As I began reading through the bible this year, I realized the importance of having the right tools available to help me understand what scripture is saying and the signifacance of each and every word. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a theologian so my skills and resources are kind of limited. No matter, all understanding comes from the Holy Spirit but luckily, God has provided several good tools to help me along the way.
First, a good study bible is one of the best tools available. Personally, I recommend
. With these editors, I am confident that the scriptural and doctrinal notes are biblically sound and accurate. Even when dealling with controversial subjects, the authors provide the differing viewpoints but then point out which is most consistent with Reformed theology.
Now in addition to The Reformation Study Bible (ESV), I also have a NKJV Reformation Study Bible, a pocket sized NASB and the classic NIV bible. Now you may wonder why anyone needs four bibles but in reality, the ESV and NIV are my wife’s and the NKJV and NASB are mine. One study bible and one travel bible each. But the reason we have four translations is simple – he more the merrier. When studying the word of God, I’ve found that when I get to a passage or verse that doesn’t seem clear, I can compare the different translations and find what common message are they sending. This helps avoid misinterpretation and misunderstanding where a sentance could have more than one meaning. As for why these four translations…I like wodr for word translations, especially when studying the word. Here’s an excerpt from an article at TheResurgence.com where Mark Driscoll explains why the elders of Mars Hill Church decided to transition from the NIV to the English Standard Version (ESV) as their primary pulpit translation.
Word-for-word translations (also known as literal translations) make a special effort to carefully interpret each word from their original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic into English. Word-for-word translations emphasize God, the divine author of Scripture, over the human reader of Scripture. The result is a striving for the precision of what the Bible says, much like one would expect in other important communications, such as legal documents, marriage vows, or contracts. Word-for-word translations are generally a high school reading level.
Word-for-word translations tend to be the best for studying because of their accuracy, though they sometimes lose the poetic nuances of the original languages. Probably the best word-for-word translations are the English Standard Version (ESV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the New King James Version (NKJV). The King James Version (KJV) is also a word-for-word translation, but because of its use of old English, it is very difficult for some people to read. The NASB was widely regarded as the most scholarly word-for-word translation until the arrival of the ESV. It did not become widely popular, however, because of its tight copyright and sometimes stiff translation of poetry that lost some of the beauty of the original writings. Thankfully, the ESV has preserved the degree of accuracy present in the NASB while also doing a better job of translating the poetic parts of Scripture in a more fluid manner.
If you can’t get a new bible there are other resources available. First, and most importantly, FreeBibles.net. FreeBibles.net mails a new or gently-used Holy Bible to the poor and imprisoned, anywhere in the United States, completely free-of-charge. Your Bible and mailing costs are donated by like-minded individuals and Christian churches. While this service is a great blessing, if you want a specific translation then you should consider one of the online bible sites. Two that I use when my bible isn’t handy are blueletterbible.org and biblegateway.com. Bible Gateway is really good for when you want a varity of translations for straight reading. BlueLetterBible.org is best when you want a more in-depth study that includes commentaries, Strong’s cocordinance, and a side-by-side translation comparison. Combine both of these with e-Sword.net, a free Bible study software for Windows that is feature rich and user friendly. Download and install e-Sword to prepare great sermons and awesome Bible studies.
One Year Bible Reading Plan. This tract is based on the M’Cheyne reading system, featuring four different readings for use in both family and personal devotions. Each day has two passages from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and one from either the Psalms or the Gospels. In one year, you read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice.