The Five Basic Tools for Bible Study:

1. Concordance

an index of every word found in the Bible. It allows you to find words and look up the original language, using the Strong’s numbering system.

  • It is important to note that a concordance is linked to a particular English translation of the Bible. If you try to look up a word that you read in the NRSV or the NIV, and use the Strong’s Concordance, you might not find the word in that verse. That’s because the Strong’s Concordance is linked to the King James Version (KJV).
  • Here are links to two print versions of concordances (remember that you can do all the work of a concordance using the online tools below).

2. Bible Handbook

provides an introduction to each book of the Bible, including author, audience, main themes, and outline. Here are some Bible Handbooks:

3. Bible Dictionary

an alphabetical listing of major topics, people, and places found in the Bible.

4. Atlas

a guide to the geography and history of the stories found in the Bible. Here are some Bible Atlases:

5. Commentaries

a scholar’s interpretation and “play-by-play” of each book, chapter, and verse of the Bible. Commentaries come in many shapes and sizes. Some are designed for the layperson (meaning someone not formally trained in seminary). Some are designed for preachers and pastors (these go more into the original languages and historical context). Some are designed for the scholar and go deep into theory, and are generally very difficult to read.

  • A warning about commentaries:
    1. Don’t consult commentaries until AFTER you have done your own observation and interpretation work. Commentaries are a scholar’s interpretation of the text.
    2. Know the author before you read the commentary. You can read ten commentaries on the same passage of scripture and get ten very different interpretations. That’s because the commentator is writing from and for a particular theological lens, e.g. Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Jewish, Muslim, etc.
  • Here are some readable commentaries:

A One-Stop Shop: The Study Bible

The first and most basic way to access these tools is through a Study Bible. We recommend the Lutheran Study Bible. A study Bible has an abbreviated version of all the tools listed above, in one convenient volume.

Online Tools

The beautiful thing about the digital age and the internet is that you can access all these tools for free online. Here are four sites that I would recommend.

biblia is a product of a company called FaithLife. They originate from a fairly conservative Evangelical perspective, but have a very generous attitude toward the diversity of the Church. Read their statement on diversity here. They are the makers of the Bible Study Software that I have been using since the early 1990s. It is the best on the market, in my opinion. It is called Logos.

This is a for-profit website (that means you will get lots of ads) but it has a robust library of tools. You will notice how the organization of their resources reflects the list above.

Enter the Bible is a ministry of Luther Seminary. It offers succinct summaries of every book of the Bible written by Luther Seminary Bible scholars.

This is my ever-expanding library of visual commentaries on the Bible. Enjoy!

Explore Every Book of the Bible

Find cartoons, illustrations, videos, commentaries, and other helpful information about every book of the Bible.

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