The Bible is one of the best-selling books in the world and there are many biblical scholars that dedicate their lives to studying and interpreting the text. The original writings of the Bible were written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Since its origin, the Bible has been translated into countless different languages so that all might be able to read and learn the word of God. Additionally, there are many different English translations available, each seeking to faithfully reflect the original texts while adapting the language to be more approachable for modern readers.
Some might find reading the Bible to be intimidating, but there are many tools that can help guide you. Understanding these tools and finding the right translation for you will help you to start your Bible education on the right foot. Studying the Bible helps us understand the role of God in our everyday lives, making it an important aspect of growing your faith. Along with different Bibles to help guide your study, there are also a large variety of different Bible study books that focus on different aspects of faith. Depending on what you want to focus or work on, you will find a study book that meets your needs. With all the options on the market, we break down everything you need to know to choose the right one for you.
What is the Bible?
The Bible is made up of two main sections, the Old Testament and New Testament. While most Bibles contain both of these sections, you can also find Bibles that include just one of these major sections, and some that are even further divided to focus on one particular Biblical book. These can be useful for Bible Beginners unsure of where to start or for those who want to delve into one particular portion of the Bible for closer study. To help you narrow down what part of the Bible you want to study, we break down the two main parts, Old and New Testaments. After determining which Bible and part you want to study first, you can find a study book that can help you further interpret and understand scripture.
The first section of the Christian Bible is known as the Old Testament and consists of 39 books (including the books of Genesis, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes). The Old Testament covers the period of time spanning from the creation of the world to just before the birth of Jesus and documents the ancient history of Israel and provides moral teachings. The Old Testament of the Bible consists of the Pentateuch, the Historical Books, the Wisdom Books, and the Prophetic Books.
The Pentateuch contains the first five books of the Bible which are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These five books document the history and the beginnings of the world as well as the creation of the people of Israel. The law as it is expressed in the Pentateuch shows how people of God are meant to live. Made up of narrative accounts as well as formalized guidelines for living, this section of the Old Testament presents God’s plan for humanity and His relentless faithfulness to His people.
The next two sections of the Old Testament are the Historical and Wisdom Books. As the name suggests the Historical and Wisdom Books share the prophetic history of the time and also share the wisdom of God's teachings through prophets. The Historical Books recount events spanning from Israel’s conquest of Canaan to the dissolution of the Kingdom of Israel and its people’s exile. Here we find the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, Ezra, and Esther. The Wisdom Books are a collection of books made up of poetry, narratives, and moral sayings and teachings. These books include reflections on worship, love, suffering, and life.
Finally there are the Prophetic Books, divided into the Major and Minor Prophets. These books mainly consist of history told by the different prophets, or messengers sent to the people by God. They not only document the events of ancient Israel but also explain the lasting significance of the events that occur during this time. The Prophetic books offer accounts of the messages God commanded the prophets to share with the people. The designation of the prophets as either “major” or “minor” is not a statement of their importance or worth. Rather, the so-called “major” prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, are the longer Prophetic books. The minor Prophets are a collection of shorter books, such as Jonah and Micah.
The New Testament
The New Testament of the Bible consists of 27 distinct books that document and share teachings of Jesus. The New Testament is believed to flow directly from events that occur in the Old Testament. The New Testament can also be divided into different sections. The two main sections are known as the Gospels and the Epistles.
The Gospels include the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books together document the birth and ministry of Jesus and also show his significance and sacrifice for humanity. The first book, Matthew, shows how Jesus was conceived miraculously and demonstrates how important he is as the Son of God. This book also shows God’s power and teachings through Jesus. The next book, Mark, focuses on different testimonies of Jesus’ ability to heal and perform miracles. Luke describes how we are able to unite under Jesus and all become closer to God through Him. The last book in the Gospels, the book of John, emphasizes the importance of Jesus as the Son of God, and that believers in him will be granted eternal life.
The other major section of the New Testament consists of 21 Epistles, or letters. These letters, written by the Apostles to various early Christian communities, were meant to provide advice for church leaders on how to best commit to Jesus’ teachings.They demonstrated how through Him we are able to be saved. Finally, the New Testament ends with the book of Revelation which contains different letters to the churches and also interprets the meaning of life from the beginning to the end of the world.
What to Look for in a Bible Study Book
As you prepare to start your Bible education, you can make use of all the tools included in various study books that are meant to help you. There are a wide variety of different options depending on your focus and learning style. To help you choose the best one for you, we go through what you want to look for in a quality study book.
- Find one written by an author you like. An author that you enjoy reading can provide you with insights and questions that feel relevant and helpful. Authors have a habit of using a similar tone or style throughout their writings, so if you find someone whose style you like, reading a new study can be more familiar and approachable. You will be much more likely to be engaged in the readings.
- Research the author. As you set out to find an author you connect with, it is helpful to gain some understanding of her or his personal context. There are many different denominations and perspectives; you may want someone who comes from a similar background or tradition as you do. Or, perhaps, you might want to learn from an author approaching scripture from a different denomination.
- Choose a study book by topic. The Bible provides teachings and lessons covering a wide array of topics. Depending on what you want to focus on--for instance, forgiveness, prayer, etc.--there are guides that emphasize those specific topics within the scripture.
- Functionality. This is an important aspect when looking for a study book since ultimately you want the book to assist in your Bible learning. Studying the Bible can be a large commitment that requires a bit of time. Are you looking for a morning devotional or study you can spend 10 minutes a day engaging? Or do you want something more in-depth, to devote several hours to? Think through how the book you select will help you to meet your individual study goals.
- Teaches you to study on your own. While a guide that lays out everything for you is nice, it is important to be able to do your own reflecting and applying to your own life. A study book that teaches you the foundations and guides you to your own reading and exploration can help you in the long run.
In addition to finding a Bible study book to supplement your education, remember to also have your own Bible, such as this complete collection from Alabaster, that you can form a deep relationship with as you further your education.
Top Picks for Bible Study Books to Start Your Bible Education
All That Is Made is a guide for readers exploring the intersection of creativity and faith. It is a first step, the beginning of a conversation that allows readers to engage their faith and creativity against the larger backdrop of the God who has made all that is made. This guide book from Alabaster is an excellent way to begin exploring how faith impacts and influences our daily lives.
- Perfect for artists and creatives
- Explores the example Jesus set through his ministry
- Not centered around one particular Biblical book or text
This Bible Study Book is written by Priscilla Shirer, a renowned Bible teacher, and is one of her many study books designed to help you discern and learn the word of God. This study Bible features stories and illustrations to help to understand scripture more deeply. It focuses on daily communication with God and sets the foundation for you to strengthen your relationship with Him. There are exercises that help to apply your lessons after studying. If you enjoy any of her books, this is a must-read for those looking to grow their relationship with God.
- Well known author
- Focuses on relationship with God
- Equips you for your own study
- Should be read in conjunction with other books
The Jesus in Me Study Guide is great for those looking for direction while reading the New Testament. The book is written by Anne Graham Lotz, one of the five most influential evangelists of her generation. The guide is made to work through five Bible studies per week with selected scriptures on the Holy Spirit. This is a great book for beginners that want to have a deeper connection with Jesus.
- Has a strong and clear focus
- Written by a renowned evangelist
- Study is thought-provoking
- Less geared toward new believers
- Focuses on New Testament; if you’re looking for Old Testament study, this might not be right for you
This Bible study book is a 52-week guide that helps you gain discipline in reading the word of God. This is a great book for beginners that are struggling to figure out how to get started. The guide helps you through the whole Bible in a year and features a daily reading plan as well as a weekly reflection. The book focuses on women’s faith and works with any translation. This interactive study comes with thought-provoking questions, journaling prompts, and prayers to guide you through the scripture. If you are a woman looking to start out your journey in growing your faith, this guide lays it all out for you.
- Provides adequate direction
- Focuses on application to life
- Focus on women’s perspective may make it less relatable for men
- Meant to be only a year-long study
This Bible study book is written by Angie Smith, an accomplished writer who has a number of guides covering different topics. This book ties together the main stories and lessons of the scripture, which can be great for beginners. This guide lays out the key information and features maps, foundational facts, and word studies. You can complete this by yourself or in small groups for a more in-depth study. It is a great book for beginners that provide the necessary tools to begin your Bible education.
- Great foundational study
- Helps to tie everything together
- Serves as a guide to reading scripture
- Can be too general for more advanced study
- Geared towards beginners
There are a number of resources that can help guide you through your first interaction with scripture. Depending on your focus, there will be a guide that fits your exact needs and likes. With all the options on the market, make sure to choose one that can guide you to a closer relationship with God and a better understanding of His teachings.