A wise student of the Bible uses sharp tools. Here are some beneficial tools for studying the Bible on your own:
A Quality Translation of the Bible: The goal of a translator is to convey as accurately as possible the meaning of a text written in another language. Some translations, like the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible, attempt to do that word-by-word. They are sometimes called literal translations. Other translations like the New International Version attempt to do that thought-by-thought.
Paraphrases of the Bible, like the Living Bible, restate or reword passages in more contemporary language to make the meaning of the original text more understandable. Paraphrases are helpful in giving a new perspective on a passage, but they are not translations.
To do word studies and cross-referencing, you need to use a translation, not a paraphrase. For a list of Bible translations and paraphrases, go to http://www.prayerfoundation.org/bible_translations_comparison.htm
Study Bible: Any quality study Bible will increase your ability to study the Bible on your own. Many study Bibles are available, like the New Inductive Study Bible, the NIV Study Bible, The Ryrie Study Bible, The Scofield Reference Bible, and the ESV Study Bible. Go to http://www.christianbook.com or your local Christian bookstore and browse through some of them. You want your study Bible to have the following tools:
cross references: shows the reader what the Bible says elsewhere about a word, topic, or phrase
subject-chain references: enables a reader to sequentially trace a word or topic from one reference to the next in the Bible.
footnotes: the translators’ or scholars’ comments about a verse or topic
maps: visual aids to help you place and trace biblical events and people
concordance: an index of verses in which a specific word is used
Bible Dictionary: Unger’s Bible Dictionary contains clear, thorough definitions of every subject and a biography of every person in the Bible. We also recommend the Revell Bible Dictionary. Online dictionaries are available. Just use your search engine and type in “Bible dictionary” or go to http://bibleencyclopedia.com
Concordance with Hebrew/Greek Lexicon: The classic concordance is Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Most laypeople don’t speak Greek or Hebrew, but we still want to know what words meant in the original languages. We also want to know where else a specific word appeared in the Bible. An online version of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is available at http://www.blueletterbible.org (Lexicon is a fancy name for a dictionary of Greek, Hebrew, or Latin.) Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words is also a helpful resource.
Bible Sprout: http://www.biblesprout.com/ provides Christian Bible study resources on the web, including an online Bible, Christian articles, devotionals, Bible dictionaries, and lexicons. Check out the many ways this website can help you dig deep into God’s Word.
Blue Letter Bible < http://www.blueletterbible.org> features a variety of Bible translations and paraphrases, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible among other terrific Bible study tools. Once you’re hooked on word studies, you’ll use this website almost every day.
A Biblical History Text: Leon Wood’s A Survey of Israel’s History (Zondervan) is an excellent resource. It provides a clear, easy-to-read, history of God’s people from the patriarchs to the close of the Old Testament period (around 400 BC).
Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts. This valuable tool provides reproducible maps and charts for each book of the Bible. Its timelines, overviews, tables and diagrams help students focus on key issues and information.
With the Word: This devotional commentary on the whole Bible in one volume is written by Warren Wiersbe (Thomas Nelson Publishers). For each chapter of each book of the Bible, Wiersbe gives a summary of the text’s theme, major points, and some basic spiritual applications. It’s always helpful to have an overview of a chapter before you “dig deeper.” You might also want to check out The New Bible Commentary, recently revised and published by Eerdmans.
Online Etymology Dictionary: Words are amazing! An English dictionary may contain over 180,00 words. What do they all mean and where did they all come from? Etymology means “ an account of the history of a particular word or a part of that word.” This online tool will give you the history of every word in the English language– http://www.etymonline.com