As we start a new year, many people set out with a goal of reading the Bible daily – a wonderful resolution.
We want to share two tools we highly recommend and take a closer look at what a study Bible is.
What’s one gift you’ve received that has helped you immensely in your walk with Christ?
Mine was a study Bible. My father gave it to me when my son was born; he spent extra time looking for one that I would say is pretty (he knows me so well). His gift was a game-changer. While the Bible was four times the size of my then-current Bible, I appreciated that it offered notes on nearly every verse to help me understand the original context, significance, and possible application points for my life.
Between my study Bible notes and my Bible reading guide, I quickly fell into a routine of deeper time in the Word.
Two Tools for Reading the Bible
Reading the Bible is essential for Christians, yet it is common to feel overwhelmed when starting your Bible-reading journey. Legitimate questions we hear often are:
- What part of the Bible should I read?
- How do I understand the Bible, what it means, and why it matters?
The two tools I highly recommend you invest in to help you discover meaningful Bible time (that you look forward to and enable you to grow) are a study Bible and a Bible Reading Guide.
A Bible Reading Guide
A Bible reading guide (like Daily Bread, Encounter With God, or theStory) is not your average devotional book. What I love about the Bible reading guide is it helps you hear from God straight from His Word. The Bible guide helps readers work systematically through the Bible, and after each day’s reading, an experienced Bible teacher explains what the passage means and how to apply it to your life.
Check out my article on How a Bible Reading Guide will help you.
A Study Bible.
Recently we polled our followers on Instagram and asked them to share their experience with a Study Bible. Forty percent of respondents told us that they have never used a study Bible! One hundred percent of those who have used a study Bible said it helped them read and understand the Bible better. When you ask for advice from an experienced Bible reader, they’ll often suggest you try a Study Bible. But what exactly is a study Bible, and why is it so highly recommended?
100% of those who have used a study Bible said it helped them read and understand the Bible better.
What is a Study Bible?
A study Bible is a beneficial resource that enhances your reading experience by providing valuable insights, context, and explanations. Here are some key features you’ll find in a study Bible, using the NLT Life Application Study Bible as our example:
Each book of the Bible’s introduction includes essential information, including the author, historical context, and key themes. The introduction helps you approach each text with a deeper understanding of its background.
I appreciate how the Life Application Study Bible includes “vital statistics” to help understand the purpose of the passage (why was it written), the author, the original audience, the date written, the setting, and key verse/people/places. There is also a timeline on the top laying out the events in the book (when it includes narrative/history) and offers an outline, key themes, and summary of the book.
Timelines within a study Bible visually represent historical events, helping you connect the dots between different passages and eras. Other study Bibles show this in different ways – but usually have them available.
Cross-references guide you to related verses, enabling you to explore the Bible’s interconnectedness and gain a more comprehensive understanding of its teachings.
Cross references are helpful as you read through the Bible to see how it is all connected – the prophecies of Jesus and the fulfillment of these prophecies. It is particularly helpful with the Psalms! Many Psalms were written during unique times in David’s life that we read about in Kings and Chronicles. Knowing David’s journey at that time helps you appreciate the Psalms in a fresh way.
Detailed notes provide commentary on specific verses or passages, shedding light on their context, background, places, culture, history, meaning, cultural significance, and relevance to your life today. These are especially helpful with difficult-to-understand passages.
The notes on the bottom of each page are my favourite part of the study Bible. Sometimes, these notes better explain the cultural norms to help you see why the situation was unique. Other times, it offers details on a geographical location and its importance in the story or answers questions about challenging passages.
Maps help you visualize the geographical context of biblical events, making it easier to grasp the locations and settings of the stories you’re reading.
As you read about journeys people took – like Paul, or Mary and Joseph, seeing them on a map gives you a greater appreciation for their trip. I also turn to the maps while studying 1 + 2 Kings. Reading about the conflict between the regions and different sites is helpful with a map.
The Bible has sections that look at people we read about in the Bible and mentions their strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. They also share essential lessons from their lives. Character studies are helpful!
Exploring Different Study Bibles
Now that you understand what a study Bible is and why it’s helpful, let’s explore a few different study Bibles you might consider purchasing.
Abide Study Bible
I have not yet used this, but two colleagues have highly recommended it to me!
For those seeking a creative and immersive experience, the Abide Study Bible is a beautiful choice. It incorporates artwork, innovative layouts, and reflective exercises to help you engage with the Word of God uniquely and meaningfully.
The Abide Study Bible is helpful because sometimes we see our time in the Word purely as a time to read and learn – but engaging with God as we read His Word is more important.
Cultural Background Study Bible
It’s easy to forget that the Bible was written thousands of years ago in a different culture. While it is living and still true today, understanding the culture of the original audience will help you understand the Bible better!
Delve into the rich cultural tapestry of the Bible with a Cultural Background Study Bible. These study Bibles provide insights into the biblical world’s customs, traditions, and historical context, enabling you to read the Scriptures with a deeper appreciation for its cultural nuances.
Life Application Study Bible
The Life Application Study Bible is what I have and highly recommend.
In addition to all the information and resources, what I love is the application aspect. The Life Application Study Bible bridges the gap between ancient wisdom and modern living. It offers practical insights, real-life examples, and thought-provoking questions to help you apply the Bible’s teachings to everyday situations.
Embarking on a journey to read the Bible is essential, and choosing the right tools can significantly enhance your experience. A study Bible will be helpful as you seek to make your time in the Word enjoyable and meaningful.