Basic Bible Study Tools

Spade, hoe, water hose, and wheelbarrow. These are the basic tools a home gardener uses to create a vibrant garden. What’s so special about these tools? Nothing, really, but they are so handy. They make the job of planting easier and effective.

Likewise, Bible-study tools may not be flashy, but they make digging into the Word of God much more productive. The more serious you become about personal Bible study, the more you will appreciate study tools. You’ll reach for these books, charts, and maps over and over. They will become the front-row favorites on your bookshelf, and, if you use a computer, many of them are available with just a couple of clicks.


Reading multiple Bible versions will enrich your study of God’s Word. Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s favorites are the New Living Translation (NLT) and the New American Standard Bible. Pastor Chuck has also assembled The Swindoll Study Bible filled with articles, maps, notes, and more. features numerous Bible versions and other study resources.

Some translations, like the NLT, NIV, NET, and Eugene Peterson’s The Message, might use extra words and specially arrange the order of ideas to prioritize clarity and style and readability. Other translations, like the NASB and ESV, seek as closely as possible to represent the same concepts as are in the original languages and in the order in which they appear to help you see their flow of thoughts, even if the implied meaning is slightly less apparent. Both translations accomplish their purposes and both are vital for understanding God’s Word in our own language. For an example, look closely at the different way the NLT and NASB translate Psalm 44:3:

They did not conquer the land with their swords;

it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory.

It was your right hand and strong arm

and the blinding light from your face that helped them,

for you loved them. (NLT)

For by their own sword they did not possess the land,

And their own arm did not save them,

But Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence,

For You favored them. (NASB)


A concordance provides an alphabetical listing of all the words in the Bible as they appear in canonical order. Word searches in an online digital Bible are also an easy way to find verses. We recommend a free online concordance at Simply choose the word you would like to look up in the translation you would like to use and click Search.

For example, here’s a search for the word “love” in the NLT. Love occurs 759 times in the NLT, and you can see where this word is used in each book of the Bible according to the list on the right hand side of the page.

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

These tools provide helpful information on biblical people, places, events, terms, topics, and themes—sorted alphabetically. We recommend:

  1. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary
  2. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary
  3. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology available at
  4. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible available at
  5. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
  6. Greek Dictionary at

Geographical and Cultural Helps

Understanding the text of the Bible is always easier when you can place yourself in the sandals of someone living in the biblical world. Though the geography and culture of that world feels distant, these tools bring them to life. We recommend:

  1. New Moody Atlas of the Bible
  2. The Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible
  3. The IVP Bible Background Commentary (2 volumes)
  4. for maps and photos of biblical sites
  5. Bible Maps at

Bible Doctrine Books

These books divide the teaching of Scripture into broad theological categories, and they discuss what the whole Bible says about each major topic. We recommend:

  1. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
  2. Basic Theology by Charles C. Ryrie
  3. Exploring Christian Theology edited by Michael J. Svigel and Nathan D. Holsteen (3 volumes)
  4. Growing Deep in the Christian Life by Charles R. Swindoll


A set of reliable commentaries are valuable additions to your Bible-study library. Begin by using a commentary on the whole Bible. Then grow your commentary collection by purchasing a commentary on the book of the Bible you’re studying. We recommend:

  1. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary
  2. The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament
  3. The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament
  4. Constable’s Notes at (free)
  5. Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary

Bible Charts

A chart of a book of the Bible gives an overview of the entire book, so you can see how the themes fit together. You can find all of Pastor Chuck’s overview charts on each book of the Bible at Bible Resources at


With the advent of the worldwide web, Bible-study resources are available in almost every language wherever people can access the internet. We recommend:


Bible-Study Methods

Instructional guides help you hone your Bible-study skills. If you haven’t learned how to study God’s Word, we recommend starting with Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s book called Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs. He lays out the process he learned at Dallas Theological Seminary and cultivated in his decades of ministry. You can actually find a summary of it here: How to Study the Bible like Chuck Swindoll.

Copyright © 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

About the author


Insight for Living Ministries

Written by Insight for Living Ministries staff members.

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