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STATEMENTDB135

HOWTOCHOOSEASTUDYBIBLE

byJohnR.KohlenbergerIII

OverwhelmedbythenumberofchoicesintodaysgluttedstudyBiblemarket?Letanexpertonthesubjectguideyou
throughthemaze.
ThedesignationstudyBiblecanrefertotwothings.Insomecontextsitreferstothetranslationitself,toaversionof
theBiblesuitableforstudy.Moreoften,however,itreferstoatranslationplusasetoffeaturesdesignedtohelpone
readandstudythetext.

ABRIEFHISTORYOFSTUDYBIBLES
TheSixteenththroughNineteenthCenturies
ThefirstEnglishtranslationswerestudyBiblesinbothsenses.Translatorssoughttocreateaversionthatcouldbe
studiedbythemasses.Theywantedtotakethetextfromthetightgripofacademicsandclericsandputitinthe
languageofthepeople.Theyalsowantedtoprovideguidancetotheirreaderswithexplanatorynotesandcross
references.
Theseearlystudymaterialswereoftenaspolemicasinformative.WilliamTyndalewasstrangledtodeathand
burnedatthestakeforthecrimesoftranslatingtheBibleintoEnglishandofchallengingtheteachingsoftheRoman
Catholicchurchinhisnotes.ThispatterncontinuedinallProtestantBibletranslationsofthesixteenthcentury.The
GenevaBibleof1560,forexample,promotedtheReformeddoctrinesofJohnCalvinandcriticizedallcontrary
systems.AtRevelation9:11theAngelofthebottomlesspitisidentifiedasAntichristthePope,kingofhypocrites
andSatansambassador.
SmallwonderthatthefirstEnglishtranslationbyRomanCatholics,theRheimsNewTestamentof1582,wouldseem
somewhatdefensiveatthispoint:Othershaveexplainedtheselocusts,inamostabsurd,fanciful,andridiculous
manner:theymakeAbaddonthePope,andthelocuststobefriarsmendicant,etc.Hereitisthoughtproper,notto
enterintoanycontroversyuponthatsubject,astheinventorsofthefancieshavebeenalreadyanswered,andfully
refutedbymanycontrovertists.TheRheimsNewTestamentalsoshotbackatProtestantsandtheirtranslations,
explainingthatithadbeendevelopedwiththeobjectofhealthfullycounteractingthecorruptionswherebythe
hereticshavesolonglamentablydeludedalmostthewholeofourcountrymen.
Nofewerthan10translationsoftheEnglishBibleappearedbetweenTyndalesNewTestamentof1525andtheturn
ofthecentury.TheEnglishBiblehadseenatleast278settingsandprintingsin75years.Nowonderwhenanew
translationwasproposedtoKingJamesIin1604,BishopRichardBancroftcommentedthatifeverymanshumour
werefollowed,therewouldbenoendoftranslating. 1James,however,wasintriguedbytheproposalfromPuritan
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JohnReynolds,especiallybecausethetranslationwouldnothavenotes.ThekingdetestedthenotesintheGeneva
Bible,especiallywhentheycommendedcharactersforchoosingtoobeyGodratherthanhumanmonarchs,asat
Exodus1:19.WithJamessapprovalandpatronagetheworkpressedaheadandthenew,nonannotatedversionwas
publishedin1611.Thoughreceivedwithmixedreviews,thisversionsoonbecamesopopularthatallprevious
translationswereeventuallyputoutofprint.Theversionof1611beganthreecenturiesofitsnearmonopolyasthe
EnglishBible.

TheTwentiethCentury
TheendoftheKJVsmonopolywassignaledbytheBritishRevisedVersionof188185andtheAmericanStandard
Versionof1901.Shortlythereafter,twodistinctstudysystemsemergedthatwouldstartanewtrendinBible
presentation.FrankCharlesThompsonintroducedhisMarginalChainReferenceBiblein1908andthefollowingyear
sawthepublicationofC.I.ScofieldsTheScofieldReferenceBible.Thompsonprovidedthemodelofastudysystem
thatwasdoctrinallyobjective,whileScofieldpresentedaspecificsystemofinterpretationinhisnotes.Mostmodern
studyBiblesfallintooneortheothercategoryestablishedbythesepioneeringworks.
The1970sandearly1980ssawanexplosionofEnglishBibletranslations.Theboomcontinuedin1995withthe
appearanceoftheNewInternationalReadersVersion,theContemporaryEnglishVersion,andGodsWord.Thereal
noiseinthenineties,however,iscomingfromnewstudyBibles.NotonlyarethereupdatededitionsofThompson
andScofield,therearetheirmodernheirs:objectivelyorientedsystemssuchasTheNewOpenBible,anddoctrinally
orientedsystemssuchasTheRyrieStudyBible,TheWesleyBible,andTheNewGenevaBible.
TyndaleHouseintroducedTheLifeApplicationBiblein1987andwithitasignificantnewtrendofneedsoriented
Bibles.SostrongwastheresponsetoZondervansNIVWomensDevotionalBiblein1990thatitwasimmediately
followedbyNIVDevotionalBiblesformen,couples,andseniors.ThomasNelsonsSerenity:ACompanionfor12
StepRecovery(1990)wasmatchedbyZondervansNIVRecoveryBibleandTyndalesTheLifeRecoveryBible.
EstablisheddevotionalsorstudybookletserieswereadaptedandpresentedasstudyBiblesinsuchworksasThe
NIVSerendipityBibleforStudyGroups(Zondervan,1989),TheInternationalInductiveStudyBible(Harvest,1992),
TheExperiencingGodBible(Broadman&Holman,1993),andTheNewDailyWalkBible(Tyndale,1995).
BecausetheBiblebuyingpublicseemstohaveabottomlessappetiteforneweditionsoftheBible,andbecauseBible
typesettingisamuchfasterprocessthaneverbefore,BiblepublishersarenowissuingnewBiblesalmostatthepace
thattheyissuenewbooks.GonearethedayswhenaThompsonoraScofieldspentdecadesdevelopingstudy
systems.Biblesarenowbeingcreatedtocatchtrendsortoassociatewiththenameofamajorpersonality,suchas
MaxLucadosInspirationalStudyBible(Word,1995)ortheforthcomingPromiseKeepersBible.
OnecouldbecynicalandcriticaloftheChristianpublishingindustryforsuchfeltneedsBiblepublishing.Such
products,however,areindeedmeetingneeds.CraigFeatherstone,directorofmarketingforThomasNelsonBibles,
usesthemodeloftheSundayschool:astherearedifferentclassoptionsfordifferentagegroups,differentneeds,and
differentinterests,sotherearedifferentstudyBibles.
ThishistoricaloverviewmayhelpexplaintheincredibleproliferationofstudyBibles.Butitdoesnotexplainhowto
evaluateaparticulareditionforpersonaluse.Toprovideguidanceinthisregard,thisarticlewillfirstsurveythe
rangeoffeaturesthatcanbefoundinastudyBible,andthenexaminespecificfeaturesofseveralclassicandrecent
editions.Finally,thearticlewillprovidealistofquestionsonecanasktonarrowoneschoicestothebestpossible
volume.

ASurveyofMajorFeatures
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Inthefollowingsurvey,featuresthatprovideexplanationsarelabeledsubjectivebecausetheexplanationissubject
totheinterpreterspointofview.Featuresthatdirectoneintoandwithinthetextarelabeledobjectivebecausethey
allowthetexttospeakforitself.
Ofcourse,therecanbeobjectivityininterpretationandsubjectivityintheselectionoftexts.Still,Ibelievethisbroad
categorizationisusefultodifferentiatebetweenstudysystemsthatinstructonewhattobelieveandthosethattake
onetothetextsoonecanmakeuponesownmind.AstudyBiblethatisprimarilyobjectiveinitsfeaturescanbe
usedbyanyone,regardlessoftheologicalaffiliation.Ontheotherhand,astudyBiblethatisprimarilysubjectiveis
mostusefultosomeonewhoagreeswiththeinterpreterandcanevenbeoffensivetosomeonewhodoesnot.

TheTranslationProper
ThesinglemostimportantfeatureofastudyBibleisitstextitstranslationbecausethemostimportantactivity
instudyingtheBibleisreadingit.Inthenineties,allthebestsellingtranslationshaveawidevarietyofstudysystems,
sizes,andbindings,althoughnoteverystudysystemisavailableinavarietyoftranslations.

IntroductionsandOutlines
Introductionsusuallyinformoneastotheauthor,readers,date,origin,andcontentofabookorsectionoftheBible;
outlinesdisplaythecontentsofabook.Introductionsandoutlinesdifferinthoroughnessandlength,but
introductionscanalsodifferinperspective.
ThosewrittenbyconservativescholarstaketheBiblesselfwitnessatfacevalue.TheyagreethatMoseswroteallor
mostofthePentateuch(thefirstfivebooksoftheBible),thatPaulwrote1and2TimothyandTitus,andthatPeter
wrote2Peterbecausethebooksthemselvessayso.Mostnonconservativeorliberalscholars,however,usecriteria
otherthanthetextoftheBibletoevaluateitsstatementsandclaims.Thus,mostliberalscholarsbelievethataseries
ofeditorswrotethePentateuch,thatadiscipleordisciplesofPaulwrotethePastoralEpistles,andthat2Peterwas
writtenagoodhalfcenturyafterPetersdeath.Asaresult,theintroductionsmightbethefirstplacetocheckto
discernwhetherastudyBibletakesaconservativeorliberalinterpretiveperspective.

CrossReferences
OneofthemostusefulfeaturesofastudyBibleforanalyzingthebiblicaltextisitsreferencesystem.Crossreferences
linkversesandpassagesonthebasisofsimilarwords,phrases,andconcepts.Crossreferencesareusuallyfoundina
columnbesidethetext,asinTheHarperStudyBible;betweentwocolumnsoftext,asinTheNIVStudyBible;orin
thenotes,asinTheCompanionBible.ThemostspecificreferencesystemisintheThompsonChainReferenceBible,
whichidentifiesthetopicthatisreferenced,keysittoanumberedtopicalindex,andsendsthereadertothenext
verseinitschainofreferences.

Notes
Muchofthetime,notessimplyilluminatethetextwithdefinitionsofobscureormeaningfulwords,explanationsof
customs,crossreferencestosimilarpassages,enlightenmentfromhistoricalbackground,andsimilarobjective
information.Asinthecaseofintroductions,thenotesoftenbetrayanalignmentwithaparticulartheologicalor
criticalapproachtothetext.

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ThenotesoftheNewJerusalemandNewAmericanBibles,forexample,arenoticeablyCatholicincertaintexts.
ScofieldandRyriearebothconservativeanddispensational.TheNewOxfordAnnotatedBibleandThe
HarperCollinsStudyBibletakealiberal/criticalapproach.Dakeispentecostal.
Thesetheologicalpositionscandeterminethetoneandvolumeofthenotes.TheCatholicstudyBiblestendto
emphasizethehistoricaldogmasofthechurchatkeytextssuchasMatthew16:1719.ScofieldandRyrieemphasize
distinctionsbetweenIsraelandthechurchandliteralfulfillmentofprophecy(e.g.,Acts15:1517).TheNewGeneva
Bibletakesanondispensationalapproachatthesetexts.NotesinliberalstudyBiblesoftencountertheliteral
understandingofthetext(e.g.,Josh.10:11)andpointoutstoriesandeventstheyfeelarecontradictoryorfabricated
(e.g.,Judg.1;1Chron.21).Pentecostalandcharismaticwritersgiveextraattentiontotextsdealingwithhealingand
spiritualgifts(e.g.,Matt.8:17;Acts2).

ConcordanceandIndex
Asthecrossreferencesystemconnectskeywords,phrases,andconceptsthroughthebiblicaltext,theindexor
concordancelistssuchconnectionsinasectionseparatefromthetext.Infunction,anindexandconcordanceare
aboutthesame.Aconcordance,however,ismorespecificinthatitdealsonlywithspecificwords,whileanindexcan
dealbothwithspecificwordsandwithgeneralsubjectsandconcepts.

Dictionary
ABibledictionary,likeanEnglishdictionary,defineskeytechnicalwordsofthetext.Likeanencyclopedia,however,
itgoesbeyonddefinitiontogiveexplanatoryarticlesaboutBiblepeople,places,events,andsubjects.Itsinformation
isdrawnprimarilyfromthebiblicaltextandisoftensupplementedbyhistorical,archaeological,andotherbiblical
referenceworks.

Maps
JustabouteveryBibleinprinthasasetofmapsboundintoit.Morerecenteditions,suchastheNIVStudyBibleand
TheWordinLifeStudyBible,havedozensofintextmapsdetailinglocationsandmovementsinthebiblical
narrative.Manysetsofmapsareindexedsothatcountries,cities,andnaturallandmarkscanbeeasilylocated.

ChartsandOtherIllustrations
Chartsgatheranddisplaybiblicalandhistoricaldatainamorevisualform.TheThompsonChainReferenceBible
wasoneofthefirsttomakeextensiveuseofchartsinoutliningbiblicalhistory,characterstudies,andtopical
information.TheNewOpenBibleandTheWordinLifeStudyBibleusechartstodiagramandsummarizethe
contentsofeachbookoftheBible.TheNIVStudyBiblehasthreedozenchartsthatgatherbiblicalmaterialsand
integratethemwithhistoricalandculturalinformation.

SpecialEssaysandArticles
MoststudyBibleshavespecialarticlesonsuchsubjectsashowtounderstandtheBible,outlinesofbiblicalhistory
andarchaeology,theologicalthemes,thehistoryofBibletranslation,andsoon.Onecanalmostevaluatethearticles
inastudyBiblebyitstableofcontents.Thetitlesandnumberofpagesalonemayrevealhowusefultheyareand
howoftenonemightconsultthem.Somearesobrieforgeneralthatonemayreadthemonlyonceorneveratall.

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HarmonyoftheGospelsandOldTestamentHistory
ManystudyBiblesorganizetheeventsoftheGospelsintoaroughlychronologicaloutline,showingboththeparallels
anduniqueaccountsofeach.Thisparalleloutlineiscalledaharmony,usuallypresentedinthesubheadsofthe
biblicaltextorasaseparatefeature.SomemorerecentstudyBibles,suchasTheNIVStudyBible,dothesameforOT
parallels.

ASURVEYMAJORSTUDYBIBLES2
ObjectivelyOrientedStudyBibles
DicksonNewAnalyticalStudyBible(World,1931;[9th]RevisedEdition,1973)KJV
TheDicksonNewAnalyticalStudyBiblehasabout800pagesofwelldesignedhelps.Ageneralintroductiontothe
Bibleanda184pageBibledictionaryprecedethetext.Eachbookhasanintroductionandananalyticalchart,
followedbyadiscussionofthatbooksoutstandingfacts.Thevolumeconcludeswith,amongotherfeatures,a42
pagetopicalBibleanda117pageconcordance.A17,000entrygeneralindextiestogetherallofthesefeatures.
NewOpenBible(Nelson,1975;ExpandedEdition,1990)KJV,NASB,NKJV
ThemajorfeaturesoftheNewOpenBibleareitsBiblicalCyclopediaIndex(a300pagetopicalBible/concordance),
lengthybookintroductionsandoutlines,ChristianLifeStudyOutlinesintheNT,andconcordance.Alternate
translationsandcrossreferencesaregivenattheendofeachverse,thoughthespacelimitationsofthisformatresult
inarathersmallreferencesystem.OtherfeaturesincludeanoutlineharmonyoftheGospelsandarticlesonbiblical
backgrounds.Expandededitionsin1983,1985,and1990havelengthenedbookintroductionswithanalyticalchartsto
illustratetheiroutlines,a24pageVisualSurveyoftheBible,and40pagesofkeywordstudies.Becauseofits
varietyoffeaturesanditsavailabilityinthreemajortranslations,theNewOpenBibleisverypopularamong
evangelicals.
ThompsonChainReferenceBible(Kirkbride,1908;5thImprovedEdition,1988)KJV,NIV,NASB,NKJV
Theheartofthisworkisitsuniquechainreferencesystem.ThompsondevelopedaChainIndexofmorethan4,000
biblicalsubjectsthatformsa196pageTopicalBibleandDictionary(KJVedition)immediatelyfollowingthebiblical
text.Then,ratherthansimplysprinklingthemarginswithcrossreferences,heliststhespecifictopicsineachverse
withtheirindexnumber,andoftenidentifiesthenextbiblicalreferenceinthechain.Byturningtothenumbered
topicinthebackorfollowingthereferencesthroughthetext,oneisledinawellorganizedthematicstudy.
ThisBiblealsocontainsmorethan50additionalfeaturesinitseightdepartments,includingintroductionsand
outlinesofeachbook,characterstudies,dozensofhistoricalandtopicalchartsanddiagrams,anarchaeological
dictionary,andaconcordance,allofwhicharekeyedbynumbertothetextandindex.Becauseofitsvaluable
referencesystemanditsavailabilityinfourofthetopfivetranslations,theThompsonChainReferenceBibleremains
apopularchoice.

SubjectivelyOrientedStudyBibles
Conservative:Dispensational
CompanionBible(1910;Kregelreprint,1990)KJV
Originallypublishedinsixvolumes,thismassiveworkofmorethan2,150pagescontainsreamsofvaluable,though
sometimeseccentric,studyhelps.Eachbookisintroducedandoutlined,buteachsectionandparagraphisalso
outlinedinfurtherdetailinthenotesthatparallelthetext.Thenotesthemselvescontainexplanatory,topical,
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linguistic,andhistoricalinsightsandarekeyedtodetailedstudiesinthe198appendicesthatfollowthetext.The
writer,E.W.Bullinger,isknownforhisultradispensationalteachinginotherwritings,butintheCompanionBible
hisdispensationalismislimitedtothebookintroductionsandappendicesandishardlymoreradicalthanScofieldor
Ryrie.
RyrieStudyBible(Moody,1976[NT],1978;ExpandedEdition,1994)KJV,NASB,NIV
TheRyrieStudyBiblecanbecharacterizedastheScofieldReferenceBiblefortheendofthetwentiethcentury.
ThoughRyrieisanadvocateofdispensationalismlikeScofield,hedoesnotpromoteitasemphatically.Notescontain
explanatory,historical,andculturalinformationaswellasdoctrinalinsights.Theexpandededitionsof1994
incorporatedadditionalnotesandmanyintextgraphicsandmapstotheclassictext.UniquetothisstudyBibleisits
22pageSynopsisofBibleDoctrine,whichoutlinesmajorelementsoftheologyandliststheinterpretationsof
severalmajorsystemsateachpoint.Availableinthreeofthetopfivetranslations,theRyrieStudyBiblehasastrong
followingamongevangelicals.
ScofieldReferenceBible(Oxford,1909,1917)andNewScofieldReferenceBible(Oxford,1967)KJV,NIV,NASB,
NKJV
PerhapsnostudyBiblehasbeensowidelyusedorsostronglycriticizedastheScofieldReferenceBible.Itswideuse
resultsfromitsexcellentorganization,itshighviewoftheinspirationandunityofScripture,anditsinterpretive
scheme.Theinterpretivescheme,dispensationalism,hasalsogeneratedmostofitscriticism.Criticsof
dispensationalismfeelitcutstheBibleintotoomanypieces,teachesdifferentwaysofsalvation,andwronglyexpects
aliteralfuturefulfillmentofpropheciesrelatingtoIsrael.Nonetheless,Scofieldretainsastrongfollowingamong
conservativeevangelicals.

Conservative:Evangelical
DisciplesStudyBible(Broadman&Holman,1988)NIV
Thenotesandessaysofthisstudyeditionareexclusivelytheological,developing27majordoctrines(e.g.,God,
salvation,Christianethics)throughoutthenotes.Essayssummarizethehistoryofdoctrines,withbibliographiesfor
furtherstudyandanindextoallthenotes,andofferpracticalLifeHelps.AmongthedoctrinallyorientedStudy
Bibles,theDisciplesStudyBibleisoneofthemostthorough.
HarperStudyBible(Zondervan,1964;revised1985,1991)NASB,NRSV
HaroldLindselleditedtheoriginalRSVeditionin1964andtheNASBin1985;theNRSVeditionwaseditedby
VerlynVerbrugge.Bookintroductionsprecedethetext,asdogeneraloutlineswhichareexpandedindetailinthe
textitself.Referencesareinasinglesidecolumn,andexplanatory,historical,andtheologicalcommentsareinnotes
atthebottomofthepage.Thesenotesareindexedbysubject.OneofthefewevangelicalstudyBiblescurrently
availableintheNRSV,theHarperStudyBibleremainsausefulresource.
HebrewGreekKeyStudyBible(AMG/Baker,1984)KJV,NASB
SpirosZodhiatessHebrewGreekKeyStudyBibleattemptstocommunicateinsightsfromtheoriginallanguagesto
theEnglishreader.SeveralkeywordsineachverseareunderlinedandfootnotedaccordingtoStrongsnumbering
system.StrongsHebrewandGreekdictionariesarereproducedinthebackoftheBible.Zodhiateshasalsoincluded
threemajorfeaturesofhisown.First,170pagesofsimilarlynumberedLexicalAidsexpandonStrongsdefinitions
ofkeywords.Second,hehasnotedkeyaspectsofGreekgrammarwithasystemofabbreviations.Third,hehas
providedexplanatorynotesfordifficultandimportantpassages.TheNIVeditionplannedfor1996willcontaina
moreuptodateanalysisoftheNIVandtheoriginallanguagesandcompletelynewdictionaries.
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LifeApplicationBible(Tyndale,1987,1993)KJV,LB,NIV,NKJV,NRSV
Inadditiontoitsapplicationemphasis,thistrendsettingvolumehasmuchexplanatoryandhistoricalinformationin
itsintroductions,charts,maps,andcharacterstudies,andthusshouldnotbeoverlookedasaresearchorientedstudy
Bible.ItsmaterialsweregeneratedbyYouthforChristunderthegeneraleditorshipofBruceB.Barton,withmore
thanadozentheologicalreviewersfromwellknownevangelicalinstitutions.Becauseofitspracticalfeaturesandits
availabilityinfiveofthetoptentranslations,theLifeApplicationBibleiscurrentlyoneofthebestsellingstudy
Biblesonthemarket.
NewStudentBible(Zondervan,1986,1992)KJV,NIV,NRSV
Originallyintendedforyouth,thiseasytousestudyeditionhasbeenpurchasedbymillionsofadultsfortheirown
use.DesignedbyPhilipYanceyandTimStaffordtoprovideeasyaccessandusefulinsightstobeginningreaders,the
NewStudentBiblestartswitha3TrackPlanforReadingtheBible.TrackoneintroducestheBiblewithtwoweek,
onechapteradayreadingguidestotheLifeofJesus,thelifeofPaul,andtheOldTestament.Track2samplesevery
bookoftheBible,186chaptersinsixmonths.Track3isathreeyear,wholeBiblereadingschedule.Introductions
attempttocapturetheessenceofeachbookincontemporarytermsandimages.Almosteverypageofthetexthasat
leastoneboxedexplanatorycommentorliferelatedinsighttogivemeaningandmomentumtodailyBiblereading.
Thesematerialsareindexedina30pageSubjectGuideattheendofthebook.
NIVStudyBible(Zondervan,1985,1995)NIV
TheNIVStudyBible,asthenameimplies,wascreatedspecificallyforthisversion.EditedbyKennethL.Barker,its
44contributors(37ofwhomwereNIVtranslators)representawidedenominationalspectrumofinternational
evangelicalism.AuniquefeatureofthisBibleisthatthecontributorsrepresentnoexclusivetheologicalalignment.
Thenotesoftenpresentmorethanonepossibleunderstanding.AnexampleisRevelation20:2,wherethreemajor
perspectivesonthemillenniumaresummarized,asopposedtoRyrieandScofield,whichareexclusively
premillennial.The1995revisionenhancedthereadabilityandgraphicsandaddedsomenotes.TheConcordiaSelf
StudyBible(Concordia,1986)isaspecializededitionwithadditionalmaterialsfromaconservativeLutheran
perspective.Becauseofthethoroughnessandqualityofitsfeatures,theNIVStudyBiblehassoldnearlythreemillion
copiesandisthiswriterspreferredchoice.
TheQuestStudyBible(Zondervan,1994)NIV
ChristianityTodayprovidedthematerialsforthisuniquestudyBible.Itsnotesareinaquestionanswerformat.The
questionsweredrawnfromasurveyofmorethan1,000people;theanswerswereprovidedbymorethan100
contributorsundertheeditorshipofMarshallShelley.Thesenotesarealsoindexedbysubject.Keybiblicaland
theologicalterms,likegrace,parable,andsoulareflaggedwitharaisedDtoindicatetheyaredefinedintheconcise
dictionary.TheQuestStudyBiblecanberecommendedtoandusedbyChristiansaswellasseekers.
WordinLifeStudyBible([NT]Nelson,1993)NKJV,NRSV
ThisseekstobeauserfriendlystudyBiblewithitsextensiveuseofboxedandshadedgraphics,articles,maps,and
linedrawingsinatwocolorpresentation.Itsstudyfeaturesandthebiblicaltextarebothindexedformoresystematic
study.ThequantityofitsfeaturesanditsgeneroustypesizeareunderlinedbythefactthattheNTalonefillsmore
than1,000pages.

Conservative:Pentecostal/Charismatic
DakesAnnotatedReferenceBible(Dake,1961[NT],1963)KJV
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Dakesistheproductof43yearsofstudyandisoneofthefewstudyBiblesthathasmorewordsinitshelpsthanin
theBible.MostofFinisJenningsDakesmaterialsaresetintwocolumnsthatappearoneachpagebesidethetwo
columnsofbiblicaltext.Hisintroductionclaims500,000crossreferences,35,000notesandcomments,8,000outlines,
and2,000illustrations.Manyofthesematerialsarelistsofobservationsfromthetext,butmuchisinterpretive,with
emphasisonprophecy,healing,andthemiraculous.
Thisworkcontainsagreatdealthatisspeculativeandunorthodox,suchasDakesbeliefinGodsspiritbodywith
bodilypartsthatgoesfromplacetoplace(pp.9697[NT]),hisstrongteachingonracialsegregation(e.g.,pp.148
[OT]and159[NT]),andhisdogmatismonjustabouteverysubjectheaddresses.TheDakesstudyBiblecannotbe
recommendedtojournalreaders,charismaticornot.
FullLifeStudyBible(Zondervan,1992)KJV,NIV
PrimarilytheworkofDonaldC.StampsandJ.WesleyAdams,withnineeditorialadvisors,thisstudyBible
representsthemainstreamofmoderncharismatictheology.Asystemoficonsinthemarginshighlightsthemesof
interest,suchasthebaptismoftheHolySpirit,gifts,healing,andfaiththatmovesmountains.Seventythreeessays
expandonkeyconceptsaswellastheeditorspersonalemphases.Forexample,threeoftheessaysarguestrongly
thatallpositivereferencestowineintheBiblerefertounfermentedgrapejuiceandthatallChristiansarerequiredto
abstainfromalcohol.TheFullLifeStudyBibleisthemostmoderateofthecharismaticstudyBiblesandcanbe
recommendedtojournalreaders.
SpiritFilledLifeBible(Nelson,1991)KJV,NKJV
TheSpiritFilledLifeBibleistheproductof67contributors,manyofthemhighprofilepastorssuchasJackHayford
(generaleditor),FrederickPrice,andOralRoberts.Inadditiontobookintroductionsandtextualnotes,Kingdom
Dynamicsdiscuss22majortopicssuchasevangelism,seedfaith,prosperity,gifts,andhealingat350texts.
WordWealthstudiesoffer550briefGreekandHebrewwordstudies,indexedtoStrongsnumberingsystem.
TruthinActionsectionsstresspersonalapplicationattheendofeachbook.Thenotesandtopicalstudiesshow
bothcontinuitiesandcontrastswithincharismatictheology.AtMalachi3:812,forexample,thecautiousnotesby
JohnLouwersecontrasttotheKingdomDynamicsbyFrederickPrice,whostatesthatifonedoesnottitheproperly
oneisrobbingGod,andthelawofGodcannotworkonyourbehalf.Thereaderisthuscautionedthatthisstudy
Biblecontainsbothmoderatecharismatictheologyandmoreextremewordoffaithelements.
TheWordStudyBible(HarrisonHouse,1990)KJV
TheWordStudyBibleisatwocolumn,redlettertexteditionoftheKJVwithareferencesystemof12topicsof
primaryinteresttothecharismaticmovement.Relevantversesareidentifiedwithasymbol,buthavenofurther
explanation.Allreferencesarelistedinatopicalconcordance.Eachtopicissummarizedinaneightpagearticlebya
wellknownauthor,suchasKennethHaginonfaith,KennethCopelandonprosperity,andMarilynHickeyon
victoriousliving.Becausethisworkrepresentsthehealthandwealthorwordoffaithperspectiveofthe
charismaticmovement,itcannotberecommendedtojournalreaders.3

Conservative:Reformed
NewGenevaStudyBible(Nelson,1994)NKJV
Consciouslytitledaftertheinfluential,CalvinisticGenevaBible,thisworkissubtitledBringingtheLightofthe
ReformationtoScripture.FiftyfivescholarsundergeneraleditorR.C.Sproulcontributedtoitscontents.Its
informativenotesaresupplementedbynearly100theologicalessays,61maps,and47charts.Itstheological
orientationisReformedandCalvinistic,butitsmaterialsrecognizearangeofunderstandingwithinthattradition.
TheintroductiontoRevelation,forexample,summarizesthethreemajormillennialperspectiveswithoutstatingthat
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anyonepositionistheReformedposition.Thisnewvolumeshouldbewellreceivedandwidelycirculatedwithinthe
Reformedcommunity.

Conservative:Wesleyan/Holiness
TheWesleyBible(Nelson,1990)NKJV
ThisworkisthemodernheirtoJohnWesleysExplanatoryNotesupontheNewTestament(1755)andclaimstobe
theonlystudyBiblewrittenfromaWesleyanArminianperspectivesinceWesleysNotes.Annotationsprovide
generalexplanations,promoteWesleyantheology,andemphasizeholyliving.FiftyfiveFocusNotesexpandon
varioustopics,suchasTwoKindsofSinandTheTerminologyofEntireSanctification.Fortysevenmaps,51
charts,16essays,andaconcordanceroundoutthemajorfeaturesofthisvolume.

Nonconservative:MainlineProtestant
Becausethefollowingresourcesdonotapproachthebiblicaltextfromaconservativeororthodoxperspective,they
cannotberecommendedtojournalreadersasaprimarystudyBible.Theyareincludedinthisarticleforthesakeof
thoroughness.
CambridgeAnnotatedStudyBible(Cambridge,1993)NRSV
TheCambridgeAnnotatedStudyBibleisprimarilytheworkofHowardClarkKee,aNewTestamentscholar,with
contributionsbyRichardL.Jeske.Onehundredpagesofgeneralessaysandbookintroductionsprecede1,065pages
ofbiblicaltext(withoutApocrypha)andannotations.Thenotessummarizesectionsandparagraphsofbiblicaltexts.
Thecrossreferencesystemisseparated,butisnotdramaticallylargerthanthereferencesofferedinthenotesofthe
editionsbelow.Uniquetothisvolumeisa65pageglossary,combiningthefeaturesofaBibledictionaryandsubject
index.AGospelharmonyandeightcolormapscompletethefeatures.
HarperCollinsStudyBible(HarperCollins,1993)NRSV
TheHarperCollinsStudyBibledevotes2,388pagestobiblicaltext(includingApocrypha)andstudyhelps.The61
contributorsrepresentProtestant,Catholic,andJewishperspectivesandareallmembersoftheSocietyofBiblical
Literature.Threeofthefourassociateeditorsandnineofthecontributorsarefemale.Thebookintroductionsand
annotationsshareamoderncriticalperspectivewiththeOxfordandCambridgeeditions.Commentsattemptto
explainthetextinlightofmodernlinguisticandarchaeologicalresearchwithoutatheologicalbias;however,the
authorsdoregularlypointoutwhattheyconsidertobeerrorsandinconsistencies(seetheintroductiontoExodus
andnotesatJosh.11:22;1Sam.2:1).Thenotesarethemostvoluminousofthethreeandalsocontain19intextmaps,
25charts,16colormaps,andanindex.
NewOxfordAnnotatedBible(Oxford,1977,1991)NRSV
ThisistherevisedandenlargededitionoftheOxfordAnnotatedBible(1962,1973,1977),widelyusedinmainline
ProtestantandRomanCatholicchurchesandastandardtextbookincolleges,seminaries,anddivinityschoolsfor
threedecades.ItenjoystheprestigeofhavingbeencoeditedbyBruceM.Metzger,chairpersonoftheNRSVBible
Committee.Some2,081pagesaredevotedtotheBible,Apocrypha,andstudyhelpsfrom36contributors.Features
includetwodozenessays,introductionsandannotationstoeachbookoftheBibleandApocrypha,16fullcolor
maps,andindexestoannotationsandmaps.AvailablewithandwithoutApocrypha,itisthestandard
nonconservativeeditionoftheNRSV.
OxfordStudyBible(Oxford,1992)REB
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Phone (704) 887-8200 and Fax (704) 887-8299
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ThisvolumeisarevisionandupdateoftheOxfordStudyEditionoftheNewEnglishBible(Oxford,1976).EditorM.
JackSuggsservedasNTeditortobothworks.Nineteenarticlesby20contributorsfill197pages.Eachbookineach
sectionhasitsownbriefintroduction,summarizingitscontentsandthescholarlyconsensusastoauthor,date,and
setting.Briefannotations,containingcommentaryandcrossreferences,areatthebottomofthepage.A21page
indextopeople,places,andthemesintheBiblefollows.FourteenOxfordBiblemapsroundoutthefeatures.

Nonconservative:RomanCatholic
ThefollowingthreestudyBiblesarepostVaticanIIinscholarshipandthusareverysimilarinperspectivetothe
mainlineProtestantBiblesabove,andthuscannotberecommendedtojournalreaders.UniqueistheirCatholic
distinctive,whichisoftenbroughtoutintheannotationstotheNABandNJB.
TheCatholicStudyBible(Oxford,1990)NAB
Thirteenscholars,includinggeneraleditorDonaldSenior,contributedtothe577pagesofReadingGuidesthat
precedethetext.ThesecontainbriefacademicintroductionsandsectionbysectionsurveysofeachbookoftheBible,
withbibliographiesforfurtherreading.
TheCatholicBible:PersonalStudyEdition(Oxford,1995)NAB
MostofthefeaturesofthisworkbuildonTheCatholicStudyBibleandarepresentedasReadingGuidestothe
booksoftheBibleinthefirst497pagesofthebook.TheseintroducethesectionsandbooksoftheBible,expandon
specialthemes,defineterms,andaskstudyquestions.ItwaseditedbyJeanMarieHiesbergerwithfourcontributors,
threeeditorialadvisors,andthreeeducationaladvisors.
NewJerusalemBible(Doubleday,1966,1985)
TheNJBandtheJerusalemBibleitreplacedwerebothtranslationsandstudyBiblesfromtheirbeginning,featuring
introductions,crossreferences,andannotations.ThesematerialswereproducedbytheEcoleBibliqueinJerusalem.
EachsectionoftheBible(e.g.,Pentateuch,Prophets,Gospels)isgivenitsownbroadintroduction.Specificbook
introductionsarealsoapartofthisgeneralliteraryandhistoricaltreatment.Thecrossreferencesandnotes,however,
aremorenumerousandmorethorough.ThenotesoccasionallyhaveadistinctCatholicflavor(e.g.,p.1969),butfor
themostpartrepresentawidelyacceptablecriticalapproach.

HOWTOCHOOSEASTUDYBIBLE
DeterminetheTranslation
ThemostimportantdecisiontomakewhenchoosingaBibleisselectingatranslation.Ifaparticulartranslationis
preferred,oneschoicesinstudyBiblesarenarrowedtoahandful.Ontheotherhand,ifonecannotdecidebetween
twoorthreetranslations,thestudyeditionitselfmaysettletheissue.
Sincethemid1980s,theNIVhasbeenthebestsellingEnglishBibleintheUS;togethertheNIVandtheKJVaccount
forasmuchas60percentofBiblesales.4MostmajorstudyBiblesareavailableinoneorbothoftheseversions.Also
inthetop10,withstudyeditionsrecommendedtojournalreaders,aretheNKJV,NRSV,andNASB.5Allofthese
versionsaredependableandusefulforseriousstudyandpersonaldevotions.

StudyBiblesReviewedinThisArticle
(*notrecommendedtojournalreaders)

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Phone (704) 887-8200 and Fax (704) 887-8299
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I.SubjectivelyOriented
A.Conservative:Dispensational
1.CompanionBible(Kregel)KJV
2.RyrieStudyBible(Moody,ExpandedEditions)KJV,NASB,NIV
3.ScofieldReferenceBible(Oxford)KJV
4.NewScofieldReferenceBible(Oxford)KJV,NIV,(World)NASB,
(Nelson)NKJV
B.Conservative:Evangelical
1.DisciplesStudyBible(Broadman&Holman)NIV
2.HarperStudyBible(Zondervan)NASB,NRSV
3.HebrewGreekKeyStudyBible(AMG)KJV,NASB
4.LifeApplicationBible(Tyndale)KJV,LB,NIV,NKJV,NRSV
5.NewStudentBible(Zondervan)KJV,NIV,NRSV
6.NIVStudyBible(Zondervan)NIV
7.TheQuestStudyBible(Zondervan)NIV
8.WordInLifeStudyBible([NT]Nelson)NKJV,NRSV
C.Conservative:Pentecostal/Charismatic
1.*DakesAnnotatedReferenceBible(Dake)KJV
2.FullLifeStudyBible(Zondervan)KJV,NIV
3.SpiritFilledLifeBible(Nelson)KJV,NKJV
4.*TheWordStudyBible(HarrisonHouse)KJV
D.Conservative:Reformed
NewGenevaStudyBible(Nelson)NKJV
E.Conservative:Wesleyan/Holiness
TheWesleyBible(Nelson)NKJV
F.Nonconservative:MainlineProtestant
1.*CambridgeAnnotatedStudyBible(Cambridge)NRSV
2.*HarperCollinsStudyBible(HarperCollins)NRSV
3.*NewOxfordAnnotatedBible(Oxford)NRSV
4.*OxfordStudyBible(Oxford)REB
G.Nonconservative:RomanCatholic
1.*TheCatholicBible:PersonalStudyEdition(Oxford)NAB
2.*TheCatholicStudyBible(Oxford)NAB
3.*NewJerusalemBible(Doubleday)
II.ObjectivelyOriented
A.DicksonNewAnalyticalStudyBible(World)KJV
B.NewOpenBible(Nelson,ExpandedEdition)KJV,NASB,NKJV
C.ThompsonChainReferenceBible(Kirkbride)KJV,NIV,NASB,NKJV

DetermineYourApproach
NewstudentsoftheBibleorthosewhosimplywanthelptounderstandwhattheyreadmaypreferaneditionthat
majorsinannotationstothetext,listedinsectionI(totherightofthispage)onsubjectivelyorientedstudyBibles.
Thefirstchoiceonemustmakerelatestogeneraltheologicalorientation:conservative,nonconservative,orCatholic.
Ifonechoosesaconservativeorientation(asthejournalrecommends),onessecondchoicemayinvolveamore
specifictheologicalalignment.Experiencedstudentsorthosewhowanttodigfortheirownanswerscanskipto
sectionIIonobjectivelyorientedstudyBibles.

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11

MakeComparisons;MakeYourChoice
Onceonefindsthesubdivisionofthecategorythatmostappealstoonesresearchneeds,allthatremainsisto
comparethevariousofferingsinthatsubdivisiontofindthemostusefulstudysystem.Onesfinalchoiceisaesthetic
andutilitarian:bindingandcolor.Onemaychooseapaperbackorclothedition,usuallyunder$40,before
committingtoagenuineleather,lifetimeBiblethatcansetonebackasmuchas$100.

JohnR.KohlenbergerIIIistheauthororcoeditorof25biblicalreferencebooksincludingWordsabouttheWord:A
GuidetoChoosingandUsingYourBible(Zondervan),AllaboutBibles(OxfordUniversityPress),andTheNIVExhaustive
Concordance(Zondervan).

NOTES
F.F.Bruce,TheHistoryoftheBibleinEnglish(NewYork:Oxford,1978),96.
Bibleversionabbreviationsusedinthisarticle:KJV(KingJamesVersion);LB(LivingBible);NAB(NewAmerican
Bible);NASB(NewAmericanStandardBible);NIV(NewInternationalVersion);NKJV(NewKingJamesVersion);
NRSV(NewRevisedStandardVersion);REB(RevisedEnglishBible);andRSV(RevisedStandardVersion).
3ForacomprehensiveChristiancritiqueofwordoffaiththeology,seeHankHanegraaff,ChristianityinCrisis
(Eugene,OR:HarvestHouse,1993).
4ThisisbasedonactualsalesstatisticspublishedbySpringArborDistributors,thelargestdistributorofChristian
bookstotheretailtrade,andmonthlysalesstatisticsgatheredandpublishedbyBookstoreJournal,theofficial
publicationoftheChristianBooksellersAssociation.
5Alsointhetop10aretheLBandTheMessage,neitherofwhichshouldbeusedforstudy;theNAB,whichisnot
availableinthestudyformatthatcanberecommendedtoJOURNALreaders;andtheNewCenturyVersion,which
isnotyetavailableinafullfeaturedStudyBible.
1
2

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