Thousands of scholars and teachers have compiled resources to help us sort out the meaning of Scripture. To assist us in an entry level study, we have prepared the following list to get us started. Except for study bibles, which are worth your investment, we have tried to focus on free and low cost resources, most of which can be accessed online.
1. Study Bibles
Any of the following study bibles will work well. I would choose the one associated with the translation that you use most frequently. Start with the hard copy, and then decide if you want an online version as a supplement, since they sometimes charge an additional subscription fee (see details, below).
1.1. NIV Study Bible
I have used this for years. It contains short, helpful introductions to each book, many charts and diagrams, and thousands of footnotes. The introductory essays to most of the books of the Bible are available online for free: http://www.biblica.com/bible/online-bible/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/. The entire NIV Study Bible is apparently available online as part of a Bible Gateway Plus account for $3.99 month, at https://www.biblegateway.com/plus/, although I have never tried it.
1.2. ESV Study Bible
I have begun to consult this resource more frequently in recent years. It is also available online at http://www.esv.org, but it will cost you $3/month. A 36 volume Bible Commentary is also available on the web site for an additional $0.99/month. I haven’t tried this online version either.
1.3. NLT Study Bible
In keeping with the more dynamic nature of this translation, the study notes are sharper and crisper than in other study editions. An online subscription is included for free if you buy the hard copy of this study bible. I signed up for this free version, and it is great.
2. Free Online Resources
There are several free resources online that I use frequently. Many of these sites offer free accounts, and some offer upgrade for an additional cost. So far, I have found the free versions more than sufficient for my needs.
YouVersion provides free and easy access to many different translations of the Bible, and comes with many built-in reading plans. It features an excellent mobile app that makes reading and listening to the Bible very convenient. Web Site: http://www.bible.com.
2.2. Bible Gateway
Bible Gateway also offers multiple free translations of the Bible, as well as a mobile app. A free account offers access to multiple Bible dictionaries and commentaries. An paid upgrade is available that includes additional resources, including an online version of the NIV Study Bible. Web Site: http://www.biblegateway.com/.
2.3. Bible Study Tools
Bible Study Tools offer a generous selection of commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other resources. It can be a bit difficult to find what you are looking for on this site, and the large ads are a bit annoying, but it is definitely a good free option. Web Site: http://www.biblestudytools.com/
2.4. Study Light
This is probably the most robust of the available, free online resources. It boasts some 107 commentaries, 27 dictionaries and many more resources. It also offers some good ‘Original Language’ resources for those who wish to dig into the Hebrew or Greek test. Web Site: http://www.studylight.org/
3. Bible Dictionaries
Bible Dictionaries provide general background information on many historical terms and topics that you will encounter in your study. I have listed some of the most well-known dictionaries, all of which can be accessed for free online:
3.1. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Robust and well-researched. Web Site: http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bed.html
3.2. Easton’s Bible Dictionary
A 19th century classic, still helpful. Web Site: http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ebd.html
3.3. Holman Bible Dictionary
An extensive dictionary with over 6000 entries. Web Site: http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd.html
4. Bible Maps
Bible Maps help the stories come alive, as you trace the movement of the people in the story from place to place.
4.1. Maps on BibleStudy.org
This seems to be the largest, free collection of Bible Maps on the web, which is in fact the strongest section of this site. Web Site: http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/main.html
4.2. Bible Mapper
have used Bible Mapper for several years. It is bar far the best tool for creating customized maps, with the places and features that you specify. There are several templates to choose from, so you don’t have to start from scratch. A free version is available for download, and, for a small fee, you can add the ability to save your customized maps. It looks like the author is also trying to put together an online version, but it seems to be in the early stages of development. The software is a little difficult to manipulate at first, but, once you get a handle on it, the tool is very powerful. Web Site: http://www.biblemapper.com/
4.3. Oxford Bible Atlas
The Oxford Bible Atlas, 4th Edition, by Adrian Curtis is perhaps the most affordable and through in-print volume of Bible Maps. It is also available for your Kindle.
5. Bible Commentaries
Selecting a good Bible commentary can be challenging, given the rich treasury of resources available. We offer the following list as a good starting point. Note: By recommending these commentaries, we are not necessarily saying that we agree with every interpretation that they set forth. We are simply acknowledging that they faithfully attempt to relay the true meaning of the text.
5.1. New Bible Commentary
The New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, Edited By: Gordon J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson, R.T. France, InterVarsity Press / 1994. A bit pricey, at about $34 for the hardcover (when I last checked), but well worth your investment. I don’t think it is available online or in a Kindle version. A very good, reliable commentary on the whole Bible. If you only buy one commentary to get started, make it this one.
5.2. Bridgeway Commentary
A good, free online option by Don Fleming. The commentary contains more a ‘big picture’ approach to the passage, as opposed to a verse-by-verse account. Web Site: http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc.html.
5.3. Coffman’s Commentary
Another, good free online option in plain, easy to follow language. This commentary follows more of a verse-by-verse model. Web Site: http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc.html.
5.4. Matthew Henry’s Commentary
A standard, 18th century classic. A bit outdated, perhaps, but I always check this resource, because the author has a talented way of expressing Biblical meaning in powerful English phrases. This resource if freely available on the web. Web Site: http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm.html.
5.5. Calvin’s Commentaries
Also a classic, this time from the 16th century. John Calvin wrote the first protestant commentaries that sought to put the plain meaning of scriptures before the common person. I am always amazed at the timeless clarity of much of his work. Also available freely online. Web Site: http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal.html.