I thought I would post on some Bible study helps. The thing I consider most essential is my study Bible. The one I use The Life Application Bible, New International Version published by Tyndale. There is also a Life Application series of Bible studies on most of the books of the Bible that I really like. If you’re concerned the study notes are “Lutheran” you may want to use The Lutheran Study Bible published by Concordia. Don’t choose just any study Bible as some will have a definite theological bias. In doubt? Ask your pastor for a recommendation.
The version you use is important also. I like the NIV(New International Version) and my husband, who is a pastor prefers the ESV(English Standard Version). Both of these are direct translations, but more modern and easier to understand than the King James versions. Others, like the Living Bible or The Message, are paraphrased: instead of a word for word translation, they try to capture the basic meaning. They are probably easiest to read through, but not as accurate.
Other books you may want to get are:
A concordance, which is an alphabetical list of words found in the Bible and the verses where they can be found. This is a great resource when you remember a few key words or even most of a verse but don’t know exactly which book and chapter it is in. Many Bibles have a truncated concordance in the back. It won’t have every word, but for most of us, it will suffice. Note of caution: make sure the concordance you use is for the version of the Bible you have (i.e. NIV, ESV, King James). Sometimes the exact word will vary from version to version.
A Bible dictionary gives the definition and background meaning of many words found in the Bible.
There are also topical indexes you can purchase, if you want to look up all the references to a particular topic such as “sacrifice” or “love.”
Finally, a word of commentaries. A commentary is one person’s opinion and explanation of books of scripture, pretty much verse by verse. There are many, many choices. My husband uses Barclay and F.F. Bruce. Sproul is another acceptable author. Like the study Bible, get advice before purchasing.
Finally, if you decide you want a particular reference book, try purchasing it through one of the used book distributors such as Abe Books or Wonder Books. All of these things can be expensive. See if your Pastor will allow you to browse his library so you can decide what things you really want or need. Also at the Salvation Army Thrift Stores all Bibles (including nice study ones) are free– however, this involves waiting for the acceptable one/s to show up, but if you have time to look there for a Bible or other references, you can find great deals.
Happy Studying! Let us know what helps you most!