Several years ago, I led a church through a study of Howard Hendricks’ wonderful book, Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible.To this day, I continue to return to his material on biblical interpretation. I highly recommend this book to all serious students of God’s Word. As for the topic of this blog post, I wanted to share Hendricks’ advice on selecting a Bible for Bible study. What follows below are the “ideal characteristics” of the “Best Study Bible.”

  1. Large Print – Hendricks noted that the “best study Bible” must have “print large enough to read and mark easily.”
  2. Wide Margins – Wide margins in a “study Bible” provide you “with plenty of room to record your observations and insights” as you dig deeply into God’s Word.
  3. No Notes – Hendricks wrote, “When you’re studying the Word, you want to come to the text unbiased, without any extraneous comments competing for your attention. Ideally, you want the biblical text and only the biblical text.” I believe is one of the most important points that Hendricks mentioned about the “ideal study Bible.”
  4. No Subheadings – Again, Hendricks wrote, “An ideal study Bible would have chapter and verse indications but no editorialized headings for paragraphs and sections such as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and ‘The Great Commission.’ Such headings can be useful to locate material in the text, but they tend to bias the reader.”
  5. Cross-References – Cross-references allow the reader to efficiently compare Scripture to Scripture, which helps students of the Bible interpret the less clear sections of Scripture in the light of the more clear sections of Scripture.
  6. Good Paper and Binding – Rigorous Bible study will take a toll on the paper and binding of the Bible. Also, if you ever intend for others to read your Bible after you, there might not be much of a Bible left if it is not a high-quality production. Spend the extra money for a better bound Bible with quality pages.
  7. Concordance – Make sure you get a Bible that has a good concordance in the back. This will help you locate verses and words that you might not have memorized yet. The concordance comes in handy more often than you might think.
  8. Maps – Lastly, make sure your Bible has a section of maps in the back. Maps are essentially for a thorough study of the historical writings in the Bible. Maps will orient you to the geography of the biblical text and often reveal interesting details that are overlooked by readers who do not know the background of the passage.

As you can tell, Hendricks’ list was not about finding a particular “Study Bible” on the market that is full of other peoples’ comments about God’s Word. Instead, Hendricks was concerned with getting people into the text for themselves. So while there is certainly a place for being aware of other people’s thoughts, it is no substitute for the personal study of God’s Word. We do not study vicariously through the lives of Bible scholars. We study as those filled with the Holy Spirit in a community of other believers with the goal of having our lives transformed by God’s truth.

I would love to hear from you about how you study God’s Word. What methods and/or Bibles have you used in the past? Leave a comment below and share this post with others!