I know for a lot of people, you’d like to study the Bible further, but you don’t really know where to start. There’s the good ol’ concordance, but it just doesn’t tell you that much. Maybe your pastor brings out details about the background of the passages you’re studying on Sunday morning and you don’t know where he could possibly be finding that information. Well, if that sounds like you at all, I’m here to help.
There is one Bible study tool that I would recommend above all others. If you’re only going to buy one thing, I would point you to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, or ISBE1 for short.
What is a Bible Encyclopedia?
A Bible encyclopedia is a collection of writings about the background of the Bible. Want to know about the land of Canaan? There’s an article for that. Want to know about animal sacrifice? There’s an article for that. Want to know about Moses? You guessed it, there’s one for him too.
It’s a wealth of background information all compiled in one place2. Any topic you want to dive deeper into will most likely have at least something in ISBE. It’s a great place to start.
For decades, ISBE has been a trusted name in Biblical scholarship. It’s stood the test of time and can be very helpful. When I went to Bible college, ISBE was the first real Bible study tool we were taught to use.
Unlike commentaries, which mix the author’s interpretation in with the information3, ISBE gives you “just the facts.” I put that in quotations because any time you’re dealing with antiquity, you’re going to have to do some degree of interpretation of what you find, but ISBE to my eye does a pretty good job of getting out of the way.
Now, the main reason I point people to ISBE first and foremost is that you can find it online for cheap. How cheap? A copy for Kindle on Amazon can be grabbed for as little as $5.
That’s pennies compared to the wealth of information you can find inside. Not to mention, the Kindle version is tagged and searchable, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. It certainly beats flipping pages in volume after volume.
What if I don’t have a Kindle?
No Kindle, no problem! Amazon has Kindle apps available for iOS, Android, MacOS, and Windows. They also have an online reader that you can use from any browser in the world to access your books.
If you want to go even farther, ISBE is also available for Logos, the most popular Bible software app. It allows you to pull up ISBE alongside any translation (or multiple!) and jump back and forth with ease. It also tags every word in the Bible so that jumping to an ISBE article can be as easy as double-clicking. It’s pretty fantastic.
The downside is that with this added functionality comes a heavy cost. ISBE on Amazon is only $5, whereas the Logos version will run you $129.99. It’s a hefty markup, but if you’re looking to really build a serious library, it might be worth considering.
The Best $5 You Can Spend
At $5 from Amazon, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia is a no-brainer. It will help you dig deeper into the text and supplement your reading with historical information that can help bring the Scriptures alive and help you better understand what it meant to the people who first heard and read it.
Give it a shot and let me know what you think!