Monday, January 20, 2014

How to Choose a Study Bible

A good study Bible is an investment in your faith development.  Many people ask me "What should I Get?" and we even have a tradition of taking new high school grads to purchase their first "adult study Bible."  So, I'm finally putting my thoughts down in print.  The following are some study Bible’s that I recommend.  I’m sure there are other good study Bibles that are not in my top 3.

ESV Study Bible (English Standard Version)
Thorough notes.  Online access as well.  More “hot topics” articles and info available (different religions, social issues, clarifications on theology, etc).

NIV Study Bible
            Not quite as detailed as the ESV, but still good.  Popular if you love the NIV.

Life Application Study Bibles (NIV, NLT)
            Comes in multiple translations.  Good notes as well.

Steps to Choosing:
  1. Make sure you are comfortable with the translation.
(NIV, ESV, NLT, NASB, there are plenty to choose from.  All have slightly different purposes.  Some desire to put it the translation as literal as possible while other try to use more modern language).  Find a few of your favorite verses and compare how they are stated.  You should be comfortable with any listed above.  A chart is below to help you.

  1. View the Books of the Bible Introductionsat the beginning of each book of the Bible.  Cover helpful info such as author, date, history, and themes.
  1.  Study NotesFor me, quality and configuration are important.
Configuration - Some do much better at using boldness of words or passage references to easily navigate through the notes.  Others are just crammed together and hurt the head to look at.
Quality – look at some of the stories you know well (maybe in the Gospels).  Chances are if you know most of what is said in the study notes, than it might not be as thorough of a study Bible as you would want.

  1.  ConcordanceThis is in the back.  Essentially, it is a “word search.”  Looking for verses on “love,” then go to the back concordance and it will list verses with “love” in them.  Not all concordances are created equal.  Some provide just the top few examples where “love” is found.  Others will provide most or all references where “love” is found in the entire Bible based on your translation. 
  1.  Design Layout Some Bibles let you read left to right in one column per page.  Others have two columns.  If you are OCD, then this will matter to you.  I prefer one column per page and I think it helps link well with study notes at the bottom of the page, but to each their own.
  1. Physical Size do you want a compact and easy to carry or pack Bible?  Do you want bigger and better because you know that you will primarily use it at home and not take it with you everywhere (especially if you use a Bible App for casual reading on the go)?  Sometimes a compact version does not have all the extra content that a full size Bible has.  
  1. Bonus Stuff every Bible has a few different bonuses. 
-Life Application Bibles like to give biographies of people sprinkled throughout each book of the Bible to inform or remind you of each person’s importance and context. 

-The ESV Study Bible goes the extra mile (at least in the full size version, in the compact version I think it is only available online) for theology, history of the church, other religions, social issues, etc). 

-Most have a few basic maps as well.

-Some provide charts and other helpful info graphics throughout (timeline of Jesus’ miracles, list of Kings in chronological order, list of parables, diagrams of the temple or a city, etc).  These can be very helpful for connecting different stories into a uniform line of thought.

Those are my tips. Remember, if you never use it, then it doesn’t matter which you pick.

And don’t be afraid to write notes, underline and highlight, just make sure your highlighter doesn’t bleed through the page!  Every mark you make will help long term retention.

Did I miss anything in selecting a study Bible?

Also: Wesley Study Bible – I have never used it, but it comes recommended.  It is on my “to get list” for its theological footing in the United Methodist and Wesleyan view.  This would be subtle in the commentary notes to the average evangelical Christians, just as the ESV may have inclinations towards Reformed theology that most might not notice.  

Lastly, on a lighter note, you can just pick your Bible by using this chart below via Adam4d.

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