KwikMind
    For the Heart and Mind

Home Contact Privacy

Site Map

Free Volume
Sign up for the Newsletter and get a free volume of the Early Church Fathers.
 
<< Previous    1  [2]    Next >>

The best study Bible contains a balance of both. You want a careful, accurate translation, but one that reads easily and clearly for family devotions or public worship.

Another issue is the underlying Greek and Hebrew text. The KJV translators worked with the best texts available to them in 1611, but in the last 150 years we have gained a much more accurate understanding of what the original text must have been. Nearly all modern translations are enriched by the translators working from the most accurate Greek and Hebrew texts possible.

Here are some of the most popular English translations. Your church or tradition may have a particular preference, but any one of these might be a good choice for you:

  • The King James Version (KJV, 1611) is, of course, the granddaddy of our English Bibles. For its day it was a very accurate translation and is still used in many congregations today. In 1984, the New King James Version (NKJV) was published as a whole Bible by Thomas Nelson. Translators modernized the language of archaic words substantially and removed most of the “thee’s and thou’s,” through the original language basis remained the same as the KJV of 1611. For churches with a strong King James tradition, the NKJV is a popular alternative.
  • The New International Version (NIV) was first translated as a whole Bible by evangelical scholars in 1973, with revisions in 1983 and 1988. It is an excellent balance between readability and accuracy of translation. For years it has been the most popular newer translation in the United States, especially among evangelical churches.
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB or NASV), translated by the Lockman Foundation, was published in the whole Bible in 1971 and revised in 1977. Its big strength is its consistency in literally translating words and tenses. It is known as a very accurate translation, though perhaps not as easy to read aloud as some others.
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV, 1989) and its predecessor the Revised Standard Version (RSV, 1952) are careful translations in the King James tradition. Several Protestant denominations prefer the NRSV. It is both accurate and readable.

Of course there are many other modern translations, many of them good for serious Bible study, too numerous to list here. The original Living Bible and The Message are not translations, but paraphrases. They can be refreshing to read but aren’t good Bibles for careful study.

Learning to Use a Study Bible

After you’ve decided what translation to use, I encourage you to purchase a study Bible, since it will contain a number of tools in one volume that can help you dig deeper. Nearly every Bible publisher offers a study Bible. Your local Christian bookstore can help you figure out which one is right for you. Here are some of the features that you’ll come to appreciate:

  • Cross References. In a column next to the text, a study Bible lists several other verses with a similar idea or theme. For example, for “Nicodemus” in John 3:1, my Bible refers me to John 7:50 and 19:39 where he appears again. For “Rabbi” in verse 2, the cross references send me to Matthew 23:7 which has nine more references on this topic that I can explore. These cross references won’t be comprehensive, but will point out the main passages that discuss this idea.
  • Bible Book Introductions. It’s important to know something about the author, date, themes, circumstances, and intended audience of the Bible book or letter you’re studying. In most study Bibles you’ll find one to three pages of introductory comments for each book with a brief outline.
  • Study Notes or Annotations. Study Bibles have footnotes at the bottom of the page to help explain some of the more obscure ideas you’ll run across — a kind of mini-commentary. Remember, these aren’t part of the Bible itself, but can often point you in the right direction in your study. These notes are usually indexed for easy reference.
  • Concordance. You’ve had a verse on the tip of your tongue, but don’t know exactly where it is. A concordance helps you find a Bible passage if you can think of a key word or two that the verse contains. A concordance can also help you find other verses that teach a concept or use a word found in the passage you’re studying.
  • Topical Index. In addition to a concordance, some study Bibles have a separate topical index that helps you find scripture references on a particular topic.
  • Maps. Part of understanding what’s happening in narrative passages of Scripture is learning the geography, the location of cities, battles, mountains, valleys, enemies, etc.

Other features you may find include articles on various topics, a brief Bible dictionary, outlines of topics and Bible books, index of place names, time lines, and so on.

Specialized Tools for the Next Step

Obtaining a study Bible is the place to begin. But as your Bible studies increase, you may want to invest in some more specialized books. Some to explore:

  • Bible Handbook. Provides a great deal of information about each book of the Bible, life in Bible times, history of the English Bible, etc.
  • Bible Dictionary. Brief articles on each significant subject, word, and person in the Old and New Testaments. You’ll often find helpful summaries of Bible teaching.
  • Bible Concordance. While study Bibles provide an abridged concordance, you can find an unabridged concordance that helps you find every occurrence of a particular word in the Bible. The best-known of these is Strong’s Concordance (based on the KJV) which identifies each Greek and Hebrew word, and gives it a brief definition and a number. Now concordances are available for the NIV and NASB containing Strong’s numbering system.
  • Bible Commentary. Bible commentaries provide an overview and running explanation of each book of the Bible. A good place to start might be with a fairly recent one-volume commentary on the whole Bible. There are also a number of inexpensive commentary series available that cover each book in the Bible, if you want to study a particular book in greater depth.
  • Word Study tools include an interlinear New Testament that shows the Greek text on one line and a literal English translation below it. A Greek-English Lexicon provides clear, precise definitions for each Greek word in the New Testament. Some of these are keyed to Strong’s numbers so they can be used by students who haven’t learned to read Greek letters. Similar resources are available for Hebrew as well.
  • Topical Bible. A topical Bible will give a great many scripture references listed by topic. Great if you’re doing a topical or thematic Bible study.
  • Bible Atlas. An atlas contains more than detailed maps. It also describes the geography and places of the Bible, usually with fascinating illustrations and archeological details.

If you need advice on Bible study books, ask your pastor or the manager of a Christian bookstore.

These days many Bible study resources are available online at no cost, such as Crosswalk Bible Study Tools (bible.crosswalk.com). You can also purchase excellent Bible study software for your computer.

Don’t Forget the Most Important Step

It’s possible to be so engrossed in Bible study that you forget the most important purpose of Bible study. It’s not Bible knowledge for its own sake nor being able to quote verses and recite orthodox doctrine. Ultimately, the purpose of Bible study is to learn exactly what the Bible teaches so that you can apply its teachings to your life.

Perhaps the simplest approach to Bible study is to use the three basic inductive Bible study questions to ask of a Bible passage:

  1. What does it say?
  2. What did it mean to those reading it in Bible times?
  3. What does it mean to me as I seek to apply it to my life?

My prayer is that your Bible study results in a heart that is tender to listen to what the Spirit is saying to you through Scripture and a will that is determined to live out in your everyday life what you’re learning.


Dr. Ralph Wilson is a California pastor, director of Joyful Heart Renewal Ministries, and author of more than a dozen free online Bible studies from the Old and New Testaments. Each Bible study is also available in e-book and printed format (www.jesuswalk.com/ebooks). Copyright © 2006, Ralph F. Wilson . All rights reserved.
 
 
<< Previous    1  [2]    Next >>