In the past, I've written several articles on Bible reviews. I wrote long articles with complex critiques, short articles in a long series, and some top Bible overviews. While this was fun, the problem was that I could never review all the Bibles I wanted to.
Further, new study Bibles are coming out still, and then I'd wonder if I should check out those Bibles at the store, and add a review of them. This morning as I was reading from my favorite Bible, I realized that to fulfill my desire to help those find a good study Bible, instead of my reviewing separate Bibles, I should just share some of my main guidelines in what I look for in a good study Bible. Then if some dear reader here is looking for a good Bible, and is looking for some guideline suggestions, perhaps some of my guidelines will spur them on to find a Bible that works for them.
Certainly, the guidelines I am going to convey here are my guidelines, meaning that these are what's important to me in a good study Bible. While I am in the Body of Christ, and some things are equally important to all brothers and sisters in Christ, there are other guidelines that will only be more important to some of us, and there will undoubtedly be some guidelines I will fail to mention which are huge to certain other members of the Body. This is the beauty of writing these articles online in a blog format. I can share my own experiences and thoughts, without having to worry about trying to include everyone else’s, which is an impossible endeavor, anyhow.
In my opinion, (which is not a blind one, but built up from years of research) the King James Bible is THE Bible in the English-speaking world. All other translations are just versions of the truth. When someone tells you their version of the truth, it may vary from another's version of the truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth - THE truth, and not just a version of it. I believe the King James Bible is not a version, but THE Bible for the English-speaking world. To see a sampling of why I believe this (and not blindly so), please read my article - King James Only.
Don't fall for counterfeits. The "New King James Version" is NOT a King James Bible. Don't let the misleading name fool you. The NKJV is not translated solely from the same manuscripts the KJB was, nor was it translated via the same system. It's a version of the Bible that, in large portions, was translated from different manuscripts than the KJB, and was not translated as a complete equivalent, as the KJB was, but as a litereray equivalent, which is basically a fancy term for partially paraphrased. The only similarity it has to the KJB, is that it has "King James" in its name. That is all.
Even in the arena of King James Bibles themselves, there are some differences. These differences are mostly in spelling. While this bothers some people, others don't care. I keep it simple. I have a few guidelines I look for in a King James Bible to see if it is a trustworthy King James Bible or not.
What to Look for:
1) Look at the very first verse in the Bible - Genesis 1:1. It should say:
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
A corrupted King James Bible will say:
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Did you catch the subtle difference? It should say "heaven," but corrupted KJBs say "heavens." At first glance, you may determine that the addition of a simple letter 's' makes no difference. A study of this on a deeper level, however, will show you that that little letter 's' creates a contradiction in the Word of God. I wrote a short article about this - In the Beginning.
2) Next, observe how the word Saviour is spelled in the Bible you are reviewing. This is a personal preference of mine, and may not be as important to you. If it is spelled "Savior," when referring to Christ, then I personally chalk that up to a corrupted KJB. When referring to Jesus, it should be spelled "Saviour." Saviour is seven letters, and seven is the number of God. Savior refers to a man saving someone, and is six letters. Six is the number of man.
In the older dictionaries, it used to have the definition of one who saves another as 'savior,' and then Jesus Christ saving man under 'Saviour.' I don't know of any modern dictionaries that do this anymore. That's a shame.
These are the main things I look for in the KJB translation itself. If the two above are good, then likely the rest is fine, in my opinion. However, if you would like to dig deeper, you can learn of more changes you can look for from this website.
Lucifer is Satan
I like to slowly peruse through a study Bible, while I make my personal evaluation. One of the first things I observe, is if there are notes on Isaiah 14:12. If there are no notes in the note section of the study Bible, is there a short note hidden in the center column, or side column(s), or in small print at the end of the chapter? Be sure to check those places, as well. If there are no notes at all on the verse, then see if there are reference Scriptures. If so, look them up, and make sure they are correct.
There is a disgusting movement going on, in a masked attempt at corrupting the Word of God, via subtle study notes aimed at infiltrating the Christian’s mind, and changing their interpretation of the Bible. One of these subtle satanic tricks is to get Christians to think that Lucifer is not Satan. Sick, isn't it? This is why this is one of the first things I check in a King James Study Bible.
Many corrupted Bible translations, in their "version of the truth," remove the word Lucifer in this verse, and replace it with "Day Star," even though that is not what the original manuscripts say! Day Star is a title the Bible gives for Jesus, so many Christians who have read the KJB Isaiah 14:12, and then a new age Bible version of the same verse, have walked away scratching their heads, thinking that Lucifer isn't a name for Satan, but a name for Jesus Christ. Do you think this is far fetched? So did I, until I met a very nice Christian man who always had his NIV Bible with him, and read from it throughout the day. He was fully convinced that Lucifer was Jesus Christ, because that's how it read in his (corrupted!) Bible.
The uncorrupted King James Bible, for Isaiah 14:12 says:
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!"
If the Bible you are evaluating has no notes or references for this verse, then look up the word "Lucifer" in the back dictionary and/or concordance - look it up in the back matter in the study Bible, basically.
For example, the Thompson Chain Reference Bible appears to not have anything questionable about Lucifer for this verse, but if you look in the back, and look up Lucifer, you find the following:
"Lucifer N. Hebrew Helel, shining or bright one, the king of Babylon. Is. 14:12. Erroneously thought to refer to Satan." -This definition is found on page 1807 in my Handy Size Thompson Chain Reference Bible.
WHAT?! Reading the King James Bible through, without man's words, show us clearly that Lucifer is Satan. By corrupted new Bible versions changing the very text, and KJB study Bibles leaving the text alone, but putting in bad notes, stating that Lucifer isn't Satan, this is helping to pave the way for the acceptance of Antichrist. This is one of the many tools.
Another tool used to help usher in Antichrist is the deceptive teaching of the pre-trib rapture. The Bible plainly tells us that pre-trib rapture is a deception. Want to know more? See my article - Pre-Trib Rapture Deception.
If one believes these certain notes in many of today's study Bibles, then they will fall for parts of the Luciferian Movement, and more. They will believe that Lucifer is not Satan, and may even believe Lucifer is the true Christ. Further, they will not believe Antichrist is the Antichrist, because they will think that they will be raptured away before that happens, and since they weren't raptured away yet, they'll conclude that Antichrist must not be Antichrist.
Dangerous waters, those.
If notes in the columns, the bottom of the page, the end of the chapter, or in the back of the study Bible you are looking at, says that Lucifer is not Satan, then put that study Bible down, and move on. That is a study Bible with an agenda, and that agenda is not of God, I can assure you.
If the study Bible truly says nothing in either way, then that is fine. Move on to look at the next things suggested later in this article, to help you arrive at a conclusion about it. Meanwhile, if the Bible stands by the truth that Lucifer is indeed Satan, then count that as a good point for that Bible, and see how it measures up on the following...
Some study Bibles are fairly close, or are accurate about the Christian woman's head covering in their notes. Many study Bibles, including the old Scofield, don't touch the head covering issue, and are silent on it. The Scripture I am referring to here, is 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. If the study Bible is silent about the head covering, then count that as okay, and move on to check the other suggestions in this article.
If it does have notes that support, or partially support the head covering, like the Dake, Ryrie, and Common Man's Reference Bible, then that is great. If, however, it has notes that basically say something like 'that was for then, in that church, and is not for today,' then that study Bible is feeding you a load of bologna. It is a logical fallacy. If this is the case, you'll likely see that the illogical study Bible will say that the first half of 1 Cor. 11 isn't "for today," but that the second half of the chapter is "for today." You see, the head covering Scripture is the first half of chapter 11, and in the same chapter, after the head covering information, it describes communion, or the Lord's Supper. Chapter 10 is 'for today,', chapter twelve is 'for today,' (but some study Bibles disagree on this one), but suddenly the first half of chapter 11 isn't? There is nothing in the chapter or surrounding Scriptures to convey such an absurd idea. Study Bibles that teach that the head covering was just for Corinth, or is not for today, are dangerous study Bibles. They are guilty of taking from, and adding to the Word of God, because they are picking and choosing which Scriptures are relevant "for today," and which are not. Stay away from these types of study Bibles.
It is NOT okay to pick and choose what is for today, and what isn't. The Scriptures themselves tell us what is for today, and what isn't. For example, the Scriptures clearly teach us what parts of the Torah is 'for today,' and what parts are "abolished," and what parts are "fulfilled." For more information on this, please see my article series - Torah vs. Grace.
The Scriptures nowhere indicate that the first half of 1 Corinthians 11 "isn't for today." In fact, they seem to clearly convey that the head covering teaching in 1 Cor. 11 IS for today, and should be followed. For more information on this, see my article - Should Christian Women Cover Their Heads?
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-14
A good King James Study Bible will agree with the Scriptures, and not try to explain away what the two above Scriptures clearly say. Feminist-leaning corrupted study Bibles will have notes similar to what some of them say about the first half of 1 Corinthians 11. They will say that that was for the church then, and the culture then, but not today. These same study notes will often go on to say that women could pray and prophesy in church, and they would point to 1 Corinthians 11. This is the most ludicrous of all, because these same Bibles are the ones that usually have the note in 1 Corinthians 11 that says that that part of the chapter isn't for today! Which is it? Is 1 Cor. 11:2-16 for today, or isn't it? Many of these Bibles will say it's not for today, but then they quote it for today, when trying to discredit the clear instructions given in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:9-14.
Study Bibles that do part or all of the above are fully discounted and pushed to the side, in my book.
If you wish to study more on women being silent in the church, women praying and prophesying, and the head covering, see my articles - Should Christian Women Cover Their Heads?, Biblical Femininity, and Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 16:9-20 and 1 John 5:7
Many study Bibles, even though they use the King James Bible text, include notes for other Bible versions, which were translated from different, and inferior manuscripts to those of the King James Bible. This is deceptive. Some of these deceptive study Bibles will have a note about Mark 16:9-20 and 1 John 5:7, and say that they don't belong in the Bible, or that certain manuscripts don't include those Scriptures. Even the Old Scofield does this. Take a look at notes o and q in the center column of the page that includes 1 John 5:7.
Good study Bibles will not question either of these, or any other Scriptures in the King James Bible. GREAT study Bibles will stand up for, and support these and other Scriptures. Some study Bibles that stand up for one or both of these, and more, are The Pilgrim Study Bible, Dake's Annotated Reference Bible, The Ruckman Reference Bible, and The Common Man's Reference Bible.
If a study Bible questions what should and should not be in the Bible, then that study Bible is working for the Enemy, to plant seeds of doubt about the inerrant Word of God.
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Some study Bible notes create what looks to be contradictions to other Scriptures in the Bible, because they teach that 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 teaches that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the completion of the cannon of the Bible. Below is a note from such a study Bible:
"Paul's use of spake, understood, and thought seems to correspond respectively to "tongues," "prophecy," and "kowledge." The point of this passage is to explain that partial revelation via tongues, and so forth, will cease when the full revelation of God in Scripture is completed. This occurred by the end of the apostolic age when the New Testament was completed."
The above is a note on part of 1 Cor. 13 from the Nelson King James Study Bible.
Study Bibles that teach the above are teaching something that does not mesh with other Scriptures, and creates contradictions. For more about this, see my articles - 1 Corinthians 13 Controversy, and Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Other Things to Look for in a Good Study Bible
I think a good study Bible should have most, if not all tools one needs for a good Bible study right there, in the same volume. I think it's also important to have a wonderful concordance. In fact, if at all possible, get one with a cyclopedic concordance. Make sure it's a cyclopedic concordance, and not index, which is different. A cycolpedic index is okay, I guess, but the concordance is the great tool to have.
Maps and charts are okay, too. Just remember that they are made by man, and are probably errant in parts. For example, the Dake Bible shows 9 dispensations, and I disagree with that. However, this is not a big issue with me, so I don't mind.
Every Bible I've ever seen, except for the Common Man's Reference Bible, has the wrong location of Mt. Sinai on their maps. Exodus and Galatians make it clear where the correct location is, so I just correct it on the map. Because of this, all maps I've seen, except for the Common Man's, has the red sea crossing route of the Exodus wrong. In fact, many Bible maps don't even show the crossing. They show the Israelites going AROUND the red sea! I don't know about you, but that one really irks me. I correct those maps, as well.
When you find a good study Bible, get it in the highest and best quality you can, and expect to use it a lot. Get it in the best genuine leather you can, with the best binding available. My favorite study Bible is in black, genuine leather. It is not leather lined, but other than that, it is really good quality, and I am pleased with it.
No study Bible is or can be perfect. There will be some wrong notes. The important thing, is to determine which notes you insist on being correct, and which ones don't bother you. For example - the Gap Theory. I am not an adherent to that theory, but I am open to it, and haven't completely discounted it. My main study Bible strongly teaches the Gap Theory, but that just doesn't bother me.
Also, the pre-trib rapture. The only study Bible I have so far seen, which doesn't teach the pre-trib rapture deception, is the Matthew Henry Study Bible. I love that Bible, except that it has some scary things in Revelation, such as calling the man on the white horse in the first seal Christ, which I think is incorrect.
Which Study Bible I Suggest
Through the years, I've vacillated on which study Bible to suggest. There are especially four that are very good, for the most part. They are The Common Man's Reference Bible, The Ruckman Reference Bible, The Matthew Henry Study Bible, and The Dake Annotated Reference Bible. I've recommended each of these Bibles at one time or another.
However, out of this group of Bibles, there is one I am always returning to, and use the most. That is the one I think I should recommend, and that would be The Dake Annotated Reference Bible. Thankfully, this study Bible is only available in the King James, and it is well-done. There is the standard, the compact, and the large print. If you don't mind a smaller type-face, then I suggest you get the standard. The standard includes maps in the back, and the text is self-pronouncing. These two features are missing from the compact and large print editions. Further, the layout of the standard is far superior.
You have now seen my main criteria when I am looking for a good study Bible. If you want me to just suggest one to you, I suggest the Dake.