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Want to start studying the Word of God but don’t really know where to start or what tools to use?
There are a lot of resources out there, but it can be hard knowing which Bible to choose (not all translations are created equal) and what tools you actually need vs. ones that are just fluff.
Here are my personal favorite recommendations for what to use while studying the Bible.
Choosing a Bible
Naturally, to study the Bible, you’ll need a Bible. There are lots of digital resources out there, which are great! But I personally like to have a hard copy of the Word, too. There’s just something about physically holding any book, and for me God’s Word is no different.
Study Bibles can be a great way to go. They often offer historical context and other tidbits to help their readers better understand the scriptures.
There are two study Bibles I highly recommend. One is the Key Word Study Bible in the New King James version. It pulls out key words and phrases and shows their usage throughout Scripture based on the original Hebrew or Greek meanings. It also gives definitions for each one. It can be very helpful for understanding the intended meaning of whatever I’m studying.
The other is the Reformation Study Bible. It includes commentary that has been edited by a team of 75 doctrinally sound pastors and theologians, led by the late Dr. R.C. Sproul.
Great Bible Translations
Some great, solid Bible translations include the:
- New King James Version (NKJV)
- Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
- English Standard Version (ESV)
- New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- The Amplified (AMP)
I DO NOT recommend the Message or the Passion Translation. The Mirror Bible is also starting to gain traction. All three of these are extremely problematic and should not actually be considered translations of the word of God. I used to recommend the Passion Translation on this blog, an action for which I am deeply grieved.
For more information on why, check out Mike Winger’s channel. He has several thorough videos on why it’s not a translation and how it forces poor theology onto the word of God.
You can access an entire playlist of his videos on why it’s problematic here.
Even though I adore my study Bibles, it’s also great to read other translations and get a clear picture of what’s being said. For that, I use the Bible App where nearly any translation I can think of is at my fingertips.
A word of caution: as I mentioned above, not all translations are created equal. Choosing a reputable, theologically sound translation is important and will potentially affect the way you see God in His word.
The Bible App also has some cool features like highlighting and notes (especially helpful for those who don’t like highlighting and writing notes directly in their hard copy Bibles). There’s even a section for devotional plans, if you’d benefit from one of those.
You can also access the Bible online by following this link.
A Bible Concordance and Dictionary
Sometimes our connotation for a word or they way we think about it taints our view of what’s being said in scripture. Bible concordances–like the Strong’s or ones found on Blue Letter Bible–make it easy to find the original usage behind whatever word we’re looking at.
Blue Letter Bible is a wealth of information when it comes to concordances (and lots of other helpful information on each passage). It’s online and completely free, which makes it even better! If you’re looking for software that’s comparable but a little more “beefy,” for lack of a better word, check out Logos.
Bible Study Tools has the Strong’s concordance available online that you can find here. We have a hard copy at home that my husband purchased long ago. If you prefer that method, you can find the Strong’s on Amazon.
Often even more helpful than a concordance is a good Bible dictionary to really hash out the meanings of each word. My favorite one is online, and you can access it here for free!
Historical Reference Guides
It’s a good idea if you don’t have a study Bible (or even if you do) to have some sort of book that tells you a little bit about the history of whatever you’re studying. While there are lots of internet resources for that, it’s important (as always) to make sure the information you find is actually credible.
It’s probably best to find a book that you like on Biblical history, arranged in the same order as the books of the Bible.
If you do decide to go the online route, Bible Study Tools has a list of resources they recommend that you can find here.
A Bible Study Notebook
Aside from the Bible and resources to give you historical context, you may want pens, highlighters, sticky notes, and sticky tabs to write down and organize your thoughts.
It’s also a good idea to have a notebook or binder (that’s what I do) specifically dedicated to your Bible studies. If I don’t use a binder for all of my Bible study notes, they end up being scattered amongst other papers in our home office and are completely useless.
Helpful Teaching Ministries
There are lots of teachers out there claiming lots of different things about the Bible. But just because they use scripture to back themselves up doesn’t mean they’re interpreting it the way it was meant to be interpreted. A survey of church history shows us the different errors that have arisen over time that the church fathers and others through the ages vehemently rejected.
Unfortunately, many are led astray by doctrine that isn’t sound. At one point in my life, I had no idea where the things I believed truly came from. I thought that because the teachers I listened to used Scripture, they were right. I thought that the people who didn’t agree just didn’t understand the mysteries of Scripture like those I listened to.
Boy, was I wrong.
If you’re looking for sound biblical teaching and want to gain an understanding of church history and how to properly read the Bible without forcing previous interpretations onto it (how to let the word speak for itself and in the context of itself and history), I highly recommend a few teaching ministries.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will get you on the right track. The first three come from generally the same interpretive lens for reading Scripture–reformed theology. The last does not share their viewpoint fully. However, he has a wealth of information on his channel that helped me immensely when I was unlearning lies I had been taught.
All of the ministries above have verse-by-verse studies–done in context–that are fantastic and will help you in your own study time to understand proper exegesis (getting the intended meaning from the passage).
Did I miss anything? What other Bible study tools and resources do you like?
Until next time,
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