Should I Buy a Study Bible?

Pros and Cons of Adding a Reference Bible to Your Library

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Choosing a new Bible can be really simple or really complicated and there are five basic questions to ask when choosing a Bible. But we'd also like to focus on one of the major categories of modern Bibles for sale today: study Bibles.

If you're not familiar with the Bible market, study Bibles are no different from "regular" Bibles when it comes to the biblical text. For example, the Scripture verses you find in the Archaeological Study Bible will be the same as any other Bible from the same translation.

What makes study Bibles different from other Bibles is the amount of additional information and extra features that are packaged alongside the Scripture text. Study Bibles generally include notes on every page, usually in the side margins or the bottom of the page. These notes typically provide additional information, historical context, cross-references to other Bible passages, explanations of key doctrines, and more. Many study Bibles also include features such as maps, charts, Bible reading plans, etc. 

To help you think through this important decision, here are a few pros and cons of study Bibles in general.

The Pros of Study Bibles

Extra Information

The biggest benefit of most study Bibles is the extra information and extra features packed into every page—most study Bibles are filled to the brim with notes, maps, guides, and extras of all kinds.

In many ways, study Bibles are ideal for folks who want to go deeper into God's Word, but who aren't quite ready to take the step of reading the Bible and a commentary at the same time.

Extra Focus

Another interesting aspect of study Bibles is they often have a specific focus or direction for organizing their additional content. For example, the Archaeological Study Bible contains notes and additional content organized around historical context—including maps, profiles of different cultures, background info on ancient cities, and more. Similarly, the Quest Study Bible offers thousands of commonly asked questions (and answers) connected to specific passages of Scripture.

Extra Experiences

Study Bibles can help you go beyond reading when you explore the biblical text. Study Bibles often include maps and charts, which are great for visual learners. They can include discussion questions and critical-thinking activities. They can offer suggestions for worship and prayer.

In short, the best study Bibles help you do more than study information. They help you have deeper experiences with God's Word.

The Cons of Study Bibles

Potential for Information Overload

There are times when more information can be too much information. If you're just starting out as a Bible reader, for example, you may want to get familiar with the biblical text before you blast yourself with a firehose of information from study Bibles. In the same way, people who participate in small groups or other activities often default to checking study notes rather than engaging the text for themselves.

Basically, you want to learn how to think about the Bible on your own before you start reading what a lot of experts think. Don't allow other people to think for you when it comes to something as vital as God's Word.

Size and Weight

It's a practical matter, but it shouldn't be ignored—most study Bibles are big. And heavy. So, if you're looking for a Bible to toss in your purse or carry around the woods for devotional experiences during a hike, you may want to stick with something smaller.

Incidentally, one of the ways to avoid this disadvantage is to purchase electronic versions of a study Bible. Most new study Bibles are available through Amazon or the iBookstore, which makes them not only portable but searchable -- a great extra feature.

Potential for Personal Bias

Several study Bibles are organized around specific themes or areas of study. This can be helpful, but it can also give you a more narrow view of Bible study. Some study Bibles feature content exclusively written by individual scholars—such as the John MacArthur Study Bible. There are many people who enjoy Dr. MacArthur's interpretations of Scripture, and for good reason. But you might hesitate to purchase a Bible that featured the opinions of a single individual.

For the most part, study Bibles that aren't attached to a single personality receive their content from a number of different sources. This offers a built-in system of checks and balances in which one personality does not dominate the extra content you read in connection with God's Word.


Study Bibles are great supplementary resources for modern followers of Jesus. They can help you interact with God's Word in a deeper and more meaningful way. They offer new and unique information to complement your Bible study.

However, notice the emphasis on the word "supplementary." It may be important for you to think for yourself regarding the truths expressed in the Bible, rather than have all of your thoughts about the text come through the filter of study notes and additional content.

In short, you should buy a study Bible if you are comfortable reading God's Word and applying it to your life—and if you're ready to take another step into deeper areas of study.

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Your Citation
O'Neal, Sam. "Should I Buy a Study Bible?" Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, O'Neal, Sam. (2023, April 5). Should I Buy a Study Bible? Retrieved from O'Neal, Sam. "Should I Buy a Study Bible?" Learn Religions. (accessed June 10, 2023).