People often ask me, “Jason, which Bible should I buy?” My answer is always the same. “The one you’ll read.” While I was in grad school and starting my first church in Los Angeles, I supported myself by managing three Christian retail stores. I loved my job, but at some point I became a bit skeptical about all the commercialism that’s sometimes associated with Christian media. It seemed like every week or two, there was a new “thing” in Christian media. Often, it was the new, latest and greatest, study Bible. Now don’t get me wrong – most of these were actually good efforts on the part of publishers who were trying to help people get interested in or more effectively understand God’s Word. However, it seemed like there were just too many. Sometimes I wondered how profit-driven (as opposed to prophet-driven) the whole thing was, but it’s not my place to judge a publisher’s heart. Be that as it may, they all started to look the same to me.
In college and seminary, I always stuck to my trusty Thompson Chain Reference (NASB). After I finished my first doctorate, I switched over to the ESV Study Bible because of its scholarly orientation. Outside of those two, I’ve never really been a huge endorser of any particular study bible. However, I recently came across a study bible that I think many of you might enjoy. It has a very broad appeal and I believe it can be of great benefit to anyone – whether they are a scholar or a new Christian.
The Chronological Life Application Study Bible was first published in 2012 by Tyndale and is offered in both the NLT and KJV versions (I bought the NLT because it was available and I’ve always liked its readability). Here is why I like it:
1) It presents the events of Scripture in the order they actually happened.
2) Unlike other chronological Bibles, it includes extensive study notes (both application-oriented and academic-oriented).
3) There are color pictures (artsy people like me like this kind of thing – LOL).
4) Maps, charts and illustrations are usually on the same pages of the text to which they refer.
5) The appendix includes not only a concordance, but also a Bible dictionary and several topical indices, including a master index.
6) The text is divided into 10 major eras of world history, and the timelines that accompany the beginnings of each section outline what was going on simultaneously in other parts of the world (i.e. Egyptian dynasties, Roman Empire, etc.).
7) Dates are included in the margins of the text whenever there is a transition in the narrative.
I’m sure there are other great study bibles, but if you are looking to go through the Scripture slowly and intentionally, perhaps even for the first time, I think this would be a good bet.
Just remember though – a resource like this is more like an expensive steak and less like a cheap hamburger. It’s ok (and even necessary) to chew it – all of it – and digest it slowly. You’re not in a race to finish it quickly. Read as much of it as you can every day, and just pick up the next day where you left off. Even if it takes you five years to get through, think of all that God will have done in your heart and life in that five year period. He may even turn you into a completely new person. If, of course, you’re ok with that 🙂