Bible Study Is Aided by a Good Study Bible

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Getting serious about Bible study means that you find a Bible that can aid you in learning about the Bible. If you can afford it, I strongly encourage you to purchase a study Bible, since it will contain a number of tools in one volume that can help you dig deeper.

The Thompson Chain Reference Bible is one of the old standbys in study Bibles, but nearly every major Bible publisher offers a study Bible these days -- most of very high quality. Your local Christian bookstore can help you figure out which one is right for you. Here are some of the features that you'll come to appreciate:

  • Cross References. In a column next to the text, a study Bible lists several other verses with a similar idea or theme. For example, for "Nicodemus" in John 3:1, my Bible refers me to John 7:50 and 19:39 where he is mentioned again. For "Rabbi" in John 3:2, the cross references send me to Matthew 23:7 which has nine more references on this topic that I can explore. These cross references won't be comprehensive, but will point out the main passages that discuss this idea.
  • Bible Book Introductions. It's important to know something about the author, date, themes, circumstances, and intended audience of the Bible book or letter you're studying. In most study Bibles you'll find one to three pages of introductory comments for each book with a brief outline.
  • Study Notes or Annotations. Study Bibles have footnotes at the bottom of the page to help explain some of the more obscure ideas you'll run across -- a kind of mini-commentary. Remember, these aren't part of the Bible itself, but can often point you in the right direction in your study. These notes are usually indexed at the back of the volume for easy reference.
  • Concordance. You've had a verse on the tip of your tongue, but don't know exactly where it is. A concordance helps you find a Bible passage if you can think of a key word or two that the verse contains. A concordance can also help you find other verses that teach a concept or use a word found in the passage you're studying.
  • Topical Index. In addition to a concordance, some study Bibles have a separate topical index that helps you find scripture references on a particular topic.
  • Maps. Part of understanding what's happening in narrative passages of Scripture is learning the geography, the location of cities, battles, mountains, valleys, enemies, etc. A set of Bible maps is important in getting the big picture.

Other features you may find include articles on various topics, a brief Bible dictionary, outlines of topics and Bible books, index of place names, time lines, and so on.

There's no one perfect study Bible -- many offer what you need to learn and grow. So visit your local Christian bookstore or shop online to find a study Bible that will work for you. Then buy it and get on with the important and joyful task of delving deep into Scripture, with the hope that at the same time you will grow deeper in God, the Author of the Book.


Dr. Ralph F. Wilson has pioneered Bible study on the Internet since 1996 with his JesusWalk® Bible Study series ( The site offers more than a more than a dozen no-cost interactive online Bible studies, plus books and DVDs designed for personal and group study.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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