Aaron Burden via Unsplash
reproduced from The Messianic Walk
Tools for Studying the Bible
Each one of us, in our personal quests to study the Bible, does know that we need to have some key tools available at our disposal, for investigating things in more detail, and also for weighing whether or not some of the theological conclusions we might be coming to are at all accurate or appropriate. We are each called to be adequate students of God’s Word, and as good students we need to have the right resources to interpret the Bible, understand its background, and be respected in the wider world of ideas. Whether you are someone who will be involved in facilitating various teachings in your local Messianic congregation, helping in a Bible study, or you simply want to be a person who can add useful and constructive thoughts to discussions on Holy Scripture—not enough of today’s Messianic people are equipped with a selection of useful tools, to study the Bible, and enter into some conversation of Biblical Studies. While you may not need to have as an extensive library as I have in my office, there are a few resources which you need to consider adding to your personal library.
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Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible (ed. Spiros Zodhiates; Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1993)
The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, available in KJV, NASB, and NIV, has important words underlined and keyed to Strong’s Concordance. It includes an abbreviated Hebrew and Greek dictionary, and is a good tool to use for Bible studies with those who are completely unfamiliar with the original languages. Each book includes a brief introductory section. Note that it leans toward dispensational theology. The NASB edition due to its literalness in modern English is the preferred edition. This happens to be the main, personal reading Bible that I use and carry.
ESV Study Bible (ed. Grudem, Wayne, ed.; Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008)
The ESV Study Bible, employing the English Standard Version (2001), has become a significant, widely available, evangelical and conservative study Bible. The ESV Study Bible includes extensive introductions, annotations, and essays from many of the well known and appreciated evangelical scholars of the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries. The ESV Study Bible includes a wide selection of perspectives as they involve Biblical historicity, as well as theology. The ESV Study Bible does notably lean toward a Reformed or Calvinist perspective in many places, and there are things that today’s Messianic people would disagree with. Still, the ESV Study Bible, on the whole, is a useful tool for us to engage with a great deal of contemporary evangelical theology.
New Interpreter’s Study Bible, NRSV (ed. Harrelson, Walter J.; Nashville: Abingdon, 2003)
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible should be considered as a token, liberal study Bible. (This resource is actually not as liberal as various volumes in the Oxford Annotated Bible series are.) Today’s Messianic people do not tend to be well informed that much in critical theories surrounding the composition of the Tanach (OT), nor do they know how to approach various Left of Center schools of thought regarding interpretation of the Apostolic Writings (NT), either. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, while not too likely to be used as your primary study Bible, is nonetheless something that you will need, in order to be informed as to what many standard, liberal theological opinions have been, certainly going back to the mid-Twentieth Century. This publication also notably includes the books of the Apocrypha, along with introductions and annotations.
The Complete Jewish Study Bible (Rubin, Barry, gen. ed.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2016)
The Complete Jewish Study Bible includes an updated edition of David H. Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible. Most importantly, The Complete Jewish Study Bible is a compiled work of both Messianic Jewish and Christian scholars, including introductions, annotations, and select articles. For a number of these Messianic Jewish scholars and pioneers, this will be one of their last major theological contributions to the Messianic movement. There is a diversity of approach to a number of the issues addressed in this resource, and some of you may be surprised what Bible passages include annotations, and which do not. Still, no Messianic library should be without a copy of The Complete Jewish Study Bible.
Jewish Study Bible (eds. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004)
The Jewish Study Bible is an ecumenical Jewish resource including perspectives from Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Judaism based on the NJPS translation. It does represent some liberal theology in various places, but overall is a good, easy-to-access reference source to have for Jewish perspectives on Scripture. Each book includes an introduction, most texts include commentary, essays on various Jewish theological issues are included, and there is a thorough glossary of theological terms unique to Judaism.
Hebrew and Greek Language Tools
Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (eds. Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter; Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003)
Easy-to-use volume for referencing Hebrew words for those who are unfamiliar with the Hebrew language. Words are keyed to Strong’s Concordance numbers and include a brief theological explanation.
Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (ed. Spiros Zodhiates; Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1993)
Excellent lay resource to have for referencing Greek words, by a native Greek speaker. Words are keyed to Strong’s Concordance numbers and include a detailed theological explanation. This dictionary is slightly influenced by dispensational theology.
Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4 vols (ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988)
ISBE is a good, well respected encyclopedia in both conservative and liberal circles. A revision of the original 1915 edition, the present version reflects new scholarship and many more theological points of view. ISBE is generally more conservative than the newer ABD, but does not include as many Jewish references.
Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 vols (ed. David Noel Freedman; New York: Doubleday, 1992)
ABD has become a standard, relatively up-to date Bible dictionary, in many conservative or liberal theological circles. Theologically it is liberal in many places, but is quite factual in terms of archaeology, manuscript information, and history. What is unique about ABD is that it is a major work produced with Jewish-Christian dialogue in mind, and Rabbinical opinions and extra-Biblical Jewish sources are referenced every bit as much as Christian opinions and outside sources are referenced.
Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period (eds. Jacob Neusner and William Scott Green; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002)
Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period is an excellent, one-volume reference work listing critical topics unique to First Century Judaism, their relation to Rabbinical Judaism and the development of early Christianity, and background historical information of the time.
Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (ed. David W. Bercot; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998)
Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs is a valuable tool to have if you are unfamiliar with the writings of the Church Fathers from Second-Fourth Century Christianity. The Church Fathers’ theological positions on a diverse range of subjects are listed by heading with elongated quotations.