Bibles & Reference

Bibles & Reference Resources

Study Bibles regularly used by Bethany UMC pastors:
  • Harper Collins Study Bible
  • Interpreter’s or New Interpreter’s Study Bible
  • Oxford Study Bible or New Oxford Annotated Bible (Third Edition)
  • Wesley Study Bible
Other Resources used by Bethany UMC pastors:
  • Ancient Christian Commentary
  • Harper’s Bible Commentary/Dictionary
  • Nave’s Topical Bible
Choosing a Bible Study

The following information is from

Choosing a study Bible is a daunting task, second only to choosing a Bible. It seems there is an endless number of study Bibles of all types & translations. Study Bibles reflect particular interest, like archaeology, apologetics—theological & denominational perspective—or by popular authors. There's no easy answer. (Having more than one study Bible can be a solution.) Listed below are some issues to consider when choosing the study Bible that's best for you.

Type of Study Bible

Most study Bibles contain notes with commentary on the text regarding its historical background, language, or relation to the rest of Scripture. Some are more of a word study rather than a commentary, such as the Hebrew Greek Word Study Bible. The Thompson Chain-Reference Study Bible contains a reference system that links a verse in one passage with others that refer to the same topics found in the verse. This Bible also contains an index to the topics and the verses that refer to them. Naves Topical Bible contains Bible text arranged by topic. Both Thompson and Naves make it easy to study the Bible by topics.

People & Age Groups

Another factor is whether the study Bible is for a child, teen, or adult. Again, a teen might be perfectly happy with an adult study Bible. Generally speaking, however, you may want to consider the study Bible in relation to the age and reading level of the person. For example the Adventure Bible is appropriate for a ten year old but a better choice for an adult is the Life Application Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, etc.

A Brief Glossary of Bible Helps

To know how a study Bible can be used, it is helpful to first know what the different study tools are. Below is a brief glossary of terms that relate to different study Bible features.

Bible Version

The Bible version is the translation of the Bible from its original language (Hebrew & Greek)—usually into English. A wide variety of Bible versions exist today. Some study Bibles are available in more than one version.

Study Notes (Annotations)

Almost every study Bible has "study notes" at the bottom of the page. These notes usually comment on selected verses on the same page. The commentary either aims at interpretation or application. The interpretation of the passage might include helpful cultural, historical, or archaeological information. In addition to interpretation, some study notes are written with the daily life of the believer in mind. Since the Bible was meant to be lived some notes discuss the relevance of a specific verse to our faith and life.


A concordance is a type of word or verse finder. For example, if you need to find some important biblical verse that contains the word "hope", the concordance will give you a list of verses that contain the word "hope" in that version of the Bible (i.e. the KJV, NKJV, NIV, etc.).


These helpful notes attempt to guide the reader to other passages in the Old and New Testaments that are relevant to the verse you are reading. They could direct you to a prophecy, a fulfillment of prophecy, a quotation or allusion of another biblical text, or to a verse of a similar topic. Cross-references can appear either in the middle of the page (center column-cross references) or on the side of the page (side-column cross-references) or at the end of the verse itself (usually found in the compact Bibles).

In-text Maps and Charts

These maps and charts allow readers to easily access information that is relevant to a passage of scripture on the same page. This lets the reader access the information at a glance instead of turning to the back of their Bible. Charts are especially helpful in organizing a vast amount of information that can be scanned quickly. When it comes to a list of Jesus' miracles, parables, or journeys this tool can be very helpful.

Word Studies

Since the Bible was originally written in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, we have had to translate our Bibles. Like any translation some of the nuances are lost, since English does not always have ways to easily express ideas in the original language. Word Studies help to bring out some of the fuller sense of what the original conveyed. Word Studies are provided in such study Bibles as the Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible and the Thompson Chain.

Book Introductions and Outlines

These introductions provide information on the author, the audience he wrote to, the major themes of the book, the purpose of the writing, the date of the writing, and other relevant information. They give us a sense of the books' contexts allowing us, hopefully, to see the books more as the immediate audience first heard them. In addition, these introductions include a detailed outline of the flow of the biblical book. This allows the reader to easily scan the contents of the book and to get a sense of the author's flow of thought.