Many people have asked me for suggestions about which materials are best, and so below is a list of tools that I use when studying the Bible.
While I am not an expert on every resource available, hopefully this list will be useful for those who are new to Bible study looking for where to start.
If you can afford no other book, spend your money on a good Bible.
The Bible instructs us to study to show ourselves approved unto God and that scripture is profitable for furnishing men of God to be unashamed workmen (2 Tim 2:15; 2 Tim 3:16).
It is important, then, which Bible you use as there are many different options. I believe every word of the King James Bible on my desk, and would encourage you to as well. Depending on which desk I use, the Bible on my desk is one of the following:
My Bibles are published with no notes, no references, no red letters, unless I put them there, and I like it that way. When I pick up the Bible it is only God’s words without affectation.
A Note on Study Bibles
Study Bibles area not important for personal Bible study, only as commentary (see below).
I have study Bibles, but do not use them as my primary Bible. In my library they are regarded the same as commentaries. The only reason I have them is to get the perspective of the author from his notes, but it is not to for help in personal Bible study or to carry around someone else’s thoughts and call it a Bible. If I was granted a wish by the publishing wizards of study Bibles they would publish the notes separately to preserve the integrity of the scripture, save me money, and save my time flipping pages.
The most important tool in personal Bible study is a concordance. It is second only to your Bible. To get the most profit from it, your concordance must be exhaustive (it contains every word and every location of each word).
I use the search program in my Bible software, but also have the only print concordance you will ever need: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
A concordance’s strength is in making connections with other passages of the Bible. There are also various books and Bibles that give cross-references in attempt to make similar connections. All cross-references are interpretive and should be used with caution when provided from a third-party. However, the best of these books is the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.
The Bible is its own best dictionary. With a Bible and a concordance you can create better definitions than many dictionaries contain, and more descriptive of Bible usage.
Dictionaries of English can assist in defining some of the lesser used words in your Bible. An older dictionary is better only because it gives you a meaning closer to when your Bible was published (see above).
If you cannot purchase the expensive 1828 Webster’s dictionary, there are free versions of many dictionaries online along with Webster’s multiple editions.
Archaic Words in the Authorized Version (Vance) is also helpful at defining words that have changed meaning in popular usage.
A Note on Bible Dictionaries
A Bible dictionary can help you with describing people, places, and things from the Bible with information that may not be found in the Bible. They are often equivalent to Bible notes and book prefaces in some editions of the Bible. They are treated as commentaries in my library (see below).
You cannot study the Bible without taking notes and writing down your thoughts. Invest in some notepads, blank journals, and comfortable pens or pencils. Do not be cautious with your writing at first. Write down your thoughts about the Bible and where you see connections.
Computers may be replacing a lot of paper products, but paper is still very useful. There are papers all over my computer desk where I study the Bible with drawings, arrows, and charts drawn on them. Draw out your ideas and let your eyes help your brain make connections and outlines. There is still no easier way to do this than with paper and pen.
Software can contain all of the tools listed above in one place. You can start studying the Bible with one click.
The search capabilities in my software replace my printed concordance on most occasions.
Software has the ability to make notes and record my cross references. This replaces my notepads, pencils, and journals (though not completely). I have many pages of notes on my computer, backed up in case of disaster.
I use Bible software extensively in my personal Bible study out of preference, but the same study results can be achieved without the use of software.
Study software such as TheWord, eSword, or SwordSearcher have all that you will ever need from Bible software. A customized configuration of TheWord is open on my computer every day with a KJ Bible, search, dictionary, and notes readily available.
Expensive software like Logos and Bibleworks are only useful for study of other languages. Since study of other languages is not Bible study, they are completely unnecessary for our purposes here and unneeded for personal Bible study in English. Save your money.
The only Bible many people hear is from preaching, teaching, books, and commentaries. This is not personal Bible study, and you are missing out on important lessons that can only be learned from personally digging into God’s word and thinking about it.
Teachers never have enough time to expound every thing they learned in preparation, and would openly admit that they learn more in preparation than students do in listening. Just because your favorite teacher knows something does not mean you know it just as well. Study to teach yourself.
Commentaries are profitable, but only when studying someone else’s perspective on the Bible. Use with discretion and only after you have already studied the Bible and written your own commentary.
The tools on this page are intended to help, but can also turn into distractions from what you should really be doing: studying the Bible. That is why this list of resources has been kept short and there have been no recommendations on commentaries or study Bibles.
As always there are hundreds of resources and helps on this website to help you get started in studying the Bible.
If you have any questions during your Bible study please contact us.