The 10 Best Study Bibles
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.