Lying next to me is a catalog for Bibles. This particular catalog is 68 pages and is entirely dedicated to the written Word of God. The majority of these pages contains several Bibles, and with each Bible comes a variety of choices. For someone looking to buy one, the selections may seem overwhelming. How can you know which one to get?
Last week, I wrote about how to choose a particular translation. This week, I tackle the subject of how to choose a Study Bible. A Study Bible is a Bible that not only contains the Scripture itself, but study notes that go along with Biblical text. Many Christians find these notes helpful in better understanding the Bible as they are read it. If you decide to purchase a Study Bible, though, be prepared because once again, you will have to choose from an abundance of options. For example, the company who sent the above catalog sells over 19 different ones, and many of these come in a variety of translations. Here are a few principles to keep in mind when purchasing a Study Bible.
First, keep in mind that the study notes are not the inspired Word of God. They are man’s thoughts based on research, experience and personal conclusions. It is a good idea to investigate who wrote the study notes and what their theological persuasions are. You will be less likely to be caught off guard by teaching that is contrary to your beliefs if you do your homework first. Once you have your new Bible, read with discernment and weigh what the notes say with the teachings of Scripture and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Next, what is the purpose of your wanting a Study Bible? Is it to look for direct application to your life, or is it to equip you to defend your faith? Is it to help you dive deeper into the chronology, archeology and original languages? Maybe you want to give one to a recovering addict or someone with mental health issues. Do you want to study a specific theme in Scripture, such as the Holy Spirit, redemption, or basic discipleship? Study Bibles comes in a variety of specific themes and emphases, with the above being only a sample. Some Study Bible options are connected to famous pastors and teachers, such as Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley or John MacArthur. Age-specific study Bibles are on the market, including a Bible put to graphic arts for youth. Once you identify your purpose, you will need to research catalogs or the internet to find the Study Bible that fits your needs.
One final principle to keep in mind: what translation of the Scripture itself do you want? The same Study Bible may come in a variety of Bible translations. For example, The Life Application Study Bible comes in the New Living Translation, the New King James Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, and more. How can you know what translation to choose? Well, that takes us back to where we began in last week’s article.
As usual, much more could be said, so please feel free to reach out to me if you have specific questions or comments.