5 Helpful Study Bibles

Reading the Bible is important, right?

But it’s sometimes hard to understand, right?

So here is some help.

At no other time in human history have people had as much access to helpful biblical study materials as we do today, including a large amount Study Bibles.

A “Study Bible” is a Bible that includes extra features to help you understand what you’re reading, such as:

  • Introductions to each book to let you know more about who wrote it, why they wrote it, and the major themes it contains.
  • Extensive cross-references and footnotes to explain hard-to-understand passages and easily-lost historical contexts or references.
  • Maps, illustrations or charts which bring together key pieces of information or background.
  • Articles on major biblical themes and ideas.

Here are five that I’ve found helpful. The prices vary, especially when it comes to hard cover or soft cover, but if possible, don’t cheap out. A solid Study Bible at your finger tips will be a massive blessing in your life. In the descriptions below, I’ve also included some pictures so you can identify the one you’re looking for when shopping in a store or online.

1. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible, General Editor, D.A. Carson


The NIV (New International Version) is currently the most popular translation in the English-speaking world. (Note: There is another edition of this same Study Bible called the “Biblical Theology Study Bible.”) The articles and footnotes are especially good. There are also a lot of illustrations that help the text “come to life.” This also comes with a free app you can download for your smart phone.

2. The ESV Study Bible by Crossway


Like the one listed above, there are great articles, footnotes and illustrations in this Study Bible. The main difference is the translation, which is the English Standard Version. (To read a blog I did about better understanding the differences between Bible translations click here.)

3. The NLT Illustrated Study Bible by Tyndale House Publishers


This is probably the most visually pleasing of the Study Bibles I’m listing. The translation is the New Living Translation which is more conversational than some others. (Again, to understand the differences in English translations click here.) The footnotes are a bit less extensive that the previous two Bibles listed, but is still very helpful. Plus, there are many short topical explanation boxes throughout to help you understand key themes or people.

4. The Life Connections Study Bible (For Personal or Small Group Study) by Holman


This Bible is based on the Christian Standard Bible translation (which I’m really enjoying these days), and also has many of the features listed above. However, it is more geared toward a small group setting; as you go the various passages it includes points to consider and possible discussion questions for when you’re reflecting on the meaning of the text for today.

5. The Life Application Study Bible by Zondervan


This again uses the New International Version as the main text, and includes helpful introductions and summaries like the others. As the title suggests, the footnotes are geared toward helping you apply biblical principles to your life today.

In this post, I don’t pretend to have given an exhaustive list. But I personally own these five, find them helpful, and use them on a weekly basis.

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Related Post: “Why Trust the Bible?”

May your reading and study be richly blessed by God. And remember, the more you get into God’s word, the more God’s word gets into you.

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