The Evolution of the Study Bible
When I was preparing to head for college, I bought myself a leather-bound copy of the NIV Study Bible. With the exception of Accordance itself, it was the best Bible study-related purchase I ever made. The notes, articles, and illustrations in that Bible were helpful in my personal study, in the classroom, and in a variety of discussions about what the Bible "really says." It was also thick enough and soft enough to serve as a good headrest during naps on Landis Green—something even Accordance has never been able to do for me!
Back then, there were only a handful of study Bibles on the market. The Thompson Chain Reference Bible centered around a particular Bible study method. Other study Bibles presented interpretive help from a particular author (such as Scofield, Ryrie, and Dake), and they tended to be most popular within the theological traditions and denominations to which their authors belonged. Then there were a handful of study Bibles associated with particular translations, such as the aforementioned NIV Study Bible.
As study Bibles became more popular, Bible publishers began creating ever more specialized editions which focused on the needs and interests of particular demographics. There were, of course, study Bibles which catered to specific religious groups and theological traditions (such as the Jewish and Catholic Study Bibles), but there were also study Bibles for men, women, students, people with certain occupations and hobbies, people of a certain age, even people with particular political ideologies.
Most recently, however, it seems that study Bibles are swinging back to a more general focus on Bible study, providing background information and interpretive help for any student of the Bible. Some focus on a particular aspect of Bible study, such as application, apologetics, or Biblical backgrounds, but the helps they provide are not focused on the interests of a narrow demographic. In my opinion, that's a welcome trend. There also seems to be a move in recent years toward making study Bibles more visually appealing. For example, the ESV Study Bible includes beautiful color maps, attractively-formatted charts, and color reconstructions of ancient cities, the tabernacle and temple, etc. The just-released Archaeological Study Bible includes color maps and charts, along with hundreds of beautiful color photographs of archaeological sites and artifacts. In bringing these resources to Accordance, we've worked hard to preserve as much of their visual richness as possible.
Study Bibles have been around for a long time, and they have been created to serve a variety of audiences and purposes. Yet whatever their particular focus, the value of most study Bibles is that they serve as a concise, all-purpose source of Bible study help. Articles, notes, cross-references, introductions, charts, illustrations, glossaries, and maps can all be found in a single book thick enough to rest your head upon, or within an Accordance module that can be browsed and searched with unprecedented speed and precision.
If you're looking for a good study Bible, you'll find all the ones we currently offer listed here. The NLT Study Bible and the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible are both discounted as part of our December sale, while the Archaeological Study Bible is being offered at an introductory discount. All those discounts end this Friday.