Posts tagged commentaries

Building the Ultimate Study Bible



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 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.



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.

ESV Study Bible

ESV Study 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.

Moody Bible Commentary

Moody Bible Commentary

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.

New Bible Dictionary

New Bible Dictionary

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.

Zondervan Atlas of the Bible

Zondervan Atlas of the Bible

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.

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology & Exegesis

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology & Exegesis

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.

5 Benefits of WBC in the Bible Study App


With 62 volumes and 26,000+ pages of content, the Word Biblical Commentary is a hefty commentary series.  With this much content, how do you navigate it all?

With the Bible Study App, you can easily read and study the WBC anywhere.  Here are 5 benefits of using the WBC in the Bible Study App (Screenshots are from the Windows Desktop version of The Bible Study App.  Click on Images for a larger view)

1. Resource Guide & Split Window

Open your preferred Bible translation in the main window and have the Resource Guide open in the Split Window.  You’ll see relevant Word Biblical Commentary “hits” in the split window.

If you prefer to just read one resource at a time, you can open the WBC in the split window. The Bible Study App also keeps up with the scripture passage you’re reading in the main window with sync scrolling.

This means that as you move along in the Bible text, the WBC syncs to exactly where you are in your study.  No more flipping pages back and forth.  No more holding the commentary text open on your desk in one spot, reading through your Bible text, and having to go back and find your place in the commentary. You’ll save an enormous amount of time with these first two features alone.

2. Easily Navigate to Commentary Sections

Each section of commentary in WBC (covering a range of verses) is further divided into a number of sub-sections which each approach the entire set of verses from different perspectives like “Bibliography”, “Translation” and more. Each of the sub-sections has been individually tagged based on content, meaning that if you have a particular Bible passage open in the main window, the Resource Guide will display the commentary notes for that passage in the WBC for each of the subsections.

Using it with the Resource Guide like this makes it easy to drill down to one sub-section, then jump back up quickly and then back down to another

3. Search & Look Up Features

Search the Word Biblical Commentary for words or passages.  Take “elder” as an example.  You can search the entire series for where “love” is mentioned in the commentary series.  You can also limit your search to the Old Testament, New Testament, biblical genre, or a specific book.

When your search hits are displayed, you can tap on the result to go directly to that section in the WBC.  You can also choose to open the search in a pop out window making this search accessible for further study.

4. Linked Reference Pop ups

One of my greatest frustrations in the hard copy world of biblical commentaries are the other biblical references within the commentary.  For example, when I’m reading in Genesis 12 about Abram, there are multiple Scripture references in the WBC that help me with this passage. With a hard copy, I have to open a different Bible and find each and every reference to read how the verse relates to what I am currently studying.  This is time consuming, slows down my study momentum, and requires me to keep all of my study materials out and open, spread out over a large desk space. With The Bible Study App, the scripture references are hyperlinked within the commentary text.  All I have to do is tap the scripture reference to read it instantly.

5. Highlight, Add a Note, Bookmark or Copy & Paste

Make the Word Biblical Commentary your own with the Bible Study App. Without having to leave your current study, you can:


Add a Note, Copy & Paste


Or Bookmark and save under your own custom category

Bonus: Cross Platform

The Bible Study App is available for your iPhone, iPad, Android Phone or Tablet, PC or Mac.  With our our background sync technology, you can access all of your notes, highlights, and bookmarks on all of your devices with a free Olive Tree Account.

The Word Biblical Commentary set serves as an exceptional resource for the professional theologian and instructor, the seminary or university student, the working minister, and everyone concerned with building theological understanding from a solid base of biblical scholarship.

Watch a short video to See the Word Biblical Commentary in Action!

WBC On Sale

The WBC is currently on sale. All volumes are currently priced at $9.99. The full set is also discounted, along with new OT & NT sets. Be sure to buy these before the price permanently goes up after this month.

Look Inside: Courson’s Application Commentary


Courson's Application CommentaryCommentaries are an essential part of any Christian’s library. Yet how do you decide which ones to buy? A lot of people gravitate toward commentaries that focus on explaining the meaning of the text. Personally, those are the kind I prefer and what I lean on most when studying the Bible. But a good part of Bible study also involves applying the text to your life. For many, myself included, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do. This is where resources like Courson’s Application Commentary are useful. It is a commentary whose primary focus is explaining the text devotionally and how it applies to our lives.

Let’s take a look inside Jon Courson’s commentary and see how it works in the Bible Study App. Screenshots are from a Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Resource Guide

Like any enhanced resource you purchase for the Bible Study App, Courson’s Application Commentary is built to work hand-in-hand with the Resource Guide. As you’re reading the Bible the Resource Guide follows along and gives an overview of resources in your library that have content related to your passage. In the screenshot below you can see we have a hit in our commentary section for Courson’s commentary. After reading other commentaries or Study Bibles that explain the text, I can then turn to this commentary to help with applying God’s Word to my life.

Resource Guide - Courson

The Commentary

One thing I like about this commentary is it doesn’t try to do too much. Courson doesn’t attempt to explain the nuances of a Greek or Hebrew word or bore you with information only a scholar would appreciate. Instead, he takes a devotional approach to explaining the text so that it comes alive and is easily applicable to life in the here & now. He gets right to the point. This means you don’t have to waste time skimming through pages of endless commentary trying to find an author’s one or two sentences of practical application. You come to this commentary looking for application & he gives it to you.

Courson - Commentary

Topical Articles

Scattered throughout the commentary are what Courson likes to call “Topical Articles.” The best way to summarize these articles is to call them sermonettes. Here Courson takes a passage and deals with it topically, incorporating other passages as needed, to completely bring the big idea of a passage to life. A perfect example is the article titled “He Didn’t Say That!,” a study on Genesis 3:3. Here Courson does a wonderful job explaining Adam’s sin and how easy it would’ve been for us to commit the same sin by using illustrations that anyone can relate to.

Courson - Topical Article

The easiest way to access these articles is through the table of contents. If you change your Verse Chooser from grid to list view, you’ll see a section called “Topical Table of Contents” for each of the three volumes. Here you will find a list of all the topical articles in that volume organized by topic. Use this to easily find out what the Bible says on anxiety or how you can improve your Christian walk or any other topic.

Courson - Verse Chooser Courson - TOC Courson - Article List


Courson’s Application Commentary is a perfect companion to your daily Bible reading. It is even useful to the Bible teacher or pastor looking for the perfect way to relate the passage to their students or congregation.

Add Courson’s Application Commentary to your Olive Tree library today. Also be sure to check out the other titles we have on sale!

Commentaries in The Bible Study App

Watch the video below to see how commentaries work within The Bible Study App.

 Go here to browse all available commentaries now!

The Top Three Bible Study Tools



We are blessed to live in a time where sharing information is easier than ever and through technology we can access amazing resources that can help guide us in our understanding of God’s word. Here are three types of resources that can help to guide, unpack, and illuminate your personal Bible Study.

Study Bibles
Have you’ve ever read a difficult passage and wished you knew a little bit more about the context or the culture? Study Bible’s offer ‘bite sized’ commentary on specific verses in the Bible and often include insight into custom, culture, history, geography, original language and more. A study Bible can be written by one individual or a group of scholars. When selecting a Study Bible it’s important to note that while some content is neutral (such as history or geography) there is also a theological interpretation being employed by the author or authors. Overall study Bible’s make an easy to use quick reference tool for understanding tough passages and in the Bible Study App they can be used with any version of the Bible.

Similar to study Bibles, commentaries offer great background and understanding on the Biblical text but often go much deeper than a study Bible. Bible commentaries range greatly in their content and approach. Some commentaries may be one volume on the entire Bible and others may be an expansive set that have a volume for each book of the Bible. When selecting a commentary it’s important to understand the approach that the writer of the commentary has employed. Some commentaries jump deeply into critical language investigation or historical context while others may focus more on how to understand and apply the Biblical text to everyday life. In The Bible Study App commentaries follow along with the Bible passage you’re reading and are easily accessed in the Resource Guide.

What does that word mean in the Greek? Where else is it used in the Bible? Bible dictionaries allow you to answer these questions and more. With a good Bible dictionary you can see what the original Greek and Hebrew words are behind the English (or other language) translation and how else that word is translated in other places in the Bible. For deeper word study and explanation a Bible dictionary is a must have study resource to help you go deeper in your understanding. Bible dictionaries can be used as a standalone resource or simply tap a word and use the ‘lookup’ feature in The Bible Study App.

What are your favorite Bible Study tools? Share in the comments.


Olive Tree has some top Bible study tools on special this week. Go here to see more!

This Week’s Special Offers: Top Selling Commentaries

Bible Knowledge Commentary

Original Price $37.99

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Bible Knowledge Commentary

The Bible Knowledge Commentary will help any student of the Bible answer the following questions about the Scriptures:

  • What does this verse mean?
  • How should I interpret this passage?
  • What is the significance of this word or phrase in Greek or Hebrew?
  • How do Bible-time customs help me understand the meaning of this passage?
  • How can this alleged contradiction be explained?

The readable style, combined with careful scholarship, make this a Bible study aid you will add to your “most-used” shelf of books.

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New International Greek Testament Commentary Series
The New International Greek Testament Commentary Series engages in deep exegetical and interpretational study of the New Testament on a verse-by-verse level, providing readers with detailed textual commentary and scholarly research. An enticing series for any reader of the Greek New Testament at any level of comprehension of the Greek language, this series opens up new doors for a Greek-minded study of the Bible.This series is a must for anyone looking for an accessible, respectable commentary on the Greek text.
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New International Greek Testament Commentary Series

Original Price $499.95

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Lenski's Commentary on the New Testament

Original Price $195.00

Only $99.99

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Lenski’s Commentary on the New Testament
Lenski’s Commentary on the New Testament is ideal for sermon preparation and serious Bible study. Pastors and students of the Bible who seek deep and detailed engagement with the text of the New Testament have long relied on R. C. H. Lenski’s classic text. Hard to find in print, this 20 volume commentary series is now available for your digital library.
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Calvin’s Commentaries
Calvin’s Commentaries is comprised of 22 volumes, including commentaries on 24 books of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament except for 2 & 3 John and Revelation. Calvin completed these commentaries in a 15 year span from 1540-1555.
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John Calvin’s birthday is July 10. Be prepared with Calvin’s Commentaries and see more great titles by or about John Calvin here.

Calvin's Commentaries
Original Price $27.99

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Berkhof's Systematic Theology
Original Price $29.99

Only $14.99

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Berkhof’s Systematic Theology
Written during his tenure at Calvin Theological Seminary and mostly transcribed from his lectures between 1926 and 1928, this work provides one of the clearest articulations of Reformed theology.Theologian Wayne Grudem has called Berkhof’s Systematic Theology “a great treasure-house of information and analysis… probably the most useful one-volume systematic theology available from any theological perspective.”
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