One of my dearest Old Testament professors, Dr. Thurman Wisdom, once passed on a pithy maxim taught to him by his own instructors. “Read the Bible as any other book,” quoth he, “but do not read the Bible as if it were just any other book.”
In a matter of days, many Christians will be making their New Year’s resolutions. No doubt they will commit to reading the entire Bible in 12 months. While I think this is a noble effort, I strongly urge Christians everywhere not to read the Bible through in 12 months. Rather, I recommend thoroughly studying the entire Bible in a manageable, self-allotted amount of time. Why? Because the Bible is a whole library of books–66 to be exact–not just one. While these books miraculously cohere to one another, each must be noticed for its place among the others as well as for its individual contents. Also, if one tries to read “a proverb a day” for a month, he may get a shock to realize that the Book of Proverbs, for example, does not contain 31 proverbs but hundreds, some of which connect to their immediate context, as opposed to others. Is it really reasonable to think that one can assimilate so many maxims per day? Lastly, I urge the Bible’s student to read multiple translations when studying, because each have their significant uses. The translations (a.k.a. versions) I can recommend most are also listed below.
Recommended Study Bible Resources and their Particular Uses:
Please note that the following study Bibles contain the teachings of scholars about the Bible for the ease of one’s own discretionary study. I do not recommend all of the views of all such scholars, but I can recommend studying what they produce with a heart and mind dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide one into all truth. Moreover, if one is attempting to form his theology (understanding of God), which all Bible Study should allow, then the most conservative translations (directly below) will do nicely. I recommend them in the translations which (I think) would best complement each Study Bible, if available. And, by all means, purchase a physical copy.
- 1901 American Standard Version Reference Bible – Teacher’s Edition
- Apologetics Study Bible – HCSB – to know how to answer skeptics and answer the investigative questions that arise from studying the Bible.
- C. I. Scofield Reference Bible (Old: 1909 or 1917) – KJV or NKJV – to understand classic dispensationalism of the early 1900’s era.
- ESV Study Bible – 2011 ESV – to study top scholarship on Bible backgrounds, settings & other textual analysis
- Hebrew/Greek Key Word Study Bible – 1769 KJV, NASB or NKJV – for the English speaker who wants to get as close to the original languages as possible without learning Koine Greek or Hebrew
- Life Application Study Bible – 1995 NASB or NKJV – to practically live out the clearest reflection of the Bible’s message.
- MacArthur Study Bible – 2011 ESV – to understand the Bible, as taught from an easy-to-understand, contemporary, Reformed theology tradition.
- Ryrie Study Bible – 1995 NASB (or NKJV) – to understand the Bible, as taught from an easy-to-understand, contemporary moderate dispensational viewpoint.
- Thompson Chain Reference Bible – NASB, NKJV or KJV – to acclimate one’s self to using a good reference system. [from Kirkbride in 2015]
Recommended Translations and their Particular Uses:
For the student who wishes to see the original languages most nearly accurately represented in English, the following are recommended. These are good for forming one’s theology, because they reflect the grammar of the ancient languages most nearly exactly. They are listed in order of most nearly exact to more nearly dynamic in representing “word for word” or formal equivalence translation.
- NASB (1995)
- ASV (1901)
- ESV (2011)
- KJV (1769) Those who can read and understand Elizabethan English know that it is the most precise and grammatically reflective morph of English in the history of the language. For those who cannot easily understand it, I recommend NKJV (New King James Version).
For the student who wishes to momentarily move past the “wooden” style of “word for word” translations in order to more readily absorb the overall meaning of a text or verse, he should look no farther than the following translations. While these versions are good for crystalizing one’s personal understanding of the text, these should not be used for establishing one’s articulation of theology (again, listed in order of their dynamic style):
Everyone paraphrases the Bible sometimes. Bible scholars do too, and the uses for these scholarly paraphrases are just as useful as our own… maybe even more so. Obviously, no one gives much credence to a paraphrase, excepting that it is a reference to the Bible. The following paraphrases are listed in order of least dynamic to most idiomatic:
Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible by George Guthrie
Read the Bible for Life by LifeWay Publishing
The Bible is NOT Subjective Testimony (please note the resources at the bottom of the linked page)
The History of Redemption, illustrated by Chris Koelle