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Tools for Studying Scripture

Afterword Table of

With today’s resources, it is not difficult for the average layman to do some fairly in-depth Scripture studies, and to become quite well-informed as to what it says. Scripture was written for laymen to understand. There are a great number of resources available today. I would advise most laymen to proceed slowly in building up your study resources. You can spend a lot of money on books that you end up not using much. The following are some basic tools that I think most people will find helpful:

Study Bibles

A good annotated Bible. There are many of these available, with annotations for different purposes. Consult your pastor, or other mature Christians, as to which they think would be most useful for you. For those fairly new to the study of Scripture, the Life Application Bible (available for various translations), can be useful in suggesting the relevance of Scripture to today’s problems and concerns. I like to use a Bible with wide enough margins so that I can make my own annotations.

Taking Notes

Some take notes on sermons and teachings that they hear, seminars and workshops they attend, things that occur to them as they read their Bible, etc. Some keep these in a notebook or journal. I tend to use scraps of paper which I then mislay—not a recommended procedure!

Concordances and
Bible Dictionaries

For more detailed study you will want an exhaustive concordance, such as Strong’s, and a good Bible Dictionary. There are also exhaustive, multi-volume theological dictionaries of both the Old and the New Testament. These can be valuable to scholars, but I suggest that they are too expensive and too technical for most average laymen. There are also numerous commentaries on each book of the Bible. Some are technical, delving into the meaning of many of the words used. Some are practical, suggesting the application of the Scripture text to daily problems and concerns. Some can be called inspirational. Commentaries can become expensive. I suggest that you explore the different commentaries available rather carefully before deciding to buy a commentary.

What is a concordance and why is it valuable? An exhaustive concordance lists every Scripture verse that contains a particular English word. It has two main uses: (1) to enable you to find a Scripture verse if you can quote even one word of it accurately, and (2) to enable you to look at all the Scripture verses that use a particular word, and thus get a feeling for the scope and implications of that word. This is what we call doing word studies, and I find them very useful. Many Bibles have partial concordances, but they are not as useful as an exhaustive one.

Bible Study Software

If you have a computer, a good Scripture computer program can be invaluable, and is probably the least expensive and most convenient way of gathering together the research tools that you will want. If you have them in the computer program, you will not need to buy the books. There are a number of such programs available. They are not cheap, so you will want to look into alternatives carefully. A good program should contain:

  • The English text of the Bible in the translation you use, keyed to definitions of each word used in the original text.
  • English texts of several translations of the Bible, so that you can compare different translations of the same passage.
  • An exhaustive concordance with a versatile, user-friendly search capability.
  • A good Bible Dictionary. Strong’s has such a dictionary. I like to use Vine’s also.
  • A good Bible Encyclopedia.
  • A good print-out capability. This is sometimes done by storing the information you need (on a clipboard, notepad or some such name), transferring it to your word processing program, and then printing it out from that program.

For those with computer access, there are also a great number of websites on the Internet dealing with particular areas and issues.

Greek and Hebrew

I do not read either Greek or Hebrew. For real Scripture scholarship, a reading knowledge of both is indispensable. But for the ordinary layman, it is quite possible, by using the resources mentioned above, to get a pretty good feel for the meaning, and even some of the nuances, of some of the original Hebrew and Greek words of the Bible.

Study Resources

Following are some good study resources.

  • Strong—James Strong, Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible and Dictionary of the Greek Bible. These are part of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1894).
  • Vine—W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger & William White, Jr., An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1984).
  • Zodhiates—Spiros Zodhiates, Ed. Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, King James Version (Chattanooga, Tennessee: AMG Publishers, 1991).


Copyright 2004 by James L. Morrisson