Study Bibles
Not Recommended For Devotional Reading Or General Bible Study!

by Theologue

I began my Bible studies as a die-hard Scofield Bible enthusiast. I carried one everywhere I went and recommended Scofield to everyone who would listen to me. I began having second thoughts about the use of study Bibles in the early 1970's after a discussion with some friends. I challenged some statements being presented as being 'in the Bible'. One of the friends then proceeded to show me a note in the Scofield Bible as 'proof''. The problem is that what was stated to be 'in the Bible' was actually a footnote by Scofield! Now I do not use study Bibles for reading but I do keep several* on my bookshelf with other reference works.

The notes in a Study Bible are absorbed during normal reading & study and strongly affect the student whether the person recognizes it or not.
In my opinion:

Study Bibles should
not be used for Bible reading and general study!

All Study Bibles have some degree of theological bias and mix the editors words in with God's Word. Leave them on your bookshelf and only use them as a reference source in the same way as you would a commentary or dictionary. Bible study should be personal and inductive, not an exercise in absorbing other people's interpretations and opinions which may be flawed.  See the article The Bible Without Comment for a good essay on this subject.

Some quotes about Study Bibles:

Quote from the essay An OT Library for Ministers by Dr. John Goldingay

“Don't buy a Study Bible. They give you the impression that what they say is true and important, which is often not the case, to judge from quotations in student papers. Distinguish the Bible from books about the Bible, I say”.
Quote from No. 45 -  A Westminster Standard Publication

'About a particular Study Bible (Scofield) it has been said:  "It is a matter of great concern to many Christians that a book should exist, and be offered for sale, wherein corrupt words of mortal men are printed and set as positive statements in the midst of the Holy Word of God Almighty. Is not this an affront before God Himself? Let God be true and every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4)'.

Quote from a post on a Christian Forum about Study Bibles:
Q: "What makes a study bible better than a regular bible?"
A: "It allows one to get an explanation of God Word that makes sense.  We want someone to explain God's Word, and interpret the meaning for us"

And that is the problem! We need to study the Bible for ourselves and understand it as the Holy Spirit gives us guidance, not just absorb someone else's theology and opinions.

My Suggestions:

1. If you do own a Study Bible keep it on your bookshelf and use it for occasional reference only, as you would a Bible commentary or dictionary, and not for reading and study. Some pages in the average Study Bible contain more words of man than Words of God! and despite efforts the student will be influenced by the interpretations of the editor.

2. Stay away from those Study Bibles with strong theological bias (such as the Dake Annotated Reference Bible, The Companion BibleScofield Reference Bible, Prophecy Study Bible, Ryrie Study Bible, LaHaye Prophecy Bible, Jimmy Swaggert's Expositors Study Bible, etc.)!!

3. The series of Study Bibles with the least theological bias are those published by Zondervan, including the NIV Study Bible, NASB Study Bible, KJV Study Bible, etc. The new ESV Study Bible by Crossway is conservative, reformed, and outstanding among reference Bibles. These particular books can be useful as reference material. Other Study Bibles with similar names by various publishers are questionable and inconsistent in theology.

4. Check out our list of Study Bibles and the article A Real Danger In Using Annotated Study Bibles, Doug Kutilek

* ESV Study Bible, HCSB Study Bible, Reformation Study Bible (ESV).

Updated 8-1-2011