I am currently reading my Bible through (or I should say re-reading) with more emphasis on knowing God better. I am using the NIV version and following along with “Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee”. I know he may be outdated and I found some things that he says that I’m not sure I agree with, but for the most part his commentary makes sense. I’m just wondering as far as Bible tools, what are some solid Bible tools and how do I know what I should use? Commentaries and/or Greek or Hebrew dictionaries? I have no clue how to study the Bible alone. Currently my S.S. class is just picking various studies that are currently popular, so the majority of my Bible studying is on my own. I also want to be an example to my family by reading my Bible more, but it’s kind of tough doing it alone.
@tabby68 Praise God for your desire to lead your family and to know God’s Word more! May the Spirit of Christ grant you wisdom as you grow and learn more about God’s Word. I want to keep my advice simple and doable, so here is what I would recommend personally.
To learn how to study the Bible, read Gordon Fee’s book “How to Read the Bible for all Its Worth” and as you read through the Bible use his guide “How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour”. Fee suggests a myriad of resources at the back of his books to help you enhance your study. In addition, before you read a book of the Bible I recommend watching the Bible Project videos on that book with your family - they are very well done and will help you and your family get oriented to that specific book. In addition, the Bible Project has many great videos on important themes and what the Bible / salvation are that you and your family can watch.
Next, I will recommend a few commentaries and language resources, but at first I would not get bogged down with this aspect of Bible study. I would focus on learning the big picture and becoming familiar with the Scriptures. If you encounter any difficult questions, find a trustworthy resource or reach out here on Connect I am not putting commentaries for specific books of the Bible, but Fee in his books has some good recommendations.
Basic Bible Reading Resources
Language Resources & Commentaries
Net Bible often provides good comments on translating thorny passages. I do not always agree with them, but they are good.
The IVP Bible background commentaries are a great starter set in terms of background commentaries to understand the culture and historical context.
The NIV Application Commentary series is generally good for a commentary on a specific book.
I hope those are helpful thoughts. Please let me know if you have any questions. God’s Word is amazing and beautiful - more desirable than gold or silver! May He bless your studies.
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I’m not sure how others feel about Vernon McGee’s commentaries, but I love them. I have all 60 books and have been through them once and am doing so again. I also use the Reformation Study Bible which is laden with notes for each chapter and is a publication of Ligonier Ministries, one of the best teaching ministries around. Vernon McGee often references the Scofield Study Bible in his commentaries. Revised versions of this version of scripture are also excellent. I think anyone pressing into God’s word for deeper meaning should do so with a study Bible and commentaries, as you are.
You are definitely going about this the right way. There are many helpful resources available to us, but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us and opens our eyes as we press into God’s word.
Thank you Sean for the reply. What great resources! I will be busy. I really like the idea of the Bible Project videos for each book of the Bible. My daughter loves videos, so I’m going to pass this on to her. Hopefully she will continue studying in college this Fall. I’m amazed at how her verbiage has changed in just the last year concerning her views on salvation. Makes me feel better about her moving away now.
Thanks again and I’m sure I will have lots of questions along the way.
I actually love Vernon McGee’s candid nature and the fact that he comes from the generation he comes from. I am really impressed with his background and the fact that he came from a poor family as I can relate to that. Although I belong to a Southern Baptist church I was raised in a pentecostal background and VM seems to discuss the importance of working together as a church family since heaven will be comprised of souls that come from different denominations and all walks of life. I hope I’m saying that right. I just see how easy it is to get hung up on certain things that we tend to forget the importance of God’s redemptive love through Christ.
@tabby68 Sure thing! May the Lord watch over and guide you and your family as you guys walk with Him. It is always encouraging to see someone grow in their walk with Christ - may God give your daughter wisdom and faith. Questions are what Connect is all about We’re here for you.
Spot on, Tabby.
I’ve actually visited McGee’s grave at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, CA. Surrounded by all the ornate headstones and grave markers all around him, McGee’s is as simple and plain as I expected. I doubt his position in eternity will be quite so mundane.
Hey there, @tabby68!! My name is Warner and I love the fact that you’re diving in head first, as it were, to legit Bible study. I also am an appreciator of the works of J. Vernon McGee, as well. Although he lived and died long before I came to Christ, his radio broadcasts along with his books have been sources of foundation layers for me. Old certainly doesn’t necessarily equate to “outdated”.
@SeanO gave you a whole bunch of great resources for studying the Bible. I’m actually reading through the Bible, again, this year. A resource that has been a constant benefit to me with regard to Bible reading as well as Bible study have been a good devotional. One of the few that stand out to me is Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost for His Highest”. It’s had several reissues since it was first released in the early 1900’s. Yet it’s filled with wisdom and applicable scripture verses that teach, challenge and inspire. I thought so, anyway. And thus ends my Oswald Chambers commercial.
Thank you for your reply. It’s good to know that other followers recommend J. Vernon McGee. I will definitely continue reading his works. I have definitely heard of Oswald Chambers and will add his devotionals to my daily reading. I have a lot of reading to catch up on and also realize that I need to add more time to studying God’s word.
Thanks for the recommendation.
@tabby68 Thanks so much for posting this question! I struggled to learn how to study the Bible for myself. For a long time I had no idea what to do apart from buying commentaries and reading them. One book that helped me a lot was How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur. She covers Bible study techniques like asking questions (who, what, where, when, why, and how), marking key words, finding themes, and outlining. She also covers how to use some Bible study tools like a concordance and expository dictionary.
@SeanO I appreciate all your links, but you’re not good for my budget. I might have to buy a couple of those books.
This morning I investigated the Bible Project’s website, and I discovered you can print their posters of Bible book overviews (just like the ones drawn on the videos). Maybe most people who like the Bible Project have already discovered the printable posters, but just in case I’m not the only one who has watched on YouTube and never gone to the website before, here’s the link: Bible Project Posters.
Thank you Jennifer. I’ve heard Kay Arthur speak on Moody Radio. I’ll have to look more into her techniques. Yeah, my budget is tiny and there are so many Bible tools I want so I’m having to add to my wish list. But I definitely have a very good start and feel so much better knowing all the people here are so knowledgeable about the word of God. It’s good to know also that there are so many other believers online because this world is getting scarier. I couldn’t imagine what life is like with no hope at all.
@Jennifer_Wilkinson Thank you for pointing out that ability to print the Bible Project posters. I had not realized that option was available. Yes - choosing which resources to buy definitely requires wisdom. It sounds like you already do this, but I think it’s always helpful to start with a few resources and finish them before hording too many. I sell back resources I did not find as useful - my library fluctuates in size. I suspect that is true of all of us.
On a lighthearted note, they do say wisdom is worth more than gold
Proverbs 16:16 - How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!
@SeanO Thanks! I got a good laugh out of your “wisdom is worth more than gold.” I’m using my wisdom in choosing resourses - I requested How to Read the Bible Book by Book through interlibrary loan and I’m saving my gold for The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.
@Jennifer_Wilkinson Smart thinking. I need to use interlibrary loan more often - it really is a great resource. Let us know your thoughts once you use the books - I’d be curious how helpful you find it. Blessings.
Studying my Bible… The 2 assets of my life in Note and a pen & sketch without which I find difficult spend time reading Bible… As i read, not all words i get understanding. But only the words whAt God wants me to understand gives me wisdom. And at times i tend to go for a research of any any particular wird or verse, looking front n back as spirit leads gives me lovely ambience to know better n be better person. Every character in Bible is to shape n mould me. Even yesterday as i was meditating about The Cross , God lead me to think about 2 men who got saved when Jesus died, a Jew and a centurion… One mocked Jesus, other crucified Jesus. They both got saved seeing the power n glory of God InChrist.
Sure wish you would give a thorough response. that was an awesome answer. I think that’s a book of the Bible is open reviewing the 8 minute video from Bible project is a nice overview to have in mind as the reading commences. Very good resources and feedback.
Thanks @Keldon_Scott! I really struggle as a young Christian to get the big picture of each book I was reading into my head - especially books like Isaiah that have interwoven narratives. I wish the Bible Project had been around back then and I am very glad it is here for a new generation of believers.
@SeanO Have you used Zondervan’s Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible? I’ve considered ordering it, but I’m wondering if it’s unnecessary if I have the IVP Bible Background Commentaries. I figure it would be beneficial if it has different information or just a nice summary for the times when I’m doing devotional reading and don’t want to spend a lot of time with a commentary. But so far I haven’t had good luck with study Bibles. They often don’t go in depth enough for the spots where I have questions.
@Jennifer_Wilkinson I have the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary, but I have had the same experience as you with study Bibles. The study Bibles I have used tend not to have enough details to be super useful - a good commentary on a particular book would be better. Study Bibles generally have a nice blurb at the beginning about when the book was written and the cultural context, but Fee’s book “How to Read the Bible Book by Book” should already have that type of information and it is freely available online if you look (though you do have to be careful to find reliable sources online).
Honestly, I would stick with the IVP Bible Background series for now. It has a plethora of information. If you feel you need more information about a specific book, then do more research to find a good commentary or check from reputable sources online. Those are my personal thoughts.