I love using online Bible study tools, such as blueletterbible.org and biblestudytools.com. However, there is something special about holding a book in your hand. Therefore, I want to share with you today the best Bible study tools to own – and some you can skip.
This post contains affiliate links, which help support this website, at no additional cost to you. For my full disclosure policy, go here.
What to Purchase
There are so many great resources, it is sometimes hard to know which ones to spend your hard-earned money on, and which to skip. You want to get resources that will add value to your study time, without unnecessarily duplicating what the online Bible sites can do.
First, I would choose a good Bible handbook – or maybe even two or three. There are literally dozens of handbooks to choose from, so I’m going to share two of my favorites: The MacArthur Bible Handbook, by John MacArthur and The Bare Bones Bible Handbook, by Jim George.
I like these two handbooks for completely opposite reasons. The MacArthur Bible Handbook is very thorough and in-depth. I enjoy reading the insights gathered by John MacArthur over a lifetime of study. On the other hand, when I just want a quick overview of a book of the Bible, I reach for The Bare Bones Bible Handbook. It is short and to the point. Not a lot of detail but gives a great bird’s-eye view of books – which can be very valuable when studying just a portion of a large book such as Matthew or Isaiah.
Second, I would suggest a book of maps and charts. I happen to really enjoy my well-worn copy of Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts. This book is great for visual learners like me. There are charts of each book showing the major divisions of the book as well as the historical setting. Multiple maps and other charts are interspersed with the book overviews. The chart you want to find is easily located using one of the two indexes – alphabetical and Bible book. I use it a lot!
Nelson’s is not the only book of charts I have – I also have the Rose Book of Bible Maps, Charts, and Timelines. Flashier than Nelson’s, this chart and map book covers the same material from different angles. There is not much overlap in terms of how I use these two resources, and I find them both valuable. However, if I had to choose, I’d go with Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts.
Third, I think you should have a print copy of a Bible dictionary. A good Bible dictionary will provide you with insight into the people, places, things and ideas of the Bible, such as Jezreel, denarius, scroll, and eschatology. I’ve owned the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary for years, and while it is adequate for my needs, I’d love to replace it because it is all in black-and-white. As I’ve said, I’m a visual learner so color is important to me. But it works, so I keep it. If I replaced it, I’d probably go with The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
Finally, I think every serious student of the Bible should own at least one commentary – either an all-in-one volume or a set. This is something I’m still working on. I do own The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary and find it useful. But because it is an all-in-one book, it can be a little light on details. I also have The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe – this is a two-volume set that only covers the New Testament. I love it! I’ve had it for years and use it a lot. You may be familiar with it as the “BE” series. I think Warren Wiersbe is a great commentator to own – so anything by him would earn my thumbs-up. This series is now known as the Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT; the Old Testament set is also available.
What I don’t think you – or I – need is a multi-volume commentary set designed for preachers. I’m not a preacher and I’m not writing to preachers! Just students of the Word.
What to Skip
A concordance. I’ve owned a few concordances in my life. But since the advent of online, searchable Bibles – in multiple versions – I don’t use them. In fact, I recently got rid of my last concordance. The one exception I might make to this is if you owned a Strong’s concordance – the Hebrew and Greek definitions are useful. But I think better tools are available.
With the online concordances, you can easily look up every usage of an English word, or the original Hebrew or Greek word. It’s wonderful! So, don’t worry if you don’t have a concordance other than the one in the back of your Bible.
A Greek or Hebrew word study such as Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. While this can be helpful, and I own a copy, it can also be intimidating. A good online resource, such as blueletterbible.org, can easily do the heavy lifting that Vine’s or similar tools would do for most students of the Bible. If, down the road, you find such online resources aren’t sufficient, then investigate what to purchase and invest in a good Hebrew-Greek lexicon.
There you have it – my suggestions of print resources to own to enhance your study of God’s Word. If you have none of these, however, you can still study the Word. Remember, these are relatively new tools and were not available to the apostles who wrote the New Testament while extensively quoting the Old Testament. It helps that they knew the original languages, but don’t let that lack of knowledge hold you back. Jump into the Word with both feet and God will richly reward you!