Tag Archive: Bible Study

Four Steps to Build Your Ultimate Study Bible

Posted by on 04/04/2016 in: ,

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As a Bible teacher and technologist, people often ask me what they should buy to start building their Bible study library. I love answering this question and many are shocked by my response. The conversation begins by describing the massive library I’ve built over the years in several Bible software platforms. Then I tell them they don’t need all that & start listing the handful of resources that I find essential to Bible study. The end result is a concise but robust set of tools that anyone can use to study the Bible and grow in the things of God. Today, I will show you how you can build your ultimate Bible study library.

Step 0: Use the Bible Study App

If you’re at all technologically inclined, and I assume you are if you’re reading this, the initial step is downloading Bible software. For as much as I love print, it is easier and faster to study the Bible digitally. You can search resources in a matter of seconds, quickly look up cross references, and study anywhere. You don’t have to worry about flipping pages or having a large desk so that you can open all your books at once. Instead, carry your entire library on your phone, tablet, or laptop.

I always recommend the Bible Study App to people because it is feature rich and easy to use, and I say this not just as an Olive Tree employee. There is no steep learning curve required to use the app and all the features are intuitive. Plus, it’s free to download and try! So, download the app & let’s move to Step 1.

Step 1: Add a Bible Translation

A lot of people don’t think about Bible translations and how they can help their Bible study. For many, they use whatever Bible translation they were given when they became a Christian and never give it a second thought. Yes, the thee’s and thou’s of the KJV may be quite poetic, but what good is it if you cannot understand what you’re reading? In many respects, the Bible is already a difficult book to study, so why make it harder with a difficult to read translation? There is nothing wrong with owning a Bible written in a modern translation.

When choosing a Bible translation, you should find one that works for you. I also believe you should own at least two Bible translations. The first should be more word-for-word in its translation of the original languages, while the second should be more thought-for-thought or a balance between the two. I recommend checking out some of the translations listed below at Biblegateway.com and pick the one you find most readable in each category.

Once you have your Bible translations, you’re ready to build the rest of your ultimate study Bible library.

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Step 2: Add Study Notes

Next to the Bible, if you had to spend money on one resource, hands down it would have to be a study Bible. These are great tools because they are an all-in-one resource. You get commentary, introductions, and a wealth of other useful features. With so many study Bibles on the market, wisdom is needed when making a purchase. You want to make sure you’re buying something that will help you understand what you’re reading and keep things in their proper context.

A good study Bible should contain: thorough study notes, book introductions, maps, charts & illustrations, and Bible chronologies. A few worth checking out include: the ESV Study Bible, NLT Study Bible, NKJV Study Bible, Life Application Study Bible, and the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible.

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Step 3: Add Key Reference Tools

As you expand your library beyond Bibles and study Bibles, you should start by adding key reference tools. This is a broad category that ranges from single volume commentaries to Bible dictionaries and atlases.

Bible commentaries come in many flavors and vary in their target audience, which is often reflected in the price. Because of their depth, commentaries can quickly become the most expensive tool in your library. I recommend starting with single volume commentaries since they cover the entire Bible. While single volume commentaries may not be as thorough as their single-book counterparts, they do take time to cover all passages in general and are sure to explain the more difficult ones, making them useful additions to your library.

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While study Bibles and commentaries are good at explaining the text of the Bible, they don’t always give enough detail about some of the Bible’s concepts and words. This is where a good Bible dictionary comes into play, which is, in effect, an encyclopedia for the Bible. To illustrate it’s usefulness, let’s say you’re reading the gospels and you encounter the Pharisees and Sadducees. Who are these guys and where did they get their authority? A Bible dictionary will explain who they are so you’re not left clueless about their role and purpose in the Bible.

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Atlases are a fantastic tool to have in your library. If we’re honest, most of us aren’t familiar with the geography of the lands from Bible times. Not to mention, you’ll have no luck finding many places mentioned in the Bible on a modern map. Atlases provide you with extensive maps that help you get a lay of the land so that you can make better sense of the Bible’s narrative. Many atlases also provide relevant commentary on the Bible that corresponds to the map or picture.

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Many of these tools you can add to your Olive Tree library at minimal cost and they will go a long way in helping you study the Bible.

Step 4: Add Advanced Reference Tools

Most people could stop at Step 3, but if you’re the person who wants to dive deeper into God’s Word you can buy more advanced reference tools. Resources that fall into this category would include: single book commentary sets, Greek & Hebrew lexicons, and more extensive versions of the tools found in Step 3. These are the tools used by pastors, seminary students, and those, like myself, who don’t mind treading through the original languages and academic level terminology. This is an area where you can spend a lot of money, but each resource is well worth the cost.

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Build Your Ultimate Study Bible Today

By following the above steps, you will have built your own Ultimate Study Bible and have all the essential tools needed to study the Bible. Start building yours today with our Build Your Ultimate Study Bible sale!

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What’s the best Bible Translation?

Posted by on 03/31/2016 in:

I’ll be upfront with you. I’m not actually going to tell you what Bible translation I think is the best. I won’t even tell you which one I prefer or if it may or may not have colorful illustrations that make Jesus look like a California surfer. I tend to agree with Pastor Rick Warren when he said, “The best Bible translation is one that is translated into your life.” In saying that, there are some things that are worth knowing that may help you decide what you use for study, what you recommend to new believers, and even what you read to your kids.

Centuries of scholarship have gone into the English translations we have today.

The two primary metrics for how scholars have translated the original language into the the English Bibles we have today are based on:
1. How close the translation is to the original, literal word (word for word).
2. How close the translation is to the original idea being communicated (thought for thought).

The more technical terms are usually put into three categories:

Formal Equivalent
These translations attempt to reproduce the Greek and Hebrew as exactly as possible into the English language. Words, figures of speech, and sometimes even the sentence structure of the original languages are reproduced in a much more literal and limited way in this type of Bible. These hold -in varying degrees- to a generally word for word approach.

Dynamic Equivalent
These Bibles run on a more thought-for-thought philosophy than the Formal Equivalent translations, but not to the extent that a paraphrase would. Greek and Hebrew figures of speech are replaced with modern rough equivalents. They are typically easier to read, though sometimes in a freer translation passages may lean more toward an interpretation than a strict translation.

Paraphrase
Not usually considered ‘translations’ but rewordings of the Scriptures that speak in a very earthy, common tongue. Those who advocate these note that the New Testament was written in the common language of the people and not by scholars or philosophers. The results can be the clearest expression of Scripture on par with the original. However, theological lenses can more easily influence the interpretation. Some paraphrases are based on the original Hebrew/Greek and some are based on more formal equivalent English translations.

The centuries old challenge for scholars is how do you translate the original manuscripts in a way that makes them accurate and literal, but also readable and understandable?

For an example of this challenge imagine that I’m speaking to an audience in China through a translator and say, “Hong Kong is the coolest city I’ve ever been to.” If my translator literally interpreted my statement to the audience and said, Hong Kong is the coldest city I’d ever been to, they’d probably think I grew up in the middle of the Gobi desert (Hong Kong never really gets cold). I would want my translator to understand my culture and West Coast slang enough to take the liberty to translate my thought, as opposed to my literal words; “He really likes Hong Kong”.

And so for centuries the challenge for Bible translators has been to translate Scripture into thousands of languages worldwide, maintaining as literal an interpretation while still making it readable and understandable to the culture. So, unless you can read the Biblical Hebrew and Greek yourself every translation you have read has gone through this challenge.

Where does your favorite translation rank in terms of being word for word and thought for thought? Check out the *graphic below (click for larger image):

You’ll notice this chart doesn’t say one translation is better than another but it is a useful graphic to understand where the different translations lean in how they interpret the original manuscripts. If you want to dig deeper most Bible translations have an introduction that explains their translation philosophy. You can also check out the links below for more in depth thoughts on the differences between translations.

Helpful Resources:


* Please note that there is no specific difference (other than their place on the continuum) between the orange and green Bibles listed in the graphic

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Read & Research Bible Study Method

Posted by on 02/26/2016 in: ,

laptop with tablet and smart phone on tableMy early attempts at Bible study were sporadic and didn’t go that smoothly. I soon learned that I needed a more formalized approach to my Bible study. Here are a few tips & resources that I’ve found that will help you keep your Bible Study on track.

Prepare yourself through Prayer
“All our study is futile without the work of God overcoming our blindness and hardheartedness.” – John Piper, Martin Luther Lessons from His Life and Labor p. 33

There is no substitute for prayer when reading and studying the Bible.  Prayer takes the attention off of what we can do and puts the attention instead on what God can do in and through us.  Bible study is a spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1) in which we present our best to God.  We have to remember that this is not just a book we’re reading.  We need prepare our hearts and minds for Bible study.

Read the Scripture for yourself
Read and re-read the passage you’re studying.  Get familiar with the flow of the passage.  If there are terms that you don’t know, look them up in a simple dictionary.

Ask yourself these Questions

  1. Observe – What does the text say?
  2. Interpret – What does the text mean?
  3. Apply – How does it apply to me today?

Asking these questions will keep you focused on the study at hand.  These questions are also helpful when preparing, guiding, and leading discussions for small group and Sunday school Bible studies.

Read and Research

1.Bible Study Notes
There are multiple Bibles that have study notes written by scholars and trusted authors that will assist you in better understanding the Bible.  I recommend choosing one that corresponds to your preferred translation (KJV, ESV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, etc.)

2. Bible Concordances
Concordances are great tools that give you a list of verses that contain that root word in the Bible.  However, be careful that you do not JUST use a concordance in your preparation.  Concordances are a great place to BEGIN, but are never the END of your Bible Study.

With that “don’t try this at home” disclaimer, I do suggest using a digital Bible with Strong’s numbers integrated into the text for your Bible study.

Recommendations:

3. Bible Dictionaries
Dictionaries give you more explanation and meaning for specific words.  They also help us to keep our Bible Study on track.
Recommendations:

4. Bible Commentaries
After you’ve studied the Bible for yourself, it is often helpful to read trusted Bible scholars to see how they explain the text you are reading.

Recommendations:

I would also suggest checking BestCommentaries.com. It’s a great site with recommendations for commentaries on each book of the Bible.

Other Resources
Lastly, here are some useful resources to further your Bible Study methods:

Using these simple methods and tools will deepen your Bible Study and further prepare you to present God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15).

What are your favorite Bible Study titles and tools?

Be sure to check out this week’s highlighted offers on titles that will help your Bible Study this year.

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