For Simple Bible Study
Q. How do you use bible research tools and which ones should I own? Please keep it simple. I'm not a great student.
There are many fine tools available to bible students. Here are a few for you to consider:
1.A Good Study Bible
A good study bible may contain your Bible's concordance - It shows where some words are found in the Bible.
Your Bible's Cross-References - located in the margins of each page, cross-references show other Scripture passages which relate to, support, or illuminate verses. (This is like Google long before the invention of the personal computer).
2. Exhaustive Concordance
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, or Zondervan NASB Exhaustive Concordance, etc.
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance shows where every word in the King James Bible is found. Other exhaustive concordances are based on the NASB, NIV, and other translations. Check your Christian bookstore for an exhaustive concordance in your favorite translation.
Example: You remember something about Satan being the ruler of the world or earth, but don't remember where it's found in the Bible.
Look up: ruler, world, earth, Satan, etc., in an exhaustive concordance to find your verse. Refer to the number besides the word to find its Greek or Hebrew equivalent listed at the end.
For example, once you've found the location of your phrase, you may wish to refer to the number besides a word to find its Greek or Hebrew equivalent. The numbers correspond to Greek or Hebrew words found at the back of the concordance.
3. Expository Dictionaries
Expository Dictionaries give more complete definitions than those offered by exhaustive concordances. Two favorites mentioned by many teachers are:
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. (This works well with the NASB). Strong's numbers transfer to Zodhiate's numbers).
W.E. Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. (Vine's is keyed to the King James Version - words are found using a KJV which correspond to Vine's words).
4. Bible Dictionary
- Provides descriptive definitions and information on bible words. For example, how much is a denarius? How big is a cubit?
5. Topical Bible
- This groups together themes and topics rather than individual words. Cross-references are included. Nave's Topical Bible is recommended and well-known.
6. One-Volume Commentaries or Commentary Sets
- These give explanations for difficult bible passages. The MacArthur Bible Commentary or Matthew Henry's Commentary are both one-volume commentaries.
We suggest that believer's acquire one book-commentary at a time rather than multi-volume sets. The sets are expensive and can be overwhelming. If you are studying Ephesians, then purchase commentaries by your favorite authors on the book of Ephesians, for example.
7. Bible Handbooks or Encyclopedias
- These are similar and offer references to subjects in a similar way that the Encyclopedia Britannia helped many of us in school. The five-volume Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia is a wonderful resource. Halley's Bible Handbook is also a favorite one-volume resource.
8. Dictionary of Systematic Theology
- This is a useful tool containing essays about church doctrines such as salvation, gifts of the Spirit, the trinity, and so forth. We enjoy Grudem's book on systematic theology, but there are others, too.
9. Bible Maps
- Having maps of the Middle East as it was in Abraham's or Jesus' day compared to Israel, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria today, adds an exciting dimension to Bible study. Our favorite is one that overlays transparent modern maps over Bible lands. Rose publications offer such maps.
10. Computer Software
- All of the above references plus as many as 21 additional Bible translations, numerous commentaries, dictionaries, word studies, interlinear Greek and Hebrew texts, and so on are now available in Bible Software programs.
Dr. Chuck Missler's favorite is the Scholar's Library: Logos Bible Software. We advise interested students to call 1-800-K-House-1 for recommendations and assistance in finding a good software program.
Are all of these tools needed or useful to the average bible student? Probably not.
Many Third-World pastors do an excellent job of preaching with their Bible and an exhaustive concordance as the only reference tools available to them.
According to Gordon Fee, Ph.D., good exegesis - or systematic study to uncover the original, intended meanings in Scripture - can be accomplished with a good translation, a Bible dictionary, and good commentaries.
Kay Arthur of Precept Ministries feels that inductive study - or using the Bible itself as a source of information about the Bible - is available to everyone with a good translation, an exhaustive concordance, and an expository dictionary such as Vine's or Zodhiates.'
For a good resource catalog, call Christian Book Distributors at 1-800-247-4784 (1-800-CHRISTIAN). You may view their products at www.christianbook.com. Or you may write to Christian Book Distributors, P.O. Box 7000, Peabody, MA 01961-7000 and ask for a catalog.
Arthur, Kay. 1994. How to study your Bible. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
Bible research made easy. 1999. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
Fee, Gordon. 2003. How to read the Bible for all its worth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.