The 9 Major Types of Bible Study Tools

bible.study

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.

* * *

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.

What God Meant: “Like Newborn Infants, Long for the Pure Spiritual Milk”

bible.study

Biblical writers use several different word pictures to help us understand the power and function of Scripture.

At different times, the Bible is compared to:

  • Light (Psalm 119:105)
  • A mirror (James 1:23)
  • Fire (Jeremiah 23:29)
  • A hammer (Jeremiah 23:29)
  • A sword (Hebrews 4:12)
  • Milk (1 Peter 2:2)
  • Food (1 Corinthians 3:2)

It’s those last two that can be a little confusing. In 1 Peter 2:2, the comparison to milk seems to be a favorable one. Peter’s admonition is for the readers (and us) to preserve a singular focus on and childlike enthusiasm for God’s Word.

Then Paul uses a similar word picture in 1 Corinthians 3:2, but seems to indicate that at some point, we ought to graduate away from the “milk” of the Word.

So which is it? Is the Word of God like milk or like food? And is that good or bad?

While it’s almost always a good idea to compare Scripture with Scripture, literary devices like metaphors or similes remain effective only in their original contexts. The same metaphor used in a different way can illustrate a different point, and that’s what’s going on here.

Peter uses the “milk” word picture to point out how eagerly we ought to consume the Word of God, just like an infant consumes milk.

Paul is addressing a different group of people all together about an all together different idea. The Corinthians who received Paul’s letter did not lack eagerness—they lacked perseverance. They were rehearsing the same fundamental truths constantly, never moving beyond the basics, and were thus missing the richness of other, heavier, more substantial Scripture passages.

Peter and Paul are not arguing. They are standing back to back, defending the same idea from different directions.

As we read the Word of God, it’s important for us to keep in mind that it was written over a span of more than 1,500 years by more than 40 different individuals from all walks of life. They address different subjects for different audiences, from different perspectives, and yet not a single contradiction or error appears in its 66 books. Remarkable, no?

* * *

The Faithlife Study Bible links Scripture passages that address the same topic, so you can make connections with just a click. Download the Faithlife Study Bible for free from your favorite app store, and take your Bible study to the next level.

How to Study the Bible

 

bible.study

Reading the Faithlife Study Bible the other day, I happened across a great article titled “How to Study the Bible.” Once more I was impressed by the depth and helpfulness of this tool. Here’s an excerpt:

While we may wish that the Bible was entirely clear, students of literature would never expect that from other important books. When it comes to the Bible, it should be obvious that we have to study the Bible in order to understand it.

Some writing—a newspaper story, for example—might be understood by almost any mature reader. Other writing—such as a Shakespeare play—might require readers to consult dictionaries, study guides, and other aids because of the nature of the language and the subject matter. Yet other writing—a calculus textbook, for example—might require years of prior study as well as patient, focused effort in order to appreciate even a single page. The Bible contains literature at all these levels: some parts any reader can follow, some parts require some help, and some are difficult enough that even seasoned scholars struggle to comprehend them.

This is to be expected. A book claiming to be authored by the One whose thinking and communication can range from the simplest level to far above human understanding should require serious effort from seekers of its truth. It is naïve to think that the Bible differs from all other literature in being automatically comprehensible, or that our good intentions and love of God will make irrelevant the need to study in order to appreciate the quality of ideas He has put into writing for us.

Get this and even more inspiring Bible study content in the free Faithlife Study Bible. Download it today from your app store of choice.

Lexham Bible Dictionary Update: 174 New Articles

The Lexham Bible Dictionary, the world’s most advanced Bible dictionary, recently got a major update—174 new articles.  Since you’re a Faithlife Study Bible owner, you got it for free!

The Lexham Bible Dictionary provides some of the more in-depth content you’ll find in the Faithlife Study Bible.

This icon indicates that the attached article is from the LBD: lbd.icon

The new batch of articles amounts to a total of 168,569 words. To put that in perspective, the median book length is 64,000 words. This update is more than twice as large.

lexham-bible-dictionary

Here are some of the most notable new articles:

There are two different ways to find these articles, as well as many others like them:

1.) You’ll encounter them as you read the FSB on your mobile device, or at Bible.Faithlife.com.

Tap or click to reveal an LBD article whenever you see this icon:lbd.icon

2.) Or, if you’d like to read about something specific, open the Lexham Bible Dictionary using the “Resources” menu in the app. Just like a regular dictionary, the entries in a Bible dictionary are organized alphabetically. They are also connected to verses that mention those topics, so you can browse by topic or search by reference.

lbd.open

We are constantly adding to and updating the Lexham Bible Dictionary, so it will always feature the latest scholarship. It’s included when you download the Faithlife Study Bible app on your smartphone or tablet. Download it today, and you can enjoy the world’s most advanced Bible dictionary instantly!

3 Things God Never Promised

rainbow

In Scripture, God makes a lot of promises. He keeps them all, but there are a few things he never promised that might surprise you. Here are three; can you think of others?

Justice on earth

God keeps score. He promises to heal the wounded, reward the faithful, and punish the wicked (2 Corinthians 5:10). But he doesn’t promise to do any of that until after heaven and earth are remade without the curse of sin. He promises justice. He does not promise swift justice.

God is patient with us all (2 Peter 3:9). That’s a great comfort until we realize that he’s also patient with those who harm, oppress, and offend us.

To my regular frustration, Scripture never gives permission for us to enforce our own interpretation of justice (Romans 12:9). Instead, we’re told to wait on God’s perfect plan to be carried out on his perfect time (Psalm 37:7).

Comfort

Many television preachers have built a personal empire on the false promise that obeying God will lead to material prosperity and success. But God never promised his followers an easy life. In fact, he warned us to expect the opposite (John 16:33)—hardship and persecution from the world, and even correction from his own hand (Hebrews 12:7).

The Christian life is not a comfortable life, but it is a fulfilling one. (Click to tweet)

Instant change

I love hearing stories of miraculous life transformation. They fuel my faith in the transformative power of God’s Word more than anything else. But they also plant a desire for the same sort of instant change in my own life. Yet still I still wrestle with entrenched habits and besetting sins (Hebrews 12:1). Much as I love to see instant change in others, and long to experience it myself, I must remember that God has promised to change me, but hasn’t promised to do it instantly.

He has promised to complete the transformative work that he’s begun in me (Philippians 1:6), a promise that implies this change is going to take a while.

What other nonpromises can you think of? Tell us in the comments.

* * *

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.

Why I Love the NET Bible

the-net-bibleThe NET (or New English Translation) is a relatively new Bible version, but it has quickly become one of my favorites. It is completely unlike any other translation before it. Perhaps the word openness best describes what makes this Bible so special.

Open translation process

When the NET Bible was being translated, the drafts were put on the web for beta testing. Many people, from professors to junior high students, submitted suggestions. The translators (themselves highly qualified scholars) used that feedback to improve their translation. This resulted in a unique Bible version that is highly readable while remaining faithful to the original texts.

Open licensing model

Most Bible versions today have heavy copyright restrictions. This often makes it difficult to quote the Bible legally in a new publication. The NET Bible, however, operates on a “ministry first” model. The goal is to make it easy to secure the proper permissions by eliminating as many obstacles as possible. In most cases, authors can use the NET Bible in their books without having to pay any licensing fees.

Open translators’ notes

My favorite aspect of the NET Bible is the wonderful set of notes it comes with. The translators provided detailed explanations for every major decision they made, giving us an inside look at the translation process. The notes cover the text-critical issues surrounding any given text, including alternate readings. They discuss different meanings a word can convey, comparing their translation with other versions. And they explain what the idioms and figures of speech in the Bible would have meant to their original audience.

There are over 60,000 notes in total, and they are truly an invaluable resource. I would not want to be without them. The NET Bible notes are so helpful that they have actually been used by other Bible translators and editors:

The extensive and reliable notes in The NET Bible were a wonderful help to our translation team as we worked to prepare the English Standard Version.
Wayne Grudem, member of translation oversight committee, ESV

The translators’ notes, study notes, and text-critical notes (over 60,000 notes altogether) alone are worth the price of the NET Bible. In our work on the fully revised NIV Study Bible of 2002, the TNIV, and the TNIV Study Bible, we consulted the NET Bible notes and were often helped by them. Kudos!
Kenneth L. Barker, general editor, NIV Study Bible and TNIV Study Bible

What are you waiting for?

You can add the NET Bible—along with the incredible translators’ notes—to your Faithlife Study Bible for only $10. I don’t know of a better Bible study resource for that price!

Still not convinced? Here are just a few more endorsements the NET Bible has received:

There are many wonderful things I could say about The NET Bible, but the most important is this: the NET Bible is a Bible you can trust. The translation is clear, accurate, and powerful. And the notes, those wonderful notes! They bring to the layman scholarly insights and discussions that have up till now been accessible only to those trained in the biblical languages. If you are serious about studying Scripture, get a copy of The NET Bible.
Chuck Swindoll, chancellor, Dallas Theological Seminary

The complaint I hear from many Christians is that some of the translations of the Bible are too wooden. They are grammatically correct, but don’t seem to convey the passion of the writer. On the flip side, some paraphrases and translations convey the passion of the writer at the cost of an accurate translation. The NET Bible is the best of both worlds. The notes are helpful to the scholar and the lay person alike. This is the Bible for the next millennium.
Tony Evans, senior pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship

This Bible is a triumph: a straightforward and accurate translation that is also elegant. The annotations are much fuller and more helpful than in other popular translations, and the production of a constantly-improving electronic text brings Bible reading and Bible study into the new millennium.
Philip R. Davies, professor at the department of biblical studies of The University of Sheffield

Download your copy today!