How many bibles do you have? And how did you select the one you use the most?

At one time that would have been a weird question to me. I had the same bible from my grandmother for most of my life. Then about 10 or 12 years ago I began searching for the one.  

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You know, the one bible that covers it all because no two bibles are just alike. Whether your aim is to read, study, journal. Different needs call for a different bible. And with there being many bible publishers and translations this increases the offerings.

And the confusion…

Bible Study and Bible Readings

In the most recent survey, you shared that you most enjoyed reading about Bible Study and Bible Reading on my blog.

Do you receive The Influencers Newsletter? If so, this is a re-share and is the reason for this post. Here are a couple questions from the survey:

Question: Which of my subject categories do you enjoy most? Check all that apply.

  1. Bible study / Bible reading 83%
  2. Personal Development 69.4%
  3. Christian Living  66.7%

Question: Which of the following topics would you be interested in learning about? Check all that apply.

  1. Spiritual Growth 61.1%
  2. Accountability / Creativity 47.2%
  3. Spirituality / Life/Work Balance  44.4%

Did this include your responses? If not, you can still take the survey HERE

Given the results of the survey I think it is important to start with your sword. What factors are important to consider when searching for the perfect study bible?

Here are my Top 3

Factor #1: Will You Read It?

I am starting with the only real question you need to answer. Will you read it?

There are a million translations—I’m exaggerating but there are a lot. And for many people this means they default to King James Version due to upbringing. 

As a bible study teacher, I understand why you would select the King James Version, however, I find that most of my students will not read it because they can’t get past the “thous”, “shalls” and such. They come to bible study with fresh, crisp pages that they never read or open until we gather.

This is never good.

Thus, the first factor for you to determine is whether you will read it. Will you use it to study? Will you roll over in  your bed in the morning and reach for it? Or will you only go to it when you have to attend church?

Reading it, studying it is key. There are bibles meant for display but not a study bible. A study bible is meant to weather constant referencing. Some may even endure highlighting, notes and markings. But none of this will happen if you don’t read it.

[shareable cite=”Dana Pittman”]A study bible is meant to weather constant referencing. [/shareable]

Factor #2: Does it Include Study Resources?

I wish I knew this before purchasing several “study bibles”. I did not realize the importance of a well equipped reference section until it was missing from several of my translations.


Publishers vary on what they offer but I find the following required to study:

  • Dictionary: The dictionary defines common biblical terms within the context of scripture. It helps the reader understand a words meaning from a perspective of knowing God. (Read more here.) 
  • Concordance: The concordance lists words (and some bibles include phrases) alphabetically and where are found in the bible (Read more here.)
  • Cross references: Cross references identifies other verses or passages in the bible which concerns the topic or verse. This tool is like a gold mine. I believe most bibles cross reference but not to the same degree. The more extensive this feature is the better, in my opinion.

Many of the references are abbreviated. Yet having these sections in your bible are invaluable. They make digging through scripture and unearthing the treasures within easier and rewarding. You will walk away with a better understanding.

[shareable cite=”Dana Pittman”]A good study bible makes digging through scripture and unearthing the treasures within easier and rewarding.[/shareable]


There are other characteristics that are not required but they are helpful:

  • Charts: Some publishers take the time to compile similar content and place the details in a chart. For example, “Names of God”. My favorite charts are those which compare biblical concepts like obedience and disobedience. Charts will then point to where the passages are located in your bible. Charts vary from publisher to publisher.
  • Book summaries: The first section of a bible book may include a summary. The summary gives you a general understanding of the time, audience, author, etc. Again, publishers vary in the details they include. For me, the summary is like planting you in that day and that time. Key details are clear later in the book, however, things like the dates, rulers, author may not be as obvious without the summary.
  • Book outlines: I consider this an advance feature but another great one. An outline of the book is sometimes included in the opening matter of the book. This is helpful to determine the flow, subject matter and key partitions in the book that are not always noted by section breaks.
  • Maps: Maps seem obvious. They too vary. Newer maps include rulers, empires, ministries and much more.


Other resources I’m noticing in newer study bibles are:

  • Articles: Articles is a broad way of expressing the presentation of content by outsiders. Somewhat like commentary. 
  • “How to” sections: These sections include How to Read the Bible, How to Study the Bible, Interpreting the Bible, etc. The list is endless but the purpose is important. They aim to help the reader navigate from cover to cover of the bible.
  • Indexes: This is how you find it all. Some indexes are listed in alphabetical order, others are in order of appearance in that particular bible. I find this helpful because it assists in locating the wealth of resources within your bible.

…And notes, which I’ll cover in the next section.

Factor #3: Does it Include Study Notes?

Notes are a major component of a study bible. For many bibles the notes run along the bottom portion of the page. The verse is notated then it expands to include history, context, application, etc. Again, the content varies. In my opinion, notes are good but not necessary. This is why I have it listed as the final factor. 

I find notes are extremely helpful when you first begin to study. But it can also become a crutch. It can keep you from digging deep because someone is providing the “answers” for you. Again, this is my opinion. For me it is not a deciding factor yet I love having a bible with notes that help me see the passages clearer. 

What factors are important to you?

I did not cover translations, electronic bibles or audience specific bibles in detail. The goal was to share the basics because selecting the right bible is a personal venture. But I believe if you consider each of these factors it will help you find your perfect study bible.

What factors do you consider when purchasing a study bible?


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