Many Christians who begin to study the roots of their faith consider whether or not they need to reevaluate the resources they use for Bible Study. It may be that your study Bible or some of the other references you use are biased toward an antinomian view – the idea that the Torah commandments have been done away with by the death and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus). Those resources may not be very encouraging to you at this point in your walk.
Note: English is my native tongue, and my comments are directed to those who read English.
Here are a few tools that may be helpful for you in your new studies.
1. Your Bible
To get back to the basics of Bible study, you may find it beneficial to use just a text or cross-reference Bible, one that does not have study notes in it. Remember, those study notes are written by men and are not inspired Scripture.
What is the best Bible translation? It is the one that you can read and understand the best. Of course, that is an overly simplistic answer. You will want to choose a translation that accurately reflects the meaning of the original (Hebrew and Greek) text. There are several good translations, ranging from essentially literal to what they call dynamic equivalent translations. Literal (word-for-word) translations can be hard to read, as direct word-for-word translation from one language to another is often awkward. On the other hand, a dynamic equivalent (thought-for-thought) translation, which brings the intended meaning of one language over into another language, requires the translator to first interpret the meaning. For this reason, it is often good to have more than one translation so that you can compare them.
Here are some highly regarded, scholarly translations of the Bible in modern English ranging in order from Literal to Dynamic Equivalent:
New American Standard Bible (NASB) – Recommended
English Standard Version (ESV)
New King James Version (NKJV)
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Christian Standard Bible (CSB or HCSB)
New International Version (NIV or TNIV)
Though they may be easy reading, it probably isn’t a good idea to used paraphrased Bibles for study. They are very highly influenced by those doing the paraphrase. These would include Bibles like The Message, The Living Bible, and to a lesser extent the New Living Translation and the Good News Bible.
If you are looking for a Bible in a more Hebraic or Jewish style, you may want to consider the Tree of Life Version (tends toward literal) or the Complete Jewish Bible (tends toward thought-for-thought).
You may also consider an Interlinear Bible. Although it is based on the source text for the KJV, the Interlinear Bible Hebrew-Greek-English by Jay P. Green shows you parallel lines with Strong’s numbers (described in the next section on Concordance), Hebrew or Greek Bible text, and English text. The English text is a literal translation by Green.
Another valuable resource is the Key Word Study Bible, available in NASB, ESV and NKJV. This Bible has key words marked with Strong’s numbers in the text. In the back are complete Strong’s Hebrew and Greek dictionaries (not the greatest) and very good Hebrew and Greek lexicons. Everything is contained in one volume that isn’t oversized.
A concordance is a listing of English words and their corresponding use in Bible passages. Undoubtedly the most popular concordance is Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. It lists every occurrence of every word in the Bible, and also identifies the Hebrew and Greek root words used to translate the English words. The Hebrew and Greek words are numbered, and those numbers are used in a great many resources so that English readers can identify Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible.
Unfortunately, Strong’s is keyed to the text of the King James Version. If you are using a modern English translation, it may be more difficult to find passages by words that don’t match the archaic language of the KJV. The dictionary in Strong’s is based on the word usage in the KJV.
My recommendation is the Strongest NASB Exhaustive Concordance, done in the style of Strong’s but for the 1995 New American Standard Bible Update. It uses the Strong’s numbering system, enhanced for the NASB which is based on Alexandrian rather than Byzantine Greek texts.
3. Bible Dictionary
There are many. I recommend the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. This is a dictionary of English words (what you are reading in your Bible) with extended definitions of underlying Hebrew words and Greek words describing where, how and how often they are used. This gives you the opportunity to compare Old Testament (Hebrew) and New Testament (Greek) words for the same word in our English Bibles.
4. Hebrew and Greek Lexicons
A lexicon in this context is an expanded dictionary including points of grammar. These are based on Hebrew and Greek words rather than English words, but fortunately they are published in editions that are written in English and keyed to the Strong’s numbers. See how all of this works together? Because lexicons for the original languages, you will need two of them – one for Hebrew and one for Greek. The most popular lexicons are:
What about commentaries and other study guides? I won’t make a recommendation on specific commentaries. Keep in mind that these are all the thoughts of men. If you use them, let them inspire you to dig further into the scriptures rather than becoming the definitive answer. Here are a few you may wish to consider as you explore the roots of your faith:
Online vs. Offline vs. Printed Resources
You can find most of these resources online at no charge. They can also be added as software modules you can download to your computer, often at no charge, in offline programs like E-Sword or theWord. If you use these free programs, consider making a donation to support them. You may also have these in paid commercial Bible software programs like PCStudy Bible or Logos.
When using online or offline software (which I use frequently) consider that this could be unavailable at any time. Restricted or loss of internet access eliminates your online resources. Equipment failure can make even your offline installed programs inaccessible. And it is entirely possible that, with one Windows update, any program might be rendered inoperable – either by coincidental incompatibility or by intent.
Use what is available to you, but I strongly recommend that as you are able you obtain these resources in print. At some point they, too, may be unavailable. Here in the United States where I live, we tend to take our freedom for granted. Things are rapidly changing.
These resources are the starting point for good Bible study, and as you are able to obtain them should be a part of your printed library.