My Favorite Bible Tools, Vol. 1

In some of our DiscipleWay training groups at church we have gotten into discussions about tools to use for personal Bible study. Since some who are not in these groups would also like the information, and even those in the groups may not have been able to copy down all the names, here is a list of some of my favorite tools. (And as I tell all the groups, I do not get a commission or kickback for promoting any of these. I just like them!)

I’m calling this volume one, because I’m sure there will be others to add later.

The Word Bible Software
I have used various free and paid Bible software programs, and The Word is my favorite by far. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it has a large amount of helpful resources. I use it on an almost daily basis. Everyone I have recommended The Word to who has tried it has loved it! The program is free as are most of the resources (unless there is a copyright holder who makes them charge). After a few uses, a one-time pop-up will appear requesting a donation; even if you decline, the software will still work as before.

The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
TSK is called a “concordance, chain-reference system, topical Bible, and commentary all in one,” and lives up to that name. It allows you to find other instances where a related word or phrase is used in the Bible. Revelation chapter 2 says, “And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.” Why does it say that? you may wonder. If you look up Revelation 2:27 in TSK, you’ll find that it’s an almost verbatim quote from Psalm chapter 2, referring to Christ’s coming kingdom. This tool helps you let Scripture interpret Scripture.

Nave’s Topical Bible
Nave’s organizes the Bible by topic (subject). Say you want to know what the Bible says about Heaven. Open Nave’s and look up “Heaven.” When you do, you’ll be met with dozens of passages on the subject, separated further into subcategories like “God’s dwelling place,” “the future dwelling place of the righteous,” and “the physical heavens.”

Torrey’s Topical Textbook
Torrey’s is another good resource, very similar to Nave’s above. The difference seems to be that it can be a little less detailed.

Young’s Literal Translation
The YLT is an 1862 Bible translation based on reliable manuscripts, and translated in a literal fashion. I occasionally hear people say that the King James Version is the most literal translation out there. It isn’t. The YLT translates the texts nearly word-for-word, and even keeps the Greek word order in most cases. It doesn’t make a great devotional Bible or preaching Bible unless Yoda to sound like you want, but it does make for an excellent study Bible.

An example of the YLT: “And thou–be remaining in the things which thou didst learn and wast entrusted with, having known from whom thou didst learn,and because from a babe the Holy Writings thou hast known, which are able to make thee wise–to salvation, through faith thatisin Christ Jesus[. E]very WritingisGod-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction thatisin righteousness,that the man of God may be fitted–for every good work having been completed” (II Timothy 3:14-17).

John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible
Commentaries are something to approach with caution. Whether it’s your pastor today, or a long-dead commentator, men are not infallible. Always compare someone’s writings with Bible, and let the Bible be your authoritative standard. However, with that said, commentaries can be a good resource in finding information, and if you know a writer’s background it can help you be aware of the biases he may bring to his comments on the Scriptures. What I like about Gill’s commentary is that he could take each verse and divide it up into phrases and explain it in great detail. There are few areas in the Bible that he did not address. What I don’t like is that sometimes when his writing waxes eloquent it’s easy to get lost—and this can occasionally make it hard to find what you’re looking for. Gill was a Reformed (that means Calvinist) Baptist.

Adam Clarke’s 1810/1825 Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible
[See my cautions about using commentaries above, under Gill’s Exposition.] What I like about Clarke is that he gets to the point. Where Gill may try to give you every possible explanation for a concept and spend several paragraphs doing so, Clarke seems to explain the same thing in a concise way. What I don’t like about Clarke is that sometimes he may only explain part of a verse or skip over a verse altogether, leaving readers like me to think,Okay, but what about…?Clarke was a Wesleyan (or Methodist) writer.

Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

[See my cautions about using commentaries above, under Gill’s Exposition.] I enjoy much of Wesley’s work—he seems to be a happy medium between Gill’s thoroughness and Clarke’s concision. John Wesley was, as his name would suggest a Wesleyan.

Manners and Customs of Bible Lands
It should go without saying that great cultural differences exist between 21st Century North America and the Middle East of 2,000-6,000 years ago. The Bible was written for us today, but it wasn’t written to us. So many things in the Bible seem foreign, because they are. Manners and Customsexplains what their world was like from marriage, to childbirth, to agricultural practices, to warfare, slavery, clothing, and more. For one example:Why was Jesus so concerned with where people sat at banquets? Today, everybody just sits wherever they want. This book explains the party pecking order of 1stCentury Israel, and what it said about the Pharisees that they always wanted a good seat.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
Strong’s and Young’s are different from a concordance that you might find in the back of your Bible–they’re much bigger. They list every word in the Bible, and every use of those words. Can’t remember where that verse is found, but you remember some of the words? You’re nearly guaranteed to find it here. They also give you insight into the meanings of the words in the original Greek and Hebrew.

Say you’re studying the word “Lord.” You would look up the word in Strong’s. Under the heading for “Lord,” you would find a list of every time that word is used in the Bible, grouped by which Greek or Hebrew word was actually used. Each Greek or Hebrew word is assigned a number, which you look up, and it tells you the meaning. For example:

Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” The number for the word used for Lord here is H3068; when we turn to H3068, we see that the Hebrew word is Yhovah, and that two definitions are given: (1) the “self-Existent or Eternal” One, or (2) “Jehovah, Jewish national name of God.”

A great benefit to using Strong’s is the large number of study tools that are available using its numbering system.

Young’s Analytical Concordance
Young’s is very similar to Strong’s (see the description above), except that when verses are grouped by the Greek or Hebrew word used, a brief definition is given right there. That eliminates the need for a second step of looking up the numbered word, a time saver especially if you’re studying several words. I prefer Young’s to Strong’s when using the books, but if you’re studying on computer, there is very little difference.