I get asked for Bible recommendations a lot. In this post, I’ll go through a few of my favorite Bibles with links to where you can get more detailed information about them.
A Note About Study Bibles:
Generally speaking, I don’t like Study Bibles. The designation, “Study Bible,” usually refers to a Bible that has commentator’s notes included with the text. Sometimes those notes are very good but sometimes they are very bad and misleading. It’s very important to be careful with these kinds of Bibles because young Christians, spiritually speaking, can be easily misled by these notes because they assume that the people writing the notes are trustworthy. Many, probably most, Study Bibles are written from a biased denominational perspective. My rule of thumb when checking a Study Bible is to go through the notes on the “Plan of Salvation” passages to see how they are handled. Almost every time I find that the baptism passages have notes that attempt to explain away the necessity of baptism for salvation. For example, here’s the note on Acts 2:38 from “The Apologetics Study Bible.”
2:38 Though repentance/faith and baptism go together in Acts, baptism is an indication of belonging to Christ, not a condition for it. For example, Cornelius and his relatives believed and received the Spirit before receiving water baptism (10:44–48).
Yea, that’s bad! You certainly wouldn’t want that in the hands of a young Christian or a prospective convert. Odds are, you’ll end up having to correct someone in your study that has gotten their hands on this kind of Study Bible.
There are some good Study Bibles. My favorite and, in my opinion, the absolute best Study Bible you can get is “The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible” (in NKJV of course). I have a TCR that I received as my first Father’s Day gift the year my daughter was born (2004). It is still in great condition and I use it regularly in my lesson and sermon preparations.
What makes the TCR such a good Study Bible is that it doesn’t have commentary on the verses. Rather, it has topical listings that “link” verses together. It is a great tool in line with the popular saying, “The Bible is its own best commentary.” It also has a lot of good chart lessons and book overviews.
My top recommendation for a Study Bible, though, is to get a wide-margin or note taker’s Bible and make your own “Study Bible.” If you want a top quality wide-margin Bible that will last you a lifetime and is something you’ll be able to leave to your kids, then get the Cambridge Wide-Margin Bible (in NKJV, of course). If you want a less expensive option, there is a Cambridge Wide-Margin hardback Bible. There are also some other note taker’s Bibles that would be a good choice for building your own “Study Bible” with your own notes.
I highly recommend Bibles with good references. Center column references or bottom of the page references are the best. I try to stay away from Bibles that use read-along references, as they’re usually too obtrusive when reading. I have seen some read-along references that were done well, but I generally don’t like them.
Here are my favorite reference Bibles:
- Cambridge Pitt Minion NKJV
- Cambridge Wide-Margin NKJV
- Holman UltraThin NKJV Center-Column Reference
- Holman Large Print UnltraThin NKJV Center-Column Reference
I have used the Holman UltraThin NKJVs for a long time and really love them. They are great, comfortable to carry, Bibles in both print sizes. I can’t recommend them highly enough. These Holmans are the Bibles we order for all our new converts at Northside.
This is a category of Bible that has been gaining popularity lately. I had never heard of a “Reader’s Bible” until just this year. I thought all Bibles were “Reader’s Bibles.” But that designation refers to a Bible that has a focus on the reading experience. They either deemphasize the verses and references or remove them altogether and have the text in a single column layout like a “normal” book. The new ESV Reader’s Bible, for example, doesn’t even have chapters or verses at all. The text is laid out with a complete focus on the reading experience. The books are broken up into six volumes, to allow for the greatest typographical flexibility with the layout.
The philosophy behind the Reader’s Bibles is that we read a book based on its layout. When you see a reference book (like a dictionary, encyclopedia, etc.), they are laid out in multiple columns with all kinds of reference features like pronunciation keys, keywords, etc. Because most Bibles have traditionally been formatted like reference books, we tend to read them like reference books, instead of focussing on the narrative itself. Reader’s Bibles seek to correct this “reference book” mentality people have developed toward the Bible by formatting it more like you would expect for a “story.”
Because I’m a relative new-comer to “Reader’s Bibles,” I can’t really give my “favorite.” I’ve only read from one that would be considered a “Reader’s Bible,” the Cambridge Clarion NKJV. The text is formatted in a single column with the references in the outside margin. The chapters, verse numbers, headings, and references are greatly deemphasized. The single column format seemed a little odd at first because I had never read the Bible in anything but a two column format. But the more I read from it the more I like it. It is, without a doubt, a much more comfortable and enjoyable reading experience. I find that I am able to read faster and more comfortably for much longer stretches of time then when I read from other Bibles.
I use my Thompson and Pitt Minion when I’m studying. But when I want to just sit and read the Bible, the Clarion is absolutely the most enjoyable Bible I have ever read from. I’m sure I’ll be trying out and reviewing other Reader’s Bibles in the near future. I personally think this trend of focussing on the reading experience is a good thing. The Bible is, after all, meant to be read.
Before I start getting all kinds of comments about other great translations, I know that the NKJV isn’t the only “good” translation out there. But, the title of the post is “My Favorite Bibles” and my favorite translation is the New King James Version. I know “more people have been converted with the KJV than any other Bible.” I know the ESV is great and everybody loves it. I know some great preachers that love the NASB. I’ve been reading the Lexham English Bible (LEB) and I really like that one too. But MY favorite is still the New King James Version. I haven’t found a compelling reason yet to switch to anything else. Maybe you’ll be able to convince me in the comments, but I doubt it.
I look forward to your feedback. Be sure to share your favorites in the comments below. And, if you just want to browse through a good Bible store, check out the following link.
[…] As I’ve said before, I love wide margin Bibles. In my opinion, the best “study Bible” a person can have is the one they study for themselves and to which they add their own notes. That’s the real value of a good wide margin Bible, over the course of your own personal study you build your own personal “study Bible.” The way that I have mainly used wide margin Bibles is as “sermon outline books.” While I do add marginal notes, I mainly use the margin space for outlining expository sermons. […]