When we want to go deeper than just merely study the Bible we want to research God’s Holy Word. There are plenty of books out there to research the Bible is various aspects. There are many resources out there, written by Christians who have gone before in the endeavour of researching the Holy Scriptures.
What types of books are out there? How can we use them?
The main resource any devout student of the Bible needs is a good Study Bible. Most, if not all, English translations have myriads of study Bibles to choose from. These range from daily devotions, chronological Bibles, age specific, careers specific, students’ Bibles, pastors’ Bibles, and topical study Bibles. (I’m not going to go through what each of these are. They are pretty self explanatory.)
Another good one is getting a good Bible Commentary Set. Many of the major Christian academic publishers offer one or more series of commentaries. These can range from easy-to-read for the non-scholars folks, to Koine Greek and Ancient Hebrew word studies. There are several sets that are finding Christ in the Old Testament. From in-depth (multiple volumes per book of the Bible) to a single volume for multiple books.
Which types do I recommend? For the Sunday school teacher or Bible study leader I recommend the less intense commentaries, you know, to get your feet wet. For students of the Bible (whether you are in Bible college, seminary or you just want to study the Word for your self) I would suggest finding a series that is in the middle range. The more non-concise commentaries I would definitely recommend for the more astute students, pastors, preachers, and anyone who is not afraid to read and in open to expanding their knowledge.
Don’t get we wrong–any commentary or resource may and can be used by the Holy Spirit to convict us of sins and misunderstandings, and open our minds to new things and concepts, a new way of looking at the same old text.
Another resource that I have found useful is a Bible Survey or Bible Backgrounds book or commentary series. These can be different textbooks, and at the same they tend to offer similar information. A Bible survey (Old Testament survey or New Testament survey) gives readers a overview of the Bible: historical context, archeological finds, geological maps, lists and, above all, they show how the entire Bible or testament is telling one big meta-narrative of God’s story intertwined with human history.
Along with Bible surveys come a related resource, Bible Atlas. If the pervious resource have maps, then why bother with an atlas? Like any other atlas, a Bible atlas focuses on the specifics of the region it depicts. What I am saying is, a world atlas focuses on the countries of the world, climates, ecosystems, etc. Whereas, a Bible atlas focuses on the Bible lands of the ancient world. These maps show routes taken by certain peoples, where events happened and a few other tid bits of information in one place.
What else is out there for students of the Bible to use?
Bible Dictionaries, Greek and Hebrew Word Studies… The list goes on.
Two more I want to highlight are Bible Handbooks, and Bible studies. A handbook is a great resource for anyone, regardless of education or church leadership. This resource is filled with concise knowledge that everyone asks. “Who is the author? When was it written? What are the main themes?” It is like having all of the introductions to the books of the Bible, found in a good study Bible, in one easy to use book. Bible handbooks can be small enough to place in a purse, handbag or computer bag.
Bible Studies are a resource most academic scholars overlook when they list off Bible resources. How can these be helpful? A Bible-based Bible study makes the group think about what they have read in the Scriptures. They are the best stepping stone for any church or circle of friends to get into God’s Holy Word.
Most of these resources are used by Bible colleges and seminaries around the world. While most church libraries have never heard of them (at least their lack of such materials points to this conclusion). I do highly recommend anyone who is serious about digging deeper into the Bible to begin a personal library or even suggest to their church library to begin a section with such useful books.