Posts tagged Bible Study
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.
- Word-for-word: English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), Modern English Version (MEV)
- Thought-for-thought/Balanced: New International Version (NIV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), New Living Translation (NLT)
Once you have your Bible translations, you’re ready to build the rest of your ultimate study Bible library.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Next week we’ll show you various ways of using these resources to study the Bible.
The difficulties of maintaining a daily Bible study routine are many. Where do you start? How do you make adequate time for more than a cursory reading of the Text? How do you find the right balance of study and devotion? And the list goes on. The truth is there are no easy answers to any of these questions. But we shouldn’t throw in the towel and give up. Every Christian struggles with their Bible reading at some point in their life. Today I want to share a new Olive Tree resource whose aim is to help your daily Bible study. Let me introduce you to the Open Your Bible Commentary.
The Open Your Bible Commentary was written to encourage daily Bible study. The content of this two volume commentary began as a series of Bible Study books originally published by Scripture Union. The series’ intent was to create a resource that encouraged a greater depth of Bible study in a way that wasn’t possible with study notes alone. This format allowed the authors to give fuller discussions on introductory, textual, and background material that might otherwise be overlooked in something like a study Bible. The principal aim of the studies was to stimulate daily Bible reading as a means of personal devotion and life application.
These sensitively edited studies have been reworked into what we now have as the Open Your Bible Commentary. With this commentary you get short readings rich in content. Each passage is carefully explained, devotionally warm, and practically relevant. In its introduction, the commentary boasts four great strengths that set it apart from others:
- Accessible: The studies address the average, thoughtful Christian without assuming they have a prior background with the text.
- Digestible: No section is overly long. It is designed so that you can read one or two sections each day without feeling overwhelmed.
- Dependable: The commentary is authored by renowned theologians, scholars, and experienced pastors including: F.F. Bruce, Leon Morris, William L. Lane, and others
- Practical: The studies offer a diversity of everyday application. Sometimes you are given clear application, while other times you are left to ponder the truths for yourself.
All in all, the Open Your Bible Commentary is built for Christians who desire to engage with the Bible daily. After each section you are sure to walk away with a greater understanding of the Bible and application to apply.
Open Your Bible in the Bible Study App
There are a few ways you can use the Open Your Bible Commentary in the Bible Study App, but let me show you my favorite way to use it.
Since the commentary is conveniently broken into manageable sections for study, I prefer to use it as my daily reading plan. In the morning I read a section from the New Testament volume along with its accompanying Bible passage. For my evening reading I do the same, but with the Old Testament volume.
Unlike most times when I read the Bible, this time I have the commentary open in the main window. I then use the Book Ribbon to mark my current location so I can easily pick up where I left off next time.
Next, I tap the verse reference and open it in the split window. Now I can read the passage and the commentary text. I can also tap on any of the cross references and read them in a pop-up.
Even with the Bible open in the split window I can still take notes on what I’m studying. And, if by chance I want to do further study, I can quickly switch to the Resource Guide to explore my other resources.
What I love about this setup is it allows me to have a different kind of reading plan that still lets me easily study the Bible. I recommend giving it a try!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re someone who feels you can never have enough commentaries or the person who believes that one or two solid commentaries are enough, commentaries are an indispensable part of good Bible study. They help you double check your interpretation and understanding of the Bible, and even help with those difficult passages you just cannot make sense of. The great thing about the Bible Study App is the convenience of carrying around all these commentaries in your pocket.
On this blog we’ve talked a lot lately about all the new titles available with the latest version of our app, and it’s with good reason. As someone who works in Olive Tree’s book formatting department, let me share some inside information with you. These app updates, starting with the release of iOS last summer, have been several years in the making (even before I started working here in the beginning of 2013). A good part of that preparation meant converting our existing titles to work with our new format. With the apps still being in development, it also meant we were pulling double duty on any new titles we released, creating them in both the old and new formats. This was our process until last December when we made the decision to stop creating new titles for our old platform. The decision meant that any new titles released after that point would only work for those users running the latest version of our iOS app (the only app update to be released at that time). This was the case until our Android release last month and Windows Desktop last week. Great titles like the Reformation Study Bible, Tyndale Commentaries, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, and so many others simply weren’t available on these platforms. So, finally having these titles available on these platforms is a big deal.
Now let me share how these new titles have become useful for me. The ability to take the Bible Study App with me wherever I go means I can get a jump start on preparing lessons for the youth group I help lead. This process usually involves checking a few commentaries for anything I might have missed in my own study. It’s great that these new titles are now available on Android, but the commentaries are most valuable to me on Windows Desktop because most of my in-depth studying happens on my laptop. Instead of trying to multitask and thumb out long form notes on my phone, I have more space to work with. I can have my Bible, commentary, and notes open at once, which makes my preparation more efficient. One commentary that I’ve really enjoyed using in Bible+ 6.0 for Windows Desktop is the Tyndale Commentaries. This is a commentary set that I find has a nice balance in what it covers without being overly technical. It’s also one I’ve wanted in Olive Tree for some time, but when we finally released it it was iOS only. As an Android & Windows guy I was left out, unable to use the resources I wanted to use most. Now that they’re available I can study the way I want to, with the resources I prefer.
I’ll admit, there’s nothing spectacular about having a commentary available on your desktop, that’s nothing different from what we’ve already done. What makes it noteworthy is knowing the titles I want to use are now available on all the platforms I use. Not only can I carry them around with me in my pocket, but I can also have them where it’s most valuable to me: on my desktop.
One of the advantages of using Olive Tree’s Bible+ app is it’s built for mobility. You can read and study the Bible anywhere. Yet, there are times when you need more screen than your phone or tablet can give you. Lesson and sermon preparation are a couple times that come to mind when having additional screen real estate is of benefit. This is why we made Bible+ 6.0 for Windows Desktop.
Just like there are different types of study that benefit from using a desktop or laptop computer, there are resources that work particularly well on these platforms. Two resources that take advantage of a computer’s additional screen size are our Greek-English Interlinear Bibles and Harmony of the Gospels. Today we’re going to show you how to maximize your use of these resources on Windows Desktop.
Harmony of the Gospels
Gospel harmonies are a great tool to manage the sometimes confusing chronology of the first four books of the New Testament. Did this event happen in just Matthew, or was it in Mark too? How does John’s gospel fit in with the other three? A gospel harmony can help make sense of those questions. That advantage alone is worth its weight in gold, but Olive Tree makes it possible for you to view these passages side-by-side without the need to jump back & forth. This functionality exists on our mobile platforms, but screen size certainly limits what you can see. For example, if you’re on a phone, you only get a single column of text, at most two if your phone is big enough & you put it in landscape mode. On a tablet you might get all the columns to display side-by-side, but the minute you open Resource Guide you’re left scrolling text again. Is there a better way? Yes! Read it in our Windows Desktop app!
If your computer has a high enough resolution, you can easily view all the columns in the Gospel Harmony while still having the Resource Guide open. This means you can easily read the text, pull up your commentaries, maps, and notes without sacrificing any of the text you’re studying. In the screenshots below we have the same passage loaded on a 10″ Android tablet and our Windows Desktop app, both with the Resource Guide open. Not only can you see all the columns on Windows Desktop, but you can read the full passage and then some. You’re not forced to scroll up & down to read & compare the passages because everything is in view. This also means you don’t have to worry about the Resource Guide constantly updating because of your scrolling to view the entirety of the text, they both stay put. That will save you time and effort.
Greek-English Interlinear Bibles
The feature that makes our Greek-English Interlinear Bibles great is the same thing that can make them frustrating to use for some users. Our Interlinear Bibles display multiple lines of information for each verse. You get the Greek text, English glosses, Strong’s numbers, and then the corresponding English translation. That’s a lot of information! On a tablet or phone this means you’ll likely only see a verse or two at a time, unless you make the text extremely small. If you’re studying a longer passage, this of course means lots of scrolling. This is where Windows Desktop again comes to the rescue!
Our Greek-English Interlinear Bibles don’t operate any differently on Windows Desktop than they do on mobile, but you can see and read more of the Bible without scrolling. Again, comparing screenshots between platforms, Windows Desktop allows you to see nearly 3 times the number of verses than you can see on the Android tablet. Like with the Harmony of the Gospels, you save time and effort by not having to scroll through one or two verses at a time. From there, you can open multiple dictionaries and commentaries, which further maximizes your use of the Interlinear.
Get Them Now
Now that you see how these resources can help maximize your study time, click here to add them to your Olive Tree digital library today.
There are lots of different methods for studying the Bible, but the common denominator is they all require you to read the Bible. More often than not, we read the Bible in our preferred translation; but, what do you do if you want to compare one translation to another? The Bible Study App makes it easy to read two Bibles side by side. Today we’re going to show you a few easy ways to do this.
The screenshots below are from a Nexus 10 Android tablet, but the process works identically on iOS devices. The methods described below require the split window to be open and assume a Bible is already open in the main window.
Method 1: Library View
The first way to create a parallel Bible is through the library view. If your split window is currently open to Resource Guide or My Stuff you can return to the library view by tapping the back arrow in the header. Once in that view, if you don’t see a list of your resources, tap the title of the currently open resource and select “Library” which will open a list of your resources.
If you have a large library, you may want to filter this view to only show your Bibles. Do this by selecting “Browse by Category” and tapping “Bibles.” Then choose the translation you want to read in parallel. In this screenshot we have chosen to open the Passion Translation.
With both Bibles now open, you can read the Bible in your main window while your secondary Bible follows along.
Method 2: Resource Guide
If you’re someone who frequently uses Resource Guide, this second method will work better for you.
With Resource Guide open, scroll to your Bibles section. Here you are presented with a list of all the Bibles in your library that contain the passage you currently have open in the main window. Select the Bible you want to read and it opens to the same location as the main window. Like in the first method, this Bible will stay in sync as you scroll through the Bible in the main window.
Bonus Method: Multiple Parallel Bibles (Desktop Only)
Do you use our Windows desktop or Mac app? If so, we have a bonus method that allows you to open multiple parallel Bibles simultaneously.
First, access your first parallel Bible by using one of the methods outlined above. Once you have your Bible open in the split window, you can then click the Popout Window button. This will open a copy of the Bible (or any resource) in a popout window that you can resize and move anywhere on the screen.
Now go back to the split window and choose a different Bible. At this point you will have three different Bibles open to the same location that sync with the main window. Repeat these steps to open up as many translations as you would like. Below is a screenshot with four different translations open to John 4.
Why Use a Parallel Bible?
Now that you know how to create a parallel Bible in the Bible Study App, why would you want to use one? Here are some ideas:
- Read a more literal translation (KJV, ESV, NASB) alongside a more dynamic one (NLT, Message, TLB) to get a better idea of what the text says
- Have an English translation open alongside the original language text
- Use it to compare commentaries or dictionaries by having those resources open instead of a Bible
A parallel Bible can also be used to check out newer Bible translations to see how they compare to your translation of choice. An example of this would be reading the newly released Passion translation titles as a part of your daily reading or Bible study. Purchase a single book of the Bible (such as John or Matthew) and read it beside your regular Bible. You’ll get to experience the Bible in a new way in a different translation that is still faithful to the original languages & intent of the author.
All of the Passion Translation titles are currently on sale for half off, so pick one up today and use it as a parallel Bible!
By Olive Tree Employee: David Mikucki
Olive Tree has a lot of commentaries and study Bibles available, and I love using them. I find myself using one almost every day, even if it’s only to get background information on a verse as I read each day. The Resource Guide makes it easy to do just that. I can’t even imagine trying to carry Calvin’s 22-volume commentary set or even the hefty ESV Study Bible with me everywhere.
But as I’m sure you’re aware, commentaries and study Bibles can get things wrong. Theologians and scholars make mistakes and misinterpret things, but God is perfect and doesn’t make any mistakes. Wouldn’t it be great if God had written a commentary on Scripture? Well, in a way He did, and His commentary comes free with The Bible Study App. Let me explain what I mean…
Interpreting Scripture with Scripture
It has been said that Scripture is its own best interpreter, and that’s absolutely true. It has also been said that when we’re having trouble interpreting a text that seems unclear, the best place we can go is to clearer texts that talk about the same subject. So when Jesus speaks in a parable, it can be very helpful to see what Paul had to say about the subject. That can help to guard us from error as we seek to understand the meaning of difficult passages. In this sense, God gives us commentary on Scripture through other Scripture.
Before I used The Bible Study App, I would do this by looking at the tiny cross-references in my Bible text, then I would try to keep my finger where I started as I used my other hand to look up the cross-references—leaving a finger at each cross reference. That got pretty crazy pretty quick since I only have ten fingers. Besides that, what about keeping my place in commentaries?
Thankfully, Olive Tree offers a few features that make this a lot easier.
Cross Reference Popups
Several of the translations Olive Tree offers (like the ESV and the NIV) have cross-references built right into the Bible text. Cross-references are references to verses that the translators thought were related to the verse you’re reading. They look like little superscripted letters. When you tap them, you see popup that shows you the cross references related to that verse:
The list of cross-references, of course, isn’t inspired. But Scripture is inspired and the cross references are designed to take you to places in Scripture that are related to the passage you’re reading. In the example below, I was reading the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, and I found a cross-reference where Hebrews gives us some extra insight into this story:
Two Passages Side-by-Side
If you want to dig into God’s commentary even more, you might find popups don’t show enough context and they can get in your way of reading the original passage. With split window, you can easily pull up two whole passages of Scripture side-by-side. First open split window by tapping on the arrow at the edge of your screen:
This will probably bring up the Resource Guide, so tap Open at the top of the Resource Guide, then tap Recently Opened and select one your preferred Bible translations:
By default, the split window is set to show the same passage that you have open in the main window so that you can compare translations, but if you disable window syncing, you can use the two screens as if they’re two separate Bibles. To do this, tap the [>>] icon at the top right of the split window, then tap Sync Settings and turn off Sync Windows:
Now, you can open a passage that’s related to the one you’re currently reading. I’m in Jeremiah 31:31, reading about the New Covenant. Hebrews has a lot to say about this passage in chapters 8 and 10, so I’ll take my split window to Hebrews 8 by using the Go To button:
Now I have both passages opened. I can read Scripture and God’s commentary on Scripture—more Scripture—right next to each other!
I don’t consider my study of a passage complete until I’ve looked to see what God says about that passage elsewhere in His Word. These features make it a lot easier to do that. Another tool I often use is the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, which is a collection of cross-references that’s a bit larger than what you’ll find in a Bible translation. It’s quite useful and we’ve even written a blog post about how to use it.
The steps I showed you here were for iPad, but these things can be done on all of our platforms. You can learn about how to use split window and lots of other features for all our supported platforms on our help website.
David is a front end web developer at Olive Tree. He also writes on his personal blog, And the Rest of It.