If you’re looking to dive deeper into God’s word, it can be difficult to know where to start. There are so many bible study tools out there. It can be overwhelming. Which ones should you look into first?
Important to note is that different kinds of resources have different goals in mind. So you’ll want to understand what it is that you are buying and how you’ll use it.
Here are 6 kinds of bible study tools that will be a helpful addition to your library of resources.
1. Study Bibles
Perhaps one of the first tools you’ll want to consider adding to your library is a good study bible. In many ways, they serve as an all-in-one solution, incorporating elements from most of the other resources described in this list–just in a condensed form.
In a study bible, here are some of the features you’ll find.
- Summaries at the beginning of every biblical book to set the context and outline the message and structure of the book.
- Commentary notes throughout the bible, whether on the side or the bottom of the page, describing key concepts and points of clarification on that page.
- Helpful maps, illustrations, timelines, and dictionaries.
Here are a few study bibles that we really like.
2. Bible Handbooks
Bible handbooks are similar to study bibles in the features that they provide, such as book and chapter summaries, along with background information, maps, and timelines.
They also offer insights about archeology, Church history, and key biblical concepts. Another great feature of bible handbooks is their overall size. Given that they’re compact and light, it’s not difficult to grab one, stick it in your purse or backpack along with your bible, and head over to the local coffee shop.
Here are two of our favorite bible handbooks. Both are classic resources.
3. Bible Commentaries and Verse-by-Verse Bible Studies
Bible commentaries are a resource that go deeper than bible handbooks in terms of breaking down the verse-by-verse meaning and interpretive issues in any given passage.
They can range from life applicational to highly technical. The more technical the commentary, the more insights the authors will give you from the grammar and syntax of the original languages. But they are also a little harder to understand if you’re not also studying biblical Greek and Hebrew.
A single volume of a commentary series typically covers just one book of the bible, or a small collection of related books.
Nevertheless, here are some good starter commentaries that cover the entire bible.
Similar to commentaries, verse-by-verse bible studies typically cover one biblical book, providing insights and background information.
But what makes these great is that they provide prompts and reflection questions, which makes them a fantastic resource to move through with your small group or a group of friends who want to study scripture together.
Here are a couple of good ones.
4. Bible Dictionaries
Bible dictionaries are reference resources that offer independent studies of frequently used words in the bible. They explore the usages of a word in the bible and other ancient texts and describe the nuances of what it might mean based on its context.
Depending on the dictionary, it can cover the whole of scripture, or a particular biblical author or collection of writings. Similarly, concordances are a reference guide for biblical words, but serve more as an index than an in depth study.
Here are one of each: a whole bible dictionary, one covering the writings of the apostle Paul (our personal favorite), and a concordance.
5. Tools For Daily Reflection
It’s important to have resources that will aid you in robust study of the bible, so that you can understand its historical and cultural context, as well as relevant grammar and syntax considerations. But then there are resources that help you reflect on God’s word.
In order to help you move through the bible on a consistent basis, you may consider picking up a resource that will help you read through the bible in a year. Some 365-day bibles arrange their readings topically, while others chronologically. Each one provides a unique experience of scripture.
Another resource we’ve really grown to love are the bibles published by Alabaster Co. They take the scripture and bind them in very aesthetically beautiful volumes with artisanal photography on each page that draws out the themes and emotions of that chapter. Reading them is a sensory experience that serves to sharpen your focus on the words of the bible. While they currently only have a limited selection of books within the bible, their library is constantly growing.
Here are two 365-day bibles and one Alabaster bible book.
6. Bible Software
Bible software can be a highly useful tool, and they can include the benefits of most of the resources listed above–commentary, insights on the original languages (and even an actual look at the text in its original language), dictionary resources, maps, concordance features, and more.
Investing in a good bible software can be expensive, and they tend to get more expensive with the more features they have (or that you add on to a base version of the platform). However, there are some bible software programs with free versions.
Here are 3 popular bible softwares.
Other Bible Study Tools from Kainos Project
Here are some free resources we’ve developed to help you understand what’s in the bible, how we know we can trust it, how bible translations work, and some tips for diving into bible study.
- How To Study Your Bible [article]
- Which Bible Translation is the Best One? [article]
- 5 Bizarre Bible Stories and What They Mean [PODCAST]
- 5 Commonly Misinterpreted Bible Verses [PODCAST]
- Textual Criticism: How We Know We Can Trust The Bible [PODCAST]
- How We Know We Have The Right Books In The Bible [PODCAST]