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Posted: Oct 5, 2020

Study Bibles for Adults: An Introduction

Before we ask what a study Bible is it might be helpful to ask another question: what is the Bible, anyway? We might think of the Bible as just one, big book; Bibles do sit on our shelves a just one book and the word “Bible” is even derived from the Latin “biblia” which just means “book.” But the Bible isn’t just a book, the Bible is actually a great many books from a variety of authors writing in numerous different times and even in different languages and genres. For example, the Gospels fall into a genre called “ancient biography” and come from between the late first and early second centuries AD where they were written in Greek, but Genesis is a Hebrew text which has large portions that likely fit into the genre “mytho-history” and was probably written in the sixth to fifth centuries BC. But these very different books are put together into just one bound volume we call our Bible!

All this might seem intimidating or confusing, and many of us may hesitate to do much Bible reading for these sorts of reasons. But there is no reason for us to be afraid of the text or avoid reading it outside of church. In fact, the Bible is written by authors inspired by God and so has important words for us to hear each and every day. So to assist us in overcoming the foreignness the Bible can often seem to exhibit we have wonderful tools called study Bibles. Study Bibles have all the same parts as a typical Bible, but they also have notes, commentary, maps, and other pieces of helpful information provided by scholars of the Old and New Testaments to help us learn more about Scripture, the world its books hail from, and what it might mean for us today.

It is imperative that as Christians we immerse ourselves in Scripture to hear what God is saying to us through it, better understand our faith, and be equipped to share our witness to Jesus Christ. Below are three study Bibles that you might find useful to your explorations of Scripture:

The HarperCollins Study Bible, $35.99
From the publisher:The HarperCollins Study Bible – Student Edition is the landmark general reference Bible that offers the full text of the New Revised Standard Version as well as in-depth articles, introductions, and comprehensive notes by today’s leading biblical scholars for the Society of Biblical Literature. Completely revised and updated, this edition incorporates the latest scholarship and findings as well as incorporating new diagrams, charts, and maps – 25% revised or new material.”

The New Oxford Annotated Bible, $45.00
From the publisher: “For over 50 years students, professors, clergy, and general readers have relied on The New Oxford Annotated Bible as an unparalleled authority in Study Bibles. This fifth edition of the Annotated remains the best way to study and understand the Bible at home or in the classroom. This thoroughly revised and substantially updated edition contains the best scholarship informed by recent discoveries and anchored in the solid Study Bible tradition… The New Oxford Annotated Bible, with twenty new essays and introductions and others – as well as annotations – fully revised, offers the reader flexibility for any learning style. Beginning with a specific passage or a significant concept, finding information for meditation, sermon preparation, or academic study is straightforward and intuitive.”

The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, $49.99
From the publisher: “You’ve heard many Bible stories hundreds of times, but how many details are you missing? Sometimes a little context is all you need to discover the rich meaning behind even the most familiar stories of Scripture. That’s what the NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides. Every page of this NRSV Bible is packed with expert insight into the customs, culture, and literature of biblical times. These fascinating explanations will serve to clarify your study of the Scriptures, reinforcing your confidence and bringing difficult passages of Scripture into sharp focus… Expertly designed for the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) text, Zondervan’s exclusive Comfort Print® delivers a smooth reading experience that complements the foremost Bible translation vetted by Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Jewish scholars. Renowned for its beautiful balance of scholarship and readability, the NRSV faithfully serves the church in personal spiritual formation, in the liturgy, and in the academy.”

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