Posted by: Tim | September 12, 2010

Study Bible Survey

One of the most useful Bible study tools is a good study Bible. I have owned several of them in my lifetime and will give a brief survey below.

1) ESV Study Bible: I think this is the best one. period. Filled with colour maps, pictures, great book introductions and great notes, this study Bible is the one to get right now if you are in the market for one.  The ESV is an excellent translation and the team who produced the study Bible notes is first rate.  It even comes with free access to the online ESV Study Bible. I have asked and received permission from Crossway (the publisher) to use the pictures on the screen in sermons, which has been very helpful at times. You simply will not go wrong with this one. If there is one possible complaint – this Bible is thick and heavy!

2) Reformation Study Bible: This is my current preaching Bible and before the ESV Study Bible was released, it would have been my top recommendation. The notes are just excellent – how many times I am reading the Bible and some obscure ancient town or country is mentioned, and sure enough, the Ref. Study Bible has a note explaining it. It is published by Ligonier Ministries (R.C. Sproul & co), and has a group of contributors which includes one of my former profs from Tyndale Seminary, the late Don Leggett. Just one theological note: you don’t have to be a strongly reformed as R.C Sproul to appreciate the notes, but there is definitely a strong reformed bent in the notes. My Ref. Study Bible is in the ESV.

3) MacArthur Study Bible: If you want to know what John MacArthur has to say about a passage of the Bible, then this is the study Bible for you. I have found it helpful when I want some commentary on a book of the Bible that I don’t have a full length commentary on. It helps to know MacArthur’s theological bent – calvinist, dispensational, pre-tribulationist, conservative, baptist – when you are reading it, but it is still very solid. I don’t currently own a copy of this study Bible and I have not read enough of it to make more comments, but my general impression is good and I plan to get a copy of the latest ESV edition. It also comes in the NASB, and I think the NKJV translations.

4) NET Bible: The NET Bible is dynamic equivalent translation (something like the NIV, less literal than ESV, more literal than NLT) that is filled with translator’s notes as its major feature. The scholarship is first rate, and the translation is good, even if you prefer a more or less literal translation. This is a great study Bible for pastors and scholars, or someone with some Bible training. You can get a hard copy (I own a Beta version of the NET Bible) but it is also available for free online at I mainly use the copy that comes with Bibleworks.

5) NIV Application Study Bible: A lot of people own this study Bible, but I did not find it to be the best. It has been a long time since I used it, but my impression was that the notes are more opinionated than informative, though like I say, it’s been a while and this is just my impression from years ago.

6) NIV Study Bible: I don’t use this study Bible very much but my past impression was that it was solid, but just doesn’t compare with the ESV Study Bible or Reformation Study Bible.

7) NIV Thompson Chain Reference Bible: This one isn’t really a study Bible, but a Bible with a collection of chain references on many Biblical topics. It was my first high quality Bible and it has a special place in my heart! It is useful for finding verses on a specific topic, but I would tend to use the electronic version in Bibleworks before the physical copy. There were some really interesting notes (I remember the archaeological notes and pictures) in the back that kept me company in boring situations when I was younger.

So there you have it. These are the Study Bibles I have owned. What about you? What study Bibles have you owned and what are your favourites?


  1. These are good reviews. I was thinking of getting the ESV Study Bible, and your notes about it helps me make a decision. I have the little ESV, which is good for quick references, but not for any extensive amount of reading, as the type is extremely small.

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