Effective Resources for Bible Study ~ The Study Bible

While proclaiming the important prominence that Bible Study plays in our lives, I have found it important to look at some of the tools available to us. With the increase in technology comes an increase in the wide arrange of tools available to us. That increase has been so mountainous that it can be overwhelming to find the tools, let alone determine which resources are of good, biblical quality.
Previously I laid out some journaling Bibles and some web-based Bibles that were geared towards note taking. Built on the premise that our Bibles should be used for study and that we need to be engaged in that study, I found those particular Bibles a worthwhile investment. That investment enables one to study and keep thoughts, notes, and applications in the Bible for future use. So you always have your notes with you because you always have your Bible with you.
While I think the tendency is to rely too much on other sources rather than to dive into the Word of God ourselves, I also understand both the necessity and value of having help. Sometimes we need a little explanation in order to properly understand what is taking place. Therefore, I wanted to take a quick look at what I consider to be some of the best study Bibles available to us:
1) ESV Study Bible: As far as I am concerned, the ESV Study Bible is the standard of study Bibles. It is a monster in terms of size, but it is also comprehensive with a massive amount of additional articles and resources. While at times some of the commentators covenental leavnings can come out, they have little overall impact.
2) MacArthur Study Bible: I enjoy the ministry of MacArthur greatly, and therefore it is no surprise that I also enjoy his study Bible. Admittedly, there are times in which I find the notes to be lacking, particularly in the Old Testament and neither does it include quite the amount of resources that the ESV Study Bible provides. However, with so much information, it is understandable that editors will limit the content. The advantage to this then is the size of the Bible is much smaller and thus making its usability a bit more friendly.
3) Ryrie Study Bible: Like the MacArthur Study Bible, Charles Ryrie release one bearing his name years ago. In fact, for many years it set a great standard in study Bibles. Like the MacArthur Bible, the resources are limited here. However, Ryrie is a solid scholar and this comes out in the notes that he has provided.
4) Reformation Study Bible: The Reformation Study Bible comes from Ligonier Ministries under the direction of R.C. Sproul. Clearly a Covenant Theologian, one must recognize this when utilizing this particular study Bible. However, I often appreciate Sproul’s insights and thoughts. His high view of God comes out in the passage specific notes, a trait that is commendable.
5) Zondervan NIV Study Bible: The most recent of study Bibles, at least at the time of this article’s publication, it was immediately well-received. That reception comes with good reason. Without quite the same biases as the ESV Study Bible, it is probably the best rival to it. Edited by D.A. Carson, readers can expect color photographs, solid notes, and a multitude of wonderful articles. The major downfall of this study Bible is that the translation version, but that doesn’t mean you can’t read another translation and then refer to the notes from it.
6) Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible: To be honest, I have very limited experience with this Bible. While I prefer to recommend resources I have personally encountered, I am willing to make an exception here because I trust the people who have openly recommended it. Two major unique features of this Bible. First it utilizes the King James Version. While all of the other study Bibles are available in almost every other translation except KJV, while the Reformation Heritage comes only in the King James Version. Second is that editors, lead by Joel Beeke, have included a section at the end of every book that includes a section to aid personal/family worship.
7) The Holman Christian Study Bible: As noted by the name it is a study Bible that utilizes the Holman Christian Standard Version only. In terms of translation, this is one of my favorites (with ESV following a close second). I recognize that you should never judge a book by its cover. Yet, the HCSB is one of the most beautifully crafted Bibles in existence. From the intricate cover which lies flat, to its use of color within though photographs, text boxes, and pages of introduction, its beauty makes Bible reading a unique experience for those that own it. The notes are good, but editors added some additional points that help this version excel. First, it utilizes pictures to help readers in understanding the material. Furthermore, there is an emphasis on language with pull-out boxes that explain meanings of Hebrew and Greek words with more depth than most resources. While articles are not quite as abundant as the ESV Study Bible, those that are included are geared towards Bible study and extremely helpful.
These seven Bibles represent only a few of the many available study Bibles out there. However, these seven do something that is extremely important when considering Bibles:
  • They are doctrinally sound. Certainly there are some differences and when purchasing it is good to be aware of the perspective of the editors and authors. However, those differences do not represent major detours from solid biblical teachings. Those involved clearly have a high view of God.
  • I have focused on true study Bibles. There are some others that have specific focuses like the NIV LifeHacks Bible or the Apologetics Study Bible which are great at what they do. However, they are specialized within certain disciplines rather than geared towards an ‘overall’ study.
  • The quality of the additional resources is noteworthy.
  • One advantage to note is that most of these are available in a Kindle edition if you prefer, and with the exception of the Holman and Reformation Heritage Bibles, they come in a variety of translations.
Each of these Bibles can be considered a wonderful resource. With unique aspects and focuses, the one you decide to use depends upon what you may be looking for in a Bible.
The key to using any study Bible though is to recognize it simply as a man-made tool. It is fallible and should not replace the work we do ourselves. In fact, my favorite phrase has been, the study Bible should support you Bible study, not supplant it (you can read more of my thoughts about that issue in the following articles: 9 Aspects of Reading the Bible & The Role of the Study Bible).
Regardless, these Bibles are worth noting and taking an interest in. There are a lot of Bibles out there and it is hard to know what to choose. This list represents that top seven that I would recommend and I hope they are a blessing to you as you seek out the truth of God.
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