Are Study Bibles worth it? Study Bibles are an investment, but in my view, they are worth it, just as much for our daily reading as for topical or themed studies. They bring a wealth of historical and cultural information which adds insight to the Biblical text. This brings a new level of understanding, and encourages us to dig deeper into God’s word. The theoretical knowledge provided is important to accurately interpret and then apply the word to our lives today.
What is the difference between a Study Bible and a Reference Bible?
A Study Bible typically provides an introduction to each book of the Bible, with an overview and historical context. They will have additional notes, maps, charts, a topical index, and a concordance. The main feature is the extensive notes, verse-by-verse explanations of the Scripture text. There will be links and references to other Scriptures which all help to build up meaning and understanding. Some also include short essays for application of the text. They are useful for individual and group study.
A Reference Bible connects one Scripture to another. Often, they will provide an overview as an introduction to each of the books in the Bible, but the main feature is the cross referencing of Scriptures. There are different styles, and in the product description it will specify the layout, whether a central column or a side panel is provided for the references. Sometimes they include maps, and a short concordance.
When looking to purchase a ‘study’ Bible just be aware that sometimes the word is applied to journal, or themed reading plan, Bibles. They, of course, all help with Bible study but are not a full in-depth Study Bible. The Study Bibles I have selected here are the ones, with the traditional interpretation, providing in-depth notes to help our understanding of Scripture.
What is a Good Study Bible for Women to buy?
There are many Study Bibles to choose from, covering all the main translations. When choosing to purchase a Study Bible the starting point is with your preferred translation – buy one that you enjoy reading. Next consider the text size, you want to be able to read it easily, and the notes are always going to be in a smaller font than the main script. Also the size of the book may be important – are you going to be using it at home or taking it to church?
I have chosen a small selection for you to consider, some which are marketed specifically at women and others which are written for a broader market. But, they all have something unique to offer for the different seasons of our lives:
The Woman’s Study Bible by Thomas Nelson
This Study Bible for women is available in a variety of covers, from a plain leather cover to a floral print hardcover with a jacket and a floral cloth hardcover. It is available for the NIV (2080 pages) and NKJV translations (2288 pages). The main text is in 10.5 font – described as large print size, the notes are in a smaller font but quite a bold print at the bottom of the page. The words of Jesus appear in red. The Bible dimensions are 17.15 x 5.08 x 24.13 cm, making this a large and heavy book.
It includes contributions from over 80 women from a wide variety of backgrounds, detailed portraits of the lives of over one hundred biblical women, and additional quotes from contemporary and historical godly women. In addition to the extensive verse-by-verse study notes there are topical articles with application for our lives today. Colour illustrations throughout.
Critique: The Ketubah marriage contract and family history pages at the front might not be appropriate or required for everyone.
ESV Women’s Study Bible by Crossway
This Study Bible for women in the ESV translation is available as a hardcover in two different designs (2336 pages). The dark teal cover design comes in a slipcase, whereas the blue and gold cover has a jacket. It does not specify the size of the main text and the notes are in a smaller font which is a light print at the bottom of the page. The Bible dimensions are 16.76 x 5.84 x 24.64 cm, making this a large and heavy book.
This Bible has beautiful full page illustrations in gold by artist Dana Tanamachi. It includes reflections on key passages, article on theological topics and character profiles. There are contributions from best selling women authors ( USA/Canada) such as, Jen Wilkin, Lauren Chandler, and Ann Voskamp who bring reflections on key passages.
Critique: The gold lettering used for the verse numbers can be hard to read and difficult to find.
The Study Bible for Women by Broadman & Holman Publishers
This Study Bible for Women is available in three different translations and each one has their own cover design, all described as being in imitation leather. The Bible also comes in a ‘full size’ and for the NKJV & HCSB a ‘personal size edition.’ For this review I am commentating on the personal size edition. The Bible dimensions are 14.22 x 4.32 x 21.21cm (2208 & 2178 pages). The size of the font is 9.25 and the notes are in a smaller font in a side panel.
This Study Bible has extensive commentary notes, and individual word studies in a highlighted paragraph. Their are full page articles on different aspects of Biblical womanhood, eg. ‘Importance of women to the moral fabric of the nation’. Their are character profiles, Bible study themes, and application with some answers for those hard, faith based, questions.
Critique: The offset of a smaller sized Bible is that the main text (9.25) and notes are in a smaller font. They are also both in a light print.
Life Application Study Bible (Anglicised) by Hodder & Stoughton
This Study Bible is available in the NIV translation either as a hardback, with a jacket, or flexibound in a soft cover embossed with flowers (2416 pages). The dimensions are 17 x 6 x 24.5 cm, a large and heavy book. The font size is 8.75 with the notes in a smaller font at the bottom of the page. Cross referencing scriptures are shown in a side panel. There is also a larger font edition available (10pt.).
This Study Bible includes what you would expect with extensive verse-by-verse notes, book introductions, maps, a concordance and character profiles. The focus is on applying the wisdom of God’s word to everyday life and the notes point to practical application. For many women that is the appeal of this Bible – studying the Word to glean applicable truths for our everyday lives.
Critique: Unless you purchase the larger font option the writing, particularly for the extensive notes, is small.
Starting Place Study Bible by Zondervan
This Study Bible is available only in the NIV translation, as a hardcover and an imitation leather option in the soft blue shown here or in navy/brown (1792 pages). The dimensions are 19.05 x 5.08 x 24.13 cm – a big Bible. The main font is 9.7 and the text is in two panels, with the notes in a slightly smaller font underneath.
This book is written as an introduction to studying the Bible for yourself and is a comprehensive tool. In addition to the verse-by-verse explanatory notes there are, highlighted in yellow, context notes, and answers for difficult questions. There are insights into fascinating Bible characters and explanations of core biblical truths – a great starting point for women of any age.
Critique: The additional notes can crowd the main text and the yellow background can be overpowering.
Biblical Theology Study Bible by Zondervan
This Study Bible is only available in the NIV translation, shown here in pink/brown imitation leather, with an indexed option (2592 pages). The dimensions are 17.78 x 6.35 x 25.4 cm, a large and heavy book. The main font is 9.1 and described as ‘comfort print’ which is bold and easy to read. The notes are at the bottom of the page and cross reference scriptures are in a side panel. There are colour illustrations throughout and the text is in a single panel.
The theology Study Bible is not written specifically for women and there are other cover options. It includes three articles which introduce theology and then a further twenty-five articles on key themes of Scripture by bestselling authors like Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung. There are over sixty contributors to the notes and the main author is D.A.Carson. There are detailed introductions to the individual books and a comprehensive concordance. This Bible is designed to appeal to women who want to develop further their home study.
Critique: More of a Study Bible than a systematic theology Bible.
The links provided in this post take you to Amazon US and UK, and will show one of the Bibles illustrated. If you select that image, it will take you to a page with more details, then you can select ‘show all formats and editions’ to see the different covers etc… Of course the Study Bibles are also available from other online retailers and large bookstores.
I’ve chosen a new Study Bible out of the selection here. I’d love to hear which Bible you are reading – you can let me know your favourite by adding a comment below.