USE BIBLE STUDY TOOLS
© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2014
As we have seen Paul commanded Timothy to be a ‘workman who does not need to be ashamed’. A good workman acquires good tools to enable him to do the best possible job. We who are labouring with the precious word of God ought to equip ourselves with the right tools to do the job properly. God has told us that he gifted people to teach his truths to the church so that the church will grow, mature and stand strong in the presence of ‘every wind of teaching and … the cunning and craftiness of men’ [Ephesians 4:7-16]. Although it sounds ‘spiritual’ to simply pray, sit back, and ‘let God speak to me’, to do so is to despise the gift or teachers that God in his sovereign wisdom gave the church, and in despising and ignoring his gift to be disobedient to his revealed purpose.
Therefore, as well as consulting several translations of the Bible, we should also equip ourselves with tools that are available to enable us to rightly understand the word of God.
At the same time, we need to be aware that just as false teachers had already risen up within the church even within a few years of Jesus’ death, even so now – not every one who stands up to speak, or has a ‘Christian’ TV program, or writes a book, or has a website, is necessarily speaking or teaching the truth of God. The Bible commands us not to believe everyone who comes claiming to speak God’s word.
A good Bible Dictionary contains well researched information on just about every topic related to the Bible. For example:
Geographical information about towns, countries
Historical information, including political information
Biographical information relating to Bible characters
Concepts, e.g. ‘faith’, ‘repentance’,
Theological information, e.g. names of God, sacrifice
Background information and summaries of every Bible book
A recommended Bible Dictionary is The New Bible Dictionary published by IVP.
A Bible Handbook is also beneficial, but does not contain the same range of information as a Bible Dictionary.
A concordance is a list of words used in the Bible, arranged in alphabetical order, and listing the occurrences of that word in the books of the Bible. Many Bibles contain a limited concordance in the back. This is good, but these lists contain neither all the Bible words nor all the occurrences of the words they do contain.
It is better to purchase a recognized good quality concordance. Those with a long-standing good reputation are:
Cruden’s Complete Concordance
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
Young’s Analytical Concordance
If you prefer to do your research at your computer, add a Bible Software program that contains ‘search’ facility that enables you to search for any Biblical word or words. Free Bible Study software is available for download at www.E-Sword.net. This includes an excellent search tool. It will save you buying a concordance.
If you have studied New Testament Greek you will find great help from The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament.
Intervarsity Press has put together an excellent and theologically sound one-volume Bible Commentary. [Other publishers have done the same, but because one-volume Bible Commentaries are expensive it is a good idea to check with your pastor or other trusted person before you purchase one because not all are written from a conservative evangelical perspective.]
The same caution applies when purchasing commentaries on single books of the Bible. The quality and theological reliability of these commentaries depend on (1) the publisher, and (2) the author. Some of the very popular writers today are not straight down the centre line, but have veered either to the right or the left of the truth.
Vine’s Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
This is an extremely handy tool. It is, first of all, a dictionary – it lists selected words in alphabetical order. For each word or concept listed, it includes the various Greek or Hebrew words that are translated by that English word. It gives the different shades of meaning of those various words from the original language, and indicates where these different words are used in the text. It also cross-references to other English words that are also used to translate the same Greek word.