Pastor Marc Likins
I am often asked what tools I would recommend for someone who wants to study the Bible in a deeper way. Of course, my first recommendation is to establish a daily rhythm of reading the Bible with the intention of learning and asking God to teach you, but if you want to add in a few helps, here is what I generally recommend.
This website has been around for more than twenty-five years now. Aesthetically, it’s not the most pleasing site, but the functionality is tremendous. You can do word searches in the original languages and English, all of the Hebrew and Greek definitions for words are baked in, and there are even a few free commentaries like Matthew Henry’s. For me, this site functions as my digital Strong’s Concordance and occasionally I will use one of the free commentaries.
2. The Bible Project Book Overviews
These are free illustrated videos that help you understand the scope, sequence, and major themes of a particular book of the Bible. Any time I am going to study or even begin to read a book of the Bible, I will take five minutes and watch the video that corresponds to the book I am about to begin. It’s very helpful to have a bird’s eye view of the book before you read it. You can find the overviews at bibleproject.com.
3. YouVersion and Dwell
YouVersion is the app I use to read the Bible digitally, and Dwell is the app I use to listen to the Bible on audio. YouVersion has an audio feature, but Dwell has so many more options when it comes to voice choices or background music. It’s worth noting that Dwell is a paid app, but here at Harvest, we are happy to provide the app to church members for free through our church plan. If you want info on our church YouVersion or Dwell plans, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. KJV Life Application Study Bible
For $40 this study Bible goes a long way. There are lots of features, but three that I find to be very helpful: cross-references, definitions, and applications. The cross-references give you verses that would correspond to the verse you are reading so you can allow the Bible to interpret itself. The definitions help you understand those pesky old English words. And the application portion is something most study Bibles don’t include and can really help the Bible come to life.
2. KJV Life Application Chronological Study Bible
The same study Bible as above but arranged in chronological order. If you have never read the Bible chronologically, you may want to consider doing so. This arrangement can be especially helpful for the Old Testament history portions and the gospels.
3. Holeman Commentary Series
These commentaries are available in digital form for less than $10 normally (I get mine on Kindle). They are given in a “sermon form” and can be especially helpful if you are teaching a Sunday School class or something like it. Each chapter has a suggested introduction and conclusion for the passage, a brief verse by verse explanation, and some basic application guidelines.
4. John Phillips’ Exploring the Scriptures Commentary Series
Phillips has commentaries on almost every book of the Bible, and they were some of the first commentaries I ever started to read. His thoughts come from a theologically conservative perspective, and he does a good job of giving you the historical background. He won’t get into the original languages at all, and he won’t present the other side of the argument, but for $20 his commentaries are tough to beat.
1. New American Commentary Series
This series is probably my favorite for the money. It will begin to give you some of the original languages (but not too heavy), and it will begin to present the other side of some arguments. It definitely goes a step beyond the beginner commentaries, but still keeps it concise and to the point. Think Panera Bread of commentaries. Not fast food, but not sit-down restaurant either. You will spend a little more time and a little more money on these, but not too much.
2. The NIV Application Commentary Series
I like New American better, but if you are looking for an intermediate commentary series that has more application built in, this may be a good one for you.
1. Andreas Kostenberger
Andreas is the director of the Center for Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and does a fantastic job on anything he writes. He writes from a theologically conservative perspective, but he is always sure to present every side of the argument (which I love). He doesn’t ramble, but presenting every side of the arguments and being thorough does make his works longer. His books aren’t cheap, and they are generally 500-1,000 pages, but if you want to dive deep, he has some great stuff. In recent years I have read God, Marriage, and Family; The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown; Invitation to Biblical Interpretation; and John.
Logos is a robust Bible software that is paid for as a one-time fee and then downloaded to your computer. Think Blueletterbible.org on steroids. There are different levels you can buy, and each level comes with more features than you can ever use. I know some pastors who use this almost exclusively for their study, but I use it sparingly as one of a few tools (although I used it a lot more in seminary). I wouldn’t recommend this to someone unless they were pursuing a theological degree or in vocational ministry with a heavy dose of study and preaching. If you are pursuing a theological degree, check with your place of learning; they may have a school discount available for you.