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I’m a Bible nerd. Yep. There’s no way around it. I love studying God’s Word and relish learning more about the words, traditions, history and people of the Bible. To do that, I use a variety of tools for Bible study.
There’s nothing like wrapping yourself in the Word of God through Bible study. If you desire to learn more and enjoy “geeking out” on the Bible by digging deeper, you’ll undoubtedly need a reference tool or two from time to time.
I use many of them, myself, and have relied on these amazing resources to write my own course, Kneel Before the Throne.
From my own research and use and recommendations of my favorite pastors, I’ve compiled this list of the best Bible study tools.
A list of the best tools for Bible study would not, of course, be complete without the reason for the tools: The Bible!
Which Bible (or Bibles) you choose will depend on a number of factors, but here are a few that I recommend and why I recommend them.
There are a ton of different types of study Bibles available. Many have useful maps and introductory material for each biblical book and, often, commentaries or explanations of verses. Some good ones also include cultural background content.
I do have two cautions for study Bibles, though: 1) Most of the commentary is subjective, by the perspective of the author. 2) You may not want to use a study Bible if you are planning on studying the Bible inductively due to reason number one. I DO use a study Bible for all of my in-depth Bible studies, but use caution that the commentary is not the Word of God, but a helpful tool for insight.
Here are a few study Bible’s that I highly recommend (including the one that I, personally, use).
ESV Study Bible
Winner of the ECPA Book of the Year Award. The ESV Study Bible was designed to help you understand the Bible in a deeper way. Extensive study notes, charts, maps, and articles make this study Bible a valuable resource for serious readers, students, and teachers of God’s Word.
Life Application Study Bible*
Available in several translations, including NIV, NLT and NKJV. It is one of the bestselling study Bibles and includes over 10,000 application notes to help you understand the message of Scripture and apply it to your life in practical ways. The character sketches allow you to learn from the lives of key Bible personalities while charts, timelines, and a concordance enhance your study experience. This unique Bible is full of study directives to help you discover how God’s Word applies to your life today. I personally use, and love the NIV Life Application Study Bible.
Bible with Wide Margins
There are times when you want to write your notes in a journal and there are times when you want to jot your notes right in your Bible. For those times, you’ll want a Bible with wide margins (this is also an ideal Bible style for Bible journaling).
A wide margin Bible has, obviously, wide margins, sometimes lined, for notetaking. Some have blank pages for note-taking, called “interleaved” Bibles.
Here are my top recommended wide margin Bibles (including the one I personally use for Bible journaling).
NASB Note-Taker’s Bible
This NASB Note-Taker’s Bible is designed for taking notes and has plenty of room to do that. It has wide margins and double-column text for easy reading. Words from Christ are in red.
ESV Single Column Journaling Bible*
The ESV Single Column Journaling Bible features an easy-to-follow, single-column format with two-inch ruled margins, enabling you to easily align your notes, thoughts, and prayers alongside specific verses.
With high-quality Bible paper and cover materials, the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible is a durable edition for anyone who wants to capture sermon notes, prayers, artwork, discussion notes, or personal reflections in their Bible.
*This is one of the Bibles that I use for Bible journaling, but the wide margins make it ideal for jotting notes and prayer. You can find my main Bible for Bible journaling on the recommendations page of this site.
Loose Leaf Bible
For those who like to take lots of notes while studying the Bible, a loose-leaf Bible may be your best bet.
In addition to the generous 1.25-inch margins, the 8 1/2 x 11-inch pages fit it a typical binder and allow you to add additional pages for notes, where and as you need them. The 9.5-point type makes it easy to read and this edition includes a center-column reference and a concordance for convenient study.
Different Bible Translations
I think this may be the second-best tool for Bible study, after a single Bible.
Using multiple Bible translations in your Bible study is one of the most overlooked but incredibly helpful tools you can use.
Different translations help you to uncover nuances that you might miss if you read just one version of the Bible text.
If your “regular” Bible is an NIV, try adding an NKJV translation to your collection. Other terrific translations for Bible study include NASB, NLT and The Message.
I currently own the following translations and read them or use them for Bible study weekly, if not daily: NIV, ESV, NASB, KKJV and NLT.
Bible Study Resources
When reading the Bible, you are almost guaranteed to come across words that are different across translations. A Bible dictionary is often formatted like an encyclopedia and includes brief articles on a number of topics found in the Bible. A Bible dictionary is a fantastic Bible study tool for researching historical background and cultural context. You can use it to learn about people, places, and what a word or phrase meant at the time of the word’s writing.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words*
The most thorough and affordable Bible dictionary I have found. Whether you have a background in Hebrew or Greek or have never studied the original languages, this is an easy-to-use dictionary to help you study the Bible. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary is a three-in-one as it serves as a dictionary, commentary, and concordance.
Zondervan’s Compact Bible Dictionary*
The publisher’s description says it best: “A fact-and-image-filled guide to the arts, cultures, geography, geology, theologies, philosophies, and lifestyles of biblical times. Easy to use, and full of a wealth of information, the Zondervan Compact Bible Dictionary will equip your study of the Bible. The dictionary features:
- Concise definitions of persons, places, objects, events, and concepts
- Over 6,000 entries
- Summaries of the books of the Bible
- Information about archaeological finds in the Holy Land
- Hundreds of illustrations
- Maps of the ancient world from the time of Abraham to the height of the Roman Empire (2000 B.C.-A.D. 117)
Key Word Study Bible*
Both a Bible and a dictionary, this tool for Bible study, The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible identifies the keywords of the original languages and presents clear, precise explanations of their meaning and usage. Sometimes, a Greek or Hebrew word has a distinct meaning that seriously affects the proper interpretation of Scripture. Unless you know these languages, you won’t be able to determine what word in the original text was used or the differences between these words without a tool like this.
A concordance is a great Bible study tool for locating cross-references, understanding where and how else the author used a particular word, and for looking up the meaning of the original Hebrew or Greek.
“Exhaustive” concordances list every occurrence of every word in the Bible and are arranged alphabetically. Each biblical word is in bold type, followed by all the instances where that word was used in the Bible.
Next to the reference is a portion of the sentence in which the word is found; you must look up the verse in a Bible to read it fully. The word itself is represented by its first letter in italics. The third element of each entry is a number. The number can be used to look up the word in the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries provided at the back of the concordance. Regular type numbers refer to words in the Hebrew dictionary; italicized numbers represent Greek words.
The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance*
There’s a reason Strong’s has continued to be the standard and most highly-regarded Bible concordance of millions for over a century; it is a rich and invaluable resource for students, scholars, pastors, and laypersons desiring an advanced, in-depth study of the Bible. It indexes every word in the King James Version, unpacks original Greek and Hebrew words, and proves itself an indispensable reference classic. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is a convenient handbook size, giving readers time-tested biblical knowledge at their fingertips.
Nelson’s Little Book of Where To Find It in the Bible
I love the publisher’s description of this concordance Nelson’s Little Book of Where to Find It in the Bible is an A to Z reference dictionary with quick access to scripture-based answers of almost any question you can imagine. Simple to use, it tackles traditional and 21st-century issues without heavy theological language. This travel-sized book is bursting with information yet compact enough to fit in your pocket. You will laugh at its one-liners and illustrated jokes as it points you to God’s Word. Companion to the New King James Version, King James Version, New International Version, and other translations.”
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Although a Bible dictionary is terrific for understanding historical and cultural context, the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery provides understanding of the meaning of biblical images. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery is used to understand biblical images, symbols, metaphors, motifs and figures of speech. This resource is also an excellent tool for identifying cross-references. Arranged like an encyclopedia, it is a good companion to a Bible dictionary.
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery*
The publisher’s description gives a great explanation of this amazing Bible study tool. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery is the first contemporary reference work dedicated to exploring the images, symbols, motifs, metaphors and literary patterns found in the Bible. More than that, it examines the Bible’s universal archetypes or master images–including the plot motifs and character types that recur throughout life, literature and the Bible. This unique dictionary explores the dazzling variety in which the Word of God comes dressed in clothes of everyday life. It traces the trail of images from Eden to the New Jerusalem. It captures the plotted patterns of biblical narrative. It surveys the imaged texture of each book of the Bible. In short, The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery is an inviting, enlightening and indispensable companion to the reading, study, contemplation and enjoyment of the Bible.”
Zondervan Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Biblical authors seized imagery drawn from everyday life and redeployed it in the service of divine revelation. But today’s readers are not familiar with many of these once-common illustrations. The distance in time, place, and culture between the Bible’s first recipients and people today often mutes the rhetorical impact of such images. Students of the Bible need someone to explain both the meaning and significance of the imagery found in the biblical text. The Zondervan Dictionary of Biblical Imagery provides the kind of assistance today’s readers need. Entries explain images that correspond to a cultural artifact from the biblical world (such as arrow or sandal), a component of natural history (such as fox or fig tree), a named place (such as Mount Sinai or Nazareth), or a component of the Promised Land’s physical geography (such as mountain or wilderness) Each entry contains a description of the element or image, examples of how the image is used in the biblical text, and appropriate photographs and maps that further illustrate the ideas presented. Students of Scripture will find the Zodervan Dictionary of Biblical Imagery a fascinating and inspiring portal to the biblical world.
An interlinear Bible can help you determine which Hebrew or Greek word is used in a passage. It shows the original Hebrew or Greek text with the literal English translation typed below each word. This information is useful for making associations between sections of the text that the original audience would have heard but have become lost in translation. When used in conjunction with the language dictionaries at the back of Strong’s, an interlinear Bible can also make it quicker to determine the Hebrew or Greek meaning.
The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-Greek-English (English, Hebrew and Greek Edition)
This is the ONLY Bible that includes the complete Hebrew and Greek texts with a direct English translation below each word. It also includes “The Literal Translation of the Bible” in the outside column, so you can easily read through the Bible. Strong’s numbers are printed directly above the Hebrew and Greek words so you don’t need prior knowledge of Greek or Hebrew to dig even deeper into Scripture and its meaning.
Maps are a helpful Bible study tool that helps not just to locate the places, areas and towns mentioned in the Bible, but also to understand distances and perceive relationships between them. In many biblical narratives, the weight of the story is missed because we don’t recognize the significance of a place.
Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible*
Packed with multidimensional maps, photos, and charts, the Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible is designed to help you better understand the history and places of the Bible and its world. This full-color atlas is concise but thorough.
Rose Book of Bible Charts*
The bestselling Rose Book Of Bible Charts, Maps & Time Lines has been a top-rated Bible Reference book for many years. Spiral-bound for ease of use, this is a must-have for every pastor and teacher. It offers 180 pages of full-color Bible charts, maps, and timelines —all reproducible. Book measures 11.25″ x 9.5″ x 1″.
Sometimes we think we know the meaning of a word but just aren’t sure. Having a good ol’ English dictionary on hand can help you get deeper meaning out of your Bible study time. Never be ashamed to look up a word that you aren’t completely sure of the meaning of.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, New Edition
New Edition (2016 copyright), The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the best-selling dictionary covering core vocabulary of everyday life. More than 75,000 updated definitions, pronunciations, word origins, and synonym lists. Some 8,000 usage examples aid understanding–more than ever before.
Bible History Resources
Understanding the context of what was happening in history is essential for understanding the Bible.
Bible History: Old Testament*
Alfred Edersheim, in this fascinating study, uncovers the Old Testament, removing layers of mystery, allowing readers to more fully engage with the text. He analyzes the books, chapter-by-chapter, thus providing a chronological history of the Jewish people.
This work is split into seven volumes to make it manageable for the reader to understand each major period that is covered in the Old Testament. Volume One covers The World Before the Flood, and The History of the Patriarchs, Volume Two: The Exodus and The Wanderings in the Wilderness, Volume Three: Israel In Canaan Under Joshua And The Judges, Volume Four: The History of Israel under Samuel, Saul, and David, Volume Five: Birth of Solomon to Reign of Ahab, Volume Six: The Reign of Ahab to the Decline of the Two Kingdoms, and Volume Seven: From the Decline of the Two Kingdoms to the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivity.
The Life And Times of Jesus the Messiah*
Also, by Alfred Edersheim’s The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah is a storehouse of information on the background of the New Testament. This classic work successfully portrays the streets, the marketplaces, the religious conflicts, the people, and the places of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Edersheim divides his work into five sections or books. It includes valuable background material on Jewish history, tradition, and law. (The hardcover edition is less than $1 more than the paperback edition. I recommend getting the hardcover as you will get lots of use out of this one!).
Great Books for Bible Study
30 Days to Understanding the Bible*
Written by Max Anders. In just fifteen minutes a day, you’ll learn the Bible’s key people, events, and doctrines to get more out of God’s Word. 30 Days to Understanding the Bible is a simple-to-use, straightforward guide has been recommended by Bible teachers and pastors for thirty years. I learn something new every time I pick it up.
Scripture Keys for Kingdom Living*
Scripture Keys is a brilliant, easy-to-use Bible reference book, with over 1000 Scriptures on more than 150 topics. Following clear instructions, it teaches you to apply the Word of God to everyday situations from anger and worry to forgiveness and family living – and get results!
Use this Holy Spirit inspired book of Scripture Keys for effective prayer and in-depth study of a particular biblical topic.
Online Bible Study Tools
No matter how many Bibles in different translations that you have, there are always more.
You simply enter the verse or verses you are studying and select the version you wish you view for deeper study. I regularly use one of these when I do verse mapping.
Logos Bible Software*
Logos, a Bible software describes itself as a Bible Study library with built-in tools. This is the most expensive of the resources I’ve listed in this post of best tools for Bible study, but certainly the most comprehensive and includes most of the above resources in one software package.
I am a subscriber of Logos and each time I log on, I find a new gem to help with Bible study. Logos is highly recommended and where better to invest than in your walk with Jesus.
Courage for Life Bible App*
Produced by women for women, this Bible app includes scripture and devotions to help you grow in the Word. You can read my full review of this app and related devotional here.
Did I miss anything on this list of best tools for Bible study? Would you add anything? Which are your recommended resources? I’d love to hear from you!
Because of Him,
*I own and use this Bible study tool