What’s the Difference? Study Bible vs. Bible Commentary

Posted by on 07/17/2017 in:

Have you ever nodded along to someone talking, even though you had no idea what they were saying? I often feel like I’m doing a mental head-nod when I’m scrolling through all the products Olive Tree offers. As an employee, you’d think I would understand all the different Bible study tools—but to be honest, there’s always something new that I’m learning. So, I thought I’d dedicate a blog post to the difference between a study Bible and a Bible commentary!


A study Bible is Scripture paired 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, allowing for quick reference without having to leave the passage you’re reading. Depending on the study Bible, you may see historical and contextual background information, cross references to other verses, maps, charts, and more.

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. We have a video about how this works on our YouTube Channel.


The first major difference between a Bible commentary and a study Bible is that a Bible commentary is its own book. In fact, it’s probably more than one book. Bible commentaries usually come in massive volumes—one for each book of the Bible! The print version of the 61 Vols. Word Biblical Commentary series would take up 7 feet on your bookshelf. This is probably one of the biggest reasons I’m in love with electronic Bible resources.

There are also single-volume commentaries, but don’t let that fool you. They still contain much more information than a typical study Bible.

Commentaries also come in three different types: devotional, homiletical, and exegetical.

Devotional commentaries focus on applying the Bible to daily life. These publications are much more relaxed, written by one person, and don’t cover the entire Bible verse-by-verse.

Homiletical (homilies = sermons) commentaries focus on interpreting the Bible and then applying it. These commentary sets are written by preachers for preachers. They are also great for preparing to teach the Bible in any capacity, not just from the pulpit.

Exegetical commentaries focus on the more academic processes of uncovering the author’s original meaning. Oftentimes, these publications will explain passages from the original Hebrew and Greek, go in-depth on cultural and historical references, and address scholarly disputes.


First, it’s important to remember that study Bible notes and Bible commentaries are both interpretations of Scripture! Just as you would prayerfully evaluate a sermon, evaluate the contents of any resource you read. No human-made book is perfect in the way that God’s Word is!

If you are looking for quick, easy insights on Scripture, a study Bible or a one-volume commentary is a fantastic place to start. Right now, we have the First Century Study Bible and the Zondervan Bible Commentary (1 Vol.) on sale.

If you’re wanting to go deeper, you may want to pick a commentary set like the Everyman’s Bible Commentary or something similar. I’m really excited about this particular set because, up until now, it’s never been sold as a set digitally—anywhere!

I hope this post was helpful to you! As always, if you ever have a question, feel free to reach out to us in a comment, email, or on our social channels.


  • Jimmy Meyer says:

    Thanks, this was helpful – even for a “decades-old” Christian! If you have more such insights, please, let us have them.

  • Pastor Ben Soon says:

    Thank you so much for sharing such excellent insight. Even as a Pastor, I am much blessed to read your clear, uplifting, sound write-up on this matter. Keep Up your very good work for JESUS. GOD bless you and all the faithful staff at OliveTree. Pastor Ben Soon

  • Tony Fanggidae says:

    Thanks for these knowledge. It is such useful because most people is thinking that both of them is same. I think, christian must have this window to look and learn the Bible

    • Cierra Klatt says:

      No problem, Tony! We love writing about God’s Word and how to study it. Glad it was helpful to you!

  • Ken Carter says:

    This is valuable information! I was aware that we have different styles of commentaries but hadn’t seen them presented in this manner. Thank you!

    I use the Olivetree Bible Resource App more than any other tool. I would love to make a vocaction teaching others what a wonderful tool is provided here.

    Praying that you continue in your effort to make these tool so accessible.


    • Cierra Klatt says:

      So glad this was helpful to you, Ken! We definitely appreciate you telling others about our app! It means a lot to us.

  • Rajesh Christian says:

    Thank you very much for the explaining the difference, I never realised until I read your blog!
    But still I have a question, how can I differentiate between those theee types of Commentaries until I go through them? Is there any way where I can make out it upfront?

    • Michael Hunt says:

      The most useful place to find this is to go to the website Best Commentaries (https://bestcommentaries.com/) where commentaries are scored and tagged. (Best commentaries uses the terms: Devotional, Pastoral, Technical & Special Study to describe the different types. They even have a filter to show which commentaries are available in Olive Tree)
      If you look at the listing for Psalms (https://bestcommentaries.com/psalms/) and filter it using Olive Tree you will see that the Word commentary is tagged technical (i.e. exegetical); NIVAC is tagged pastoral/devotional (i.e. homiletical/devotional) and the ACCS (Ancient Christian Commentary Series is tagged special study.

  • Ken Crosby says:

    Thank you for your help understanding the difference between them.

  • Andrew Osakue says:

    Thanks for your write up which has been highly enlightening.

  • Julia says:

    Honestly, now I understand the difference between the study bible and bible commentary. Your post was really helpful.

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