College students are nothing if not idealistic. I recall sitting around a table once with other members of my Greek class. For the uninitiated, Greek is a foreign language. And the form of it that ministerial types study in college and seminary is considered a “dead language” meaning it isn’t spoken/used any more. It’s kind of like studying Old or Middle English—nobody uses those words or those forms of those words anymore. We were all fascinated by the nuances that began to open themselves up to us as we studied the New Testament in the language that the writers of the books wrote in. We learned the different degrees to which someone could do or say something and it excited us. A couple of us determined that as we learned more about the language we would do our own translation of the New Testament—better than anything already available.

I’m not sure where the other men went with the idea, but I the best I’ve been able to accomplish is a couple of extended passages, and that for later classes in the study of Koine (or biblical) Greek. The older I get the more I realize that I am still (and more so) dependent on deeper scholars than myself for the learning and reading of the written Word of God. That’s okay though, because I’m required to do more and more study as the days go by. And this brings us to today’s advice—get yourself (if you haven’t already) a good study Bible.

Personally, I haven’t found and bought the study Bible that’s just right for me yet, but I’m still looking. Perhaps you can make a comment and recommend the best SB for my Bible buying dollar. If you are wondering (and don’t feel qualified to make a suggestion because you’re wondering), a study Bible is a wonderful tool that includes (often among other things) a copy of the Scriptures (hence, it is a study Bible), reference materials such as concordance and Bible dictionary, often some charts or maps in the back, but most of all—and what makes it specifically a study Bible—notes on the Scriptures that make each passage clearer for the reader.

Depending on which SB you choose, these notes will be based on the notes of a well-known and sometimes respected theologian or take advantage of a team of experts who will shed light on the passages as you read them. Some popular study Bibles which have been circulating for a number of years are the Scofield and Ryrie Study Bibles. In recent years we have seen other, newer options arise—MacArthur Study Bible, the Life Application Bible, and the ESV and HCSB Study Bibles to name a few.

One thing to remember when reading your study Bible—the scripture is inspired by God. This refers to the text of books like Lamentations, Haggai, and Philemon. The translation itself is not necessarily going to be exact, it will be the result of hours upon hours spent by experts, theologians and other eggheads to find the best or most precise rendering from the earliest possible manuscripts into modern language so that it is readable, understandable, and accurate. On the other hand, the commentary, historical remarks, and other study helps are indeed NOT the inspired work of the Holy Spirit—no matter how matter-of-factly or expertly they are asserted. So, when you read your SB, make good use of the study tools included, but remember it is the words of the apostle Paul, or the prophet Jeremiah that are to be taken as set in stone.

Indeed, get you a study Bible to use as you prepare your Sunday school lesson, your devotional thought, or your blog entry. Use it to help you study the Scriptures (just as  you would a good, reliable commentary), but stake your life on the Word of God, not Schofield or Ryrie’s commentary. And while your at it don’t forget to recommend (or better yet send me) a nice reliable study Bible for my growing library.