The 10 Best Study Bibles
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in April of 2015. If you're a theological student or simply looking to improve your personal knowledge, you'll find these study Bibles to be both enlightening and educational. Our selection includes options with a host of additional resources, such as glossaries, concordances, essays, and more. Regardless of whether this is your first read-through or just the most recent, you're certain to learn something new. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 20, 2020:
For this latest update, we took what was already a strong list and added a few more selections to expand its diversity to appeal to readers of all stripes. We said goodbye to the Study Bible for Women, which is still a lovely resource, yet not too different from other standard options of its ilk. It features biblical womanhood articles that can offer some insight, however, some readers take issue with their approach. It also occasionally takes a patriarchal and judgemental tone.
We felt the non-gendered Quest Study Bible would make a better choice for many. This one is meant to get you thinking, with thousands of questions that range from the specific, like “Why did God send angels to Jacob?" to those that hit on deeper themes, like "Why does God test us?”. The publishers carried out numerous focus groups and asked over 1,000 readers what queries came to them when reading Scripture, so pains were taken to ensure it's a relevant text for many.
We removed the Life Application Study Bible, as it is extremely similar to the Zondervan Life Application Study Bible. The biggest difference between the two is the translations used. The Zondervan is the New International Version while the former is in New American Standard. Both contain many of the same pedagogical features, so really it boils down to your preference. To fill the void, we added the CSB Apologetics Study Bible, which tackles a lot of the deep questions non-believers, newbies, and science-minded believers have. It seeks to reconcile certain ideas and concepts, like physics and Darwinism, with the Christian faith.
Having a study Bible on hand can really help those who struggle with the historical context and sometimes perplexing language of the Good Book. For even more assistance with comprehension, consider picking up a Bible dictionary or amplified Bible, which offer clarification using different methods.
April 02, 2019:
The fact that The Action Bible Study Bible was created by a former Marvel artist helped propel it up a few spots in the rankings, as the current focus on superhero movies can make it easier than ever to attract kids to the Gospel. It's a smart choice for youth groups, homeschoolers, and any parents hoping to instill a love for the Lord in their children.
The Catholic Study Bible is an excellent selection that members of that faith will cherish, but its relatively narrow scope knocked it into the second half of the list. The same is true for the Study Bible for Women. Both will be extremely valuable for their intended audience, but you may want to pair them with another, more comprehensive Bible.
Our top choice, the MacArthur Study Bible, earned that spot due to its incredibly in-depth focus on the context, history, and motivations behind each word. Written by an acclaimed scholar, it's like having your own personalized seminary education.
Walk Thru The Bible Old Testament Made for both adults and children, the Walk Thru The Bible Old Testament Flashcard app is an innovative and entertaining way to learn the big ideas of the Bible. It offers engaging graphics with hidden keys to help unlock big-picture concepts and major themes. Users can work through 39 flashcards that have vibrant illustrations for each book of the Old Testament and explanations of its key facts on the back. There is also a version available for the New Testament. walkthru.org
Studying The World As We Know It
The language is just too dense, too packed with the complexities of successive translations, epic and simple metaphor, and cryptic religious imagery.
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.
Then, the New Testament comes along with the simplest of answers: love.
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 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.
Men with agendas have always fueled the local and global interpretation of the Bible.
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.