Bible Study: 3 Essential Tools for Beginners

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may already have seen that I’m currently studying the Bible.

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A quick search for “bible study tools” could lead you to believe that you need all sorts of expensive resources. But I’ve found that’s not necessarily the case.

There are some amazing resources out there – study bibles, study guides, wide-margin bibles, journalling bibles, commentaries, concordances, no-bleed highlighters, page tabs, devotionals… the list goes on!

If you can afford these things and think they will help you, then that’s great. I’d love to be able to splurge on some of these things too. My wishlist is a mile long.

But for those approaching the Bible for the first time, or those on a restricted income, I think it’s important to know that you don’t have to rush out and spend a fortune on all the latest products.

In the same vein, there is one “tool” that has to come first. And it’s something money can’t buy…

Before you reach for any bible study tool, the most important thing you can do is pray. Ask God to open your eyes, mind, and heart to His word. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Thank Him for the opportunity to hear Him speak to you through the Bible. Come to Him with humility and gratitude – it makes all the difference.

Now, moving onto my top 3 bible study tools!

1. A Bible

Obviously, in order to study the Bible, you’re going to need a Bible. Having said that, you don’t necessarily need to buy one.

The YouVersion Bible App is completely free and offers a huge range of translations in both written and audio versions. You can download the app or visit their website and access the entire thing for free. No subscriptions, no in-app purchases, no upgrade-to-view.

I’ve found this app invaluable for many reasons, but one of the best features (in my opinion) is the ability to switch easily between translations. This has helped me to gain a better understanding of the text when I come across something that I’m not sure about.

I also love that there are so many audio versions. Not only does this mean I can listen on-the-go, it’s also really helpful to hear someone else speak the words with the correct pronunciations and emphasis.

All this being said, I personally find it helpful to have a physical copy of the Bible too. So I hopped on Amazon and got myself a cheap, secondhand New Living Translation (NLT) Bible (this one, to be precise). It was less than £3.

In a moment of “extravagance”, I also got myself this new English Standard Version (ESV) Bible for £1.99. It’s incredibly basic, small text, almost no margins, definitely nothing fancy – but it does the job.

The reason I got both is because the NLT is at the phrase-for-phrase (or functional equivalence) end of the spectrum, and the ESV is at the opposite end, being a word-for-word translation (or formal equivalence). I was also fortunate to be gifted a copy of the New International Version (NIV) by a leader at my church. The NIV sits right in the middle of the functional/formal spectrum, so it’s a good balance of accurate translation and understandable language.

Warning: I recommend avoiding paraphrases like the Message. The MSG is a complete paraphrase of the Bible, with so much rewording that much of original meaning and context is lost.

The best thing about getting a basic, no-frills Bible is that I don’t stop myself from highlighting or underlining in it for fear of “ruining” it. If I had a beautiful, leather-bound, gold-gilded, £50+ Bible, it would be lovely to read, but I don’t think I could ever take a highlighter to it or scribble notes in the margins. If you’re like me in this regard, stick to a more affordable copy.

2. A notebook

My notebook is a vital part of my Bible study. I use it to make a note of verses that stand out to me, to make a note of key concepts and main themes, to write out an overview of the book in my own words, to write out prayers, to express my thoughts on certain passages and how they apply to my life, and so on.

It doesn’t need to be a fancy journal. Paperchase, I love you, but in the same way as I couldn’t highlight an expensive Bible, I can’t bring myself to write on the first page of one of your beautiful bullet journals.

A standard notebook works fine for me. Mine is one I picked up from The Works a couple of years ago and forgot about until recently. It’s pink with flowers on, and the pages are cream with pink lines. It looks kinda fancy, but I think it cost between £2-£3. I know The Works still do some very reasonable notebooks, but honestly, even a refill pad would work. I don’t keep notes in any kind of order, I just write them down as they pop up.

Writing things down helps me to solidify my learning. If I only read something, I don’t find that it sticks as well as if I’ve made notes, even if it’s just a few sentences or a quick summary. I also like to flick back through my notebook and see how my understanding has progressed and expanded.

3. Coloured pencils

You may have seen Bible highlighters advertised, and I have used them myself in the past. I thought they would be revolutionary – no more bleeding through the page! But if I’m totally honest, I couldn’t get along with them. They’re wax-based rather than ink-based (hence, no-bleed) but I found they left the page feeling almost tacky, even sticky. Plus, I can’t say that they were any more useful than any standard wax crayon would have been.

However, I recently started using coloured pencils to highlight in my Bible, and it’s been a game-changer. After a rocky start (hint: don’t press too hard!) I found that they work brilliantly as highlighters. The fact they have a point makes it much easier to highlight the specific words or sentences you want, rather than accidentally highlighting the lines above and below at the same time. They obviously don’t bleed through the paper and a basic pack of coloured pencils offers a much wider range of colours for a much lower price than special Bible highlighters.

And that’s it!

Of course, as I mentioned at the beginning, there are innumerable resources that can help us go deeper into our Bible study. YouVersion provides plans for users to follow. Grace to You has an app full of studies by topic. There are verse-by-verse commentaries and study guides for each book. We could spend our whole lives studying the Bible and using a new tool every day, and we would still only scratch the surface.

But when it comes to the crunch, I truly believe that the best way to study the Bible as a new believer is to crack it open and read it for yourself. Make some notes. Let the text speak for itself. You will build on this foundation, but I think it’s important to have that foundation established first.

I’m not an expert or a biblical scholar. I’m a beginner, a student, just like you. Don’t put pressure on yourself to understand absolutely everything immediately, to create aesthetic notes or to gather a library of expensive resources.

Start small and embrace the messy, imperfect journey.

I hope you find this helpful. What are your top three Bible study tools? Maybe you have some advice based on your own experiences? Scroll down to the comments section and share your thoughts!

So you want to study the Bible? 3 Essential Tools for Beginners (
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