Christian Reference Library

Building a Christian Study Library

Every Christian should seek to build a good study library so that they might properly satisfy the Great Commission given to them by the Lord Jesus Christ, and so that they may grow in their convictions and understand their faith well enough that they may offer up a good defense of it in the face of the ever-present contentions of this world.

Knowledge is a quality of one who loves truth. This article will seek to discuss some of the basic study tools available to Christians who wish to build a Christian study library in order to have a strong and working knowledge of their faith.

As you build your study library, you will immediately begin to increase the knowledge you possess about your faith and the truth of your convictions. Your life will be greatly enriched as you learn and grow in your understanding. The profound wisdom you will gain from God’s Word and your knowledge of its truth will impact you for the rest of your life.

 

A Home Library
A Home Library | Source

The Basics

The resources you will initially seek to acquire for your study library fall into fourteen general categories. These categories can and should be expanded outward into other subjects and types of resource materials as you continue to learn.

A good Christian study library is composed of the following categories of resource material:

  1. Bibles

  2. Concordances

  3. Topical & Study Bibles

  4. Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

  5. Surveys & Introductions

  6. Commentaries & Handbooks

  7. Atlases & Almanacs

  8. Archeology & Ancient Living

  9. Biblical Interpretation (Hermeneutics)

  10. Doctrine & Theology

  11. Word Study

  12. Textual Criticism & Historicity

  13. Biblical & Christian History

  14. Extra-Biblical Texts

 

The Gutenberg Bible
The Gutenberg Bible | Source

Bibles

The very best way to learn about your faith and to understand the Word of God is to study it. If you haven't already done so, the first thing you should do to enrich your comprehension of the Christian faith is to read the Bible cover to cover. There is no better way to understand how a thing operates than to read the manual!

You probably already have a Bible, and we'll assume you've read it, so you'll next want to acquire several different translations; you don't need to over do it—unless you intend to start a collection—so just one or two of the primary "types" of translations plus a good interlinear Bible should provide for your basic needs.

The primary types of translations encountered are literal, paraphrased, and dynamic equivalency. A literal translation attempts to translate the original language in as consistent and literal terms as possible without altering the word order used in the original text. This approach has both advantages and disadvantages, but typically makes for poor understanding of the original meaning of the text. A good example of a literal translation of the Bible would be the King James Version (KJV).

A paraphrased translation is an attempt to echo the original text in a new language by means of the transliterator's own understanding. Such a Bible version is normally considered much easier to read, but should absolutely not be relied upon for study as it is purely based upon another individual's understanding of the text. I try to avoid these altogether as they are ripe for the dissemination of personal agendas or factual inaccuracies by their very nature. An excellent example of a paraphrased translation would be The Living Bible (LB).

Most translations are that of dynamic equivalency, which is the prefered method of translation for ease of reading by most students of the Bible. The dynamic equivalency approach is an attempt to balance the meaning of the original language with the ease of reading in the new language. These versions try to remain faithful to the meanings of words, concepts, and idioms in the original language without concentrating on the preservation of the original word order. An example of a translation using dynamic equivalency would be the New International Version (NIV).

Since no translation can be expected to accurately and adequately represent the original it is always a good idea for any student of the Bible to invest in an interlinear Bible. An interlinear Bible provides a translation of the text beside the text of the original language, allowing the individual to see the original and the translation side-by-side in order to compare them as well as for ease of reference.

In order to properly balance your study library you should at least have one or more versions using literal and dynamic equivalency approaches to translation, and one good interlinear Bible. Then, if you prefer, you may add a paraphrased version as well.


Recommendations

KJV Personal Giant Print Reference Bible. Hendrickson Publishers

NIV Large Print Reference Bible. Zondervan

The Interlinear Hebrew-Greek-English Bible, One-Volume Edition. Jay P. Green. Hendrickson Publishers, 2005

 

Concordances

In order to enhance your understanding of the Bible it is essential that you own a couple good concordances.

A concordance is a reference book that lists words found in a particular translation of the Bible and verses in which that word is found. Most of us have used the small concordances found in the back of our Bible, but such a concordance is far too inadequate for serious Bible study.

The type of concordance that you want for your reference library is an exhaustive concordance with a Hebrew and Greek dictionary. Such a concordance will provide you with a list of every single word found within a particular translation of the Bible, the verses that word is found in, and also provide a reference to the original Hebrew or Greek word along with a brief definition of that word.

A good concordance can help you identify a Bible passage if you are only able to remember a few of the words in that particular passage, since a concordance will typically provide a very brief excerpt from each verse in which a particular word is found. Concordances are also excellent sources for key word and topical studies, but these invaluable tools are excellent for helping to identify the original Hebrew or Greek word that has been translated into the language of the text that you are using while simultaneously providing a closer look at that word's intended meaning.

It should be noted that the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries found in most concordances are not sufficient for understanding the exact meaning intended by the original text, but they are adequate for a deeper comprehension.

You will want your Bible study library to contain exhaustive concordances made for the versions of the Bible which you intend to use for personal study.


Recommendations

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Updated Edition KJV. Hendrickson Publishers, 2009

Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White Jr., Thomas Nelson, 1996

The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Edward W. Goodrick, John R. Kohlenberger III. Zondervan, 2004

 

Topical & Study Bibles

Both topical and study Bibles can be great tools to enhance your Bible studies.

A topical Bible will typically place several hundred or thousand subjects or themes, which can be found throughout the Bible, into an easily perused alphabetical index that provides references to the verses which are deemed relevant to a particular topic. This can be extremely useful for topical studies as well as for the preparation of sermons and Sunday school lessons.

A study Bible is a particular translation of the Bible containing miniature forms of many of the study tools we are discussing in this article. Because study Bibles offer so many condensed features they are often attractive alternatives for consumers wishing to get the most bang for their buck; however, study Bibles can be confusing and even offensive if you purchase the wrong one. The reason for this is because many study Bibles are rather subjective in their nature and contain heavy commentary geared towards a particular doctrine or agenda. It is for this reason that if one should choose to utilize a study Bible I would highly recommend that they shop carefully and either choose one geared toward their particular taste, or one which is very objective in nature.


Recommendations

Nave's Topical Bible. Orville J. Nave. Hendrickson Publishers, 1997

The Apologetics Study Bible. Ted Cabal, ed. Holman Bible Publishers, 2007

Smith's Bible Dictionary, 1863
Smith's Bible Dictionary, 1863 | Source

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias are useful tools for getting a quick overview on a particular topic of interest. These reference works are usually arranged in alphabetical order, and can be very handy when seeking general background information on a book of the Bible, or for helping familiarize oneself with specific terms, people, places, or events that might be mentioned in a particular passage of the Scriptures.


Recommendations

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Revised and Expanded. C. Brand, C. W. Draper, A. England. B & H Publishing Group, 2003

The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 Volumes: Revised. Moises Silva, Merrill C. Tenney, eds. Zondervan, 2008

Harper's Bible Pronunciation Guide. William Walker. HarperOne, 1994

Surveys & Introductions

These are usually used as textbooks in seminary courses because they are powerful tools full of detailed information. Bible surveys provide an in-depth analysis of the contents of biblical books, authorship, historical dates and settings, reasons and intentions for each book, and other pertinent information; while introductions are geared more toward issues of canonicity (placement of a book into the Bible), historical background information, textual criticism (an examination of the text's authenticity and other important technical details), the mechanics of Scripture, and geographical as well as social data.

Biblical surveys and introductions are a valuable resource for Christians seeking a higher understanding of the very texts responsible for the origin of the foundational principles of their Christian faith.


Recommendations

A General Introduction to the Bible, Revised & Expanded. Norman L. Geisler, William E. Nix. Moody Publishers, 1968

A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Norman L. Geisler. Baker Academic, 2007

A Popular Survey of the New Testament. Norman L. Geisler. Baker Books, 2007

 

The presbyterian minister Matthew Henry (pictured above) is perhaps best known for his Commentary on the Whole Bible.
The presbyterian minister Matthew Henry (pictured above) is perhaps best known for his Commentary on the Whole Bible. | Source

Commentaries & Handbooks

A commentary is an in-depth analysis of each verse found within a particular book of the Bible. Many commentaries are published in several volumes that deal separately with each individual book of the canon, but they can also be found in single volume format. There are many different types of commentaries, but the best are either academic or expository. As with any supplement to biblical studies, commentaries are ripe for the dissemination of non-traditional and highly contentious opinions and personal agendas, and as such, they should be treated with caution. Commentaries are very useful tools but they should not be treated as absolute authorities!

A handbook is basically a simplified version of both a survey and introduction compressed into a single text. These are great for quickly acquiring basic knowledge about a book of the Bible without having to search very far or having to sort through technical material in order to find the basic information you desire. To use a Bible handbook you simply open it and read it; no advanced knowledge is required to use and understand the information contained in a handbook.

A well-balanced library will eventually contain several commentaries and handbooks that deal with specific versions of the Bible.


Recommendations

Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, 6 Volumes. Hendrickson Publishers

New International Bible Commentary, Based on the NIV. F.F. Bruce. Zondervan, 1986

The Holman Bible Handbook. David S. Dockery. B & H Publishing Group, 1992

Map of Ancient Israel and Judah
Map of Ancient Israel and Judah | Source

Atlases & Almanacs

These extremely handy reference materials provide a wealth of information, including: charts, maps, geographical information, climatological data, reconstructions, lists, and information on individuals and events. Atlases are useful visual aids, while almanacs tend to provide vital information on individual characters found in the Bible.


Recommendations

Holman Book of Biblical Charts, Maps, and Reconstructions. Marsha A. Ellis Smith. B & H Publishing Group, 1994

Holman Bible Atlas. Thomas Brisco. B & H Publishing Group, 1998

All the Men/Women of the Bible, 2 Volumes in 1. Herbert Lockyer. Zondervan, 2006

Archeology & Ancient Living

Putting your study of the Bible into proper perspective simply can not be done without an understanding of ancient life, social customs, government structures, and other important contextual information. Reference works that deal with accurate archaeological facts, manners and customs, and other relevant background information are indispensable resources for a serious student of the Bible.

At the bare minimum every Christian's study library should contain at least one text on Biblical Archeology and one or two publications dealing with biblical social life, manners and customs.


Recommendations

The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times, Revised and Updated. Ralph Gower. Moody Publishers, 2005

Bible Archaeology: An Exploration of the History and Culture of Early Civilizations. John McRay, Alfred Hoerth. Baker, 2005

 

Robert Traina, author of Methodical Bible Study
Robert Traina, author of Methodical Bible Study

Biblical Interpretation (Hermeneutics)

There is more than one way to interpret a text, and that is why having an understanding of hermeneutics is so important! Books that help to explain the various means by which one can interpret texts and how to tell when a passage should be taken figuratively or literally are required tools for anyone wishing to properly comprehend the Scriptures. These resources won't tell you how you should interpret a particular passage of the Bible, but will equip you with a working knowledge of how you can determine for yourself the proper interpretation of a specific passage of the Scriptures. Having a good understanding of hermeneutics will immediately free you from having to rely on the exegesis of individuals who may or may not have been inspired by God in their understanding of the Holy Scriptures.


Recommendations

How to Read a Book, revised and updated edition. Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1972

Grasping God's Word. J. Scott Duvall and John Daniel Hays. Zondervan, 2001

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, revised and updated. William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993

Methodical Bible Study. Robert Traina. Zondervan, 2001

Inductive Bible Study: A Comprehensive Guide to the Practice of Hermeneutics. David R. Bauer, Robert A. Traina. Baker Academic, 2011

Idioms in the Bible Explained. George M. Lamsa. HarperOne, 1985

Doctrine & Theology

Do you understand "why" you believe the things that you do, or are you just going along with what you have been told? How did the vast majority of Christians come to believe a particular doctrine or to hold a particular theological position? What were the arguments and what evidence is there to support the orthodox position? Understanding the process and history behind various theological doctrines and the grounds which support a particular doctrine are necessities for defending the principle beliefs of your faith and growing in your knowledge concerning the mysteries of God; it is for this reason that you will want to familiarize yourself with the subject of theology.


Recommendations

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Wayne Grudem. Zondervan, 1994

Systematic Theology Volumes 1-4. Norman L. Geisler. Bethany House, 2005

Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes. Charles Hodge. Hendrickson Publishers, 1999

The Fundamentals, 2 Volumes . R.A. Torrey. Baker, 2003

Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine. Gregg R. Allison. Zondervan, 2011

 

The Name of Jesus writen in Hebrew with the english phonetic pronunciation beneath.
The Name of Jesus writen in Hebrew with the english phonetic pronunciation beneath. | Source

Word Study

Word study tools help you to properly define words and understand the original context in which they were meant to be understood. These books are like encyclopedias, arranged in alphabetical order, which provide a wealth of information about each word used in the original language and text. Word study books can help you to discover the hidden meanings of texts as well as whether or not they were accurately translated into your primary language. These are an absolute must!


Recommendations

Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar, Second Edition. Gary D. Pratico, Miles V. Van Pelt. Zondervan, 2007

Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Third Edition. William D. Mounce. Zondervan, 2009

The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Francis Brown, C. Briggs, S.R. Driver. Hendrickson Publishers, 1996

Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Joseph Thayer. Hendrickson Publishers, 1996

Vincent's New Testament Word Studies, 4 Volumes. Marvin R. Vincent. Hendrickson Publishers, 1886

Old Testament Parsing Guide. Todd S. Beall, William A. Banks, Colin S. Smith. B & H Publishing Group, 2000

A Parsing Guide to the Greek New Testament. Nathan Han. Herald Press, 1971

Textual Criticism & Historicity

Textual criticism is a scholarly attempt to identify and eliminate transcription errors in biblical manuscripts. It is a known fact that ancient scribes made many errors, omissions, and alterations when copying biblical texts. These inconsistencies occurred because at the time there were no printing presses or copying machines available, so manuscripts were preserved and duplicated through the process of hand-copying.

Through the process of textual criticism, scholars have been able to identify these inconsistencies and have reached a majority consensus that despite these errors the biblical texts that we have today are remarkably preserved copies of the autographic sources. Books on textual criticism will aid you in understanding the processes that scholars have used and also any passages that may remain in question.

Other study tools of similar importance to that of textual criticism are books which address historicity . These books are concerned with historical evidence for places, persons, and facts found within the Scriptures, and they seek to provide the reader with scholarly information concerning the truth of biblical persons and accounts using a variety of resources.

Both textual criticism and historicity can not be overstated in their importance for ensuring a believer's certainty in the historical accuracy of their faith.


Recommendations

A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible: Its History, Methods and Results. Paul D. Wegner. Inter-varsity Press, 2004

The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica, Second Edition . Ernst Wurthwein. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) Standard Edition. Karl Elliger, Willhelm Rudolph. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006

Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27), Wide-Margin Edition. E. Nestle, B. & K. Aland, eds. Hendrickson Publishers, 2007

The Greek New Testament, 4th Revised Edition (UBS4). B. & K. Aland, B.M. Metzger, eds. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006

A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition (companion UBS4). Bruce M. Metzger. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006

Evidence That Demands a Verdict . Josh McDowell. Thomas Nelson Publishers

 

The notable Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea
The notable Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea | Source

Biblical & Christian History

Most people don't know history very well and Christians are no exception. The fact of the matter is that if most Christians understood not only the history of events found in the Bible, but also the historical evolution of their own faith, they would not fall prey to the many varied attacks upon their faith that have occurred over and over again throughout its history.

There is nothing new under the sun, and the truth is that nearly every argument put forth against Christianity today has been used and refuted numerous times in the past (in numerous incarnations). A little knowledge of the history of Judaism, Christianity, and the early church can go a long way in improving an individual's understanding of their own faith.


Recommendations

Early Church History Library, 3 Volumes. C.F. Cruse, William Whiston, C.D. Yonge. Hendrickson Publishers

A History of the Early Church to A.D. 500 . J.W.C. Wand. Taylor & Francis, Inc., 1975

Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity. Jonathan Hill. Zondervan, 2007

History of the Christian Church, 8 Volumes. Philip Schaff. Hendrickson Publishers, 1985

 

Extra-Biblical Texts

Some ancient texts not found in the Scriptures, but which are still Scripturally related, may help to improve your understanding of the context of certain biblical events. In fact, there are a number of such texts which are referred too within the canonical books, but which failed to "make the cut" for their own inclusion into the canon for a variety of reasons. Other extra-Biblical texts can serve as excellent supplements to your Christian studies.


Recommendations

The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, 22 Volumes. Edited by Jacob Neusner. Hendrickson Publishers

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. Alexander Roberts. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994

Early Church Fathers: Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers Series 1, 14 Vols. Philip Schaff, ed. Hendrickson Publishers, 1989

Early Church Fathers: Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers Series 2, 14 Vols. Philip Schaff, ed. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994

NRSV Apocrypha. Baker, 1998

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments, Two Volume Set. James H. Charlesworth. Hendrickson Publishers, 2010

Bible Software

A final point of consideration for your study library is how you prefer to store the information: on a bookshelf or a computer.

Bible software is available for nearly every form of electronic media on the market today. It can make your studies much easier and is often much more cost effective, but one should consider both the advantages and disadvantages of Bible software (and the various software available) before making a decision. One of the disadvantages of Bible software is potential file corruption and an unnecessary reliance on the power company for access to spiritual materials.

I would recommend that you consider owning both Bible software and hard copies of some of the materials you will most often use and rely upon.


Recommendations

Logos

E-Sword

Conclusion

Now that you have become familiar with some of the basic tools found in a Christian study library you are ready to begin shopping. In my opinion, two of the very best places to find these materials are from such trustworthy suppliers as Amazon and Christian Book. These stores often carry a large variety of the study tools you will be seeking in high quality and at a low cost. Happy shopping and may God bless!

More by this Author


Comments

No comments yet.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working