Personal Bible study is a gateway to personal holiness because it forces both a reliance upon the Holy Spirit and an examination of God’s word. The two go together for the building up of the Christian. The art of personal study can be aided by the use of advantageous tools.
There is a fine line here. We can be grateful that we live in an era where resources and tools are both abundant in type and readily available. We have advantages that many never had, even in the last hundred years, let alone the last 1500 years or more. However, these tools require of us a diligence in discernment because we can easily fall victim to the following deceptions:
1) False Teaching: The abundance of tools makes it easier for false teaching to infiltrate if we are not guarded.
2) False Reliance: The abundance of tools makes it easier for us to rely upon ourselves rather than upon God in our study.
While it is important to be on guard against these deceptions, neither does it mean we should lay those tools aside.
At the core of a Bible study is the Bible. The different translations combined with the litany of types makes choosing a Bible overwhelming for many people. For the purposes of personal study, I find it important to use a Bible that has sufficient space for notes and writing. This criteria limits the number of options greatly, especially when taking into consideration the version being used. With that criteria, I would primarily suggest the journaling Bibles, however I will explore two other options that function differently for different needs also
The best array of journaling Bibles come from the ESV version published by Crossway, with the following versions:
o ESV Single-Column: The most popular of journaling Bibles, it is published with a variety of beautiful colors. The single-column format offers plenty of space on the outside of the pages for ease of writing.
o ESV Writer’s Edition: The writer’s edition offers a unique format in that the note taking portion is placed at the bottom of the page. For some people this is of great benefit while others would prefer it on the side.
o ESV Interleaved Edition: A massive Bible that rivals the size of the ESV Study Bible, this one inserts an extra blank page between each page of text to give you ample room for notetaking. It has become popular to add drawings and pictures to notes, and this journaling Bible supplies room for you to do just that.
While ESV by Crossway offers the most layout options, Holman Bible Publishers offers the most options utilizing different translations:
o Holman Christian Standard Version: While I wish the font was more appealing, this is the version I use most frequently because it is one of my favorite translations.
o King James Version: For those that like to utilize the King James Version, this is the journaling Bible to choose.
o New King James Version: And yet another version for those who prefer something other than the ones previously mentioned.
Earlier this year, Aaron Armstrong published a tremendous review of journaling Bibles that would be beneficial for your read. To write my own would simply detract from his great work. To read the article click here.
ESV Reader’s Bible
I use the ESV Reader’s Bible for reading. Stripped down, publishers have taken away headings, titles, references, and even verse numbers so that readers can focus solely on the text. While there is not quite as much space as the journaling Bibles, there is still quite a bit of space to be utilized if using a fine tipped pen. One advantage of the reader’s edition is the ability to create outlines unhindered by pre-divided texts.
The ESV Reader’s Bible currently comes in one version, cloth over board. However, if you are willing to wait until October 31st, Crossway is releasing a 6-volume set complete with a slipcase that would make it a beautiful decorative piece in addition to a practical tool.
For those searching for a high-quality Bible, the ESV Heirloom Bibles are spectacular in the following versions.
Be warned, they are expensive though (note that the thinline versions are a bit more cost effective then the single column and wide margin reference editions). So why buy them when the cost is so extreme? Because the quality is worth it. From materials to the craftsmanship no detail has been overlooked.
The greatest advantages of these is that they come with a lifetime warranty. This isn’t one of those warranties that you have to fight for, but instead staff make it an easy exchange process.
The cost makes sure that these Bibles are not for everybody. However, if you tend to be rough on your Bibles, the lifetime warranty may be worth it for you.
I recognize that the English Standard Version is the primary version on this list. This is for two reasons. First, I confess that the ESV is my primary translation of use. I use it often, whether it be preaching, writing, or leading studies. While the Holman Standard Version is one of my favorites, it is not as recognized. In that regard I am more familiar with the English Standard Version and the variety of layouts it offers.
Second though is that Crossway has taken the ESV brand and turned it into an empire. This can be both good and bad. Of great benefit is the variety of tools that they offer through the abundance of resources. Their innovation sets the standard for others and gives us much to be thankful for. Quite simply, they have the resources that others do not have.
With that said, what it comes down to is choosing the format that is most functional for you. Perhaps one of these Bibles will be the most beneficial for your own personal study. Or perhaps there is something else most helpful. Choose what works best and build off of that
Upcoming Posts in the Biblical Resource Series:
- Online Bibles
- Study Bibles
- Avoiding Distractions
- Bible Study Websites
- Tools for Hermeneutics
- Free Web-Based Commentaries
- Word Study Resource
Previous Posts in the Biblical Resource Series: