A Guide to The Best Study Bible

Editor’s Choice

  • Biography of notable Christian apologist highlighting key contributions to defending God’s Word and Christianity
  • The book introduction is tailored to give the readers an apologetic perspective of the text.
  • Colorful maps and charts support the historical credibility of the Bible.

Best Overall

  • 200 Greek and Hebrew word studies throughout the Bible
  • Textual and study notes provide deeper explanations and background of words, phrases, verses, and sections.
  • Organized 150 full-color maps and charts as well as 8 newly commissioned illustrations


  • Reading plans with three distinct tracks to follow in keeping the study Bible’s theme.
  • Colorful maps, charts, and timelines
  • Scripture text in single-column is arranged in a modern two-color page design.

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the best study Bible is, then I’d recommend NLT Illustrated Study Bible by Tyndale as the best one.

The use of Study Bibles is not new. In 1560, the Geneva Bible published the first English Bible with extensive notes. The reason that led King James I to produce his version of the Bible without notes is known today as the King James Version (KJV). Another important Study Bible published by Oxford University Press is the C.I. Scofield, produced in 1909. It had a great influence on a generation of Christians in the United States.

Study Bibles have escalated recently. You can find study Bibles for men, women, couples, families, and more. Some study Bibles focus on biblical cultures and apologetics. Many study Bibles are filled with notes and inspirational thoughts by popular teachers.

Whether reading a regular Bible or a Study Bible, it is important to put your faith in God. Do not be distracted by the notes and commentary; focus instead on your relationship with our living God. The best thing is to use those notes as a tool in your reading and understanding of the scriptures.

Here are the Best Study Bibles we’ll be reviewing:

What is a Study Bible?

A Study Bible is a special edition of the Bible that comes with extra features. Some of those features include verse-by-verse breakdowns, discussion questions, and extra-wide margins for note-taking or Bible journaling. It is a book that offers additional references and explanatory notes printed along with the text of Scripture. Many study Bibles include footnotes with cross-references or very brief notes that may clarify the definition of a word.

They also have a historical context and short articles that profile the Bible characters that help increase the reader’s understanding. The best Study Bible also includes maps, illustrations, charts, and photos. In short, study Bibles are Bibles and commentaries combined. It’s like reading with a Bible scholar telling you many important additional details about the scriptures.

It comes in various sizes. Some are really big, but almost all of the study Bibles are noticeably thicker, wider, and heavier than a regular Bible. Every modern Study Bible also has the New Testament and Old Testament plus a host of additional content that a regular Bible doesn’t have.

Most study Bibles are also influenced or written by favorite authors such as Thomas Nelson, Tyndale, and John MacArthur. One of the best-selling is the MacArthur Study Bible by John MacArthur. Thomas Nelson Apply the Word Study Bible is one of the most preferred.

Compared to a regular Bible, they are a great way to dive into the Bible in a way that you can easily understand. But you may ask what are the qualities of a good one?

It should be In-depth.

The best study Bible should be in-depth and substantial enough for a deeper study of the Bible. The best study Bible should be able to clarify difficult concepts. Most study Bibles have great tools and resources. Some of the best English Bible translations used in most Bible studies are the New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB). It should also have application notes, which are good for studying the word of God. Look for a life application study Bible if you want a more in-depth study of the scriptures.

It should be easy to use

Choosing Study Bibles can be overwhelming as it is. How much more if you’re using it? That is why choosing the best for you should make a great impact on your life. If you want to study the Bible more deeply, you should be able to relate to the historical context of the scripture. Bible translations should be on-point and easy to understand. The layout should be easy to use and clear.

One that has this kind of layout is the ESV Study Bible. It has an exact word-for-word translation without taking away the beauty of the biblical text. Some Bible scholars also prefer the KJV, NKJV, NLT, NIV, and NASB, as they say these are the nearest translations to the original manuscript.

It should Deepen your Theological Knowledge.

The original manuscript of the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek with a pinch of Aramaic, so we need them translated. Since some of the translations are lost, Word Studies help to bring out some of the fuller meaning of what the original conveyed. Study Bibles have study notes and systematic theology to help as you dig deep into the scripture. The goal of any Bible study is to teach the concepts you need to figure out what the Bible is saying.

How to Use Study Bibles?

Using it would help you understand the Scripture more clearly as you read it. Most study Bibles use similar tools, but the layout might be different. One of the tools used in Study Bibles is cross-references. A tool that connects the verses with other related verses in the Bible. It is usually found in the margins of Study Bibles.

Another useful tool is the study notes and commentaries. The text is usually written by different contributors to the Bible. The text is usually the words of God found in the Bible. The comments are the explanations written by people like the scholars and teachers of the Bible. While you study the Bible, you can find the study notes and comments usually at the bottom of the page.

One of the important tools in Study Bibles is the Book Introduction. The introduction to each book of the Bible is divided into several easy-to-find parts. It includes the timeline, maps, or charts that will shed some light on the historical background. Another tool is the concordance which can guide you to locate a certain word or verse in the Bible. The concordance is found at the back, which you can find very helpful.

Now that you know the tools that could assist you in using your Study Bibles, here are some ways how to use them.

Read and Understand the Text of the Bible

Read the words of God with conviction and care. Meditate on it and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that you will understand what the Bible is saying. Only God can help you understand the scripture and teach you how to apply it to your life.

One of the best Study Bibles is the MacArthur Study Bible by the award-winning preacher and theologian Dr. John MacArthur. It has been highly recognized for over 20 years, with more than 2 million copies sold.

Maximize the Use of Cross-references

Modern Bibles don’t only include the Old and New Testament, but it is packed with a few basic features as well. A table of contents, chapter headings, and page numbers are par for the course in most Bibles. It features a lot of things outside of the usual Books of the Bible. Look carefully at the verse you are reading and link it to other related verses in the Bible. You might find something that can shed light on what you’re reading and studying. It’s helpful to look at the larger context of the Bible or what the rest of the Bible says about the topic. I suggest not looking at the citations only; read the actual passages instead.

Take advantage of the additional tools included in Study Bibles.

Some additional features found in most study Bibles are the extensive footnotes, colorful maps, and helpful articles written by famous authors. It’s important to take notes, though, to use for more than just the notes. The notes should not take away the time spent reading the word of God. The Best Study Bibles should have all of the best features they can offer to nurture their Christian faith.

How to Choose a Study Bible?

Choosing Study Bibles to use can be a bit confusing and even intimidating at first because there is just too much in there. Let’s face it: it’s hard for 21st-century people to understand the Bible and apply it to modern life. One way to choose a good study Bible is to complement the Bible with your personality, desires, plans, and goals for learning.

Make sure that the one you will choose will hold your interest. With all the great Study Bibles available on the market, let’s decipher how to choose the best one for you.

Choosing the Best English Translation that Works for You

Since the Bible is not originally written in English, we need to read the Bible in an English translation. There are a lot of options when it comes to the translation used, and each one plays a part when it comes to a better understanding of the Bible. Some of the widely used English translations are the King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), and English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Another thing you should consider is whether the Study Bibles follows the word-for-word translation or the thought-for-thought translation philosophy. The best and easiest way to determine this is to read the “Introduction,” “Preface,” or “To the Reader” at the beginning.

Choosing Your Purpose

Before you choose one, you must ask yourself first what is your purpose in buying one. It’s easier to make an informed choice if you will be able to determine the purpose and intended use of your study Bible.

Some Study Bibles are more like devotionals geared towards practical life application. There are also study Bibles with notes and study aids that are more objectively academic. And there are what they call niche Bibles that focus on a certain topic, like addiction recovery, archeology, or cultural backgrounds.

One of the popular kinds of study Bibles is the General study Bible. The insights and study notes can be easily applied to develop a better understanding of the text. These kinds of Bibles are intended for all ages, genders, cultures, and academic backgrounds.

Choosing the Features You Want in Study Bibles

Your aim is to deepen your knowledge about God. So it’s just right that you consider the features included in the book you are buying. The first feature you need to consider is the format. Some of the formats are hardback, paperback, and digital formats. Leather-bound editions are also becoming popular today.

If you want to go for quality that can stand the test of time, I’d say you go for leather-bound and hardback editions. You will find them to be quite a bit expensive, but you are sure that you can pass them on as your legacy. Another feature when choosing is your preference for the print size. There are study Bibles that have large print favorable to those who have poor eyesight.

The most important thing you need to consider is the additional features like maps, timelines, articles, concordance, and more. These are the tools that you will use in studying the Bible. Some prefer colorful maps, in-depth articles, comprehensive book introductions, and wide margins for notes.

Nevertheless, choosing a Study Bible can prove to be an invaluable supplement as you study God’s Word. But with so many choices to choose from, where should you begin? Here’s a list of study Bibles that we hope could make your time in Scripture even richer!

NLT Illustrated Study Bible by Tyndale

Best Study Bible

Studying the Bible can be a challenge, especially for people who are visual learners. It’s hard to picture a world totally different from ours. But here’s a treat from Tyndale! A full-color study Bible with everything a visual learner could want.

The NLT Illustrated Study Bible gives readers an entirely new visual study experience by bringing God’s words to life. Ask, seek, knock, and understand the Bible like never before. Explore the scriptures with notes bringing out the full meaning of the text. The New Living Translation makes the message of the scriptures clear and easy to read.

Find scripture’s message instantly communicates foundational truths in an understandable, compelling way for today’s visual generation. See the Bible come alive with extraordinary photos, illustrations, and infographics. This study Bible provides full-color maps integrated seamlessly with background material, study notes, and theme articles.

For more works from Tyndale, I’d also recommend their NLT Life Application Study Bible. It is also packed with easy-to-read study notes and easy-to-understand Bible translations. It also has a summary at the beginning of each book of the Bible.


  • 200 Greek and Hebrew word studies throughout the Bible
  • Textual and study notes provide deeper explanations and background of words, phrases, verses, and sections.
  • Organized 150 full-color maps and charts as well as 8 newly commissioned illustrations
  • It has 120 profiles and more Bible characters and empires
  • A Visual Timeline of Bible Events, 11 Section Introductions, 66 detailed Book Introductions
  • With millions of copies sold worldwide


  • It does not have thumb-indexing

NIV Foundation Study Bible by Zondervan

Best Study Bible

The Foundation Study Bible in the New International Version is the world’s most popular translation today. This modern English Bible translation features an easy-to-use layout. A study Bible that is approachable with straightforward and broad study notes that help you discover the beauty and truth of God’s Word.

The NIV Foundation Study is intended for readers who want to learn about the scripture. This study Bible includes the key features of a study Bible in a convenient, compact, and concise form. The best study Bible for students, church leaders, new believers, and homeschoolers. For Pastors, use an NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible if you are planning to deliver a message to your congregation.

Book introductions provide valuable background information for difficult passages. The in-text subject headings provide context and organize your reading. You will appreciate where the key places are located with its full-color maps of Bible lands. It also features a leather-soft cover that lies flat when open and a satin ribbon marker.


  • Theological notes, articles, and charts offer attention to doctrinal content
  • Information on the original texts of scripture is shown in the translators’ footnotes
  • NIV concise concordance uses an alphabetical listing of important passages through keywords
  • Words of Jesus written in red
  • 8-point type size font


  • Print too small for elderly people
  • Missing important details in the scripture

CSB Apologetics Study Bible by Holman

Best Study Bible

The CSB Apologetics Study Bible is geared toward Christian readers who are new to Christian Apologetics. A study Bible that focuses on today’s Christians to better understand, defend, and proclaim their beliefs. It is a good resource for Bible students who want to take a deeper dive into the faith. Readers will be able to better understand what and why they believe during Bible study using the study notes and articles.

This edition’s revised and updated content includes new notes, articles, and charts from today’s leading apologists. You can use the extensive apologetics Bible study material to help you understand the relevant apologetics issues and questions of today.

Some of the features of this study Bible include a presentation page, book introductions, study notes, and apologetics articles from leading apologists. With regards to the text, it features the highly readable, highly reliable text of the Christian Standard Bible® (CSB). 


  • Biography of notable Christian apologist highlighting key contributions to defending God’s Word and Christianity
  • The book introduction is tailored to give the readers an apologetic perspective of the text.
  • Colorful maps and charts support the historical credibility of the Bible
  • Smyth-sewn binding with ribbon marker
  • 9.75-point type size


  • Very delicate, thin pages
  • Too many missing charts

HCSB Study Bible by HCSB Translation Team

Best Study Bible

The HCSB Study Bible is the one and only study Bible that delivers more than you’d expect where you’d expect it. The translation itself is a good balance of formal and dynamic translation philosophies. The HCSB comes as close as any translation, which is more accurate than NASB and more readable than NIV.

Some of the features include book introductions, outlines and timelines, concordance, and more. The HCSB Study Bible also has pertinent notes, maps, charts, word studies, or illustrations for easy reference. This book is recommended for people who want a study Bible with center-column cross-references and in-text study tools.

If you want to get to know the scripture more intimately, then the HCSB Study Bible always keeps you and God on the same page.


  • The outside margins provide room for taking notes
  • Four-color presentation pages
  • Two-column text setting
  • One-year Bible reading plan
  • Black letter text


  • The cover is not genuine leather
  • The price is a bit expensive

NIV Quest Study Bible by Zondervan

Best Study Bible

Choose a study Bible that answers your Bible questions as well as questions you haven’t yet pondered! The NIV Quest Study Bible assists if you want to get answers to the questions you’ve always had about the Bible. The NIV Study Bible’s theme is designed for inquisitive readers and their journey to the meaning and heart of the scriptures.

Get answers to the Bible questions you have with their study notes written in an engaging question-and-answer format. The sidebar notes give insights into the textual, theological, and historical light of the Bible’s uncommon passages. The perspectives section of this NIV study Bible includes Bible verses for beginners and the different experiences they have in life. This NIV study Bible includes book introductions and answers the what, why, who, and when questions to understand more about the scriptures.


  • Reading plans with three distinct tracks to follow in keeping the study Bible’s theme.
  • Colorful maps, charts, and timelines
  • Scripture text in single-column is arranged in a modern two-color page design.
  • Verse numbers that are color-keyed help readers have an instant reference to articles and sidebar notes
  • Now available in paperback in Turquoise / Caribbean Blue Italian Duo-Tone


  • Small print is not suitable for elderly people
  • Not enough space for taking notes


Choosing a Study Bible is no simple task, and it shouldn’t be a chore either! Keep in mind that Study Bibles will be a great supplementary resource for modern followers of Jesus. The purpose is to guide you as you interact with God’s Word in a deeper and more meaningful way. Study Bibles provide new and unique information to complement your Bible study.

If you are still confused about what study Bible is best for you, I recommend the NLT Illustrated Study Bible by Tyndale. The NLT translation is very easy to read as the text is written in modern English. It has also all the basics of a great study Bible. You will never go wrong studying the notes that provide a background and deeper explanation of the scripture. The NLT Study Bible translates both the world and the words of the Bible. The message is clear: Ask questions, Seek deeper understanding, Knock on the door of God’s Word, and see what doors are opened to you.

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Alex Shute
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.

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