The 9 Major Types of Bible Study Tools

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Bible study tools come in all different shapes and sizes, but the most common resources usually fit into one of a few basic categories. They each have a specific purpose to aid your studies.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of different kinds of Bible study tools and what they can do for you, along with some suggested resources to get you started.

Bible dictionary

Bible dictionaries are a lot like English dictionaries, but they are focused on biblical words. Rather than providing modern definitions, they describe what a given word means when used in the Bible. They often include details like the meanings of biblical names. Some more technical Bible dictionaries will include references to the Greek and Hebrew, while others stick to the English.

Bible encyclopedia

Bible encyclopedias are similar to Bible dictionaries in concept, but they are greater in scope. While dictionaries typically have short entries for quick reference, encyclopedias tend to have longer articles covering people, places, events, objects, and more as found in the Bible. Bible encyclopedias often go into much greater historical and cultural detail than dictionaries.

Both Bible dictionaries and Bible encyclopedias are organized alphabetically by topic. When you get one from Logos.com, you’ll see links to it in your study notes whenever the text you’re reading mentions a topic it addresses. In this way, your FSB app gets more detailed and powerful as you add resources from Logos.com.

Commentary

Commentaries go verse by verse or passage by passage through the Bible, or through a particular section of the Bible. This system of organization is called “versification” because it follows the book, chapter, and verse structure of the biblical text. Commentaries are meant to be used in parallel with the Bible’s text, offering explanations, insights, textual notes, historical background, and more. Most commentaries also include introductions to the books of the Bible, providing details such the book’s author, as well as when, where, and why it was written.

Study Bible

Study Bibles combine multiple study tools (such as a Bible dictionary and commentary) into one relatively compact volume. Like commentaries, study Bibles are versified, but the notes in study Bibles are usually much more concise and to the point than full commentaries. When sold in print, the text of the Bible is placed right alongside or above the notes and articles. The world’s largest, most advanced study Bible is free! If you’re not already using it, get your free Faithlife Study Bible now. You can also add notes from other study Bibles to your FSB.

Versified resources like commentaries and study Bibles offer a great alternative to the study notes included in your FSB app. If you’d like to survey multiple opinions while you study, add a commentary set or another study Bible to your FSB, and you can quickly switch between them.

Concordance

Concordances are designed to help you find things in the Bible. Basic concordances have fallen out of popularity, due to the ease of searching digital Bibles. However, the more advanced concordances are still useful, due to their ability to search by topics and themes or even people and places, rather than simple word searches.

Harmony

Harmonies take books of the Bible that overlap one another in content, and they show how the books fit together. They reorganize the biblical content to flow chronologically, so you can find parallel passages more easily. The most common variety are Gospel harmonies, combining the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; however, harmonies also exist for other books, such as Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. Many harmonies only include Scripture references, while others place the actual texts in parallel columns. A few harmonies actually combine the four Gospels into a single text that flows chronologically.

Lectionary

Lectionaries are reading plans for the Bible that group texts into weekly readings. They often span three-year cycles, designated year A, year B, and year C. The idea is to provide believers around the world with a shared reading schedule. While some lectionaries include only the readings themselves, others include reflections on the texts.

Devotional

Devotionals are one of the most common Bible study tools, but they have wide variety among them. Some focus on a book or passage of the Bible, while others focus on a certain topic, while others still cover multiple topics. Some devotionals include a year’s worth of reading, while others only last for a month. Some are meant to be read in the morning, while others are meant to be read at evening, while others still have entries for both morning and evening.

Bible atlas

Bible atlases are collections of maps that show the world as it was in Bible times. They are helpful for seeing how different biblical locations fit together. Many Bible atlases show the paths followed by biblical people during their travels.

All the study tools you see here can be enjoyed in your free Faithlife Study Bible app. Buy one from each category, and you’ll have a robust Bible study library that will serve you well for years to come.

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Serious Bible study is easier with serious Bible study software. The Faithlife Study Bible is a great place to start, but if you’d like to study in greater detail, Logos 5 is for you. Its powerful, intuitive tools and vast libraries are the perfect way to expand your understanding of the Scriptures. Visit Logos.com/Logos5 to learn more.

Comments

  1. David Pereira says:

    Very helpful overview of how each of these tools can be best utilized in Bible study.

  2. David Pereira says:

    This is a good introduction to Bible Study Tools for everyone — NOT just those in college or seminary! Check it out: Elissa Tormohlen, Caleb Bergmann, Naomi Hesterman, Darlene Hesterman, John Pereira, John Roderick McDonald, Dakota Yates, Giraffison Smith, Ellen Barley, Dean Barley, Dan Carrier, Christian Hughes, Christopher Ward, Michelle Smith Cave, Nate Ricker, Bill Guy, Jacob Harley, Daniel Ricker, Thomas C Noelcke, Thomas Hughes, Justin Reich, Taylor Luttrell, Michael Hughes, Andrea Maywald, Greg Maywald, Mark Morud, Brendan Fugere, Caley Ricker, Gunter Roehrig.

  3. This is good; Team Mt. Moriah

  4. Are you familiar with the nine different Bible study tools?

  5. the study bible is the most versatile

  6. Lisa Posey Brenneman says:

    As a teacher of hermeneutics, prioritzied from most important to lessor importance. A Concordance is number one (after the bible) Find the word you want used in different contexts. Many times the bible will give you the meaning. See how the Holy Spirit uses the word.

    2. A quality Lexicon to find the true meaning of the word in the original language.
    3. An Englishman's Concordance. It will help you find occurrences of your target word in the Bible that can't be found with a regular concordance, because the translators used a different english word.
    Commentaries and lectionaries are valuable, but also dangerous, because they are written by uninspired writers, as sincere as they may be. Their misunderstandings and biases can influence you to conclude a message differently than God intended. Use with caution and be guided by 2 Tim 2:15. "Be a diligent …workman…accurately handling the word of truth."

    Enjoy being a Bible detective and may God enrich you greatly!

  7. David,

  8. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Carol Watson Beitzel says:

    The CaGIS award winner for map design & The Gold Medallion Christian Book Award went to THE NEW MOODY ATLAS OF THE BIBLE, Barry J Beitzel

  10. I don't think you can say that commentaries and lectionaries are written by uninspired writers. Why would you even think that the holy spirit within us is different within someone else? You can't glean a different understanding from another believer? Why do we have teachers within the Body of Christ if we don't need them? Granted, people have opinions and we need to make sure what someone tells us is true, but to dismiss what someone else says as uninspired is to dismissed our own thoughts as well. You are no better than any other believer. God works differently with each of us.

    • You are dead wrong. Inspiration is over. Holy Spirit gives us all we need for personal interpretaion, but not to be definitive for everyone (that’s called :adding to Scripture”.

  11. Lisa Posey Brenneman says:

    Patti Brouillette, I think you would find that the author of a commentary would tell you they aren't inspired. They are giving their "commentary" as they see the scriptures. I see commentaries as great tools to get different perspectives and then make up my own mind. If commentaries are inspired by God as the Bible is inspired by God, then we wouldn't have so many different commentaries which sometime contradict each other. The Bible is the only truly inspired book. The other's are just tools for understanding God's word better. God promises that if we will seek…we will find…God uses the teachers as a way to help us understand, BUT it is still up to us to make sure they are speaking the truth as it is laid out in the inspired Scriptures.

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