Just as athletes train and prepare in the off season to get ready for the upcoming event, so it is with the Christian believer. If we wish to grow closer to God in our daily walk with Him we must practice the elements of the faith on a daily basis so that we can grow and become more mature in our faith. Disciplines like worship, prayer, reading Scripture, fasting, tithing and fellowship all contribute to helping us deepen our relationship with God.
One of the most important aspects of the Christian faith is the reading of Scripture. It is the one constant and tangible item that we can hold on to each day in our faith. Traditions evolve and times change, and as a result the manner in which we worship, fellowship or tithe may look very different than it did during the times of Christ. However, God’s word is eternal and unchanging. It is His perfect word and exactly what we need for our daily walk. It does not change with the times or evolve as the years go by. We can rely on Scripture because, as it says in 2 Timothy 3:16, that “All Scripture is God-breathed”. We can have confidence that the Word we read today is the same as when it was written.
Because the role of Scripture is so central to the believers growth in the faith it is important to make sure that you have a Bible that you can learn from. One of the best ways to get the most out of your reading is to have a solid study Bible. A study Bible has all of the text that a traditional Bible would, but also includes several features that enhance the reading experience. Many will include commentary of Biblical scholars that will offer insight and detail into the daily life at the time when the Scripture was composed. It will also include maps, charts, verse pool guides, and definitions of words that were used exclusively during the time the author composed the book. I have been using a study Bible for many years and I have found it to be invaluable in my walk with Christ. It is so integral that it is my primary way of reading God’s Word. Whenever I sit down to read, I am doing so with a study Bible.
There are many versions to choose from and a wide variety of features. In the contents of this site, I hope to communicate a selection of the best study Bibles that you can turn to for your walk with Christ, so that you might grow deeper in the faith and more rooted in His Word.
Comparison Chart of Study Bibles
Here is a interactive chart that will serve as a guide in picking the best study Bible for your own personal use. I have included several categories that will help you in your decision making process. In the chart you will find a sortable list of the translation, style in which it was translated (functional or formal), cost, and noteworthy features. Each Bible has a link that you can click on if you wish to learn more. There are several version of each translation depending on the publisher that is selling the Bible. This list is meant to be meaningful and helpful but not exhaustive. In creating this list I have focused on English translations with a hard back or leather binding.
The cost break down is as follows: $– 1-20, $$ – 21-34, $$$ – 35-49, $$$$ – 50 and Higher
|Translation Type||Abbreviation||Translation Format||Number of Authors||Price||Noteworthy Features|
|English Standard Version||ESV||Formal||93||$$$$||Access to online study material with purchase|
|King James Version||KJV||Formal||47||$$||1 year and 3 year reading plan|
|New Living Translation||NLT||Functional||40||$$$$||Greek & Hebrew word studies|
|New International Version||NIV||Formal-Functional||2||$$$$||Character Studies|
|New American Standard||NASB||Formal||1||$$$||John MacArthur personal study notes|
|New King James Version||NKJV||Formal||?||$$||Nelson's Concordance|
|The Message||N/A||Functional||1||$$||Eugene Peterson personal study notes|
|Amplified||N/A||Multiple||N/A||$$||Allows four different translations to be read side by side – NiV, NKJV, NASB, Amplified|
|Holman Christian Standard Bible||HCSB||Formal-Functional||62||$$$||290 word studies from Greek and Hebrew|
What versions of the Bible are available?
There are numerous types of translations of the Bible. Several of these translations have been around for many years, while others are more recent to reading audiences. Here is a list of the most common study Bibles:
- King James Version (KJV)
- New King James Version (NKJV)
- Revised Standard Version (RSV)
- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- American Standard Version (ASV)
- New American Standard Version (NASB)
- New English Bible (NEB)
- New Revised English Bible (NREB)
- New International Version (NIV)
- New Living Translation (NLT)
- Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
- English Standard Version (ESV)
- The Message
- Common English Bible (CEB)
- Many others
What is the best Bible translation?
One of the first considerations you need to make when purchasing a new study Bible is the type of translation that it is. There are numerous versions available for people to read and rely on. It is important to note that many translations fall into two different types. According to Daniel B. Wallace the first is formal equivalence, or a literal, word-for-word translation. The second is a functional equivalence, or a principle, thought-for-thought translation. Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses. With the formal translations, the advantages are that you are getting the exact words and wording that was used originally. This is a great, but it comes at a cost because Greek and Hebrew do not always translate into English or other languages exactly with out some adjusting. With the functional translations, the advantage is that you able to have the thought and principles the author of the different books communicated really clearly, however the cost here is that you miss out on some detail or the scholars who translated it may make adjustments that can skew the view of the reader. It should also be noted that there are some translations that do stick to more formal translations but do blend in functional principles.
Just to paint a clearer picture of how these style contrast, here is an example using the verse that we referenced earlier:
Formal – “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, NASB)
Functional – “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Tim. 3:16, NLT)
You can see in reading the two examples that the formal text reads with more brief detail, where as the functional uses more every day language to communicate the thought behind the scripture. In this case it replaces words like reproof and righteousness for a general sense of right and wrong. The formal version I believe contains more content that can help our faith grow, however the functional does also provide easier reading, perhaps allowing you to read the Scriptures in a manner that fits your familiar vernacular.
What features do study Bibles have?
As mentioned previously, the benefit of using a study Bible for your main source of reading Scripture is that you can access several different features that may not be in a traditional Bible. From maps, commentary, verse pool guides, to having Christ’s words be in red letters – these features can help enhance and truly paint a clearer picture for the reader of what the author of each book in the Bible was trying to communicate. It can be immensely helpful to know the context of distance, meaning of terms and the culture in which the books were written so that you can glean more insight from the Word. Additionally, the study Bibles come in leather, hard cover, or a synthetic leather that can make the Bible feel more personal.
How are study Bibles used?
Here is a video explaining some of the areas of a study Bible that will be helpful to look for when you have one. This particular video is a demonstration on how to use a NIV study Bible. Each translation and publisher is different and the features will vary depending the version you decide on. However, this video does give you an idea of how helpful these study Bibles can really be.
What is the best study Bible?
It is really hard to pick just one version that I use because each one offers something and can present God’s word in a unique way that may help me grow in my faith. Each translation may have a place in my life for God to use. However, I would recommend either the Holman Christian Standard Bible or the NIV Study Bible.
The HCSB study Bible is a good choice because of how it is a blended translation, has quality word studies, detailed maps and charts, modern pictures and has a variety of scholars that have contributed to its translation. Here is my Holman Christian Standard Bible view review video.
The NIV Bible is also a good choice because of the use of more than one translator, the words of Christ are in red letters, has a great section of notes and comments, is easy to understand and a great bible for any bible reader and those that are new to bible study. Here is my video review of the NIV Study Bible.