“Some people are troubled by the things in the Bible they can’t understand. The things that trouble me are the things I can understand.” – Mark Twain
The Bible is a huge collection of 66 books – written by 40 authors over 1500 years, written in 3 different languages, using half a dozen literary genres, and dealing with the biggest issues in life. So have at it!
Honestly, anyone who isn’t a little intimidated to crack open the pages of the Bible simply doesn’t appreciate how foreign it can be, and how much can be missed or misunderstood simply reading it at face value.* It’s for this reason, many people never even try and leave understanding the Bible to the “professionals.” But the Bible is God’s love letter and it is written to and for all of us. So one of the most important things you can do is to jump in. At the same time, it’s good to have a little background.
Fortunately there are a ton of tools to help us understand God’s word and get the most out of it. From time to time we will suggest some tools to add to your toolbox. One such tool is the study Bible. A study Bible is one of the more accessible tools as it typically contains verse by verse commentary, word studies, cross referencing, book summaries, timelines, maps and other helpful resources all in one publication. Some study Bibles have so many resources that they usually stay on your desk or coffee table at home where you do your studying and accompany your “normal” Bible that’s a little easier to tote around. Of course, now in the digital age, many of these study Bibles are available on your computer, tablet or smartphone as well.
In looking for a good study Bible here are some things to consider.
- Translation – a good balance of form and function (accurate to the original language while being easy to understand in the english) article: “A Brief Description of Popular Bible Translations”
- Theological leaning – The commentary for the passages (usually at the bottom of each page) reflects the theology of the individual or team that provides the content. There are some very respected scholars that bear reading, but a team of scholars can typically provide a more balanced and well rounded approach. For instance, the English Standard Version Study Bible (ESV) used a team of 95 theologians.
- Thematic leaning – There are a large selection of study Bibles for men, women, teens, new believers and more.
The Bible is in most places, pretty easy to read and understand. With a little direction, you can begin reading God’s word and gather tools as you go. Although the words “below the line” (commentary) are not inspired scripture themselves, a good study Bible will help answer many of your questions and give context revealing the power and depth a word or phrase contains.
If you want a good review of some of the more popular study Bibles check out the article, “Study Bibles: the epic list (and how to choose one)”
Do you have a favorite translation or study Bible you recommend?
Today’s post is by Jon Price, Associate Pastor