Like any job around the house, it is no good starting without the right tools. So here are some DIY tips for getting the most out of the Bible for yourself, so that you don't have to depend on "rent-a-preacher".
Have a couple of good ones on hand. Ever had to depend on one person describing to you an event or place? It works better if you have two or three witnesses doesn't it? Have at least two or three versions to help you study. When you are trying to understand a chapter better, reading it in multiple translations will help your comprehension. For recommended versions click here.
A Study Bible has added study notes by an author or team of writers. Very often these can be interesting but are fallible. Sometimes the layout of these can confuse the text. The best notes in any Bible are probably the ones that you make.
This is a study tool that lists bible verses by subject.e.g. Love. So the verses are not in bible order, but subject order. Excellent if you are studying a particular subject. Nave's is the best known. By no means essential, but it has it's uses.
These are books where the author will try to explain the meaning of passages. Whereas these can be helpful, the best way to understand a passage is to read it, and ask the Holy Spirit to explain it to you. If you want a commentary then approach them with the understanding that the author may well have an axe to grind. Combination volumes dealing with the whole Bible can never go into a lot of depth, but the best is probably The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. For volumes that deal with one book at a time look for the series called : New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), New International Commenary on the New Testament (NICNT), Word Biblical Commentary (WBC) or the New International Version Application Commentary (NIVAC).
These are books that take an in depth look at the meaning of words in the original bible languages. The best loved of these is 'Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words". Vine's is a very reliable source of understanding New Testament Greek. Another excellent but similar resource is Mounce's Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words.
An original language bible (normally bought as a Greek new testament or a Hebrew old testament) which has an English translation under the original words. Difficult to read, but useful in study. The most accessable is Mounce's Interlinear for the rest of us
These are historical Jewish writings that were not adopted into the canon of scripture when the early church assembled the Bible as we know it . Some of them are interesting to read, but most of the church does not value them as a spiritual resource. Probably the easist way to get the Apocrypha in a modern translation is to buy the NRSV Bible with Apocrypha
Helps you visualise where you are reading about – e.g. how far and where did Jesus walk? It will also show the lay out of national boundaries at different times in history. A good Bible will have some in the back, but if not a separate Bible atlas can be purchased. A good example is the Moody Bible Atlas
Explain the meaning of bible words and terms. Very helpful in understanding the way words were used and their general meanings. Also helpful in understanding the way of life, customs and history of Bible times. A good range available. Nelson's & Unger's are possibly the best known. The Lion Handbookto the Bible is also a good reference.
All these books cost a lot of money, and if you are studying you may have 6 or more open at the same time. It is much easier (and cheaper) to do this on a computer screen. There are a number of usable programmes out there but the one we recommend is PC Study Bible, by Biblesoft. Available in different versions, depending how many "books" you want to buy, it can be expensive, but it is the ultimate way to study the Bible today. If you need something free, then try Biblegateway.com for use online or download free software from E-Sword. Study Guides and Daily Notes There are many books to help you study the Bible as well as daily notes to help you through. You can get a daily inspirational reading on our site called FAST FOOD, or the Word for Today is available from UCB. There are Bibles that are divided into 365 readings, in a category we usually call "Bible in a Year". A good example is Cover to Cover. Without doubt the MOST HELPFUL BOOK we have seen in years is Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods which we recommend without reservation to everyone!