Good Books: Beginning Bible Students
Page Summary: This page is a list of recommended books from my www.twmodules.com website for the beginning Bible student. All of the recommendations from this page can be downloaded for freely from my website (links are provided), and given away to other people as long as no charge is made for them.
Why do I recommend these specific books?
I recommend these specific books because I feel that :
(1) the beginning Bible student should first learn about Christian books by actually using them before he begins to invest heavily in purchasing a lot of books. Normally these purchases of books cannot be “undone”. Once you buy one, you will not get what you paid for it if you sell.
(2) I recommend these books with theWord free Bible software program. The program is free and you can use the reference books with the program, and basically the only thing it will cost you is an Internet connection, and a little time to learn the program.
(3) These books are good basic reference books. I have tried not to recommend anything with a lot of Greek or Hebrew. Yes they are older books out of copyright, but they are still excellent books. In a lot of cases, there are better books out there. But what the beginning student needs is not an encyclopedia with 25 pages on the word “adoption”, but a brief but full half to quarter page explanatory type Bible dictionary that will not get him “bogged down” with too much information.
You can go to my site and download everything, but I would not recommend that for the beginning Bible student. Stick the recommendations here, and after 1-2 years, start going back and download more and more books from my site.
Probably one of the fads in Christianity that will never go away is the desire to have a “new Bible”. We will never learn that it is not the new that we need, but the old. New Bible versions come and go, and Christianity is not any better by it. In visiting literally hundreds and hundreds of local churches in my ministry as missionary, I have to note very strongly that churches that fall into the fad of new Bible versions like the NIV, the Message Bible, the Paraphrased Bible, Philipps Bible, etc. simply are looking for a weaker Bible that will water down and change what God has told us. The idea behind these Bibles is that they are easier to read and understand, but that is just Bible Society publicity. The real reason behind it all is to have a Bible that is not a formal, authorative commandment oriented book.
As such people who look to new Bible versions have read in their King James Bible what the Word of God says, and they fully understand it, and their desire is a Bible version that softens, changes, and mutes that message. They want to take the old message “out of the authorative mold” that everybody understands and put it into a new context supposedly so that Christians today will be able to understand it better. Baloney. And a lot of baloney at that. They want to remove the offense of the Gospel, and the sting of God’s rebuke. That is what is at issue.
Read this my page on What is the difference between Bible versions?
What the new Bible Student needs is an accurate, literal translation of the Scriptures. As far as I know, the two best Bible versions as far as following a one to one word correspondence with the original languages is the King James Bible and the New American Standard. These are older versions (I had my seminary training back in 1980-81). The newer versions are the NET Bible with something like 61,000 translator notes attached to it. The ESV also came on the scene which is supposedly good also.
- Amplified Bible: (Premium $24.95).
- New American Standard Bible (Premium $11.95).
- The Net Bible (Premium $19.95) (Free version The Net Bible).
- English Standard Version (Free).
Personally, I would recommend that you download the ESV version and possibly the free NET Bible version (the free version of The Net Bible) without the notes, so that is an option), and forget about the others until you get deeper into the study of the Word.
My primary advice is that you use your King James Bible, and then learn how to use the Strong’s lexicon option in TheWord (click in the KJV Bible window, and type “S”, and that should toggle the Strongs words on and off). This is in the basic download of TheWord, and is totally free.
Doing this, you can see Strong’s definitions of any Greek or Hebrew word by clicking on the word or the Strong dictionary number after the word in the program. That is more than sufficient for being Bible students to know the vocabulary underlying the English text.
Once you want more than this basic information, the process (which I would recommend is to first use Interlineal Bibles, then get more Greek and Hebrew Lexicons (to use in place of Strong’s or in conjunction with Strong’s Lexicon), and then eventually start using some of the other literal Bible translations, then take Greek Grammar classes, and finally take Hebrew classes. All of this is not necessary unless you are a pastor or very heavily involved in preaching or teaching.
When you read the promotions of Bible dictionaries (as well as most other Christian reference books), you will see “New” “Revised”, “Updated”, “New insights from recent archealogical studies”, etc. Don’t buy into these promos. In the end, what makes a Bible Dictionary or book good or bad isn’t what has been discovered in the last 10 years, but the author’s own relationship with Christ, his doctrinal views and religious practices, and very importantly how well he understands the Bible and conveys those understandings to the reader. Book publishers are always in competition with public domain books, and so they toot their horn of new and revised. In actuality, most of these books are 70% to 95% copied from older books, reworded, repackaged, new graphic covers that are attention getters (the color and graphics on the outside of a book tell you nothing about the orthodoxy, the scholarship, nor the spiritual relationship of the author to God, so remember that every time you pass over a blah no cover book for one with splashy color).
First Level Bible Dictionaries.
Here there are some classic Bible Dictionaries that you need to be very familar with, and you need to have them and use them.
ISBE – Although International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has been around for a good while, there is probably no better Bible dictionary out there. ISBE’s dictionary has like 20,000 entries, and each entry is extensive. If there is one thing that I don’t like about ISBE is it’s length of articles, they are long to read through if you are in a hurry. But being a good Bible student is most of the time wanting to read, read, and read more. Intensive, long, drawn-out study is what eventually will render the truth to you. So this Bible dictionary should be your basic work horse.
Second level Bible Dictionaries.
There are several Bible Dictionaries that are again the standards against which everybody else has to measure themselves. Here these standard pillars of Bible Study are Fausett, Easton,
Faussett – Faussett’s Bible Dictionary is a good solid Bible Dictionary.
Easton – Easton’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Although the original work has images, I haven’t been able to find an electronic copy with those images to add them to this.
Smith – Smith’s Bible Dictionary. This is another good solid dictionary.
Third level Bible Dictionaries.
Morrish Bible Dictionary – This is a brethren work (with images) which is a little bit more concise that the above dictionaries, but is very good. For looking up something quick but thorough and brief, this and Amtrac are the best dictionaries.
American Tract Society Dictionary (known as AmTrac) – Amtrac is another dictionary like Morrish which is concise in its definitions, but is still an excellent dictionary.
These reference books are just lists of general or specific Bible topics with a list of cross references arranged by order and design usually. I find the books in this category a little hard to use, that is not because they are difficult to use, it is because when you are looking for information on a topic, you go to these, and they don’t even have the topic as an entry, and so you just forget to check them. When they have the topic, they are tremendous. The problem is that many times they won’t have what you are looking for, or they will have it cataloged under a different term than you think it should be.
The beginning Bible student needs to just browse through these for a while and get into the habit of checking them regularly when researching a topic, and not give up on checking them even if you go for a while and not get anything from them.
Naves Topical Concordance – The top of the list here is Naves Topical Concordance. There is probably very few works like this work.
Exegetical Bible Commentaries
Devotional Bible Commentaries
Cross Reference Commentaries
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge – With this resource, I scarcely know where to begin. First of all, let me describe it to you. Back in the 1800s, a Christian book publisher in England put out what was a the rage back then, a Bible with cross references. For those growing up with Scofield’s cross references, we take a lot for granted. But they published one, and then they came across several others. The actual text of the translation was the same in all of them from I understand, but these notes became a great Bible study tool.
So they decided to revise their edition and add in another couple of cross-reference Bible notes, and eventually combined more and more, until they ended up with over 380,000 cross references. That is a lot by today’s standards, but back then it was a monster. They had to break the cross references totally from the Bible, and just publish the notes.
If I had to have only 1 book besides my Bible to study with, this would probably be it. There is little text in these notes, but the vast majority of the cross references illumine and explain the text by referring to other passages in the Scriptures. This is a resource that the beginning Bible student as well as the professional pastor needs to know how to use, and use it constantly.
As a Pastor writing several sermons every week, many a time I can take one text or passage of Scripture, go here, and the outline falls into place from the cross-references as well as the subpoints.
Note: Timothy Morton has upgraded this to a new version, and has added more references up to 670,000 cross references.
Thompson Chain Reference – This is a set (like a commentary, notes on each verse of the Bible) which has the cross references from the Thompson Chain Reference Bible.
to be continued…