(Disclaimer: I have not read every note of the listed Study Bibles, and some of the notes I would disagree with their interpretation. The purpose of this article is to give a survey approach of good study Bible options and what they have to offer.)
“Pastor, what study Bible do you recommend?” – that is one of the most frequently asked questions I get from new believers and growing Christians. I don’t claim to be an expert in the area of study Bibles. To be honest, I’ve always preferred a smaller Bible to carry and preach from (I’m currently using the KJV Ultraslim Bible by Nelson). Any study Bible I’ve ever owned has been for the purpose of home or office study, not necessarily to carry with me or use in church. There are numerous options available and it can be a little overwhelming trying to decide just which one would be good for you to use. Purchasing a study Bible is a lot like purchasing car, just a little cheaper! They all work toward the same purpose, but the one you choose will depend a lot on what you prefer.
It is important to remember that the Scriptures of the Bible are without error and inspired of God, but not the man-given commentary. So, you cannot view the study notes and commentaries as inspired truth. These references only serve as an aid to assist in your understanding of God’s Word. One study Bible may contain notes that accurately interpret a verse, another may not. This is important to remember.
When choosing a study Bible, I recommend you follow these three guidelines:
- Choose a study Bible that is textually accurate. Many newer study Bibles have partnered with translations that have textual flaws (If you are a member of Laurel Baptist we recommend you read A More Sure Word – a book that helps us with our understanding of textual reliability and accurate translation for English speaking people).
- Choose a study Bible that is doctrinally sound. There are some good men out there who have published study Bibles; however, their doctrinal differences will present an erroneous view of certain portions of Scripture. It’s always good to check with mature believers and your local church staff about doctrinally sound study Bibles such as the ones presented in this post.
- Choose a study Bible that is practically useful. A study Bible will be of little use if the font is so small you can’t read it or the structure is presented in a way that you can’t follow it. So, be sure you find one that is practically useful for you. Sometimes just going to the book store and flipping through them are the best way to find out if it’s practical for you.
With that being said, let me share with you my list of recommended study Bibles. Yes, they are listed in order of my favorite and most useful to me. Each one is also linked with a website for purchase information.
1. The KJV Study Bible (Zondervan Publishers). So far, this one is my favorite of the study Bibles. I received one back in 2003 as a gift from my parents upon being ordained to the ministry. The structure of the notes and references are presented clearly. It contains a introduction to each book, alone with an outline. Cross references, word descriptions, and detailed commentary on key verses. I really appreciate the detail given to the charts and maps. They are updated and pleasant to the eyes!
2. The Life Application (Tyndale Publishers). My wife’s favorite study Bible. Very similar to Zondervan’s King James Study Bible, yet the Life Application is much more detailed. I assume the reason I give it a #2 on my list is because of it’s size. It’s a big Bible, and one I would never carry with me (preference). One of the aspects of the Life Application that I really like is the character breakdowns throughout the Bible. For instance, it will take Adam in Genesis 2 and give a summary of his life, lessons you can learn from him, and facts surrounding his significance.
3. Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (Kirkbride Publishing). This study Bible is older, but a solid option. It’s unique in it’s approach. It includes character studies, maps, charts, outlines, special studies, etc. It’s built around a numeric system that tracks the various topics of the Bible. Formatted toward the end of the study Bible is detailed references concerning these topics. There’s no question that it contains more commentary and study than any study Bible I’ve seen. In my opinion, it would be voted “best to carry” in the study Bible category, but that comes with a price – the font of the text is really small. I like the Thompson-Chain. It’s a good study Bible.
4. The Ryrie Study Bible (Moody Publishers). I’ve not owned a Ryrie study Bible very long. As a matter of fact, I purchased one just this week. So, I’m a rookie when it comes to this study Bible. But let me say this. Every time I open it I like it more and more. It’s a large study Bible due to the size of the font, and I can see it really good in spite of my poor eye-sight. I love how the outline of each book is included within the chapter headings and text. I like what I see with the Ryrie. If I update this post in 12 months, it might just move up several spots (Shhhhhhh! Don’t tell the boys up top they have some competition.).
5. The Scofield Bible (Oxford Press). Many of my ministry friends are going to give me a hard time for this one, but I’ve never been a real big fan of the Scofield. Not because of content necessarily, but in comparison to other study Bibles I just like the other options better. That’s not to say it’s not a good option, for it is. The Scofield study Bible combines the convenience of a small study Bible with comprehensive notes, concordance, and chain-reference system. This study Bible is the least expensive to purchase.
So, there’s my list. I am very interested in knowing what your favorite study Bible is. Will you take a few moments to share?