So you have decided to make the commitment of getting a good Bible and endeavoring to understand what the meanings of individual passages are. Now all you need to do is make the most of your studies. The best way to do this is by using the best study Bible you can find in addition to your Bible. There are a few points you need to consider when deciding which will be the top study Bible for you:
- Remember that study Bibles take several different approaches, some of which are based on which faith of Christianity the author’s background is in. Beyond that, study Bibles can take the form of advice about certain areas of life, including love and marriage, work relationship, and spirituality as it is linked to outdoors.
- There are really no end to the amount of specialized areas from which a study Bible derives its purpose. Some of the more specialized study Bibles are easy to relate to as it is self evident based on the title. When you are looking to find the study Bible for you that is based on your own religion, that can be a bit harder to discern.
- Although there are certain ways in which a person might go about identifying which books are written for or by which faiths, you need to know where to look to find such information.
To start with, you will need to know which types of study bibles are available to you:
The Best Study Bible Guide and Key
|The ESV Study Bible||Word-for-word||Adult||$$$$||4.5|
|NLT Study Bible||Thought-for-thought||Teen||$$$||4.7|
|Life Application Study Bible ||Word-for-word||Adult||$$||4.5|
|Thompson Chain Reference Bible ||Word-for-word||Adult||$$$$||4.8|
|Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible ||Word-for-word||Adult||$$$||4.4|
|The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language||Paraphrase||Teen||$$||4.2|
|The Everyday Life Bible: The Power of God's Word for Everyday Living||Thought-for-thought||Teen/adult||$||4.8|
|NIV Starting Point Study Bible||Thought-for-thought||Teen/adult||$$$$||4.9|
|Comparative Study Bible, Revised||Word-for-word|
|Compass: The Study Bible for Navigating Your Life||Word-for-word|
Included in the matrix are 6 columns:
- Bible pictures
- Bible brand and name/model – (click to view more details or to purchase)
- Style – This indicates how the translation was done.
- Age Level – Easy, medium or difficult
- Price – These are approximate prices on Amazon.com. These change frequently based on availability, special promotions, and more. But generally speaking: $ = under $20, $$ = $20 to $30, $$$ = $30 to $40, $$$$ = $40+
*Click on any of the columns to sort the data to help make your decision easier
Study Bibles By Ranking -
- Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible – This is a particularly good study Bible because it uses a referencing system that links a verse in one passage with other passages that contain the same topic.
- Naves Topical Bible- In this book bible texts are broken down and arranged by topic.
- English Standard Version – This book is a very interesting read and contains maps, timelines, charts and is very well illustrated throughout.
- Life Application Study Bible – This book is the New International Version (NIB) study Bible. It contains character profiles, charts and commentary which makes it easy to take in.
- Zondervan KJB Version – This colorful study Bible outlines the words of Christ in red and has colored maps to allow for better understand of biblical conflicts.
The study Bibles are also written according to specific themes or interests, such as Christian living, prayer, leadership, outdoors, and many others. Since there are so many varying types, it is good to decide ahead of time what you want to get out of your study Bible. That way, you can choose one which will have the greatest meaning to your life.
The First Study Bibles
From the very first English interpretation of the Bible, the basic components of a study Bible were met. With the first English translations there was a drive to get the information into the hands of everyday people, including text to compare and study what the original documents meant. This was a necessity to be able to get the information out there for everyone to benefit from.
The history of Christianity evolves around the difference in translations of the Bible, with the Catholic outlook and the Protestant one being the most notable. Other religions formed after the inception of both Catholic and Protestant beliefs regarding the literal translation of the Bible. The Geneva Bible was the first Bible written in English that fits the definition of a study Bible, as it contains extensive cross referencing.
The reason the King James Bible was even written is because the Church of England disputed some of the statements made in the Geneva Bible annotations and had the KJV written with their translation of the original manuscript.
There are many well known study Bibles and to say one is the best study Bible over another is really subjective as they do not all stem from the same translation, so it stands to reason that they cannot be definitively ranked. The Scofield Bible, which was published in 1909, started the American religious theory known as dispensationalism. Other contemporary study Bibles set out with the same purpose.
Modern day use of study Bibles is done by scholars, theologians and people who want to seriously study the Bible and its teachings. If you are not interested in taking on study of comparative information that is contained in a study Bible then you would probably be better off starting with buying a Bible dictionary.
Features Of Study Bibles
All of the top study Bibles have the following features:
- They will be filled with annotations that explain the more difficult passages and related points of theology and doctrine.
- Definitions and explanations of complicated words and thought#
- Cross-referencing of passages with related text.
- Variable or interpretive readings of certain passages or alterations based on an educated guess of the most likely form of Hebrew or Greek when it is not totally clear.
- Historical notes and introductions for each book in theBible.
- Biographical information on the places and people written about in biblical times.
- Illustrated maps of the Holy Land during Biblical times.
- Readings about when the gospels point out parallel incidents that were present in the life of Jesus.
- Time lines including an international comparison to other world history of the time.
Which Study Bible Is Best For Me?
There are a few things you should keep in mind when picking a study Bible:
- Time should be given to decide what it is you are looking for out of a study Bible.
- The first thing to decide is what interpretation of the Bible is best for you. There are several options in that regard, from the word-for-word translations to more expressive translations. In the English speaking language the study Bible will fall in the middle of these types.
- One of the most popular in the English speaking world is the King James Version, which has been the preferred version since the 17th century.
- Two modern day literal translations study Bibles are the New Revised Standard Version (1989) and the New International Version (1984).
- An easy way of picking what could possibly be the best study Bible for you is to consider your religion. For a Catholic, the most recommended study bibles are The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Addition by the New American Bible, or for Evangelical Christians, the New International Version are the most popularly used, with the King James Version coming in a close second.
A good way of finding out what theological or political approach is being used is to look through the references. Most study Bibles use the cross referencing system and explains the meaning of older words that are not used in modern day. They will also explain the customs of the people being written about, and will subtly show their alignment with a certain faith.
- Study Bibles written by Scofield or Ryrie are dispensational and conservative, the New Jerusalem and New English study Bibles are written in the Catholic tradition
- Dake’s study Bible is written with Pentecostal belief in mind.
- The New Oxford Annotated Bible and The Harper Collins Study Bible both write from a liberal or critical approach. The author or theologian notes that each study Bible holds can identify the religious background of each Bible.
- If your study Bible has an emphasis on the historical dogma of the Church in the verses of Matthew then it is Catholic leaning. This is different than books written in the Protestant fashion like those of Scofield or Ryrie, who both emphasize the distinctions between the Church and Israel, and will outline a literal fulfillment of the prophesies in the book of Acts (15).
- If you are looking for a non-dispensational approach to these subject I would suggest the New Geneva Bible.
Another consideration when choosing a study Bible is whether or not you want to include the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals), which includes information on religious life of the Jews that lived between the period of their return from exile to Judea in Babylon up until the time of Jesus. Many Protestant denominations, including Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists will choose the best study Bibles that include the Apocrypha for the inclusion of this information.
If you are looking for a study Bible that spends time outlining healing and spiritual needs, the best choice would be a study Bible with a Pentecostal view (a quick way to decide if a study Bible is Pentecostal based is by reading their interpretation of Matthew and Acts). If you really want to get everything you can out of a study Bible,it is best to buy a Bible dictionary to help you through words and phrases you do not understand.
A Bible dictionary is more like an encyclopedia in that it reaches beyond just the definitions and includes explanatory articles about Bible people, places, subjects and events. This information would be directly linked to biblical texts and includes archaeological, historical and other works that reference the Bible.
How Should I Use The Study Bible I Find?
There are many aspects to the ways in which knowledge is taken in throughout the study Bibles. Reading the entire text as a book is very important and is the first step you should take to get the most use you can out of your study Bible. After that, starting again at the start, follow the references and read through each cross-reference so you can understand how each passage or idea fits in with the rest of the passages on any subject. All study Bibles will have a map but the study Bibles have several maps that show each historic site and the relationship between archaeological finds and writings in the Bible. A few easy steps to follow to be sure you get the most you can out of your study Bible is to:
1. Read the text of the Bible first, considering what you know about the customs of the time and the meanings you have learned through Church.
2. Consider all of the cross-references that the study Bible indicates, taking time to read them consecutively for the largest gain of understanding. You have to read the actual passages as well as the reference. The main reason why people suggest the study Bibles is for the cross referencing ability.
3. Since you are taking the time to attempt to improve your Bible knowledge with the top study Bible you can find, take the opportunity to review all of the notes, articles, and other information that is written along with the text. You will be able to work out what side your belief lies on by doing so, where there are differences between the referencing and the literal translation of the text.
Understanding how to choose study Bible for you depends on your individual circumstances, so it does not really help to have someone else tell you which is right for you. Also, it is normal to have more than one, and even several, study Bibles. If you feel like you want to follow along with your Sunday sermon it is a good idea to get one that is written in the style of your minister’s Bible. This will help you to better understand what the message is that your preacher is trying to convey. The best way to tell what type of study Bible you are looking at is to read the introduction to see if they are taking a conservative or a liberal translation.