Bible study tools are resources that are designed to help in studying God’s Word. The Bible itself is of course the most important tool we can use for inductive study, by allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, but sometimes it is helpful to get a deeper understanding by knowing words, culture, the context, history, people, places, etc. Bible study tools help us to understand these concepts.
There are certain tools that should be in every Bible student’s library. Here is a simple list of the most important tools.
I know, it’s a no-brainer, but I wanted to cover the basics. For inductive study, I recommend getting a Bible that is free from distractions and commentary. I also recommend a literal translation, such as KJV, NKJV, ESV, etc. I prefer a wide-margin Bible with references.
Study Bibles are like multi-tools- they have lots of tools, but in order to get everything to fit, they are usually simplified versions of better tools. Study Bibles usually include lots of commentary and theological bias. They are good to have around, but I don’t recommend using them for your primary Bible.
The study Bible that I recommend the most is:
- Archaeological Study Bible.
With reservations, I could recommend:
- Thompson Chain Reference
- Life in the Spirit Study Bible
- ESV Study Bible
- Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible
There are many equally good study Bibles, but these are some of the Bibles that I’ve gotten the most out of. Study Bibles have many useful tools in one volume. Just be careful of theological bias and you should be OK.
There are some Bibles that print the Scriptures under specific topics rather than in Biblical order.
- Nave’s Topical Bible
- Torrey’s New Topical Textbook
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
A Parallel Bible is a Bible that contains more than one translation, often placed side-by-side for comparison. Parallel Bibles usually come with two or four translations in a variety of versions, but some have more. There are many parallel Bibles available. Popular publishers of Parallel Bibles include:
- Thomas Nelson
An interlinear Bible is a Bible that shows the Hebrew and/or Greek text with a literal word-for-word translation between the lines of the text. Most interlinear Bibles also include an English translation in the margin. An interlinear Bible is one of the most important and useful tools for serious Bible study.
- The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew/Greek/English
- The New Greek-English Interlinear NT
I love reading God’s Word in English, but nothing can replace the original languages. In order to study the original languages without taking extensive classes in Greek or Hebrew, I recommend using a lexicon. Lexicons are linguistic tools that define word meanings and vocabulary. They are more than just dictionaries. They give word meanings, grammatical structure, and morphological information.
- Thayer’s Greek/English Lexicon
- Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon
A concordance is the Bible’s searching tool. It contains many words with references to verses where you can find those words. Searching for key words will help you find phrases and passages. Most Bibles come with concordances. Most concordances have so few words that they are not that useful. For serious study you will want an exhaustive concordance.
- Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
- Cruden’s Concordance
Commentaries are the most dangerous study tools because they are completely someone else’s opinion about a text or passage. It is difficult for me to recommend commentaries, especially on theological points. However, using commentaries is not something you should be afraid of and the can be very helpful. Some popular commentaries are:
- Matthew Henry
- Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament
- Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary on the Whole Bible
Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias are just like regular dictionaries and encyclopedias except they are focused on the Bible. They are very useful tools because they include information you will not find in regular dictionaries and encyclopedias.
- Harper Colins
- Easton’s Bible Dictionary
Most Bibles have maps, but for serious study I recommend getting a really good set of maps that are more complete and up to date.
- Baker Publishing
All of these tools are available in book-form and I recommend having them in your library. However, there are other ways to get many of these same tools in software:
Bible software packages often have all of these tools (at least one of each and sometimes many more) for much less than the cost of the same volumes in book-form.
Free software includes:
- Bible Explorer
- the Word
Premium software includes:
Many of these tools are available on the web. I haven’t mentioned any of those sites here because there are so many and the web changes constantly. Simply search for them in your favorite search engine.
Most of these tools are also available on e-readers. E-reader software can even be used on devices such as phones and computers. E-books are often much cheaper than the same volumes in book-form. Popular e-readers and e-book tools include:
- Sony E-Reader
- Android Tablet
Of course you can study the Bible without these tools, but Bible study tools will help you to grow much deeper in God’s Word. I recommend having and using at least one of each of the tools in this list.