On Study Bible Alternatives

In the previous post, I mentioned my hesitancy regarding study bibles. Continuing to quote from my response to my friend, I consider the alternatives, if there are any.

But is there an alternative?

A great alternative would be for a publisher to publish the Bible and the notes separately. This would satisfy my concerns. I wish someone would publish a book called “The Reformation Bible Study Companion” or something like that which would print the notes from a study bible in its own stand alone format. This would make the valuable content available but would keep it separate from the text of Scripture itself.

But no one in our modern era has done that. However, in my mind, there is a great alternative. If one was not to buy a study bible, I would recommend this that as a companion to your bible you have at hand a copy of IVP’s New Bible Commentary.          

This is a commentary on the whole bible written by some of the best of conservative evangelical scholars. The editors themselves are worthy of note. Donald Carson, Alec Motyer, Gordon Wenham, and RT France are all trustworthy guides with no axe to grind other than a love for the biblical text. It does use the NIV as its base text, but that is not really a problem as the commentators themselves take the original text into consideration as they comment. 

The only downside is that it is hard to carry with you. Anyone caught carrying this to a bible study would be instantly labeled as one slightly left of normal, whereas carting in a study bible raises no eyebrows. It is strictly a ‘look it up at home’ kind of resource. But at the same time, you have at hand thoughtful reflection on every passage of the bible and not just those the editors of the study bibles think need explication.

So, for what it is worth, my recommendation would be to keep your own bible in hand, and instead of spending $30 on a study bible, spend it on this commentary. If, on the other hand, one wants the more theologically oriented commentary found in a study bible, then buy the one you are looking at, but use it as a reference and not as your primary portal into God’s word.

[There is another resource I’d pick up if I were you. R. C. Sproul’s book Knowing Scripture really is a great tool for learning how to read scripture. I’d recommend you get this as well, regardless of what route you take in study bibles or alternatives.]

Thanks for trusting me enough to ask my opinion.