As I have remarked before, we live in an age where we have easy access to great resources for learning the Bible. As we start a new year… and a new decade (unless you think it begins in 2021 !), I thought I would highlight just a few of these excellent tools for doing rewarding, and dare I say, awesome, exciting, … and even fun, Bible study. Some of the best tools available are for free online.
Believe me. I like the idea of “free.” But there are a few standout resources that I can recommend, that might cost you just a few bucks. Here we go:
Obviously, the first place you want to start is to get a good Bible. If you are totally new to the Bible, and you want to read quickly through the Bible, something like Eugene Peterson’s The Message is a great place to start. For a high level introduction to God’s Word, The Message is really helpful.
Another great tool for getting a high level survey on the Bible, available in short videos, is the awesome work done by the folks at The Bible Project.
For reading the Bible, while on the go, with your phone or tablet, download an app like YouVersion, or the ESV Mobile App, or the NIV Bible App, that can even read the Bible to you, while you go about your daily business.
However, if you really want to dig in, and really understand the Bible, in a verse-by-verse manner, a paraphrase like The Message will often end up doing you more harm than good. What you really need is a good study Bible. There is a big difference between READING the Bible and STUDYING the Bible. Try to get into the habit of studying the Bible, and not simply reading it.
I will admit it. After awhile, simply reading the Bible can get boring, and you will eventually lose interest. Actually studying the Bible, on the other hand, will offer you a lifetime of rewards.
A good study Bible has selected commentary and notes, that will aid you in your understanding. I have reviewed a number of excellent study Bibles here at Veracity, put together by the best Bible scholars in the world, that I can highly recommend, such as the English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible, the Zondervan New International Version (NIV) Study Bible, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible, or anyone of the fine Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Study Bibles. My “go-to” favorite is Crossway’s English Standard Version, and they have probably the best looking Bibles you can buy. But anyone of the ones I have listed above are great.
I would personally stay away from Bibles that have been translated, or filled in with study notes, written by just one person. When you do that, you are just limiting yourself to one scholar’s point of view. I mean, a good study Bible (even some of the online ones) can be expensive, so why make an investment, that is only going to limit your thinking process?? We all have our blindspots. But hey, if you really want to drop $50 bucks on the “Joe-I-Am-A-Popular-Pastor-But-I-Am-Not-The-Pope-But-Some-People-Think-I-Am—-And-I-Am-OK-With-That” Study Bible, do yourself a favor and drop another $50 on a different study Bible, to give you a more rounded perspective, please?
On the other hand, if you are cheap, like me, you might want to check out some of the great Bible study helps available for free online:
- BibleGateway.com. You can read and compare multiple Bible translations, of all of the major English translations available (and non-English, too), from your favorite web browser. There are even options at BibleGateway to read notes from a few other study Bibles.
- Biblehub.com. For a quick glance looking at how a single verse compares with various popular translations, I often will use Google or DuckDuckGo to search for a reference, and look for the hit at Biblehub.com, to see the list of various translations.
- The NET Bible (otherwise known now as Lumina). Done by a number of folks at Dallas Theological Seminary, including the esteemed veteran Bible scholar, Daniel Wallace. In particular, if you are puzzled about all of the “some manuscripts” blah-blah-blah this and that, the NET Bible explains all of that for you. By far, this is my favorite study Bible available online.
- The STEP Bible. Just recently put out by the good folks at the Tyndale House, at Cambridge, in England. This is the easiest way to do word studies and word searches in the Bible. You will never need a separate concordance or interlinear translation again, if you use the STEP Bible.
- (and for the ultra-Bible nerd) The KJV Parallel Bible. The total Bible geek can consult this online parallel Bible to compare how the trusty ole KJV compares with modern translations.
The point is that there is simply no excuse for not having the resources available to you to do good Bible study, assuming you have a computer and an Internet connection. Probably for most folks, a good study Bible is really all you will ever need. Yet for more in-depth study, if you are thinking about leading a Bible study, you can look at other online tools, or spend some money on something like a concordance (where you take a word found in the Bible, to locate where else in the Bible, that word can be found), a Bible dictionary (for looking up what those words mean), or an interlinear Bible (to figure out which Greek or Hebrew word matches the English, in your Bible translation).
As noted above, there are also some really good, inexpensive and short books available to aid in your study of the Bible, without flooding your bookshelf, or filling up your computer hard drive, with stuff you will probably never look at.
Bible commentaries can be really helpful, if you really want to dig deep into a particular book of the Bible. I would suggest that the best ones out there, that will not take up all of your mental energy, and that will not totally destroy your bank account, would be either a volume out of the IVP Tyndale Bible Commentary series (for more nerdy readers), or the NIV Application Commentary series (for less nerdy readers). Sometimes, there are book sales on individual books in these commentary series, so keep your eye out.
I also like having a Bible background commentary, to help you dive in, behind the scenes, to better understand the culture of the Bible. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is my personal favorite.
All-in-one resource systems for your computer, like Logos Bible Software, or Accordance, are great for folks who want to be more hardcore in their Bible study. But just be prepared to shell out some bucks, once you get involved in that.
If you have hung around Veracity long enough, you will know that I am a big fan of Dr. Michael S. Heiser. He is an Old Testament scholar who most recently worked with Logos Bible Software, and who is host of the Naked Bible Podcast.
Michael Heiser has released a set of books designed to give you profound insights into understanding the Bible, and each insight can be read and digested in less than 60-seconds. That is my kind of way to start at really getting into Bible study.
Here is my top tip on one of my favorite Michael Heiser books. The first book in the series is Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Study: 80 Expert Insights, Explained in a Single Minute. Here is a sample of the topics:
- Read the Bible with a Critical Eye — It Can Take It
- The Aim of Bible Study Is the Meaning of the Text, Not a Defense of Your View
- Ignorance Is Not a Gift of the Spirit
- Attention to Detail and Clear Thinking Are Not Antithetical to Loving Jesus
- Listening to a Sermon Isn’t Bible Study
- All Interpretations Are Not Equally Plausible
- Some Things in the Bible Are Clearer than Others — By Design
- Nonliteral Doesn’t Mean “Not Real”
- If It’s Weird, It’s Important
- You Can’t Understand the Bible Without Understanding the Worldview of the People Who Wrote It
Each essay can be read in, yep, less than a minute.
You can get it on Kindle for $9.99. The paperback version is a little more, but it is worth it. I do not follow Mike on everything, but he is really good at dismissing a lot of the foolish talk that passes itself off as “Bible study” in some circles today. So, stop just reading the Bible, and get excited about studying it. Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Study is a “quick read” tool to help get you started.
Are you more excited now about digging into God’s Word this year? I know I am. So, go for it!