TGOC Bible Class Cirricula – How To Study The Bible (1st Quarter) - Lesson #4 - Tools of Bible Study
When one embarks on a journey of Bible study he is much like a craftsman going to his work. The job can be accomplished with the simplest tools, but the job can be better facilitated by the use of some well-designed tools.
There exist some excellent tools for those who want to know more of God's word. In this chapter, we want to look at some of these tools and how they can help. However, it is necessary to say at the beginning that nothing will substitute for the pure, genuine reading of the word of God.
There are no “short cuts” when it comes to the knowledge of God's word. And, it should be emphasized also that many times tools in the hands of careless people can be dangerous. Certainly, a child would not be handed a power chainsaw even though this is a powerful and useful tool when directed properly. Likewise, some of the tools of Bible study can be misused in the hands of a careless novice. As the old proverb says, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
A study Bible is a Bible which has many helps in the same binding as the text of God's word. A certain warning must be sounded here. Since many of these notes and helps are printed alongside God's word, many take them to be “inspired” as the words of Peter and Paul.
For example, in the book of Job 41 and 42, God describes some very large animals in order to show Job how astonished he should be at God’s powerful creation. These animals are called the Behemoth and Leviathan. In some study Bibles, the “scholars” have put down at the bottom of the study Bible that the behemoth might have been an elephant or a hippopotamus. Such an identification of the behemoth does not stand under the scrutiny of the context because an elephant or hippopotamus does not have a tail like a cedar tree!
Each study Bible was produced by men and some are better than others. For those who are concerned with the meaning of the original words of the Bible, the Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible would be an excellent study Bible. It uses the King James Version (KJV) as the basic text and uses numbers to identify key words.
A very popular and time-proven study Bible is the Dickson Analytical Study Bible. It uses the KJV as its basic text and includes the words of the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV) in brackets.
The “Open Bible” study Bible is an excellent study Bible available in the KJV, NASV, and the New King James Version (NKJV). A favorite of those who love to check references is the Thompson Chain Reference Bible which can be obtained in the KJV and New International Version (NIV – be careful; this is a perversion of the Bible). The Master Bible has many useful helps and is available in the KJV and New American Standard Version (NASV). Personal preference will generally determine which study Bible best fits the individual.
A Bible handbook is exactly what it says, a handbook on the Bible. While there are many which are available, the Eerdmans' Handbook to the Bible and Halley's Bible Handbook are the most popular. The Eerdmans' Bible handbook is a colorful book containing an outline and notes for each book of the Bible and utilizes several very helpful charts. Both books contain lists of weights, measures, and other useful items.
A concordance is a book which lists the places where particular words are found in the Bible. Many study or reference Bibles contain abbreviated concordances in the back of them.
If one knows a word in a particular verse, he can find the location of that verse. Also, if one wants to find all the places where that particular word is found in the Bible, then he can look up that word. Most concordances are prepared with the user of the KJV in mind.
The most popular are Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Young's Analytical Concordance, and Cruden's Complete Concordance. Strong's is noted for its rather extensive number system in which numerous other tools have been coded. It is likely the best all-around concordance. Young's is not far behind with an excellent index-lexicon section which shows how many different ways a particular original word has been translated. Cruden's is a simple concordance which lists all the words of the Bible but is not encumbered with the extended help found in the others.
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias come in many shapes and sizes and some are of greater value than others. Of the one-volume dictionaries, the Smith's Bible Dictionary and Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary are among the best.
In the multi-volume works, the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, and Schaff-Herezog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge are good. [Again, caution must be given that not only are these mere, uninspired men but just about all – if not all – of them are/were not faithful members of the church of Christ which Jesus established].
Many times books on Bible geography are overlooked when seeking out Bible tools. Since most Bible students are limited in their knowledge of the places and events which surround the places in the Bible, much insight can be gained by a book on Bible geography.
Two of the best are Zondervan's Pictorial Bible Atlas and Baker's Bible Atlas.
Pages of recommendations could be suggested for particular commentaries on the books of the Bible. For instance, on the secular side, Tyndale’s Commentaries for both Old and New Testaments are very simple, practical and mostly conservative as well as People’s New Testament Commentary written especially for beginners (www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/peoples-new-testament). On the brotherhood side, there is the Gospel Advocate (GA) Commentary series, commentaries by James Burton Coffman, George W. DeHoff, and J.W. McGarvey. [Another note of caution: When one begins to compare commentaries he will become immediately aware that there is no consensus of opinion on any given passage.]
In each, the writer is giving his own opinion. Second, be sure to consult only those commentaries of men who believe in the inspiration and authority of the Bible. One's faith can easily be shaken by those who “second guess” God on everything. Third, it is wise to also read what faithful members of the Lord's church have written, but remember that they are uninspired men. Sad as it is, members of the church have turned out very few commentaries leaving one to consult those who have not even obeyed the Lord's plan of salvation. If they have missed such an elementary point in Scripture, how can one trust their judgment in the more complicated? In a word, use commentaries with caution!
1.To some, the original language is a dead issue. They have no desire to learn even the basics of the original languages. While it is certainly true that one does not have to know Greek or Hebrew [or Aramaic] to enter God's eternal presence, it is true that one can grow in his knowledge by searching the languages of the Bible. With a vast amount of helpful tools out today (some coded to Strong's Concordance), one need not know much more than how to look up numbers to find the right word in order to incorporate the original languages in his quest for greater knowledge and understanding.
2. Some of the helpful tools would be A Greek-English Interlinear, Thayer's Greek English Lexicon, Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, and the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (The website – biblehub.com - is a great place to find a lot of these resources).
These and other tools listed above can help the sincere seeker to get closer to what God's word means. However, once again we hasten to remind the student that there is no substitute for one giving attention to reading and studying (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:15).
Bible Software Programs
Thanks to the age of technology there are some Bible software programs that contain all of the above (commentaries, Bible atlases, Bible handbooks, etc.) on a single Bible software program.
I personally use Accordance Bible software (www.accordancebible.com). It contains a combination of all the above reference tools and much more.
How is the Bible interpreter much like a craftsman?
Are there any short-cuts to Bible study?
What is a Study Bible?
What is a Bible Handbook's purpose?
How can a concordance be useful?
Give an illustration of where a Bible Dictionary would be valuable.
How could a Bible Atlas help the Bible student?
What are the values and dangers of commentaries?
The Gospel of Christ
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