If the subject of Scripture, and especially Bible versions, bores you, turn away now. Turn away and rethink your relationship with our Lord Jesus. I won’t say you aren’t saved, but to use a common analogy, you’re trying to live your spiritual life on gospel milk. Can you imagine an adult who has lived only on milk all his life?
Now, to the meat.
I like to think of myself as immune to controversy, but the dispute between the King James Only people and everyone else keeps me engaged in the stupidity. First, I like the KJV, and the NKJV, the ESV, the HCS(Holman Christian Standard), the old RSV, and on occasion, even the NIV. When I need more in-depth study I reference more literal versions like the Amplified Bible, Young’s Literal Translation, and the Expanded Translation to obtain a broader sense of what the “experts” think about any particular passage. And if that doesn’t cut it, I resort to commentaries—just remember, though, that commentaries are nothing more than some guy’s comments(duhh!) on Scripture passages. And if I need to dig deeper still, I access the original language lexicons, but unfortunately they aren’t cheap, let alone free.
With no offense intended to the KJV-only folks, I have to say all Bible translations and versions are the products of fallible human-type beings. Even the hallowed King James Version has been corrected extensively since it was first published in 1611. In other words (don’t stop reading if you take offense at this), all Biblical source texts and translations contain errors, ranging from just a few in the better ones, to absolutely apostate errors in “translations” such as the New World Translation from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most conservative, evangelical scholars say only the original manuscripts were inerrant, and since those are long lost, we do our best with what we have. I believe God honors our intentions and keeps us in his Way, despite all that humans can do to mess it up.
So, how can a novice Bible student know she’s getting God’s perfect truth from her NIV Study Bible? By studying carefully and frequently, comparing various resources to find the renderings that most closely align with the balance of Scripture. But there’s a two-pronged catch: First, you have to know, or at least have a working knowledge of, the Bible. That takes time and commitment. Second, you—or, at least I—can’t do such diligent study on a tight schedule, so read the entire passage you need to cover, then return to any portions that need clarification. Caution: The more you know about God’s Word, the more you will know you don’t know about it. That’s because the finite number of words within the Bible become, through the Holy Spirit’s influence, an infinite resource.
While that is a relatively safe Bible study bet, Christ-followers must go an important step further to gain that Holy Spirit influence; always, before you start any Bible study, commit your every thought to its Author, the Lord Jesus Christ. And never trust your own opinions, ’cause they’re likely wrong. Instead, let God lead as you prayerfully submit every question and conclusion to him. To do that, you must pray for God to reveal your heart’s purpose, your inner motives, and willingly repent of any hidden intent to subvert Scripture and prove your preconceptions right.
Now, that covers your attitude toward, and your approach to, God’s word. There are, however, way too many individual methods and resources for Bible study to dwell on each of them, so read on for a list of links to the better ones.
Bible Study Links
- e-Sword is the premier, FREE, downloadable Bible study tool. Author Rick Meyers’ software philosophy is, “Freely you have received, freely give,” so avail yourself of this simple, flexible, broad-ranging software package with many public domain resources, and access to many other premium resources. And when you get hooked on e-Sword, consider donating to its support; Rick has undertaken this as his full-time occupation, and believe me, it’s worth way more than the occasional twenty bucks. Now, head over to YouTube for everything you can imagine about e-Sword.
- Bible Gateway used to be pretty good, but recently their major site overhaul has made it even better! It’s an excellent resource for most Bible study. Searchable for all but the most specialized, scholarly word studies—stuff most of us couldn’t use anyway.
- Bible Dot Org‘s new Lumina Bible study feature offers a set of slick, convenient tools to get you started toward the hard stuff.
- Bible Hub, with oodles of Bible translations, study tools, topical listings and more, arranged in a pleasing and common-sense GUI.
- Blue-Letter Bible has also undergone a recent overhaul, both streamlining its GUI(graphic user interface) and expanding its available resources; I doubt you’ve ever seen a free list to match this one. Seem confusing or complicated? Check out the video tutorials.
- OpenBible.Info, with their unique Bible Geocoding, Topical Bible, Labs(interface experiments), and Blog.
- StudyLight.org offers ever-expanding lists of resources that you have to see to believe.
- Bible Study, if you’re a seventh-day sabbatarian. You know, they’re like the New Testament Judaizers that Paul encountered at every turn. No offense meant.
- Christianity Today‘s Bible Studies if you like canned studies, and there’s nothing wrong with that if you intend to progress into your own word studies.
- InTouch Ministries’ Bible Studies for more topical studies.
- CrossWalk.com for Bible study plans, tips and tools, Bible study notes submitted by their community, and lots of topical articles.
Want more options? Here’s the Google search I did to come up with some of the above sites. Well, what are you waiting for. This is like Christmas for anyone hungry for a deeper knowledge of God’s Word and relationship with our Heavenly Father. Go ahead! Tear it open. Have fun.