Setting aside time in our busy schedules to read the Bible is hard enough, but add in the fact that each Bible comes with unique features and Bible helps, and it’s enough to overwhelm even the most well-intentioned reader.
How do we use all the extras in our Bibles as tools for spiritual growth instead of allowing the options to intimidate us? In this post, we will define our terms and tools—discovering how to utilize the resources that are included in nearly every study Bible and help you to determine what other features may enrich your time in God’s Word.
Take some time to explore your Bible and its features when you first purchase it. Then make an effort to include those features during your personal study to deepen your understanding of and engagement with the Word.
Common Study Bible Tools
- Book Introductions: Although the format of book introductions may vary, nearly every study Bible includes some form of introductions. While it may be tempting to skip over supplemental content like this to get directly to the biblical text, book introductions set the scene for what you are about to read. Say you’re starting the Book of Habakkuk. You could just jump in, but you’d miss a lot if you didn’t know that this book is a conversation between God and Habakkuk about the judgment of Israel and God’s use of unjust people in carrying out His justice. Reading the introduction helps you better understand what the book would have meant to its original readers and how it fits into the larger story of Scripture.
- Maps/Charts: Some study Bibles have maps/charts scattered throughout the biblical texts, and others house them in the back of the Bible. Referring to maps can deepen our understanding of the text, as they can show the distance between towns, particular journeys of the apostles, and more. Don’t be afraid to pause your reading of the text and refer to these maps when you stumble on the name of a city or geographical location that you want some more setting for. Other charts, such as tables of weights and measures, can be referred to in a similar way—when you have questions throughout your reading, feel free to pause and refer to these. They are there to help you.
- Concordance/Topical Index: The concordance is the perfect tool for when you don’t know where to begin in your time with the Word. Concordances/topical indexes separate Bible passages into topics such as “friendship,” “joy,” “loss,” and “perfectionism.” This is also a great way to quickly find a verse to encourage someone.
Pictured above: The CSB Study Bible
Other Common Bible Extras
- Reading Plans: A newer feature of many study Bibles is reading plans. As the name suggests, these help you journey through the Bible—or a part of the Bible—in a logical way. Some will take you through an entire year or longer, while others are only a few days long.
- Study Notes: Most study Bibles contain some sort of study notes, either at the bottom or to the side of the biblical text. While you don’t have to read every word of these alongside the Bible passage you are reading, you can go to the notes when you need extra context or when you run into something confusing. The notes provide helpful explanations and context to draw you deeper into the world of Scripture.
- Devotions: Many Bibles, such as The CSB She Reads Truth Bible and The CSB (in)Courage Devotional Bible include devotions scattered throughout Scripture. These devotions help readers to see the Biblical text as part of the modern world, doing the work of relating Scripture to real-life experiences in the world today.
As a member of the Bible Team at LifeWay, I currently use The CSB Study Bible and the CSB Ancient Faith Bible in my Bible reading. In the end, what matters most is that you sit down and read God’s Word. We hope that the extras in your Bible help you understand what you read, enrich your time with God, and usher you into a deeper relationship with Him.