It’s been said that if the only tool a man has in his toolbox is a hammer, he tends to see every problem as a nail. In other words, we try to force every project to be handled in the exactly same way.
Sadly, for many Christians, the same is true with our knowledge of the Bible. If we have limited tools, we try to make every situation look like something we can fix with that smaller toolbox. It’s not enough for us to know only a couple of verses or a few biblical principles, and then try to use those tools to handle all of life’s situations. So let me share some basic tools that will help you expand your biblical toolbox.
Time and culture—Think about how much your culture has changed just in the 70-80 years since your grandparents were born. Think about how wardrobes have changed, and technology, and manners and customs. The earliest book of the Bible was written about 1400 BC, and the most recent book was written about 100 AD. To better understand the things I read in the Bible, here are some tools I like to use:
- A Bible dictionary to help you know the people and various terms of their culture. I have three of them on my bookshelf, but I also like this collection from BibleGateway.
- The Archeological Study Bible has some amazing cultural and historical insights.
- An atlas, to help you know where cities and major landmarks were located.
- And here’s a cool biblical timeline.
Language—Even the English language has changed a lot since William Shakespeare penned his famous plays. But consider that the Bible was written in languages that are even older (not to mention they’re languages other than English!). To really get the full meaning of a passage, here are some tools I use:
- A parallel Bible to help me see multiple translations side-by-side. Here’s an example from BibleGateway.
- Strong’s Concordance is the gold standard for digging into the Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek definitions. It’s the book on my shelf I go to most often when I am studying, but Blue Letter Bible also has an excellent online resource.
Chain of pearls—The Bible is not a collection of isolated, independent stories or concepts, but it is a beautiful string of pearls. Every part connects to the rest of the Scripture. So some resources I use to help me discover how the pearls are strung together include:
- A study Bible. The study notes open up the meanings of passages in a brilliant way. I use study Bibles like Life In The Spirit Study Bible, Archeological Study Bible, Halley’s Study Bible, and The Quest Study Bible.
- Concordance. Almost every Bible has a concordance in the back pages that allow you to cross-reference a word, or you can try the “keyword search” that BibleGateway offers.
What did I miss? What are your favorite Bible study tools? In the comments, please share books, commentaries, or online resources that you use to maximize your study of God’s Word.
This Sunday I’ll be sharing some different styles of Bible studies we can all do. If you live in the Cedar Springs area, please come join a really great group of people at Calvary Assembly of God. Otherwise, watch us on Periscope.