This past week, I was thinking about my personal study habits and how much trial and error I have gone through to get a good Bible study system that I like.
It seems that there are several programs out there that claim they are the best but no system really fit what I wanted for the outcome that I desired, fitting into the time I have available, and working with a seminary student’s budget. (With seminary and 2 jobs, time is very limited and funds are sometimes scarse.)
In my search, I was looking for a method that would allow me to quickly work through the text, get something out of the text, record what was gained, & do all this in a clear way for future reference.
With that being said, this is the materials and method of study that I use everyday. I hope that you gain something from this and that it encourages you to study more in this new year.
I am going to approach this with a break down of the tools I use with notes on the way that I use them. This way, we can systematically work through what you need and how to use these.
A Good Bible Or Two Or Three Or Ten
The first thing you need for Bible study is a good Bible. I am not talking about the family Bible that is 50lbs. and has never been removed from Grandma’s bookshelf. I am talking about a Bible that you have chosen in a translation that makes since to you and feels good to you.
- When you are shopping for a Bible, check for quality.
A Bible is somethings you should have for a few years. It will be a close friend, spend a little money on it.
On the high end of price range, I like the Cambridge Bibles. They are real leather, have very thick pages, they look very nice, and they are super durable. I have had one of these for 3 years of constant use and it looks brand new. Sometimes, you can find these on sale for great deals.
In the lower price range, I prefer Bibles made by Crossway or Zondervan. They are usually a leather substitute and have slightly thinner pages. These usually last me a year to two years and they show a lot of wear.
- When you are shopping for a Bible, check for readability.
A Bible is a book you should understand, so purchase a translation that you can read and understand.
Without going into original languages and translator intent for each translation, I would recommend three different translations rated by preference and readability.
1st preference ESV (English Standard Version) – This is a smooth conservative translation but uses some words that may be unknown to unchurched eyes.
2nd preference HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) – This is a smooth translation as well and the word formatting is very cool.
3rd preference NASB (New American Standard Version) – This is a very literal translation and some words may be foreign to today’s readers. However this is a great translation for those desiring to have a very literal translation.
4th preference NIV (New International Version) – This is a decent version with easy readability. However there have been many revisions over the years. I would recommend a 1984 edition.
- When shopping for a Bible, check for usability.
Look for things that will cater to what you desire in a Bible. Does the Bible have enough margin for notes? Does the Bible have cross references? Is the Bible red letter (words of Christ in red)? Is it a single column?
Now before we get overwhelmed with all the options, just remember, there is no right answer here. It is simply personal preference.
In my case, I like a single column for easy reading, a wide margin for notes and reflections, and red letter so I can skip to the words of Christ easily. I write in my Bible a lot and prefer a Bible that is easy to work with.
What do you look for when shopping for a new Bible?