A few months ago we mentioned 5 commentators you should listen to. Of course, you should study the Bible for yourself as well. If you’re just beginning, what books should you have on your shelf? You’ll be surprised you can acquire a firm foundation and don’t have to break the bank or install massive bookshelves.
1. A Good Bible
We wrote a primer on Bible translation for those interested in the subject, but the basic study library requires two translations.
- A literal translation — NKJV, KJV (preferred) or NASB. This will be your primary Bible.
- A paraphrase. I’d recommend the New Living (NLT).
Normally you’ll use a literal translation, but the first thing to do when you come to a passage you don’t understand is try a paraphrase and see if that helps clear it up.
My favorite Bible remains the 1967 Scofield KJV, but for some reason it goes in and out of print, so getting one isn’t always easy.
Are there words, countries, or items you’ve never heard of? A good Bible encyclopedia will give you a page or so on just about anything in the Bible.
If you don’t know who the Medes are, help is available from a good Bible encyclopedia.
Using a paraphrase and encyclopedia you can understand what the text says, what does it mean? For that you might want a commentary or two.
You can get the 5 volume J Vernon McGee commentary for about $70. If you like audio, Chuck Smith’s entire Bible commentary on MP3 for $30. Either/both will provide you with a solid foundation and assist you in both application and meaning.
All the Above in One Book
If I could only have one book, it would be the Thompson chain reference Bible. It combines a little of each previous category along with an incredible cross-referencing system. Get it first and you’ll have a good start on your library.
Also don’t forget on-line tools like Blue Letter Bible featuring a wealth of commentaries, translations, language helps, and more.
It’s really not hard to acquire a basic home study library and will serve you well. Because at 3AM you’ve got what you’ve got, and your ability to perform depends on your preparation.