I’m planning to write a series of articles highlighting books and other resources that I think will be useful for a Christian who desires to get into personal study of the Word.
The first tool in which a Christian should invest is a good study Bible. A study Bible provides an entry level explanation of the text using foot notes on each page. In addition there are introductions to the books of the Bible, maps inserted at relevant places, and charts or graphs to make the text make sense. Most study Bibles will have indexes listing many of the key words and then list references showing where those words may be found. Some also have mini history and / or theology books within their pages. And, every study Bible I’ve seen includes thorough cross reference tools so you can follow a word or theme throughout the Bible.
Which one shall I buy?
There are literally dozens of options available today and I have not even come close to looking at all of them so I’ll just share from my personal experience.
Study Bibles fall into two categories. (1) Those with an emphasis on factual details of the text and (2), those with an emphasis on application of the text.
You can get a study Bible in just about any translation and I’m not even going to try to broach that topic here. The most popular versions are easy to find in Christian book stores and online.
The Ryrie Study Bible has been my primary tool for the last thirteen years. Mine is a King James Version.
The cover is about worn out, but I’ll be using it for some time to come.
Another study Bible I’ve found valuable is the NIV study Bible. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the NIV; I just don’t favor the translation philosophy behind it. But the study notes and helps are some of the best available and I consult these on a regular basis.
My wife has a Life Application Bible in KJV which she finds useful. This brings up a good point. If you are married and both of you are interested in studying the Word, get two different kinds of study Bibles. It is very useful to check more than one source when trying to figure out a difficult passage.
Something else to consider is the size of the Bible. Compact study Bibles are available. They are sometimes called pocket sized, but if they fit in your pocket you’re a really big, big person. These contain all the same information, but with smaller print. The regular size bible is what I use. It is about 7 inches wide by 10.5 inches long. This size allows for a little room for taking notes in the margins, and the print is larger and thereby easier to read.
Finally, if you are going to carry your study bible with you to church and other places, I would recommend getting a genuine leather cover. You will pay a pretty penny for this; sometimes as much as $50 or $60 but it will be worth it. These covers hold up much longer than bonded leather and once you really get comfortable with your new Bible (a few years) you won’t want to replace it because of a worn cover.
A good study Bible is by no means the end all of Bible study, but it is a great place to start. If all I have is my Ryrie study Bible I can very happily continue learning for many years to come.