Choosing a Study Bible – Introduction

As followers of Jesus, we’re called to not just read God’s word, but to study it, internalize it, and have it guide everything we do.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair — every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you”. (Proverbs 2:6-11)

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'”. (Matthew 4)

That’s where the utility of a “study Bible” comes in. But when it comes to study Bibles, there are a lot of options out there. Choosing one can be a bit overwhelming. Study Bibles can also be fairly pricey. So I thought I’d do a short series of posts about different options, features, and a few things to consider when making a choice. Everyone is different, and there really isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. So think of these posts from the standpoint of “I wish I’d known or thought of that before I bought my study Bible”.

What Is A Study Bible?

While different study Bibles have different sets of features, most of them have a common set of features that distinguish them from regular, basic Bibles:

  • extended, explanatory footnotes, to provide additional background information and context about the scripture
  • cross-references, which link verses and passages of scripture to other verses and passages in the Bible to show how scripture ties together into a more unified whole
  • maps and charts, to help give additional detail and context to the narrative
  • extended introductions to each book of the Bible, providing an overview of that book, along with historical context, who authored that particular book under the inspiration of God, etc.

An increasing number of Bibles printed today include some of the above features in a more limited extent, and are kind of a cross between a study Bible and a basic Bible. But a full-on study Bible – identified and sold as such – is a great help when it comes to digging into God’s word, and so I recommend that folks fork over the money for “the real thing”.

In our modern, digitally-connected world, some may ask “Why bother with a paper Bible at all? I can get any translation I want with my Bible app”.  A few things come to mind:

  1. In the world of technology, life cycles are increasingly short. That app you’re using won’t be around forever.
  2. It’s probable that at various points in your life you’ll be in a location that doesn’t have a reliable Internet connection, but you’d still like to read and study your Bible.
  3. An extended power outage, whether caused by a natural disaster (tornado, hurricane, blizzard, earthquake) or a man-made disaster is probably a time when you’d most like to have the comfort of God’s word at your fingertips.
  4. A Bible with your notes and highlighting can become a wonderful gift for a family member or friend after your time on this earth is done.

A quality study Bible that you actually enjoy opening and using is a great thing. In the next posts I’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of the various options and features that you may want to take into account when choosing a study Bible, including translations/paraphrases, page layout, text/font options, bindings, and a few other assorted items.

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