Through the years, people have asked about my study habits when it comes to the Bible. The essential tools for me sit right beside my desk on a filing cabinet. They are literally an arm’s length away from me while I sit here and type. Here are my Bibles, why I have them, and how I use them.
- A Quest Study Bible – 2011 NIV (New International Version) edition. This is a simple tool I use to read through a passage the first time. The Quest Study Bible has questions with answers along the side. They are not overly detailed but enough to get you thinking. This is where I start to engage the Bible. Read and ask questions.
- A plain NIV – 1984 edition. This is the Bible I grew up reading. I refer to this for differences in translations between 1984 and 2011. There are no published notes, but I have several handwritten thoughts that I have put in the margins over the years. It is like a familiar place I visit to get my back to my roots.
- An Interlinear New Testament. This is a Greek version of the Bible with the translation underneath each line. I took three years of Greek in college, and the words make sense to me, without being an expert. On the left-hand side of the passage is also the New American Standard translation of the Bible, and on the right is the New International Version. This way, I can read the original language and translation, along with being able to compare it to modern English translations.
- An ESV Study Bible. Much of the Evangelical world is moving toward the English Standard Version of the Bible. It is a good translation and handles the original languages well. This also has hundreds of thousands of notes, maps, graphs, and every type of study tool included. This is always the last source I look at for information. I want to know what I think it says without hindrance, then see what other people think of it.
These four Bibles are right beside my desk and have been there for almost six years. They are not the leather Bible I preach from each week. They are not the software that I use to help me dig deep into a passage. These are the tools I use to read the word of God and understand it on my own.
I suggest anyone who reads the Bible get a couple of different translations to read. You need one with no notes. Finally, a study Bible will help you get answers when you have questions about your reading. With these two or three Bibles in your hand, I think you can understand over 90% of the Bible with no other help.
Bibles are not always cheap, but investing in the right tools will help you over a lifetime.