While there is no substitute for faithful, careful, and prayerful Bible reading, the Bible’s vast size and diversity can make understanding its message a daunting task. Therefore, most Christians benefit from supplemental resources to help learn and apply Scripture. But what resources are the most helpful? Which resources are reliable? In this post I have attempted to bring together a list of the resources that I reach for most often when studying the Bible and theological issues.

In preparation for this post I imagined a scenario that helped me narrow down my list. I’ll propose the qestion to you. What if you were offered a chance to teach pastors/missionaries in a seminary-like setting somewhere in a third world country? But you could only take one small suitcase of books. Which books would you take? Here is my list. (Note that the book descriptions are taken from the publisher and edited)

The ESV Study Bible, Crossway

This is the standard in study Bibles. The ESVSB combines the best and most recent evangelical Christian scholarship with the highly regarded “essentially literal” ESV translation of the Bible. The ESVSB boasts 2,752 pages, equivalent to a 20-volume Bible resource library. Also, this volume has over 50 articles—including articles on the Bible’s authority, reliability, and interpretation; on biblical archaeology, theology, worship, prayer, ethics, and personal application.

The ESV Comprehensive Concordance of the Bible, Crossway

This volume serves as an excellent study companion for the ESV Bible. With more than 310,000 references representing every verse in the ESV Bible, this makes an ideal reference tool for quickly locating particular passages or for conducting in-depth word studies. Every Bible student should have a concordance close by.

The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Edited by T.Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, and Grame Goldsworthy, Intervarsity Press

The NDBT takes readers to a higher vantage point where they can view the thematic terrain of the Bible in its canonical wholeness. This volume is organized with an A-to-Z encyclopedia of over 200 key biblical-theological themes such as atonement, creation, eschatology, Israel, Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God, redemption, suffering, wisdom and worship. Over 120 contributors drawn from the front ranks of biblical scholarship in the English-speaking world make the NDBT a benchmark in theological study resources.

The Dictionary for Theological Interpretation, Edited by Kevin Vanhoozer, Baker Book House

The DTI of the Bible is a reference tool that seeks to marry the tasks of exegesis and theology with the goal of theological interpretation of Scripture. This work also aims to provide a guide to understanding various interpretative approaches and a tool for evaluating them in light of this goal. The dictionary covers a wide range of topics including the theological interpretation of individual books of the Bible, issues of hermeneutics, various biblical interpreters and interpretative communities, and the interplay of interpretation with various doctrines and doctrinal themes. The contributors represent a diverse range of theological backgrounds and interpretative approaches and are experts in their respective fields.

Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, Edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, Baker Book House

Readers of the New Testament often encounter quotes or allusions to Old Testament stories and prophecies that are unfamiliar or obscure. In order to fully understand the teachings of Jesus and his followers, it is important to understand the large body of Scripture that preceded and informed their thinking. This volume is made up of entries from a distinguished team of scholars to provide readers with a comprehensive commentary on every quotation, allusion, and echo of the Old Testament that appears from Matthew through Revelation.

A New Testament Biblical Theology, G.K. Beale, Baker Book House

In this comprehensive exposition Beale explores the unfolding theological unity of the entire Bible from the vantage point of the New Testament and examines how the New Testament storyline relates to and develops the Old Testament storyline. Beale argues that every major concept of the New Testament is a development of a concept from the Old and is to be understood as a facet of the inauguration of the latter-day new creation and kingdom.

An Old Testament Theology, Bruce K. Waltke, Zondervan

The Old Testament’s every sentence is “fraught with theology, worthy of reflection.” This book is the result of decades of reflection informed by an extensive knowledge of the Hebrew language, the best of theological scholarship, a deep understanding of both the content and spirit of the Old Testament, and a thoroughly evangelical conviction. Taking a narrative, chronological approach to the text, Waltke shows that the unifying theme of the Old Testament is the “breaking in of the kingdom of God.” This theme helps the reader better understand not only the Old Testament, but also the New Testament, the continuity of the entire Bible, and ultimately, God himself.

The Christian Faith, Michael Horton, Zondervan

The Christian Faith broadly interacts with movements within the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions. In this systematic theology Horton offers a brief synopsis of biblical passages that inform a particular doctrine; and surveys current and past works with contemporary emphasis on exegetical, philosophical, practical, and theological questions. Its features include: (1) a brief synopsis of biblical passages that inform a particular doctrine; (2) surveys of past and current theologies with contemporary emphasis on exegetical, philosophical, practical, and theological questions; (3) substantial interaction with various Christian movements within the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox traditions, as well as the hermeneutical issues raised by postmodernity; and (4) charts, sidebars, questions for discussion, and an extensive bibliography, divided into different entry levels and topics.

Historical Theology, Gregg R. Allison, Zondervan

Allison offers students the opportunity to study the historical development of theology according to a topical-chronological arrangement, setting out the history of Christian doctrine one theological element at a time. Such an approach allows readers to concentrate on one tenet of Christianity and its formulation in the early church, through the Middle Ages, Reformation, and post-Reformation era, and into the modern period. The text includes a generous mix of primary source material as well, citing the words of Cyprian, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, and others. This volume is a great resource for those interested in understanding the development of Christian theology.

Which books would you choose?

2 thoughts on “9 Books That Every Bible Student and Teacher Should Own

  1. Thanks for putting the Bible first! Ha! One thing I would add for me personally would be a solid systematic theology, such as Wayne Grudem’s or Akin’s “A Theology for the Church.”

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