Hello and welcome to today’s Miscellaneous Musings. I thought I would write a blog here today on basic Bible Study supplements to help aid in one’s spiritual and intellectual growth in the Word. As just like equipment like treadmills, weights, and jump ropes, can help fine tune our physical exercise, so too can certain tools help to fine tune our spiritual exercises in God’s Word. I’ll start out by recommending some good ‘Bible Helps’ that you can use in the course of your private Bible study, and then do my best to go into the benefits of each item, then at the end will provide links to said items so that those interested can go and seek them out. This will most likely be a two part series here, so look for part two to be posted sometime tomorrow.
I have a shelf or two full of many different kinds of Biblically related books, the following are the ones I’ve found most useful so far… To begin with I’m going to denote the original term ‘Bible Helps’ into a few different key areas… These are just my own personal preferences, as of right now; I share them in the hope that they might prove of help, but of course, the Holy Spirit deals with us all as individuals, and He may lead you into different resources and avenues depending upon your own particular calling. First off, I am going to take it for granted that most of us already have the only really essential component needed here… A Bible… I could get into a whole discussion on translations and different study Bibles, but both of those subjects are in my humble opinion anyway, worthy of their own lengthy dissertations which I may write as a separate piece apart but not altogether dissimilar from the goals intended in this blog here today. For the time being though, I’ll gloss over this part and take for granted that everyone reading this already possesses a Bible, in a trustworthy translation of some sort that they currently can depend on.
So now to begin with, we’ll start with the meat and bones of basic Bible helps, the Concordance. You normally have one in the back of even your most basic Bibles, but I view these as mostly useless and find them ineffective even in the most simple of Biblical word studies, so if you are seeking a more serious kind of study in that regard, you will have to dig into the piggy bank a little.
The concordance I consult most often is The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. This was what was recommended to me early on, and I’ve found little reason to deviate from it since. I know Young’s is also a popular choice and I have since bought one of those too, but I generally still stick to Strong’s for a couple reasons I will bring up in a minute. The advantage of a good concordance is that it will enable you take up many fruitful word studies, and do so in a way that bridges the Biblical language gap… Say for instance you happen to remember part of a verse from somewhere in the Old Testament with the phrase “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” in it, and you would like to know where that comes from so you can read the rest of the verse as well as the surrounding verses to get the appropriate context. You can then look up the words fear, Lord, beginning, knowledge, all in the concordance until you find a verse with that exact phrase, upon which you’ll then find that the verse you were seeking was none other than Proverbs 1:7 which says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Another useful feature here is that if you want to do a full on word study of how the Bible uses certain terms from Genesis to Revelation in the original Biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, you can do so without having to spend the years required to learn the aforementioned languages. So for example, you could zero in on the word ‘love’ and track its usage from one end of the Bible to the other in different forms to get a clearer understanding of God’s love for you and me, and the love we are to have for one another as well… Strong’s is also numbered in both Hebrew and Greek so you can take the number of the Hebrew or Greek word translated ‘love’ in whatever verse you happen to be in, flip over to the Hebrew or Greek section of the concordance, and then track down that specific word to see a list of all the times it is used in the Bible and what English word or words that it is most often translated into.
The possibilities are truly endless, so I won’t even attempt to begin to list them all here, other than those most basic ones. For a topical concordance, again, there are many to choose from, but I personally love the series of books penned by Dr. Herbert Lockyer, who devoted his life to the study of God’s Word and wrote many classic commentaries, but is probably most famous for his ‘All Series’ which covers a lot of topical ground and is normally entitled something to the effect of ‘All the ____ in the Bible’ and among the topics he covered in his lifetime was ‘All the Men in the Bible’, as well as all the women, all the messianic prophecies, kings, prayers, promises, Divine Titles, angels, and ‘holy days’….. and that’s not even the half of it. These are kind of hard to find, but I was able to build up a sizable collection of them off of Amazon, and they have proven invaluable for the most part. For a more thorough method of topical study though, skip down a paragraph to the section on Biblical Encyclopedias.
The next essential piece of equipment to obtain goes hand in hand with a concordance, and that is a Bible Dictionary. Again you can find basic ones in the backs of most Bibles, but beyond Sunday school simplicities, these will quickly prove to become “obsolete” by the time you wish to advance to anything beyond that. The dictionary I use (and there are many) is once again made by Strong’s and is specialized to focus on original root words. I use this because it separates all the Bible words in the three languages of the Bible as well as giving a basic one or two line definition of every word from every language located within the Biblical text… The one I have also uses the same numbering system as my Strong’s Concordance, which makes crosschecking a breeze, and near the front of the book you have all the English words of the Bible listed along with the different symbolic numbers and the pages in which the words they represent can be located. Another kind of dictionary, which serves a different purpose, but is closely related, is an ‘expository dictionary’, for which the one I use is made by ‘Vines’ (but still carries over the Strong’s numbering system conveniently enough)… This kind of dictionary provides much more in depth and encyclopedic definitions and will quickly become a treasure for anyone serious about word studies. You lose a little of the scope you get with the basic dictionaries, but the depth is such that it more than makes up for that. There are many other English only dictionaries, which are of varying degrees of usefulness, and run the gambit in terms of special purposes.
If you would rather focus your Biblical studies by subject rather than terminology, though, the next thing to get your hand on is a set of Bible Encyclopedias. These are massive tomes that pool together more data than most people will ever need in their entire lifetime. Some of them are dry and scholarly, others are engaging and dynamic. The two sets I own and use are ‘The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia’ and ‘Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible’ both of which come in five volume sets. These books carry a wealth of information about nearly everything you can think of related to the Bible in terms of its people, locations, themes, and various other subjects, and they will be books that you will return to again and again, for insight and background information in keeping with whatever particular kind of study you may be engaged in.
Well, that’s all the damage I feel I can do for today. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this. I hope it has not been time spent in vain. Check back in tomorrow for part two of this series on Biblical Helps, where we will cover lightly, the subject of maps/atlases, commentaries, and church histories. Shalom, and see you then.