Our current series of Soli Deo Gloria articles is exploring Bible study. This article will look at a very important tool used to understand the Bible: the Study Bible.
A Study Bible contains articles and notes that explain the meaning of particular verses and phrases in the Bible’s text. I have used several of these Bibles over the years, and I have found them to be most helpful.
The first Study Bible I ever used was the Thompson Chain Reference Bible in the King James translation. This Bible contained listings of Bible verses that addressed particular subjects. These lists could be easily followed because they were labeled in the margins of this Bible along with the next reference in the list. The insights into theology I gained from studying the verse lists in this Study Bible have stayed with me for a long time. Systematic Theology is the careful study of what the entire Bible says on any given subject, and the lists of verses by topic in the Thompson Chain Reference Bible are a great help.
The NIV Study Bible was the next Bible I used with benefit. This Study Bible had notes that attempted to capture the different ways different denominations and theological traditions understood particular verses. For a young college student who wanted to be exposed to different conservative traditions, this was particularly useful. It helped me to choose the tradition that best expressed the Bible’s true meaning. The Concordia Study Bible is a revision of The NIV Study Bible with notes from a Lutheran perspective that I have also found to be helpful.
The ESV Study Bible probably contains the most detailed notes and articles of any popular Study Bible. It is written from an evangelical theological perspective, and people from many denominations find it helpful. Its maps and charts are the best I can find.
As a Christian who is a member of a Presbyterian Church, I find that The Reformation Study Bible most closely agrees with my understanding of Scripture. I find that this book does an outstanding job of explaining the Scriptures from the best view-point that I have ever studied. I will continue to study, learn and change my opinions in the future, but I think I have found the point of view that I will stay with for the rest of my life expressed in The Reformation Study Bible.
There are many useful Study Bibles on the market today. Each has its own particular emphasis or point of view. Read widely and often. Your understanding of the Christian Faith will be expanded, and that understanding can lead to a changed life.
Our next Soli Deo Gloria article will take a look at one particular area of Bible study and interpretation that seems to cause the most trouble for serious Bible students. That area is eschatology, or the study of the end times.