Last Updated: July 15, 2021
If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the best study Bible is then I’d recommend NLT Illustrated Study Bible by Tyndale as the best one.
The use of study Bibles is not new. In 1560, the Geneva Bible published the first English Bible with extensive notes. The reason that led King James I to produce his version of the Bible without notes which are known today as the King James Version (KJV). Another important study Bible published by Oxford University Press is the C.I. Scofield, produced in 1909. It had a great influence on a generation of Christians in the United States.
Study Bibles have escalated recently. You can find study Bibles for men, women, couples, families, and more. Some study Bibles focus on biblical cultures and apologetics. Many study Bibles are filled with notes and inspirational thoughts by popular teachers.
Whether reading a regular Bible or a study Bible, it is important to put your faith in God. Do not be distracted by the notes and commentary, focus instead on your relationship with our living God. The best thing is to use those notes as a tool in your reading and understanding the scriptures.
Here are the Best Study Bibles we’ll be reviewing:
- NLT Illustrated Study Bible by Tyndale
- NIV Foundation Study Bible by Zondervan
- CSB Apologetics Study Bible by Holman
- HCSB Study Bible by HCSB Translation Team
- NIV Quest Study Bible by Zondervan
What is a Study Bible?
A study Bible is a special edition of the Bible that comes with extra features. Some of those features include verse-by-verse breakdowns, discussion questions, and extra-wide margins for note-taking or Bible journaling. It is a book that offers additional references and explanatory notes printed along with the text of Scripture. Many study Bibles include footnotes with cross-references or very brief notes that may clarify the definition of a word.
Study Bibles also have a historical context and short articles that profile the Bible characters that help increase the reader’s understanding. A good study Bible also includes maps, illustrations, charts, and photos. In short, study Bibles are Bibles and commentaries combined. It’s like reading with a Bible scholar telling you many important additional details about the scriptures.
Study Bible comes in various sizes. Some are really big, but almost all of the study Bibles are noticeably thicker, wider, and heavier than a regular Bible. Every modern Study Bible also has the New Testament and Old Testament plus a host of additional content that a regular Bible doesn’t have.
Most study Bibles are also influenced or written by favorite authors such as Thomas Nelson, Tyndale, and John MacArthur. One of the most best-selling study Bibles is the MacArthur Study Bible by John MacArthur.
Compared to a regular Bible, Study Bibles are a great way to dive into the Bible in a way that you can easily understand. But you may ask what are the qualities of a good study Bible?
A Study Bible should be In-depth
A good study Bible should be in-depth and substantial enough for a deeper study of the Bible. The best study Bible should be able to clarify difficult concepts. Most study Bibles have great tools and resources. Some of the best English Bible translations used in most Bible studies are the New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB). A good study Bible should also have application notes which are good for studying the word of God.
A Study Bible should be Easy-to-Use
Choosing a study Bible can be overwhelming as it is. How much more if you’re using it. That is why choosing the best study Bible for you should make a great impact on your life. If you want to study the Bible more deeply, you should be able to relate to the historical context of the scripture. Bible translations used should be on-point and easy-to-understand. The layout of the study Bible should be easy-to-use and clear. One of the study Bibles that has this kind of layout is the ESV Study Bible.
A Study Bible should Deepen your Theological Knowledge
The original manuscript of the Bible was written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic so we need them translated. Since some of the translations are lost, Word Studies help to bring out some of the fuller meaning of what the original conveyed. Study Bibles have study notes and systematic theology to help as you dig deep in the scripture. The goal of any Bible study is to teach the concepts you need to figure out what the Bible is saying.
How to Use a Study Bible?
Using a study Bible would help you understand the Scripture more clearly as you read it. Most study Bibles use similar tools but the layout might be different. One of the tools used in a study Bible is cross-references. A tool that connects the verses with other related verses in the Bible. It is usually found on the margins of a study Bible.
Another useful tool is the study notes and commentaries. The text is usually written by different contributors to the Bible. The text is usually the words of God found in the Bible. The comments are the explanations written by people like the scholars and teachers of the Bible. While you study the Bible, you can find the study notes and comments usually at the bottom of the page.
One of the important tools in a study Bible is the Book Introduction. The introduction to each book of the Bible is divided into several easy-to-find parts. It includes the timeline, maps, or charts that will shed some light on the historical background. Another tool is the concordance which can guide you to locate a certain word or verse in the Bible. The concordance is found at the back of the study Bible which you can find very helpful.
Now that you know the tools that could assist you to use your study Bible, here are some ways how to use a Study Bible.
Read and Understand the Text of the Bible
Read the words of God with conviction and care. Meditate on it and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that you will understand what the Bible is saying. Only God can help you understand the scripture and teach you how to apply it to your life.
Maximize the Use of Cross-references
Look carefully at the verse you are reading and link it to other related verses in the Bible. You might find something that can shed light on what you’re reading and studying. It’s helpful to look from the larger context of the Bible or what the rest of the Bible says about the topic. I suggest not look at the citations only, read the actual passages instead.
Take advantage of the additional tools included in the study Bible
Some additional features found in most study Bibles are the extensive footnotes, colorful maps, and helpful articles written by famous authors. It’s important to take note though to use for more than just the notes. The notes should not take away the time spent reading the word of God.
How to Choose a Study Bible?
Choosing a study Bible to use can be a bit confusing and even intimidating at first because there is just too much in there. Let’s face it, it’s hard for 21st-century people to understand the Bible and apply it to modern life. One way to choose a good study Bible is to complement the Bible with your personality, desires, plans, and goals for learning.
Make sure that the study Bible you will choose will hold your interest. With all the great study Bibles available on the market, let’s decipher how to choose the best study Bible for you.
Choosing the Best English Translation that Works for You
Since the Bible is not originally written in English, we need to read the Bible in an English translation. There’s a lot of options when it comes to the translation used and each one plays a part when it comes to better understanding the Bible. Some of the widely used English translations are the King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB).
Another thing you should consider is whether the study Bibles follows the word-for-word translation or the thought-for-thought translation philosophy. The best and easiest way to determine this is to read the “Introduction”, “Preface”, or “To the Reader” at the beginning.
Choosing Your Purpose
Before you choose a study Bible, you must ask yourself first what is your purpose in buying one. It’s easier to make an informed choice if you will be able to determine the purpose and intended use of your study Bible.
Some Study Bibles are more like a devotional geared towards practical life application. There are also study Bibles with notes and study aids that are more objectively academic. And there are what they call niche Bibles that focus on a certain topic, like addiction recovery, archeology, or cultural backgrounds.
One of the popular kinds of study Bibles is the General study Bible. The insights and study notes can be easily applied to develop a better understanding of the text. These kinds of Bibles are intended for all ages, genders, cultures, and academic backgrounds.
Choosing the Features You Want in a Study Bible
Your aim in buying a study Bible is to deepen your knowledge about God. So it’s just right that you consider the features included in the book you are buying. The first feature you need to consider is the format of your study Bible. Some of the formats are in hardback, paperback, and digital formats. Leather-bound editions are also becoming popular today.
If you want to go for quality that can stand the test of time, I’d say you go for leather-bound and hardback editions. You will find them to be quite a bit expensive but you are sure that you can pass it on as your legacy. Another feature in choosing the best study Bible is your preference for the print size. There are study Bibles that have large print favorable to those who have poor eyesight.
The most important thing you need to consider is the additional features like maps, timelines, articles, concordance, and more. These are the tools that you will use in studying the Bible. Some prefer colorful maps, in-depth articles, comprehensive book introductions, and wide margins for notes.
Nevertheless, choosing a study Bible can prove to be an invaluable supplement as you study God’s Word. But with so many choices to choose from, where should you begin? Here’s a list of study Bibles that we hope could make your time in Scripture even richer!
Studying the Bible can be a challenge especially for people who are visual learners. It’s hard to picture a world totally different from ours. But here’s a treat from Tyndale! A full-color study Bible with everything a visual learner could want.
The NLT Illustrated Study Bible gives readers an entirely new visual study experience by bringing God’s words to life. Ask, seek, knock, and understand the Bible like never before. Explore the scriptures with notes bringing out the full meaning of the text. The New Living Translation makes the message of the scriptures clear and easy to read.
Find scripture’s message instantly communicate foundational truths in an understandable, compelling way for today’s visual generation. See the Bible come alive with extraordinary photos, illustrations, and infographics. Be amazed by its full-color maps integrated seamlessly with background material, study notes, and theme articles.
- 200 Greek and Hebrew word studies throughout the Bible
- Textual and study notes provide deeper explanations and background of words, phrases, verses, and sections.
- Organized 150 full-color maps and charts as well as 8 newly commissioned illustrations
- It has 120 profiles and more Bible characters and empires
- A Visual Timeline of Bible events, 11 Section Introductions, 66 detailed Book Introductions
- It does not have thumb-indexing
The Foundation Study Bible in the New International Version is the world’s most popular translation today. This modern English Bible translation features an easy-to-use layout. A study Bible that is approachable with straightforward and broad study notes that help you discover the beauty and truth of God’s Word.
The NIV Foundation Study is intended for readers who want to learn about the scripture. This book contains the key features of a study Bible in a convenient, compact, and concise form. The best study Bible for students, church leaders, and homeschoolers.
Book introductions provide valuable background information for difficult passages. The in-text subject headings provide context and organize your reading. You will appreciate where the key places are located with its full-color maps of Bible lands. It also features a leather-soft cover that lies flat when open and a satin ribbon marker.
- Theological notes offer attention to doctrinal content
- Information on the original texts of scripture is shown in the translators’ footnotes
- NIV concise concordance use an alphabetical listing of important passages through keywords
- Words of Jesus written in red
- 8-point type size font
- Print too small for elderly people
- Missing important details in the scripture
The CSB Apologetics Study Bible is geared toward Christian readers who are new to Christian Apologetics. A study Bible that focuses on today’s Christians to better understand, defend, and proclaim their beliefs. It is a good resource for Bible students who wants to take a deeper dive into the faith. Readers will be able to better understand what and why they believe during Bible study using the study notes and articles.
This edition revised and updated content includes new articles from today’s leading apologists. You can use the extensive apologetics Bible study material to help you understand the relevant apologetics issues and questions of today.
Some of the features of this study Bible include a presentation page, book introductions, study notes, apologetics articles from leading apologists. With regards to the text, it features the highly readable, highly reliable text of the Christian Standard Bible® (CSB).
- Biography of notable Christian apologist highlighting key contributions to defending God’s Word and Christianity
- Book introduction is tailored to give the readers an apologetics perspective of the text
- Full-color maps and charts support the historical credibility of the Bible
- Smyth-sewn binding with ribbon marker
- 9.75-point type size
- Very delicate thin pages
- Too many missing charts
The HCSB Study Bible is the one and only study Bible that delivers more than you’d expect-right where you’d expect it. The translation itself is a good balance of formal and dynamic translation philosophies. The HCSB comes as close as any translation which is more accurate than NASB and more readable than NIV.
Some of the features include book introductions, outlines and timelines, concordance, and more. The HCSB Study Bible also has pertinent notes, maps, charts, word studies, or illustrations for easy reference. This book is recommended for people who want a study Bible with center-column cross-references and in-text study tools.
If you want to get to know the scripture more intimately then the HCSB Study Bible always keeps you and God on the same page.
- The outside margins provide room for taking notes
- Four-color presentation pages
- Two-column text setting
- One-year Bible reading plan
- Black letter text
- The cover is not genuine leather
- A bit expensive
Choose a study Bible that answers your Bible questions as well as questions you haven’t yet pondered! The NIV Quest Study Bible assist if you want to get answers to the questions you’ve always had about the Bible. This book is designed for inquisitive readers and their journey to the meaning and heart of the scriptures.
Get answers to the Bible questions you have with their study notes written in an engaging question and answer format. The sidebar notes give insights into the textual, theological, and historical light of the Bible’s uncommon passages. The perspectives section provides Bible verses for beginners and the different experiences they have in life. The book introductions present and answer the what, why, who, when questions to understand more about the scriptures.
- Reading plans with three distinct tracks to follow
- Full-color maps, charts, and timelines
- Scripture text in single-column are arranged in a modern two-color page design
- Verse numbers that are color-keyed provide an instant reference to articles and sidebar notes
- Now available in paperback in Turquoise / Caribbean Blue Italian Duo-Tone
- Small print not suitable for elderly people
- Not enough space for taking notes
Choosing a Study Bible is no simple task and it shouldn’t be a chore either! Keep in mind that study Bibles will be great supplementary resources for modern followers of Jesus. The purpose is to guide you as you interact with God’s Word in a deeper and more meaningful way. Study Bibles provide new and unique information to complement your Bible study.
If you are still confused about what study Bible is best for you, I recommend the NLT Illustrated Study Bible by Tyndale. The NLT translation is very easy to read as the text is written in modern English. It has also all the basics of a great study Bible. You will never go wrong studying the notes that provide a background and deeper explanation of the scripture. The NLT Study Bible translates both the world and the words of the Bible. The message is clear, Ask questions, Seek deeper understanding, and Knock on the door of God’s Word, and see what doors are opened to you.