke the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14). In the Talmud it is mentioned by the name of Zephath, and spoken of as one of the signal-stations, whence the proclamation of the new moon, made by the Sanhedrim in Jerusalem (see The Temple), and with it the beginning of every month, was telegraphed by fire-signals from hill to hill throughout the land, and far away east of the Jordan, to those of the dispersion.

You'll find much more historical insight when you explore Sketches of Jewish Social Life by Edersheim--just one of many great resources in our history library.

A 31-Day Journey Through the Book of Proverbs

by Stephen Sanders

I make my living as a videographer. I film interviews of pastors/professors/authors answering questions about the Bible. Then I edit this video footage into individual videos and thousands of people click on them online because they are looking for answers. Books like Proverbs make it easy for us to develop this habit of learning who God is; obtaining the answers to life’s common problems… developing a hope and a trust in God (and a confidence in ourselves, even) that will keep us on the right track like we so desperately want to be.

I recently took a 31-day journey through Proverbs on my blog on, and I hope it will encourage you like it did me:

31 Days of Proverbs

Proverbs 1: Wisdom That Shouts!

This wisdom in Proverbs makes itself undeniably obvious to us. It “shouts at us” right in the middle of where we exist. This wisdom contains the answers that we so desperately search for.

Proverbs 2: Simple Knowledge

This wisdom Solomon keeps speaking about isn’t simple knowledge that we learn by living life, learning from our mistakes, etc. It doesn’t just come by natural means. Godly knowledge comes by seeking God fervently by reading the Bible, talking to Him in prayer, and seeking His will for our lives specifically.

Proverbs 3: Love & Loyalty

We see it over and over. Love God. Love others. Seek God for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding and obtain fulfillment in life. We can sleep at night knowing that we aren’t in trouble.

Proverbs 4: More of the Same

Chapter 4 comes across as a reiteration. All four of these chapters word it a bit differently, but it’s altogether the same key points. I guess these principles really are important, right?

Proverbs 5: Polluted Streams

This is where things begin evolving and we get into some more detail as to what this wisdom & knowledge truly is. Solomon warns us of those who will try to deceive us specifically with sexual temptation.

Proverbs 6: Six Things That God Hates

This one is a really meaty chapter. We go from handling business deals the right way, to the trouble that goes along with procrastination, to the trouble with troublemaking, to the consequences of adultery.

Proverbs 7: The Infamous Harlot/Seductress

It seems adultery hasn’t changed much over the past few thousand years. If we pay attention, we can learn something that will change our lives forever.

Proverbs 8: You Gotta Trust God’s Word

This is one of those passages in the Bible that I love to read slowly and over and over again. I feel like I get a small taste of how amazing God is when I read it. I also feel an enormous sense of gratitude in knowing that He wants me to have the same wisdom that has been by His side since the beginning of time.

Proverbs 9: Wisdom vs. Folly

But one thing that stuck out to me in this chapter is that there are a lot of similarities between Wisdom and Folly. The difference is in what they are offering and the type of life that results in following each of them.

Proverbs 10: Righteousness vs. Wickedness

I’m gonna be honest here. This chapter makes my eyes cross (that probably happens to me when I read the Bible more than it does for most people). One of the things I like to do to eliminate some of that confusion is to break passages up into bite-sized chunks.

Proverbs 11: Where’s the Integrity?

God loves humble people with integrity who are righteous. During Solomon’s time, people found this right standing by following rules and giving God sacrifices when they fell short of these rules. Today, we find it through Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 12: A Little Bit of Everything

The righteous and upright have integrity. Let’s continue to ask God to help us become those people who the world can begin trusting again. 

Proverbs 13: Our Whole Heart

The further we dig into these chapters, the more I realize how important it is that God has our whole heart. I mean, we have to be committed to Him for it to be possible for us to follow these instructions.

Proverbs 14: Priceless Wisdom

It’s easy to get in a habit of just living life without putting much thought into what causes you to be the kind of person that you are. But after studying these Proverbs, I’m now convinced more than ever that following Jesus is not a cakewalk. If anything, it is actually harder to be a Christian because you can’t just be who you want to be.

Proverbs 15: Speak Your Mind?

In this chapter, I’m noticing a lot of wisdom on watching your words. In this day and age where the vast majority expresses their opinion openly, it’s becoming more and more difficult to “think before you speak.” ESPECIALLY, online where we make comments without running the risk of consequence for our actions.

Proverbs 16: Providence vs. Creating Your Destiny

God is the one who is in control. We should take great comfort in that fact because it means that we don’t have to put so much pressure on ourselves to perform.

Proverbs 17: Minor Tweaks

God’s Word is alive. It tells us when we need to tone it down a notch or crank it up a bit. I can’t help but think that all these minor tweaks along the way are what will surely bring us closer to who we are in Him.

Proverbs 18: The Golden Rule (on Facebook too!)

Isn’t it fascinating how much social media has changed the way we communicate with one another? I’ve known myself to be guilty of saying some things that I normally wouldn’t be bold enough to say in real-life conversations.

Proverbs 19: Where Does Poverty Fit In?

The more mature I become as a Christian, the more I find that God doesn’t want us to worry about money. He doesn’t want it to control our lives because it has the power to control us to the point where we value it more than Him.

Proverbs 20: Just God

We all know that life isn’t fair. Sometimes the cards we are dealt don’t result in a winning hand. Does that mean that God isn’t “good?”

Proverbs 21: The Contentious Woman

Basically, she’s the kind of person that pretty much no one wants to be around. The people that do surround her are either (A) just like her or (B) stuck with her.

Proverbs 22: Common Bond

Proverbs 22 is so important because it tears down this facade of wealthy, healthy, successful = blessed by God. It levels the playing field because it doesn’t matter where you come from. Nothing we achieve enables us to get more of Jesus.

Proverbs 23: More Money, More Problems

Solomon, the same man who could have had anything he wanted, actually warns us about wealth.

Proverbs 24: A Balancing Act

Moderation is a good thing, not only because of what it keeps us from doing too much of, but because of the things that we need to experience just a little bit to still be effective in ministering to the lost and loving the unlovely.

Proverbs 25: Vinegar in a Wound

We really need to be sensitive to how we interact with people who are suffering. Many times, I think we try so hard to be “happy, positive Christians” that we forget that we are really supposed to be suffering with these people.

Proverbs 26: How to Stop Doing Foolish Things

That little voice in our head warns us and, for whatever reason, we ignore it just long enough to not do what it tells us to do.

Proverbs 27: Flattery, Bragging & Jealousy

When was the last time you analyzed the way that other people perceive you?

Proverbs 28: Rulers & Laws

We are always supposed to support our leaders through prayer. We are supposed to love them, as we want to be loved.

Proverbs 29: Giving & Receiving Criticism

Always accept criticism from others with humility and take those things to God in prayer and by studying the Bible. You’ll likely discover that there were things that you thought you knew about Jesus that you really didn’t… and that is okay.

Proverbs 30: Poverty Nor Riches

Material things (specifically our lack or abundance of them) have a way of replacing God. According to the Bible, it’s perfectly okay to be content with what you have.

Proverbs 31: A Different Focus

Sure. We’ve all heard of the “Proverbs 31 Woman,” but what about everything else in the chapter?


How Do I Change Reading Plans?

When you finish with a Bible reading plan, don't lose momentum. Reading through the entire Bible is a great achievement, but all of us need to keep God's Word in our heads as much as possible. So, once you've finished with one, jump into another plan.

You may want to pick a different type of plan to keep things interesting, and we've added a number of new ones for 2013. There's certainly something to fit any lifestyle. So, how do you change plans? It's easy.

First, just sign in and go to the Reading Plan page.

Next, look for the "Finished with Entire Reading Plan?" link above the list of daily readings on the right-hand side of the page. It looks like this:

Click that link and confirm your choice. (We don't want you to accidentally lose your progress.) You'll then be taken to a page to select a new reading plan.

And that's it. You're ready to get started.

If you ever have any problems, you can always contact us, and we'll get it fixed.

Tell us what plan you've picked in the comments.

A Clutch of Videos

This year, we've focused a great deal of attention on producing helpful videos that provide solid answers about faith, the Bible, and Christian living. Here are just three to help you in your walk with Christ.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes from the Bible

In this webcam interview with Editor, Alex Crain, Dr. John MacArthur discusses his book Twelve Unlikely Heroes: How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You (Nelson).

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

In this interview Dr. Timothy Keller discusses his book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Zondervan).

What Does Biblical Womanhood Mean?

Mary Kassian discusses Rachel Held Evan's new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood and what the Bible teaches.

How Do I Set the Version of the Bible I Want?

Many of us have a preference for the version of the Bible we use to study. And we at BST love to provide as many versions as possible to help you as you dive into Scripture. We already have over 30... with plenty more coming.

If you've looked around our site, you'll probably notice that we don't have a way to select a "default" version of the Bible. Maybe you thought we didn't have a way to do that.

Actually, we do. In fact, you've probably set your default Bible version without even realizing in. You see, when you select NIV or ESV or KJV from the drop-down menu above the reading pane, our site keeps track for you. There are no settings to change; it's just automatic. You'll also notice that the menu keeps up with the last five versions you chose. That way, if you have a couple favorites, they'll be close at hand.

There's just one caveat to point out. This features requires that cookies be turned on in your web browser. If you're using private browsing or you've got cookies blocked, then it won't work. You'll just have to pick the version you want.

What version of the Bible do you use for study?

A Reading Plan at Your Own Pace

While it's true that most people start a Bible reading plan in January, that doesn't mean you can't jump in at any time. In fact, we think summer is a great time to get started. You can either sign up for an automated one... or, by using this tip, you can set your own pace for summer Bible reading.

How? It's really easy.

First, head over to our Bible reading plans page to see if you've got a Bible reading plan going. If you just see a list of Bible reading plans, then skip over these next steps. But if you see the day's reading from a plan you're not currently using, here's how to clear it and start fresh:

  1. Click the "Finished with Entire Reading Plan?" button on the right-hand side of the page.
  2. Confirm your choice.
  3. Head back to the list of Bible reading plans.

This clickable list of Bible reading plans lets you explore what options you have. So, you may decide you just want to sign up for one of the shorter ones for summer (we like the Daily Gospel plan for summer).

But if you're feeling ambitious, just click on the title of a plan, and you'll be taken to a page that features all the readings for that plan in the right-hand column (here's an example of the New Testament plan). Use that column to work your way through the readings at your own pace. Use the plus symbol beside each reading to collapse the ones you've read.

Resource Guide: Mal? Eze? Ju?


Guide to Bible Book Abbreviations


Sometimes, in an effort to save space or time, writers (or someone texting you on the phone) can use two- or three-letter abbreviations for books of the Bible. Most are pretty straightforward, such as Ge for Genesis or Ru for Ruth. But some are a bit tricker, especially if English isn't your first language.

Most of the time, you can simply copy and paste or type those codes into our search box at the top of the page, and we'll show you what they mean. But if you're curious, we have a list of Bible book abbreviations on our site that explains Php, Phm, and others.