Why You Need a Study Bible

American Christianity has an interesting relationship with the Bible. Many of us claim it is our favorite book, but we know its contents much less well than citizens of other countries. I think one reason is our dual mentality of ‘no creed but the Bible,’ which leads us to know less of what we believe, and our misunderstanding of ‘Priesthood of all Believers.’

We think it’s easy to just grab the Bible, read it through, and understand everything. In good literalist fashion, I once sought to find the most literal version of the Bible I could find. That led me to the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Of course, it hadn’t crossed my mind to try and learn Koine Greek.

Reading parts of the Old Testament, I came across phrases such as, “and his nose became red.” What? Well, it’s an idiom for becoming angry. Who knew that ancient Israel didn’t use the same idioms and maxims as modern Americans? So, I conceded defeat and looked for a more ‘dynamic’ translation.

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Building Your Theological Library

I read a lot. My library started quite small, first with just a Bible, then the realization I needed a Study Bible and commentary to really help me understand. From there I moved on to Theology proper and issues of Christian life. All this led, of course, to the terrible idea that I should start a blog, but I digress. Below is a guide to getting started. First set are the necessities, from then on I give categories to buy (in bold) and a few recommendations of each.

If you want to buy and use amazon, please go click the links or go through my store.

The “Introduction to Christian Life” Library:

The “I Want to Know More” Library

  • Commentary – New Bible Commentary, The Expositors Bible Commentary
  • Broader Christian classics – Desiring God by Piper, Knowing God by Packer, Mere Christianity by Lewis, etc.
  • Church History – Church History in Plain Language by Shelley
  • Systematic Theology – Erikson or Berkhof; Outlines of Systematic Theology by A.A. Hodge
  • Topical books (broad) – What Does the Bible say about Homosexuality by DeYoung; How to Read Genesis by Longman

The “I Want a Deeper Understanding” Library:

  • Bibles – you can pick up a topical study Bible here, or a bi-lingual version
  • Church History – History of Christianity in North America by Noll; The Story of Christianity (2 Volume) by Gonzales
  • Commentary – Full version of Expositor’s Bible Commentary; Tyndale Commentary (this one is shorter and works well digitally, Olive Tree often has a $99 sale); New American Commentary
  • Theology – Biblical Theology by Vos; Historical Theology by Allison; Institutes of Christ Religion (2 Volume) by Calvin (Battles translation)
  • Topical Books (narrowed)– Inspiration and Incarnation, Evolution of Adam by Enns; Any of the Counter Point series from Zondervan
  • Basics of Biblical Greek/Hebrew

The “I Don’t Have Any Friends” Library:

  • Bible – Interlinear or parallel Greek/Hebrew Bible
  • Commentary – Word Biblical, Baker’s Exegetical, New International, etc.
  • Theology –Systematic Theology by Hodge;Reformed Dogmatics by Bavinck(Follow along with Blogging Bavinck)

You can buy all these books from my store.