Basic Bible Study Tools

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The more serious you become about personal Bible study, the more you will be aware of the importance of owning some good study tools. Numerous books are available today, some of which are listed below. You should form the habit of purchasing at least one study aid per month for your own library.

1. Bibles

It is best if you have a study Bible that has paragraphic notations or divisions. You will also want to get some of the modern translations, versions, and paraphrases — preferably in hardcover. There are several excellent versions of the Bible. For casual reading, the New International Version is my preference. However, for serious study with accuracy in mind, I recommend the New American Standard Bible.

2. Concordances

A concordance is a must. It is an alphabetical listing of all the words in the Bible and of all the verses in which they appear.

  • Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible or Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible are my preferences.
  • Acquire an exhaustive concordance of the translation you use for study.
  • Most good computer programs for Bible study (see No. 7) allow for multiple-word searches, including lexical searches in the original languages.

3. Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias

  • English — Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary or The Random House Dictionary of the English Language
  • Bible — The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary is the best.
  • Theological — Baker’s Dictionary of Practical Theology is a good tool.
  • Greek and Hebrew — Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
  • Encyclopaedia — The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (five volumes) and The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (four volumes) are excellent.

4. Geographical and Cultural Helps

  • A good atlas is indispensable for understanding context. The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands is highly recommended. (Also, if you have not yet been to Israel, you should go!)
  • Bible backgrounds — The New Unger’s Bible Handbook, Halley’s Bible Handbook, Merrill Tenney’s New Testament Times: Understanding the World of the First Century, or Alfred Edersheim’s Bible History: Old Testament

5. Bible Doctrine Books

  • Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge, or Systematic Theology by Augustus H. Strong
  • Biblical Theology of the New Testament by Charles C. Ryrie
  • Major Bible Themes by Lewis Sperry Chafer—a good, concise book

6. Commentaries

  • Surveys of the entire Bible — The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty (in two volumes, Old and New Testaments) is outstanding. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary is my preferred one-volume commentary.
  • Expositional (verse by verse) — some of the best are by Donald G. Barnhouse, Kenneth S. Wuest, William R. Newell, R. C. H. Lenski, H. C. Leupold, William Barclay, John F. Walvoord, Arthur W. Pink, and Tyndale House
  • Devotional — books by G. Campbell Morgan, F. B. Meyer, Alan Redpath, H. A. Ironside, and Charles R. Swindoll
  • Analytical — books by W. Graham Scroggie and Merrill Tenney, as well as the I. C. C. (International Critical Commentary) series (critical and tends toward the liberal side)

Concerning Commentaries

  • Best to purchase one of the entire Bible first
  • Best to use different types in your study
  • Best to consult them after your own personal study
  • Best to read with discernment; don’t be afraid to challenge or disagree
  • An excellent volume by John Glynn, Commentary & Reference Survey, lists and explains the most popular and recommended commentaries (from various perspectives—evangelical, liberal, etc.) on every book of the Bible. It is helpful when you’re looking for which commentary to buy . . . and which one not to buy.

7. Bible Study Computer Programs

  • BibleWorks (for PC) — see
    Designed for analysis of the biblical text, BibleWorks is the best program for the PC platform—for all levels of users. It offers search tools, lexicons, and dictionaries for Bible study, sermon preparation, and detailed Bible research.
  • Libronix Digital Library System (for PC) — see
    An astounding assortment of commentaries, books, dictionaries, and tools allows for quick research on any passage or topic. Many of the recommended resources in this article are in the Libronix Library.
  • Accordance (for Macintosh) — see
    From basic Bible study helps to advanced research tools, Accordance is the best program for the Mac environment. Accordance offers Bibles, commentaries, lexicons, and a comprehensive library of materials and tools that can grow with your needs.

8. Web Sites

  • — “In the last decade has grown to serve millions of individuals around the world through providing thousands of trustworthy resources for Bible study—including an exciting new translation of the Bible (the NET Bible).”—from their Web site
  • — “ features photographs and descriptions of sites in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Greece with an emphasis on biblical archaeology, geography and history.”—from their Web site

9. Bible Study Methods

  • Living by the Book by Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks
  • Independent Bible Study by Irving L. Jensen
  • How to Study the Bible for Yourself by Tim LaHaye
  • Methodical Bible Study by Robert A. Traina

Copyright © 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

About the Author

Charles R. Swindoll

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but...