Study Bible vs. Commentary

Posted by on 09/23/2016 in: ,

Let’s be honest, it can be intimidating to ask what something is when it seems like we should already know. A theological term or Bible study method may sound familiar, but that doesn’t mean you know what it actually is. We are here to help! In this blog, we’ll talk about the difference between a study Bible and a Bible commentary and how each can help you in your own Bible study.

Study Bible

A study Bible is the Bible text along with additional notes and resources that are meant to help you understand what you’re reading. A non-digital study Bible is often formatted with the study Bible notes below the Bible text, which allows for quick reference without having to leave the passage you’re reading. Depending on the study Bible, the study helps can include historical and contextual background information, cross references to other verses, maps, charts, and more. Much of this will be underneath the text and some will be organized in sections in the back of the book.

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Study Bibles in the Olive Tree Bible App work much the same way. While you’re reading the Bible text, the resource guide will pull in the content from any study Bible you have in your library to give you quick access to helpful information. The video below shows how this works.


Bible Commentary

For starters a Bible Commentary is not usually bundled with the text like a Study Bible is but they are typically based on a specific Bible translation such as the KJV, NIV, ESV, etc. Some Bible commentaries may have a separate volume for each book of the Bible. For example the print version of  the 62 Vol. Word Biblical Commentary series would take up about 7 feet on your bookshelf. Other more concise Bible Commentaries may only be a single volume yet even these will usually offer more content than a typical Study Bible.

While most Study Bible’s take a similar approach to providing study helps, commentaries can be broadly put into three different types; devotional, homiletical, and exegetical. Before I lose you, let me define those three so you know the difference.

  • Devotional commentaries are primarily focused on the application of the text to daily life and are often written by one individual. They don’t typically cover the the Bible verse by verse or give as much information about specific background or context focus a lot on the individual application
  • Homiletical or preaching commentaries are written with the purpose of helping people to both interpret and apply the word. Many such commentary sets are written by preachers themselves and often even based on messages that have previously been preached.
  • Exegetical commentaries are based on a set of practices and procedures focused on discovering the author’s intended meaning. These types of commentaries will often explain passages from the original language the Bible was written in (Hebrew and Greek), the context of the culture, and other technical aspects having to do with specific text in the Bible.

With both Study Bibles and Bible Commentaries it’s important to realize that whether they have a single author or a team of contributors there are always theological and doctrinal influences on scriptural interpretation. Just as you would prayerfully evaluate a sermon you hear on Sunday it’s important to do the same thing as it relates to any sort of commentary. With that said though the scholarship and insight that you’ll find in a Study Bible or Bible Commentary can be an amazing wealth of knowledge that really helps you to unpack the Bible and see scripture  in new and exciting ways.

What’s right for you?

If you are looking for quick reference material a Study Bible or a one volume commentary like the Zondervan Bible Commentary is a good place to start.

If you’re wanting to go deeper you may want to pick an exegetical commentary set like the MacArthur New Testament Commentary or something similar.

The great thing about using study Bible notes or a commentary is that either one is just as easy to use in the Olive Tree Bible App.

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In the screenshot above (taken from Bible App on a Mac) all study Bible notes and commentary notes appear in the same section of the Resource Guide under ‘Commentaries’. A simply tap/click and you can access a wealth of knowledge to help you grow in your understanding of God’s word.

We have some great Study Bibles and Bible Commentaries on sale right now. See them here!

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Inductive Bible Study

Posted by on 09/14/2016 in: ,

Book.

As a teacher of the Inductive Bible Study Method I am often asked, “What is Inductive Bible Study?”. Unfortunately, there is really no short answer to that question.  Inductive Bible Study is more of an approach to the Bible than it is any particular technique. In fact the “Inductive Method” that we teach in the School of Biblical Studies is really a collection of Bible study techniques combined in such a way as to help the student maintain an “inductive posture” toward the text. The shortest description I can give of this approach is this, “Inductive study is an approach to the Bible that helps the student build their conclusions from observations of the text.” In other words – observation first, conclusions second.  Sounds simple, but there are complications. To illustrate let me tell a very old folk tale.

The Two Travelers and the Farmer

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”
-North American Folk Tail (Source uncertain)

This story illustrates many points but the one I think is the most relevant to Biblical study is that people tend to see what they expect to see. Or to put it another way, what people bring to the Bible greatly influences what they take away from the Bible. How do we prevent this? By doing all we can to set aside our preconceived ideas about the text and focus on two things – reading and observation -forgoing judgment until we have thoroughly analyzed the text. We need to learn to let the text speak.  We need to let our observations drive our conclusions. Rather than simply taking our conclusions to the text for testing, or worse yet, merely looking for validation of what we already believe or have been told. The text is always right and proper interpretation is defined as what the author meant and what the original readers would have understood.  To understand the author and original readers of the text we must first identify them and their issues. This is historical context and it is critical to our understanding of what the text is really saying. Our situation should not even be considered until we understand what was meant when it was written. To sum up, understand what the text says, who wrote it, and as much about the original readers as you can. Careful reading of the text in its proper historical context is the key to proper interpretation.

After we have discovered the meaning in the original historical context we are finally ready to take that giant leap forward in time and culture to our present time and circumstances. By identifying the timeless truths at work under the specifics of the text, we can then begin to ask questions about why these truths are significant today. The timeless truths driving the ancient solutions then become the truths directing our modern applications. By building these disciplines in students it is possible to train them to truly listen to the text each time they read it, rather than simply seeing what they expect to see.

The three main steps of inductive study to remember are these:

Observation – What the text actually says.

Interpretation – What the text meant to those to whom it was originally written.

Application – How do we respond to the timeless truths of the text today?

Text first, original audience second, our perspective last.  The Bible was written for us – not to us. Use the clear passages to understand the obscure passages, and most of all pray. And may God enlighten you as you continue to explore his word.

Tom Possin is the director of the School of Biblical Studies in Lakeside, Montana

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Look Inside: LifeConnect Study Bible

Posted by on 09/13/2016 in: ,

Black ipad on old wood table background

By Olive Tree Employee: Harold Coleman

How do we move from reading the Bible to applying it to our lives?  For many the idea of “studying” the Bible is overwhelming and questions soon follow: What commentary should I use? Do I need to know Greek or Hebrew to really understand Scripture? Does it take college-level training to understand Scripture? For the vast majority of Christians, these things aren’t necessary. Most of what is necessary to know God is simple to understand in a normal reading of the Bible, regardless of our education.

I recommend the LifeConnect Study Bible Notes as a companion to learning to apply the word of God to our lives because of the simple S.O.A.P. method that it uses. Pastor Wayne Cordeiro believes it shouldn’t be so hard to apply Scripture, and he provides simple-to-understand examples of this method that has us read Scripture, make Observations about the text, consider Applications to personal challenges we see in the Scripture, and finally Pray for God’s help in applying the Scripture to our lives.

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With the Olive Tree Bible App, the S.O.A.P. method can be applied to any verse or part of a verse by creating a note for that verse. I will use Ephesians 4:29 as an example of using this method. I first highlight the verse by touching number 29 and selecting Highlight. Then I copy the verse by tapping the verse number again and selecting Copy. Finally, I make a new note, again by touching the number 29 and tapping Note. When the note is open, I paste the copied verse by holding down my finger in the text box and tapping Paste.  I add the S: before the verse section, then the O, A, and P on new lines before I add my thoughts. I often choose specific words or phrases from the Scripture that are meaningful to me at the time.

Here are the results:lifeconnect2

S: Let no corrupt word proceed out …
but what is good
for necessary edification
… impart grace to the hearers.
O: Context Eph. 4:20-32 Put off the old Put on the New
Let no – this means it is my responsibility to not talk or act out of my old ways. I may need the Holy Spirit’s help but God expects me to stop the wrong action before it comes out.
No heat of the moment emotion justifies letting the old self out. It is opposite of good and tears down rather than edifies (builds up).
The verse doesn’t say to immediately follow up not speaking ill with speaking good. I may need to walk away, pray, think it through, or even come back another day to be able to speak good and edifying words, once my way of thinking is more like that of Christ. It needs to be full of grace, the same grace I receive from Christ.
A: This has implications throughout my life. With my spouse, my children, my extended family and friends, with co-workers and supervisors, and with strangers driving cars in ways I don’t appreciate.
P: Lord this seems so overwhelming to me but neither Paul nor you expect it to be that way. My hope is in the working of the Holy Spirit that assists me in putting to death the deeds of the flesh and allowing Christ to be glorified though my putting on the renewed nature. Help me to stop before my thoughts become words or actions. Help me to anticipate your love flowing through me until I can see ways of building up and giving grace to those you put in my life.
Along with the 70+ S.O.A.P. notes from Wayne Cordeiro that can be used both as short devotionals and as examples of this method, the LifeConnect Study Bible Notes also include:

  • Over 50 articles that bring truths to life written by Wayne Cordeiro
  • Introductions to each book of the Bible, which includes timelines, and outlines of the book
  • Thousands of verse by verse notes providing background to Scripture
  • Insightful quotes for reflection
  • Maps related to various time periods of the Scriptures.

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These resources can be found through the table of contents in the LifeConnect Study Bible Notes and by using the Resource Guide as you read through your Bible on your own.

Follow the link to find out more about the LifeConnect Study Bible Notes!

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