Which Bible is right for YOU?
As you can see, you have a variety of choices when you go out to purchase a copy of scripture. If you do not own one at all, and you are only going to buy one, your choice should probably be between the New King James Version, New International Version or the Holy Bible in Its Original Order. After that it depends upon what you are looking for. If you want a literal translation, perhaps the NASB or HBFV is for you.
Whatever you choose, keep in mind that the truth of God can even survive bad translation. But you still should not carelessly accept one version of a controversial scripture.
One other point if you are buying a new Bible. The version you will use the most, carry to church, read in bed, make notes in, etc., should be of good enough quality to last a lifetime. Look for one with wide margins so you can make notes in it. After a few years, a personally marked and annotated Bible will be one of your most cherished possessions. Your other translations can be more economically bound.
Study Tools and Reference Books
Frequently, we receive letters asking where a given scripture, sentence, or phrase is to be found in the Bible. "I know it is in there somewhere," they complain. "I just cannot find it." Well, they could if they had a concordance.
A complete or exhaustive concordance simply takes every place in the Bible a given word is mentioned and lists it in the phrase in which it is found. If you have heard, for example, that the phrase "Every tub will sit on its own bottom" is in God's word, all you have to do is look in your concordance under "tub" and learn that it is not there after all.
When you go to buy a concordance, you will find quickly why so many continue to use the King James Version. The two most popular concordances are Cruden's Complete Concordance to the Old and New Testaments and Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Cruden's is smaller, cheaper, and handier to use. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is a huge volume, but it also includes a cross-reference to the original Greek and Hebrew words.
If you would rather have a subject index instead of the key word index of the concordance, Nave's Topical Bible should fill the bill nicely.
At least as important as a concordance is a Bible handbook. The beginning student can easily get lost. A handbook gives you valuable background information plus the story flow of each book. One of the most economical and easy to use is Halley's Bible Handbook, although others may serve just as well.
People also ask about commentaries, but I must caution that they are expensive and of marginal value for most students of scripture. For years I got by nicely with Adam Clarke's Commentary. You might find more useful The Expositor's Bible Commentary published by Zondervan Press. It is much more up to date, easy to use, and contains much valuable information--but it is expensive.
I cannot speak for everyone, but I do not consult my commentaries as often as I do my The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. After the fundamentals of two or three translations, a concordance and a handbook, I have no study tool more helpful than my Bible encyclopedia. Shop carefully. You might find an old set at a bargain. Far down the list of useful books would be a Biblical atlas and dictionary. I have both but consult them less often.
Marking your Bible for effective studying
Systematic marking can be effective in three major ways:
It focuses attention on the scriptures at the time of marking.
It brings your eye back to the scripture easily and quickly in future study.
It makes key scriptures easier to find later.
Some are reluctant to mark books, but underlined scriptures, good marginal notes and chain-referenced scriptures may be useful for years to come.
We recommend a Bible with good paper, a little room in the margins, a couple of colored pencils for underlining and a fine-point pen for marginal notes. Beyond these suggested items, all you need is time and a quiet place to get acquainted with the Word of God.
Before you begin to study God's word
It is important to remember one thing before you begin to study - after you start your life will never be the same. You will come to a knowledge of truth you will be unable to ignore. If you will take a few minutes before and after your study to pray about the things you are learning, you will make a start in building a deeper relationship with your God and Savior.
Be aware right from the start that the enemy in this battle is not another human being, but the spiritual powers of darkness -- i.e., Satan the devil. Perhaps the most powerful weapon at our disposal in this battle is the Word of God. Four items included in the armor of God have to do directly with studying the Bible. The first mentioned is truth. Jesus said in His prayer for His disciples, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. " (John 17:17, NKJV). Next He mentions the "preparation of the gospel of peace" which involves the careful study of the gospel so that any Christian can explain it to the seeker after God. He then mentions the shield of faith, and Paul tells us:
"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17, NKJV).
Finally the Scripture tells us to pick up as our chief weapon
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;" (Ephesians 6:17, NKJV).
The man who is determined to do as the Bereans, searching the Scriptures daily, comparing what he is told with what God says, will be a hard man to deceive:
"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. " (Hebrews 4:12, NKJV).