Someone sent me a message asking what my recommendations would be for gathering a sort of essential tool kit for starting out on serious bible study and preparing to preach. Great question! Here is my attempt at an answer which hopefully won’t break your bank balance.
I suspect every preacher would give a different list but this is mine. These are my essential resources. These are the core tools I use to try and get to the heart of the meaning of a text and then help me think about its implications and applications. Of course as someone who has been doing this for a wee while I have a fairly good library of other resources but if you were to build this little library I am sure you will find it invaluable.
So here are my recommended basic tools
THE NEW TESTAMENT IN ITS WORLD …. NT Wright and Michael Bird. For me this is the best contemporary introduction to the NT. If I am going to be preaching from a particular book I look at what Wright and Bird have to say about it. This helps me understand the background and the argument of the author before I actually come to the text. It has plenty of insightful articles on important topics as well.
THE DISCOVERY BIBLE ….. Sadly, this is now out of print, but secondhand copies can be picked up. Although it says Bible its only available for the NT. (I think there may be a software package that does OT as well.)
This is what I read the text in first and it is a vital tool if you are not familiar with NT Greek. It marks every verse with symbols and highlights to let you understand the implications of the Greek grammar and what the author is highlighting by their use of different tenses and sentence construction. When I read the NT in this I can almost immediately see what’s important for the author, commands, promises, decisive actions, on going actions etc. It also has a basic lexicon of Greek Words.
THE NEW OXFORD ANNOTATED BIBLE …. This is a fairly scholarly study bible. It helps me understand the issues in the text and has a variety of interpretations. Makes sure that I am not just reading in an evangelical bubble.
THE CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS STUDY BIBLE …. The newest addition to my biblical library. I bought it because I read some really good reviews. I have been very pleased with the purchase. Its notes on the text are good and its expanded notes on important subjects are clear and concise and embody the best insights of contemporary scholarship. Where it really helps is, as the name suggests, with filling in some of the cultural background behind a text. This understanding of the culture around a text will deepen your understanding of what it is saying and help you think about contemporary parallels.
THE SERENDIPITY BIBLE …. This is the last resource I consult if I am going to preach or teach from a passage. It contains bible study questions next to the text. I have found that these questions often help stimulate my thinking when it comes to the contemporary implications and application of the text.
Well I hope that is of some help to those of you wanting to begin your journey in serious bible study or prepare to begin preaching.