Bible Study Book Recommendations

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Author of the JesusWalk® Bible Study Series

We live in an era of many excellent Bible study tools. Here are a few I am acquainted with and can personally recommend, though my lack of recommendation of any resource should not be construed negatively. You might also be interested in my article, "How to Improve Your Personal Bible Study."

Study Bibles

Among the many study Bibles, these stand out:

The Thompson Chain Reference Study BibleThompson Chain Reference Bible (Kirkbridge Bible Company) has many, many tools built in, including a unique, topical "chain reference" system, a section on Bible archaeology, and many helpful outlines and mnemonic illustrations. It is available for the NIV, NASB, KJV, and NKJV, in various sizes and bindings.

NIV Study Bible Revised (Zondervan) is a good, solid study Bible for the NIV, available in various sizes, type faces, and bindings. Very popular and well-priced.

Life Application Study Bible is quite popular, with editions available for the NIV, New Living Translation, NASB, NKJV, and KJV.


Concordances are available for nearly any translation you desire. If you use the KJV, however, be sure to get Strong's Concordance, which uses unique numbers to identify each Greek and Hebrew word, and by means of these numbers, can help you use some Hebrew and Greek Lexicons, even if you can't read Greek or Hebrew. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Zondervan, 2004) is an exhaustive concordance based on the NIV which includes Strong's numbers. It is also available for the NASB and the KJV.

Bible Handbooks

Zondervan Handbook to the BibleZondervan Handbook to the Bible (third edition, 1999) is one of the best. Colorful, jam-packed with information about Bible lands and each book of the Bible. Would make a wonderful gift. Over 3 million sold.

Haley's Bible Handbook (latest edition 2000) by Henry Halley is a venerable and well-loved Bible handbook. Mine old copy is a bit tattered, but well-used.


New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition (Inter-Varsity Press, 1994). This classic has gone through several editions. It provides sound Bible commentary and a number of helpful articles in one hefty volume. Strongly recommended for your first commentary.

Tyndale New Testament Commentary (Eerdmans) provides small, paperback commentaries by outstanding scholars on each book of the NT. I've used many of these in my studies. They are all of high quality. Strongly recommended -- and the price is right. There is also a similar Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (Inter-Varsity Press) series, also excellent. All these can be used successfully by laypersons.

I've also used with great profit commentaries in the New International Commentary on the New Testament and the Old Testament (Eerdmans). These are hardback and more expensive, but excellent for both pastors and laypeople.

Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

Among the excellent Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias available let me point out several:

The New Unger's Bible Dictionary (Revised and Expanded; Moody Press, 2006) is extremely popular, full of helpful Bible facts. Recommend as your first Bible dictionary.

New Bible Dictionary (Third Edition)New Bible Dictionary (Third Edition; Inter-Varsity Press, 1996) has been on my shelf for years, over three editions. The articles are excellent and perhaps a bit more in-depth than Unger's, but not as well illustrated as some others. Recommended for more serious students.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE, four volumes) was revised in 1988. I've used this constantly in my Bible studies with great profit. Comprehensive, in-depth treatments of all Bible topics. Strongly recommended for pastors. Similar depth can be found in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (5 volumes, 1976).

Greek and Hebrew Word Studies

There are lots of study tools for the original languages. But let me suggest a few that can be used profitably by those who haven't studied Greek or Hebrew -- with the help of Strong's numbers.

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT; Moody, 1980) provides lots of help with Hebrew word definitions, including some in-depth articles on key theological words. It is keyed to Strong's numbers. Strongly recommended.

A Greek-English Interlinear New Testament  can help you figure out the Greek word that corresponds to each English word in your Bible. You can find a Greek Interlinear for most popular Bible translations.

I wish there was an inexpensive, in-depth up-to-date guide to New Testament Greek word meanings, but I can't point you to one. Vine's Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words (Nelson, 2003, is excellent, but a reprint of a seventy-year-old work from 1939). Perhaps Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, by Stephen D. Renn (Hendrickson, 2005) comes closest.

Bible Study Software

Bible study software has come a long way, with lots of searchable books, Bibles, and study resources available on your computer.

WordSearch Bible (LifeWay) provides a wonderful tool. The Thompson Chain Reference version can get you started. I've used WordSearch for years and have a Greek and Hebrew Language package. I've loaded it on my laptop and have a very powerful Bible study library at my fingertips wherever I go.

Books on How to Study the Bible

Two books come to mind:

Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods (Zondervan, 2006) is excellent. If you're looking for direction in your Bible studies, this will point the way. He provides templates for many different kinds of studies: devotional, chapter summary, Bible character, thematic, topical, verse analysis, etc.

How to Study the Bible (Revised) by Kay Arthur (Harvest House, 2001) explains how to do inductive Bible study.

Dr. Ralph Wilson is a California pastor, director of Joyful Heart Renewal Ministries, and author of more than a dozen free online Bible studies from the Old and New Testaments. Each Bible study is also available in e-book and printed format ( Copyright © 2006, Ralph F. Wilson <>. All rights reserved.

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