Just as the carpenter is handicapped without his tools, so is the Bible student. Here are my most used tools, the screwdrivers and hammers of my toolbox that I consider indispensable. Many of these can now be found online, free of charge (such as at http://www.biblegateway.com/tools/ ). If you want to purchase the books, you might look to mail order companies such as www.christianbook.com or www.amazon.com for sometimes hefty discounts.
- ONE VOLUME COMMENTARY ON THE WHOLE BIBLE> � Consult commentaries after you�ve done your own study of the passage. Otherwise, you may blindly accept their dogmatic statements on passages that could be legitimately interpreted differently. I heard of one student who consulted the commentaries first. Upon opening the Bible itself, he remarked, "The Bible sure throws a lot of light on those commentaries!" But used correctly, commentaries provide us with much wisdom by gifted scholars who often have profound insight. I routinely consult several commentaries on each verse I use in teaching. If I had only one commentary: The New Bible Commentary. Then expand to commentary sets and commentaries on individual books of the Bible. Consult bibliographic guides such as The Minister�s Library (Cyril J. Barber) to help you choose the best.
- TOPICAL BIBLE � The basic answer to, "Steve, how do you find all those verses?" I�ve always used the Nave�s Topical Bible. You can pick a topic, such as "Afflictions," and find scads of verses written out for you.
- STUDY BIBLE> -- Provides you with cross references, study notes, outlines, and maps. It should be in an accurate translation, such as the New American Standard or New International Version. Don't use a paraphrase for serious study.
- CONCORDANCE> � An exhaustive concordance lists every occurrence of every biblical word. (Yes, even the words "and" and "the"!) Great for word studies, finding verses, and brief definitions. I use Strong�s Exhaustive Concordance. CBD calls it "The most valuable Bible study tool for a century."
- VARIOUS TRANSLATIONS> � Sometimes a different translation will make a verse live for me. Other times, differences in translations warn me that the Greek or Hebrew text could be translated in a way that would change my understanding of the verse. The New Testament From 26 Translations lists verses phrase by phrase, comparing them to other translations. I consult it on every New Testament verse I study. There is a similar book on the Old Testament.
- BIBLE DICTIONARY >� Defines and discusses Bible words. I use The New Bible Dictionary. A Bible Encyclopedia covers more ground, in more depth.
- SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY> � In depth discussions of theological issues. I like Thiessen�s Lectures in Systematic Theology. Theologically balanced and uses lots of Scripture. Examples: "How can I prove Jesus� deity?" "What are the main views of the end times?"
- BOOK ON BIBLE INTERPRETATION> � Gives principles on correctly interpreting the Bible. I highly recommend Robertson McQuilkin, Understanding and Applying the Bible. Example: "How can I decide whether a passage is to be taken figuratively or literally?"
NOTE: � Some computer programs try to put it all together with commentaries, various translations, etc. Although I don�t have them, some pastors love them.