Are you looking to purchase or use a Study Bible? Which one should you choose? And how should you use it? On his blog, Dr. Albert Mohler offers a helpful guide on “How to Use Study Bibles.” He lists three steps that will maximize the use of these excellent resources:
1. Read the text of the Bible first. Meditate upon the text and read it with care. Apply your own knowledge of the Bible in order to understand the particular text within its context and place in the biblical story-line. Consider and note other texts that come to your mind as directly related to this text. Read the text with full attention and conviction.
2. Look carefully at the cross-references… Do not look only to the citations, but read the actual passages. This assistance is till the main contribution of the study Bible — making related and parallel passages more accessible. A first principle of interpreting the Bible is to interpret the Bible by the Bible. In other words, to allow the Bible to interpret itself text by text.
3. Take full advantage of the notes, articles, and other helps printed with the text. In some cases, short articles will help in understanding contested issues or matters that might otherwise require a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia. Where appropriate, maps can be very useful, along with tables of measurement and similar points of reference. The very best of the study Bibles will also offer some level of commentary within the notes.
I think Dr. Mohler’s comments are very important for Christians who use Study Bibles (SB), because he affirms the primacy of the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Scriptures. This must not be lost. The dangers of SB’s are that they become a crutch and a competing authority. “I am of Lucado.” or “I am John MacArthur;” or “I am of Ryrie.” This cannot be our affiliation. However, when used rightly, SB’s function as a blessed tool to better read Scripture and understand God’s Word. Currently, the best edition, in my opinion, is the ESV Study Bible, but there are many others that are helpful and some that offer specialization in Archaelogy, Apologetics, and Literature . Each of these make unique contributions, and should be judged not by the name on the cover, but on the faithfulness to the Name on the inside.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss