Basic Reference Materials for Bible Study

Personal study of the Bible is as necessary as instruction in God’s Word in the church and Christian school. A collection of basic reference materials for Bible study should be a part of every home library, and teaching children how to use these references should be part of every parent’s job description.

The range of available resources is amazing, but it may also be surprising how many homes lack some of the basic tools. Some initial suggestions are offered here with the hope that others may add in future issues recommendations of materials they have found helpful.

A good starting point is a reliable commentary set. The three traditional choices are Matthew Poole’s Commentary, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, and Calvin’s Commentary. Each has its own emphasis, which can perhaps be summarized as practical, devotional, and doctrinal, respectively. If possible, having more than one set will meet different needs better than a single set. There are also numerous commentaries on books or chapters of the Bible, of course.

When a more general understanding of the context of an entire book of the Bible is the goal, one reference that is often helpful is Survey of the Bible by William Hendriksen. It provides a good overview of how the different books of the Bible fit together in time and purpose. For example, the book’s tables showing how the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel correspond greatly simplifies the arrangement of the books of Kings and Chronicles. Vnger’s Bible Handbook is another choice for this purpose. For the study of the four gospels, a fascinating book that sheds much light on the social and religious context is The Life and Times of’Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim.

A comprehensive concordance and a good dictionary are the next tools that should be available to every Bible student. Strong's Concordance and the Dovis Bible Dictionary are common choices, but there are several options that are probably equally good. If a computer is available. A program such as QuickVerse can be very helpful. This software allows the user great flexibility in searching for words, combinations of words, and phrases. Bible passages can be quickly pasted into other documents to reduce greatly the time for retyping. The program is available with dictionary and commentary functions as well.

For understanding the geography of the Bible lands, a Bible atlas is invaluable. Baker's Bible Atlas is a traditional choice and offers a good balance of maps and summaries ot climate, history, and culture. The more recent Oxford Bible Atlas has less text but better maps; an excellent set of overhead transparencies of these maps is also available. For doctrinal questions, the Bible Doctrine for Younger Children, Bible Doctrine for Older Children, Bible Doctrine for Teens and Young Adults by James Beeke are series that are easy to read and interesting. For more detailed study. Reformed Dogmatics by G.H. Kersten and Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge are good choices.