During this last week we’ve been learning about how to Delight in God’s Truth. I challenged everyone in our church to begin a practice a daily Bible reading. Give God 15 minutes a day and if you don’t have a plan we’re providing one during this Discover Dynamic Life series. Last weekend I mentioned that a few resources will really help you if you want to become a lifelong student of the world’'s greatest book: The Bible.
In chapter 2 of my book Discover Dynamic Life I mention some resources that everyone can use. Here is a more extensive list of Bible study tools that can really be helpful:
· First, you absolutely need a Study Bible. A Study Bible is usually a Bible that comes with notes and many Bible Study tools included. It will be one of the most important investments you can make. What translation should you choose? For a Study Bible I usually recommend the NIV (New International Version) or the ESV (English Standard Version). They are good solid translations but still very easy to read. Other translations are also very good like NKJV (New King James Version), NAS (New American Standard), HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) and NLT (New Living Translation). You will find many different study Bibles in many different translations. When I am asked to recommend a study Bible there are several standards that I recommend:
NIV Study Bible: It’s a standard, published by Zondervan and is probably the most popular NIV study Bible out there.
Life Application Study Bible: It comes in several translations and is very good.
ESV Study Bible: This is the English Standard Version, which is very good and is growing in popularity.
Make an investment in a good study Bible. It can cost you anywhere from $50-$100. Get the genuine leather if you can. It is the best quality and it will last longer. You’ll find a great selection at a local Christian bookstore or at various sites online like www.christianbook.com.
· Concordance: A concordance lists Bible words alphabetically so that you can look up a word and see the verses that use the word. It becomes an indispensable tool for finding verses that you partially remember and doing studies of certain words and topics. The classic is the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance which is tied to the KJV (King James Version). There are other concordances for other translations such as Strongest Concordance for NIV, and Strongest Concordance for ESV. The difference between an exhaustive concordance and a smaller concordance is that an exhaustive concordance is supposed to list every single verse where a given word is used whereas a smaller one will only give a partial list. If you invest in a good study Bible it will almost always have a concordance in the back. It is usually a partial concordance but still very helpful. If you want to get more serious, invest in an exhaustive concordance.
· Dictionary: A Bible Dictionary is a cross between a regular dictionary and an encyclopedia. It lists Bible words and topics alphabetically and then instead of just giving a technical definition it usually gives a brief article about that word or topic. It can help you understand confusing words, names and places, and give brief biographies of Bible characters. Some good Bible dictionaries are: Holman Bible Dictionary and Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Some Study Bibles also have a brief Bible dictionary in the back.
· Commentaries: A commentary is a book written to comment on a book of the Bible. It contains some author’s thoughts, opinions, research, and observations about each Bible passage. Different commentaries target different people and different levels of Bible students. If you are just starting out I recommend commentaries by Warren Wiersbe or the Holman New Testament Commentary. For more serious study I use The MacArthur Commentaries, The New American Commentaries, and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.
· Word Studies: There are many other tools for serious study of Greek and Hebrew words. One of my favorites is Vines Expository Dictionary.
· Computer Programs: You can actually get everything I mentioned and lot more in a serious Bible Study software program. These can be very expensive up front but when you consider what you are really investing in it can be well worth it. For many years I have used the PC Study Bible at biblesoft.com. I have also started using one that is recommended by many people called Logos Bible Software at logos.com.
Do you need all these tools? Well you at least need to start with a Study Bible. If you get a good Study Bible you will have a few of all of these tools at your disposal. As you get more serious in your study consider a good software program that will give you access to many tools, or start adding some of these tools individually to your library. What a great thing to make it a lifetime goal of building a serious Bible Study library!