Once a month, you’re going to hear from our authors, from our team, or from a guest on how we study the Bible, what resources we use, and what questions we ask.
This month, we asked our authors to list some of their favorite resources they use when writing Bible studies. We hope this gives you some insight into the tools they use to study God’s Word and prepare your favorite Bible studies!
Jennifer became blind when she was fifteen years old. Now more than thirty years later, as an author and speaker, she boldly and compassionately teaches women how to trust God in every season. Known for her substance, signature wit, and down-to-earth style, Jennifer weaves together relatable stories with biblical truths. Learn more about her Bible studies here!
My perspective for Bible Study resources may be a little unique since I’m blind. I use a talking computer, but I haven’t found a Bible study software that my talking software plays nice with! So I do three things to study Scripture.
First, I use my audio Bible. I listen over and over to passages or books I’m studying. The Bible apps on my phone help me do this. My very favorite is the Dwell: Audio Bible app. I’m also super grateful for the YouVersion Bible app. When I’m home doing dishes or doing laundry, I ask Alexa to read me Scripture, so no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I have access to listen, think, pray, and meditate on what I’m studying.
Second, I use Google! Yep, good old Google. After spending so much time listening and meditating on the Scripture I’m studying, I usually have lots of questions and curiosities, and the web is a great resource. Google may not seem like a Bible study resource, but for me, it is. I do Google searches on certain concepts or passages and find a rich list to mine! I’ll read blogs and articles, sermons and commentaries. Of course, not everything I find is true or accurate, but doing a lot of reading and comparing as the Holy Spirit guides me to truth helps me develop a vast understanding of the subject.
Third, I love my dead authors! Since dead authors are usually public domain and available on the web, I go to my commentators like Matthew Henry, Adam Clark, and others. I also use Hebrew and Greek lexicons that are free. StudyLight.org, Blue Letter Bible, and BibleGateway are great for this. Project Gutenberg also has lots of classic literature and Christian history, so it’s a huge blessing.
I don’t have any real fancy way of settling in when I study—it’s more a lifestyle. So that means all I need is my laptop, coffee, prayer, and yoga pants! The way I do Bible study is accessible to everyone. Even though I wish I could pick up an old tome and flip through the pages to read and research, blindness has allowed me to see how accessible Bible study is online and through technology to everybody if we are willing to seek, be patient, and exercise wisdom in the process.
Kristi McLelland is a speaker, teacher, and college professor. Since completing her Masters in Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary, she has dedicated her life to teaching people how to study the Bible for themselves through a Middle Eastern lens. Her great desire for people to truly experience the love of God has led her to guide biblical study trips to Israel, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. To learn more about Kristi’s upcoming trips, speaking, and more, visit newlensbiblicalstudies.com. To learn more about Kristi’s new Bible study, Jesus and Women, click here.
Kristi McLelland’s approach to studying Scripture takes on a more academic, Middle Eastern lens (which is appropriate for her teaching!). She sent us a list of resources she uses most often.
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Dr. Kenneth Bailey
Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Dr. Lois Tverberg (Tverberg is another biblical culturalist, and her books are good for beginners to the Bible with a Middle Eastern lens.)
The Jewish War by Flavius Josephus
The Mishnah: When God gave His Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai, Jews believe He also gave a second set of laws called Mishnah, “that which is repeated.” 1 The written Torah (or Mikra) was far greater in importance, and the oral Torah (or Mishnah) expanded and explained what was meant in the written Torah.
By the beginning of the third century AD, it became necessary to write the traditions that had been handed down to that point, a project spearheaded by a man known as Yehudah ha-Nasi, or in English, Judah the Prince. 2 It’s divided into six main sections and seven to twelve subsections, starting with the longest and ending with the shortest. 3 Interestingly, the early church organized Paul’s letters in the same way in the Bible—longest to shortest. 4
Talmud (Jerusalem and Babylonian): After the Mishnah was written down at the beginning of the third century AD, over the next few hundred years, scribes and teachers contributed further commentaries on the written text. That collection of work came to be known as the Gemara. As two large centers of learning developed within Judaism—one in Galilee and one in Babylon—these two academies put together the Mishnah and Gemara into one work known as the Talmud. The school in Galilee (Tiberias, specifically) was known as the Jerusalem Talmud, while the school in Babylon became known as the Babylonian Talmud. Composed in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, respectively, the Babylonian Talmud became the more authoritative work.
Perhaps the simplest way to think of these Jewish works is to understand that the Torah is central and most important in all matters of life. The Mishnah functions somewhat as a commentary on the Torah, and the Talmud serves as a commentary on the Mishnah. If a person were to venture off into a school (yeshiva) today, he or she would discover that not only are students studying and memorizing the Torah, they are also studying and memorizing the Talmud.5
- Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, eds., s.v. “Mishna,” accessed Dec. 2, 2019, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mishna.
- Nissan HaNasi, “Rabbi Judah the Prince,” Kehot Publication Society, accessed Oct. 29, 2019, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112279/jewish/Rabbi-Judah-the-Prince.htm.
- A History of the Mishnaic Law of Purities, Part 15: Niddah: Commentary, Jacob Neusner, ed. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1976), I.
- Daniel Lynwood Smith, Into the World of the New Testament (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015), 8.
- Rabbi Jill Jacobs, “Tale of Two Talmuds: Jerusalem and Babylonian,” My Jewish Learning, accessed Oct. 29, 2019, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tale-of-two-talmuds/.
Kelly Minter is a Bible teacher, author, and singer/songwriter with a desire to serve women of all ages. She has found deep hope and healing through the Bible’s truths, making her message personal and relational. Along with her love of Scripture, at the core of her ministry is a deep affection for worship, prayer, and missions. She also partners with Justice & Mercy International, an organization that cares for the vulnerable and forgotten in the Amazon and Moldova. Learn more about her Bible studies here!
I love the Word Biblical Commentary series. It’s technical while still being accessible and practical. I also have the NAC (New American Commentary) series on hand, which I reference often. Logos Bible software has been an enormous help to me because all my commentaries can live on my computer. I can do word searches and use countless other tools, some of which I haven’t even learned how to use yet. It’s an amazing help to me.
I also need a clean space to work in—I don’t do well in clutter. And I like having a consistent place to work in. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever change it up, but having a routine, a good cup of coffee in the morning (tea in the afternoon), a candle if you like one burning, or even a single-stem flower in a vase can help create a space that is inspiring for you. Last, but possibly most important, silence your phone, put it out of sight, close your email, and shut instant messenger down on your computer. Distraction is terrible for good studying and writing.
Mary Wiley is the author of the Everyday Theology Bible study, exploring essential doctrines and why they matter in our everyday lives. She holds an MA in theological studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband, John, have two children and live in the Nashville area. She works in Christian publishing and hosts the Questions Kids Ask podcast. Connect with her at marycwiley.com or @marycwiley.
As I wrote Everyday Theology, I found myself constantly returning to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series and my CSB and ESV Study Bibles. I also cannot recommend WordSearch or a program like it highly enough. For each passage, I was able to pull up dozens of scholarly resources to help me teach more effectively. Often, I spent early mornings or late nights at the local Panera with bottomless dark roast coffee. There was a season of writing when I really should have been paying them rent!