How to Pick the Perfect Study Bible


If you’re ready to start seriously studying the Bible, chances are that you’ve already looked at your local bookstore or browsed online for a Bible. After staring at hundreds of different available Bibles, you may have felt so overwhelmed that you just went home empty-handed. It’s understandable, really, that you might feel frustrated by just how many different Bibles there are on the market. To narrow the market and help your study, you might want to check into getting a study Bible—a Bible with more notes, diagrams, and charts than a typical Bible that help when you don’t know the original languages, historical context, or references to other Scriptures. Here are some considerations for buying a study Bible.

First off, choose the translation that you want. Most new Christians choose to use the New International Version (NIV) or New American Standard Bible (NASB) translations because they are written in language that is easy for anyone to understand. Other versions, like the English Standard Version (ESV) are sometimes more difficult to read, since it translates mostly word-for-word, instead of just conveying the general meaning. If you attend a conservative church or you’re more comfortable with heavy language (or you like the “thee’s” and “thou’s”) you might prefer the King James Version (KJV). This is the most widely-used translation. If you’re artsy or you prefer that your books read more like movies, you could consider The Voice translation. The Voice is a newer translation that is written as a screenplay. While some readers might find this frustrating, others may really enjoy this version. Overall, when thinking about a Bible translation, you must decide based on your own theological beliefs, language preferences, and needs.

After you’ve picked a version of the Bible that you’re comfortable with, you’ll want to decide whether you want a devotional Bible or not. A devotional Bible is going to offer short lessons throughout the entire book. For instance, the NIV Life Application Study Bible features practical lessons, application notes, and character studies describing how Scripture translates into our lives today. Many devotional Bibles focus on specific topics for couples, men, women, or teens. Some readers love that this approach makes the Bible easier to understand, while others find it distracting. Other special types of study Bibles include special interest Bibles like the Apologetics Bible, or Bibles with commentary by a notable figure, like the John MacArthur Study Bible. No matter what your personal preference might be, you’ll be able to find something that you like and speaks to your unique interests.

Another consideration when you go Bible-shopping is to decide how you want the words organized. Do you want to write notes in your Bible? Do you plan to underline paragraphs and phrases as you read? Pay attention to the margin spaces and the “white spaces” on each page.  If you want to write in your Bible, make sure that you select a copy that has wide margins. Some Bibles have very narrow margins and while there’s nothing wrong with this, you could begin to feel frustrated if you were hoping to be able to take notes in your book. Also, check to see if the font size is readable, so you can see what you are reading. Remember, the more extra space and the larger the words, the bigger and heavier the whole book will be.

Finally, it may serve you well to pick up the Bible that you plan to buy before you actually purchase it. Carry it around the store. Put it down on a table and pick it back up, then walk around with it some more. Is the Bible easy to carry? Will it fit in your purse or tote bag? Is it bulky? If you plan to bring this Bible to church with you, make sure that it’s something you can easily transport.  Since many Bibles are not bought online, you may have some difficulties telling what kind of size it is. However, the product description should list weight and size, and you can always check reviews.

Study bibles come in a multitude of translations, with a diversity of study content, and in varying styles. Somewhere there is a study Bible that fits your spiritual walk perfectly. Once you go through the steps mentioned above and done some comparisons, you can locate that perfect study Bible, the one that is right for you.

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