Feb 21, 2014

How to Select a Study Bible

Randy White

Dr. Randy White
Randy White Ministries

As a Pastor, I am often asked how to select a study Bible. Because there are so many, it is impossible to evaluate every Study Bible. Here is a guide that you can use to evaluate yours, or one you are considering for a purchase.

Select a few Scriptures that are "tattle tale" passages. That is, verses whose interpretation will display a broader interpretive framework. For this article, I am going to select Genesis 1:5, Daniel 9:24, and 1 Thessalonians 4:17. By these three passages, I can tell if a study Bible gives me useful and doctrinally correct information. If you have time, you may want to add other scripture verses to see how the verse is handled. Here is a "short list" for consideration:

  • Joshua 1:8 and Jeremiah 29:11—to see how the notes handle passages that are often used in "name it and claim it" schemes.
  • Revelation 20:2—to see how the notes handle the millennium.
  • 1 John 2:2—to see if the notes take a Calvinist or non-Calvinist perspective on salvation.
  • Romans 9:7-8—to see if the notes hold a permanent role for national Israel.
  • Ephesians 2:15—to see how the writer handles the Law.

For this article, I have chosen the following:

  • Genesis 1:5—to see how the notes handle the "day" of creation.
  • Daniel 9:24—to see how the notes handle detailed prophetic information.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:17—to see how the notes handle the Rapture.

I am also looking at four study Bibles:

  • NIV Study Bible
  • Life Application Bible
  • The New Scofield Study Bible
  • Ryrie Study Bible

Here are my findings:

Genesis 1:5

NIV Study Bible:

Some say that the creation days were 24-hour days, others that they were indefinite periods.

  • My Response—Fail: What good does this do me? Nothing here but "here are two options." I don't need a study bible for that.

Life Application Bible

The Bible does not say how long these time periods were. The real question…is not how long God took, but how he did it...it is not important how long it took God to create the world, whether a few days or a few billion years, but that he created it just the way he wanted it."

  • My Response—EPIC FAIL: Not only does this open the door, but actually invites the dismissal of a six-day creation. This note almost goes beyond marginalization of the six-day idea to literally undermining the text.

The New Scofield Study Bible

The use of evening and morning may be held to limit day to the solar day; but the frequent parabolic use of natural phenomena may warrant the conclusion that it simply means that each creative day was a period of time marked by a beginning and ending.

  • My Response—FAIL: The note refers to "frequent parabolic use" but only goes on to mention one parabolic use, Ps. 90:6, which is clearly not given in a literal sense: "In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered." (Psalm 90:6, NIV). In this Psalm, the context is the transitory nature of man's life, and the entire Psalm is filled with analogy and poetry, unlike Genesis 1, which is a narrative. I would ask, "If this is so common, where do we find a discussion of a number of days that is symbolic? 40 days temptation? 40 years in the wilderness? Seven day march around the city of Jericho?

Ryrie Study Bible

...Evening and morning cannot be construed to mean an age, but only a day; everywhere in the Pentateuch the word day, when used (as here) with a numerical adjective, means a solar day (now calibrated as 24 hours).

  • My Response—WIN!: The plain sense of the text was upheld and confirmed.

Daniel 9:24—"Seventy sevens have been decreed"

NIV Study Bible

Probably seven-year periods of time, making a total of 490 years, but the numbers may be symbolic. Of the six purposes mentioned (all to be fulfilled through the Messiah), some believe that the last three were not achieved by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ but await his further action: the establishment of everlasting righteousness (on earth)...

  • My Response—FAIL: This marginalizes the prophecy, and places the thought that it was likely all 100% fulfilled. The "Some believe..." comment is dismissive of a literal interpretation of the passage.

Life Application Bible

...The Bible often uses round numbers to make a point, not to give an exact count. ...Some scholars see this figure of 70 weeks as a figurative time period. Others...interpret this time period as a literal 490 years...One interpretation places the 70th week as the seven years of the great tribulation, still in the future."

  • My Response—FAIL: At least it mentions the options, but it marginalizes the "still future" option.

The New Scofield Study Bible

[This prophecy] provides a chronological framework for Messianic prediction from Daniel to the establishment of the kingdom on earth. ...490 prophetic years, each 360 days long. ...between the 69th and 70th weeks must lie the whole church period, set forth in the NT but not revealed in the OT.

  • My Response—Epic win: Scofield provides so much information on this passage that a person could go away with a strong understanding of Messianic chronology.

Ryrie Study Bible

Seventy weeks. Lit., 70 sevens. Obviously years are meant, for Daniel had been thinking of the years of the captivity (9:2). 490 days is 16 months, and 490 weeks is 9 1/2 years, both too short to accommodate the events of the prophecy. Furthermore, weeks of days are so specified in 10:2–3, where the Hebrew adds "days." This period of 490 years concerns thy people (the Jews) and thy holy city (Jerusalem). To finish the transgression. To end the apostasy of the Jews. To make an end of sins. May mean either to atone for sin or to seal up sin in the sense of judging it finally. To make reconciliation for iniquity. Refers to the death of Christ on the cross, which is the basis for Israel's future forgiveness (Zech. 12:10; Rom. 11:26–27). To bring in everlasting righteousness. In the millennial kingdom of Messiah (Jer. 23:5–6). To seal up the vision and prophecy. To set God's seal of fulfillment on all the prophecies concerning the Jewish people and Jerusalem. To anoint the most Holy. The anointing of the Holy of Holies in the millennial Temple.

  • My Response—WIN: Clearly points out the only logical conclusion to a literal reading.

1 Thessalonians 4:17—"We who are alive and remain will be caught up..."

NIV Study Bible

The only place in the New Testament where a "rapture" is clearly referred to. Some hold that this will be secret, but Paul seems to be describing something open and public, with loud voices and a trumpet blast.

  • My Response—FAIL: A "Secret" rapture is a false description of pre-tribulational rapture theology. This is a straw man. When the entire church is removed in an instant, that can't be kept secret! The NIV study Bible is totally dismissive of any concept of the rapture of the church, and their dismissal is based on a false argument.

Life Application Bible

  • No word whatsoever on the concept of a rapture, thus EPIC FAIL. A study Bible is supposed to give insight into difficult passages, not sit silent in order to maintain a politically correct position.

The New Scofield Study Bible

This central passage on the blessed hope of the church includes reassurance, revelation, and setting forth the rapture of the church, and the reunion of all believers.

  • My Response—WIN, but I wish it had said so much more.

Ryrie Study Bible

Then living believers will be caught up. From the Latin for "caught up" comes the term "rapture." The rapture, or catching up of believers, described here involves both those who have died and those who are living when the Lord comes. His coming here is in the air, not to the earth, and will occur just prior to the beginning of the Tribulation (see 1:10; Rev. 3:10). That period will end with His coming to the earth (see Matt. 24:29–30; Rev. 19:11–16). The event here described includes (1) a return of Christ in the air, (2) a resurrection of the dead in Christ, (3) a rapture of living believers, and (4) a reunion with those who have died.

Incidentally, on 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the Holman Study Bible (published by LifeWay) says that, "Believers will one day be caught up to meet their returning Lord." This is subtle, but implies a timing of events, when the Lord "returns" to earth, that is, at the Second Coming. Holman inserted a subtle push toward a post-trib rapture.


From this simple test of only three Scriptures and four Bibles, I would recommend the Ryrie Study Bible. What I really recommend is that you get your study Bible, turn to Genesis 1:5, Daniel 9:24, and 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and do your own test!