If you read and study the Bible seriously, you know that it is essential to have some reliable resources to assist you. For example, it helps to know the background and human authorship of any book of the Bible you are studying. What is the time period of the book? Why was it originally written? It is important to have at least a basic understanding of Biblical hermeneutics (principles of interpretation) in order to accurately grasp what you are reading. It is essential to correctly identify the literary genre of the book you are studying, i.e. What kind of literature is it? History, poetry, prophecy? How does that affect the way we read and understand the book?
Here are the resources I rely on the most (in order of importance to me) as I read the Bible:
1. The Reformation Study Bible. The Bible text is the English Standard Version. Published by Ligonier Ministries, Lake Mary, FL 1995.
The publisher says: “Widely considered one of the best tools available for Bible study…This foundational resource was created by more than fifty scholars and features thousands of in-depth study notes, 96 theological articles, 19 in-text maps, colored maps, and 12 charts to help you understand the Bible better.”
An updated edition of this Bible is due out in 2015.
2. Ryken’s Bible Handbook: a guide to reading and studying the Bible. By Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken, and James Wilhoit and published by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 2005.
I love this book. It is a treasure chest of Bible information and help. I have used it to teach adult Sunday School classes. If you only have one Bible resource in your library, it should be this one.
3. Knowing Scripture by RC Sproul, Intervarsity Press (Second edition) 2009.
Here’s why the publisher’s website says you need this book: “[Dr. Sproul] … presents in simple, basic terms a common sense approach to studying Scripture and gives eleven practical guidelines for biblical interpretation and applying what we learn. With a minimum of technical jargon, Sproul tackles some of the knotty questions regarding differences of interpreting the Bible, including
* discovering the meanings of biblical words
* understanding Hebrew poetry, proverbs and parables
* approaching historical and didactic passages
* being careful with predictive prophecy
* discerning how culture conditions the Bible
* choosing and using Bible translations, commentaries, Bible software and other helps”
4. Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof. This is a classic and has been a mainstay for over 70 years. But this is not for the faint of heart. If you are just starting you may want to pick up Summary of Christian Doctrine by the same author or Concise Theology by JI Packer.
5. Logos Bible Software. I have a number of resources in my software library, too many to list, including commentaries, Bible dictionaries, maps and charts, etc.
I hope you are building a library of Bible study resources. What are your favorites?