Study Bibles are great tools for helping you understand the Bible better. They usually include running commentary notes, introductions to each of the biblical books, introductions to the different types books and groupings of books, maps, and sometimes a small concordance or glossary. Some of Bibles have topical articles about biblical interpretation and the historical and cultural contexts of the Bible.
These kinds study helps can be found separately in other books (e.g. Bible Commentaries, Bible Dictionaries, & Bible Atlases), but there is an advantage in having all this information included with the biblical text. Important information relevant to understanding a particular passage is presented when and where you need it: while reading Bible. You don't have to go to the trouble of going and getting another book or two to get basic information. If you want more detailed information, the other Bible Resources I describe on this website can be consulted.
These first four annotated Bibles are good middle of the road critical biblical scholarship. They include the Apocrypha. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible and the Access Bible are available without the Apocrypha). The Apocrypha are books from Greek translations of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible that are in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, but not Protestant Bibles. The Protestant reformers chose to only include the Jewish scriptures that were written in Hebrew in their Bibles. At the time of Jesus and early Christianity the books now known as the Apocrypha were sometimes considered scripture and they are important for understanding the New Testament.
The HarperCollins Study Bible
- This annotated Bible was produced in cooperation with the Society of Biblical Literature. The introductions to the biblical books and notes are more detailed than the Oxford Annotated Bible. The revised version has additional essays that deal with biblical interpretation and the historical and cultural contexts of the Bible. It is often used as a textbook in both undergraduate and graduate courses involving the Bible.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha
- The New Oxford Annotated Bible has long been the Bible of choice for moderate to liberal Christians. The introductions to the various Biblical books and notes are not as detailed as those in the HarperCollins. It has a number of topical articles that deal with biblical interpretation and the historical and cultural contexts of the Bible and a small concordance in the back. This Bible is also often used as a textbook in both undergraduate and graduate courses involving the Bible.
The New Interpreter's Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version With the Apocrypha
- This annotated Bible is based on the same high quality Biblical scholarship as the HaperCollins and the New Oxford Annotated, but the notes are more focused on theological issues than they are, however the notes still include important historical and cultural information.
The Access Bible, New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha
- This annotated Bible is based on the same level biblical scholarship like the previous Bibles, but the notes are less detailed and easier to understand. This Bible was designed for an absolute beginner to Bible study. It includes a glossary and a concordance.
The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with Apocrypha
- This annotated Bible is based on the Revised English Version. It has excellent topical articles about biblical interpretation, early Jewish and Christian writings related to the Bible, religion in the Bible, as well as articles about the social, cultural, and historical contexts of the Bible.
The New Jerusalem Bible
- This annotated Bible includes introductions and notes from moderately conservative French Catholic critical scholarship.
The Catholic Study Bible
- This annotated Bible is based on the New American Bible translation. The articles, introductions, articles, and notes are based on solid Catholic critical scholarship.
NIV Study Bible
- This annotated Bible uses the New International Version and is based on excellent conservative biblical scholarship.
The ESV Study Bible
- A conservative annotated Bible based on the English Standard Version. It has articles covering a wide range of topics related to conservative Christianity, not just the bible.
HCSB Study Bible
- A conservative annotated Bible based on the Holman Christian Standard Version.
The Orthodox Study Bible
- This annotated Bible presents an Eastern Orthodox Christian perspective on the Bible. Some Eastern Orthodox reviewers have criticized it for being a kind of mix of Eastern Orthodox and conservative Protestant in its interpretations.
The Jewish Study Bible: featuring The Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation
- This annotated Bible is based on the standard Jewish translation of the Jewish Bible, called Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible (which is the Christian Old Testament). The notes and introductions are written by Jewish scholars, but based on the same methods that all critical biblical scholars practice. This Bible also has a number of articles about the different kinds of Jewish biblical interpretation that have been practiced throughout history. It is a helpful corrective to Christian bias to read Jewish perspectives on Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, since the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament was written by Jews.
CEV Poverty & Justice Bible - New Edition
The Green Bible
- This Bible has all the passages that deal with poverty and Justice highlighted (more than 2,000). It also has a 32 page study guide with 50 in-depth studies that give practical suggestions on how to fight poverty and injustice.
- This Bible has articles from diverse theological perspectives (e.g. Progressive Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish) about the importance of environmentalism as taking care of God's creation. There are also articles that give practical suggestions on how care for the Earth. Passages of the Bible that deal with creation are highlighted in Green. There is also a study guide, Green Subject Index, and a listing of faith-based environmental organizations.
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