The more serious you become about personal Bible study, the more you will be aware of the importance of owning some good study tools. Numerous books are available today, some of which are listed below. You should form the habit of purchasing at least one study aid per month for your own library.
It is best if you have a study Bible that has paragraph notations as well as footnotes that help you understand the difficult sections of Scripture. You will want to get some of the modern, reliable, and readable translations, versions, and paraphrases—preferably in hardcover, leather, leatherlike, or bonded leather. Thankfully, there are several excellent versions and paraphrases of the Bible available today, which will enlighten your understanding of the meaning of the biblical text. For casual reading, you may wish to use The Message, The New Living Bible, and/or the New King James version.
While it is not the most readable, the New American Standard Version Ryrie Study Bible is very helpful, especially for a serious, in-depth study of the Scriptures. Always remember that some Bibles present a nearly word-for-word translation from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts into English, while others offer a looser, more contemporary rendering. Both are helpful as you seek a fuller, more complete grasp of the Holy Scriptures in your Bible study.
An excellent resource for the study of Scripture is the New Living Translation Life Application Study Bible. Chuck heartily recommends this particular study Bible, since it provides several reliable, readable helps: in-depth background information, numerous biographical sketches (called “personality profiles”), informative footnotes on key Scriptures and problem passages, easy-to-understand timeline charts, and maps related to the book of the Bible being studied. Most recently published in October, 2007, this Bible contains the latest up-to-date research.
A concordance is a must. It is an alphabetical listing of all the words in the Bible and of all the verses in which they appear.
- Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible or Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible are my preferences.
- Acquire an exhaustive concordance of the translation you use for study.
- Most good computer programs for Bible study (see No. 7) allow for multiple-word searches, including lexical searches in the original languages.
3. Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
- English—Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary or The Random House Dictionary of the English Language
- Bible—The New Unger's Bible Dictionary is the best.
- Theological—Baker's Dictionary of Practical Theology is a good tool.
- Greek and Hebrew—Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
- Encyclopedia—The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (5 volumes) and International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (4 volumes) are excellent.
4. Geographical and Cultural Helps
- A good atlas is indispensable for understanding context. The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands is highly recommended. (Also, if you have not yet been to Israel, you should go!)
- Bible backgrounds—The New Unger's Bible Handbook, Halley's Bible Handbook, Merrill Tenney's New Testament Times: Understanding the World of the First Century, or Alfred Edersheim's Bible History: Old Testament
5. Bible Doctrine Books
- Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge, or Systematic Theology by Augustus H. Strong
- Biblical Theology of the New Testament by Charles C. Ryrie
- Major Bible Themes by Lewis Sperry Chafer—a good, concise book
- Surveys of the entire Bible—The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty (in two volumes, Old and New Testaments) is outstanding. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary is my preferred one-volume commentary.
- Expositional (verse by verse)—some of the best are by Donald G. Barnhouse, Kenneth S. Wuest, William R. Newell, R. C. H. Lenski, H. C. Leupold, William Barclay, John F. Walvoord, Arthur W. Pink, and Tyndale House
- Devotional—books by G. Campbell Morgan, F. B. Meyer, Alan Redpath, H. A. Ironside, and Charles R. Swindoll
- Analytical—books by W. Graham Scroggie and Merrill Tenney as well as the I. C. C. (International Critical Commentary) series (critical and tends toward the liberal side)
- Best to purchase one of the entire Bible first
- Best to use different types in your study
- Best to consult them after your own personal study
- Best to read with discernment; don't be afraid to challenge or disagree
- An excellent volume by John Glynn, Commentary & Reference Survey, lists and explains the most popular and recommended commentaries (from various perspectives — evangelical, liberal, etc.) on every book of the Bible. It is helpful when you're looking for which commentary to buy . . . and which one not to buy.
7. Bible Study Computer Programs
- BibleWorks (for PC)—see www.bibleworks.com
Designed for analysis of the biblical text, BibleWorks is the best program for the PC platform—for all levels of users. It offers search tools, lexicons, and dictionaries for Bible study, sermon preparation, and detailed Bible research.
- Libronix Digital Library System (for PC)—see www.logos.com
An astounding assortment of commentaries, books, dictionaries, and tools allows for quick research on any passage or topic. Many of the recommended resources in this article are in the Libronix Library.
- Accordance (for Macintosh)—see www.accordancebible.com
From basic Bible study helps to advanced research tools, Accordance is the best program for the Mac environment. Accordance offers Bibles, commentaries, lexicons, and a comprehensive library of materials and tools that can grow with your needs.
8. Web Sites
- www.bible.org—"In the last decade bible.org has grown to serve millions of people and ministries around the world through providing thousands of trustworthy resources for Bible study — including an exciting new translation of the Bible (the NET Bible)"—from their Web site.
- www.bibleplaces.com—"BiblePlaces.com features photographs and descriptions of sites in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Greece with an emphasis on biblical archaeology, geography and history"—from their Web site.
9. Bible Study Methods
- Living by the Book by Howard G. and William D. Hendricks
- Independent Bible Study by Irving L. Jensen
- How to Study the Bible for Yourself by Tim LaHaye
- Methodical Bible Study by Robert A. Traina