If you’re building a building a bible study library, here are the basic tools you need to get started.
Since every translation is an interpretation of the original language, you should consult several translations of different types when studying the Bible. Bibles fall on an interpretation scale and it will improve your study if you know the difference and have one of each type.
You’ll be surprised at how the information on a map can open your study. Consider how knowing that the road to Jericho was 17-miles changes the parable of the good Samaritan.
A concordance is an organized list of all the biblical texts which contain a given word. Concordances allow you to broaden your understanding of how a word is used and its range of meanings.
Lexicons & dictionaries can reveal what might be “lost in translation” but they also tempt us to fall into the trap of “I learned a fact about a word and I must use it.”
Multi-volume encyclopedias are good sources for historical and biblical themes. But background information does not impose meaning.
Commentaries can kick-start your thinking when you hit a dead end but should not be a substitute for your own work. Here’s my two rules of thumb.
Multi-volume encyclopedias used to be too expensive for home use and were confined to those with access to a large library system. However, they are becoming more widely available on computer software and online.
Many of the classic commentaries are free online, but how do you know which one(s) to use? And where do you find them? Here’s a quick list and explanation
Online resources to help you study: maps, charts, outlines, key words, etc. On this one page, you’ll find links to websites and Bible study software.
The New Testament is our divinely inspired commentary on the Old Testament. When studying a passage, it’s often helpful to see how other biblical authors understood it.
After a few years of Bible study, students often begin asking, “Should I learn biblical Greek and Hebrew?” While the tools for English readers continue to improve and less people are learning the original languages, knowing the original languages can be helpful. You can learn enough to widen the tools available to you and/or learn to read Scripture in the original language.
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