The 10 Best Study Bibles

Updated December 21, 2017 by Melissa Harr

Holman Large Print
Crossway ESV
The Action Bible
We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Whether you are a theological student or simply looking to improve your personal knowledge, you'll find one of these study bibles enlightening and educational. Featuring works based on various editions, our selection includes options that come with a host of additional resources. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best study bible on Amazon.

10. John F. MacArthur NKJV

The John F. MacArthur NKJV is a comprehensive resource that is the result of 35 years of theological work by the author. It does a thorough job of explaining the historical context behind the Word of God and opening up the text’s meanings.
  • helpful doctrinal index
  • from a respected biblical scholar
  • difficult to navigate kindle version
Publisher HarperCollins Christian
Model n/a
Weight 3.2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Holman Large Print

If we had to choose a word to describe the Holman Large Print, that word might be “comprehensive,” since it includes a whopping 15,000 study notes, along with ample charts, illustrations, timelines and articles on issues ranging from the practical to the theological.
  • lots of unique photographs
  • red-type edition
  • pages may stick together
Publisher B & H Publishing Group
Model n/a
Weight 5.2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. The Catholic 3rd Edition

Whether you're a student or casual reader, you’ll find The Catholic 3rd Edition easy to use thanks to thumb indexing, meticulous footnotes, and detailed essays. It’s based on the New American Bible Revised Edition, making it both authoritative and trustworthy.
  • low-key but pleasing cover
  • available in hardcover or paperback
  • binding could be sturdier
Publisher Oxford University Press
Model n/a
Weight 4.3 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. Zondervan NIV

The Zondervan NIV is one of the top-selling books of its kind because it includes extensive study aids of many types, such as character sketches and over 10,000 application notes that lead you to understand and apply the message of the Scriptures.
  • timelines for historical perspective
  • explains intertestamental period
  • print is on the small side
Publisher HarperCollins Christian
Model n/a
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Thomas Nelson NKJV

The Thomas Nelson NKJV is a go-to resource for those who desire in-depth, scholarly analysis. Readers will appreciate its detailed maps, charts, word studies, and prophetic reference system, all of which help make it easy to use and digest.
  • verse-by-verse breakdowns
  • articles on key subjects
  • many explanatory notes
Publisher HarperCollins Christian
Model 3885BG
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

5. Crossway ESV

You can expect an invaluable, thorough resource when you choose the Crossway ESV, which comes from the collaboration of 95 respected scholars across almost 20 denominations. And with 240 colorful illustrations and maps, it’s a visual treat.
  • black-letter edition
  • concordance and cross references
  • occasional quality control issues
Publisher Crossway Books
Model n/a
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. The Action Bible

Who said studying had to be dull? Kids and teens will get a thrill out of The Action Bible, which brings the scriptures to life with illustrations by a comic artist from Marvel. It is also highly interactive, featuring questions, insights, and a trivia game.
  • an introduction for hesitant readers
  • perspectives on cultural history
  • graphics may frighten young children
Publisher David C Cook
Model n/a
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Ronald A. Beers NASB

The Ronald A. Beers NASB represents an entirely literal, word-for-word translation that helps you transform the Word into daily action as you uncover the relevance and applications of scripture. To bring the book to life, the authors offer over 100 character sketches.
  • references in sidebars
  • harmony of the gospels
  • cultural background and context
Publisher HarperCollins Christian
Model n/a
Weight 3.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Study Bible for Women

The Study Bible for Women has lots of notes and word studies that will help you answer many of the hard questions found throughout the Bible. With everything from charts and timelines to substantial introductions, it makes for a compelling read.
  • deep dive into scripture
  • may ignite a passion for mentorship
  • delightful and inviting design
Publisher B & H Publishing Group
Model n/a
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

1. Tyndale Life Application

The Tyndale Life Application offers notes to clarify difficult passages, and details about what life was like in biblical times. It is also a good source of daily guidance, with 10,000 real-world applications on which you can act.
  • attractive two-tone cover
  • large print format
  • makes the word easier to comprehend
Publisher Tyndale House Publisher
Model n/a
Weight 4.9 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Studying The World As We Know It

Religion can be a contentious issue. From the conflicts between and among the world's largest organized faiths to the squabbling over minute aspects of translation through years of reading and worship, it becomes increasingly difficult to find two human beings who agree completely on matters of divinity.

Isn't that the point, though? At least in the last half a century or so, an individual's personal relationship with his or her almighty has come to outweigh the more inflexible institutional doctrine that once punished diversion from a strict interpretation of the word.

Of course, in order to have that kind of personal relationship with the history and stories contained in a religion–within or without its organized houses–one must be versed in its verses. That's where these study Bibles come in, with their unique and effective qualities toward enlightenment and elucidation.

When you pick up a copy of the Bible and simply read it, the chances that you'll comprehend the entirety of the language used are about as good as those that you could pick up Shakespeare and perform it properly without any help. The language is just too dense, too packed with the complexities of successive translations, epic and simple metaphor, and cryptic religious imagery.

As you work your way through a good study Bible, you'll encounter re-translations of more complicated passages into modern, understandable language that will help you apply the morals and messages therein to your daily life. Some even have specific exercises that will help you actualize your study in the real world.

The best among these Bibles also offers you essays and explanations regarding difficult theological issues, the ways in which certain passages would have been interpreted at the time they were written compared to today, and etymological breakdowns of specific and important points in the language.

Find The Right Word

You could, if you so chose, divide the Bible up by the Old and New Testaments and into two categories of study, studies in fear and love respectively. You might even say that, as is the case with many people, having a kid softened God up a bit. The difference in body count between the Old and New alone is enough to illustrate the extremity of the change in perspective.

What about all that fear in the first book, though? Well, that becomes a set up, really, for the message of the New Testament. It's as though the Old Testament sets you up with a riddle: How do you survive in the face of fear from all directions–fear of your oppressors, fear of your God, fear of your fellow man, fear of your own sin? Then, the New Testament comes along with the simplest of answers: love.

Understanding such a shift comes down to a lot more than just the hormonal and psychological effects of becoming a parent. And a look at how a given study Bible regards the differences between the two testaments, at how they suggest each informs your daily life, will either sell you on its quality or have you packing it back up for a refund or exchange.

Perhaps, your daily life is in need of a little positivity, a little perseverance in the face of our busy, over-productive society's pressures. Perhaps, you need a little love in your life. Some of these Bibles have specific exercises in them designed to breathe the love of God into the quotidian interactions with your fellow man. You'll find interpretations of the word that will inspire you to greater empathy and regard for the plight of others, and help give you the strength to meet adversity with love.

For readers more interested in scholarly pursuits than personal development, there are Bibles on this list that feature maps, translation notes, and tautological, theological essays above all else. In theory, personal development is inevitable, so even the eggheads among Bible students will have love to gain and faith to find in the pages of their headier study tomes.

A History Of Reinterpretation

There's scarcely enough room on our servers to do justice to the complex and controversial history of the Bible. The New Testament's four gospel canon (Mark, Luke, Matthew, John) that makes up the cornerstone of modern Christianity, for example, was suggested as an exclusive canon as early as 180 CE, which began the exclusion and suppression of all other gospels discussing the life and works of Jesus.

Bishops and popes over the next few centuries continued to suppress non-canonical gospels for reasons that are difficult to surmise, though conspiracies abound with varying degrees of madness and plausibility. The Old Testament is only slightly different, in that its history is one of studious copy and scrutiny by religious authorities and zealots of its day and region.

Men with agendas have always fueled the local and global interpretation of the Bible. Even among the contemporary translations, the so-called New International version, the American Standard version, and the slightly older New King James version, there are differences in translation and application as determined by men with specific goals in mind.

If you reach far enough back, you'll find over 5,000 hand-written Greek copies of the New Testament still intact. It remains the most copied and distributed tome in the history of man. It's passed through plenty of filters, both linguistic and political, but a good study Bible can help you see through the haze of history, and to the true meaning of the words within.

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Last updated on December 21, 2017 by Melissa Harr

Melissa is a writer, editor, and EFL educator from the U.S. She's worked in the field since earning her B.A. in 2012, during which time she's judged fiction contests, taught English in Asia, and authored e-courses about arts and crafts. In her free time, she likes to make stuff out of sticks and string.

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