Picking a Study Bible

Many of you have asked me about picking out a Bible.  It is overwhelming when you walk into a store and see countless different Bibles.  If you don’t know much about the different versions, it is hard to know where to start.   When I think about reading the Bible, I tend to break it up into two main ways to read: devotional reading and serious in-depth study.

For devotional reading I usually recommend a version that is easier to read and is more of a thought for thought translation. The technical term for this type of translation is a “dynamic equivalence” Bible.  I personally like the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT), since they are both easy to read and pretty accurate in their translation.  Study notes are not as important, since you want to read through the text without being distracted by added commentary.

For serious study, I prefer a more word for word translation. These are “formal equivalence” Bibles and they strive to be as accurate as possible to the original text while still maintaining readability.  I posted a few months ago about a new Bible I had bought and I am really enjoying reading through it in the English Standard Version (ESV) translation.   Other good word-for-word translations are the New King James Version (NKJV), the New American Standard (NAS), and the King James (KJV).   I have also enjoyed reading out of the Holman Christians Standard Bible, otherwise known as the hard-core southern baptist Bible or HCSB.  It does a good job of mixing the two translation styles, staying word-for-word when possible and only switching to thought-for-thought when necessary.

You may also want to consider a study Bible that includes features to help you understand the text.  I have used several study Bibles over the years and they have helped as I study difficult passages.  I have two main study Bibles that I continue to use.  The Nelson Study Bible(NKJV)  and the Believer’s Study Bible, which is now out of print, but it has been republished as the Baptist Study Edition Study Bible (NKJV)
Both of these Bibles have great notes, maps, and study aids to help you draw the meaning out of the text.  You do have to remember that the notes will have the bias and interpretation of the editors who wrote them, so make sure that the one you pick is edited by someone who is serious about remaining faithful to God’s Word.

There is also a new study Bible coming out this month that looks great. It is the ESV Study Bible.
It is huge, it’s definitely not one you want to carry around, but it looks like it will be an excellent resource for people who are serious about studying and understanding God’s Word.  Check out their homepage at ESV Study Bible

Also, here is a short video showing some of the features from this Bible.   Since I am reading through the ESV currently, I can recommend this version from personal experience.  It is conservative and accurate, while still being easy to read.  As always, leave a comment or ask me in person if you have any questions about picking a Bible.


I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 28 years, and we have three adult children.

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