The Proper Use of Study Bibles – Dr. Joel Beeke

Source: Study Bibles for Our Hearts, Homes, and Churches by Joel Beeke | Reformed Theology Articles at

TTCover-Sept-2015As we continue to take a close look at the purpose and use of study Bibles through this month’s Tabletalk, we consider some thoughts of Dr. Joel R. Beeke in his contribution to the magazine.

Dr. Beeke has penned the article linked above – “Study Bibles for Our Hearts, Homes, and Churches”, and has much wise advice for us to consider in using a good study Bible, as well as for studying the Bible in general.

He begins with some negative counsel, the first two of which I give here:

Do not read study Bibles upside down. Study Bibles typically feature the text of Scripture on the top half of the page and the notes on the bottom half. Thus, the top presents the words of God, and the bottom contains mere human interpretations and applications. We read study Bibles upside down when we confuse men’s words with God’s words. No matter how much you admire the people who wrote the notes, never receive their words as the absolute truth from God. Only the biblical text is inerrant.

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5–6; KJV throughout). No study Bible should add to His words but should only explain and apply them.

Do not read study Bibles with your brain turned off. The temptation can be to read a verse, then look down at the note and conclude, “I see; that’s what that means,” and quickly move on. God calls us to meditate prayerfully on His Word (Pss. 1:2; 119:18, 36–37). Do not short-circuit the process of thinking carefully about the Scriptures. By their nature, study Bibles can only offer brief answers to questions. Issues may be much more complex than can be explained in a short note. Therefore, do not assume that you fully understand a matter just because you have read a note in a study Bible.

But he also gives us positive counsel, the last three of which I post here:

Discuss the Bible with family and friends. A study Bible is a great tool for leading family worship, a devotion for a small group, or a study with a friend.

Read the creeds and confessions along with Scripture. Many churches have classes to study doctrinal standards such as a confession of faith or catechism. If your church has such a class, you can use a study Bible that includes the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions among the helps provided. Look up the proof texts attached to a confession of faith or catechism, and study those texts in their biblical contexts. Many study Bibles have several other helpful features such as articles on archaeology, church history, and other important topics. Take time to explore your study Bible’s particular features.

Meditate on the sermon after you return home. To maximize your profit from the preaching of the Word, make notes on the sermons you hear in church and review them at home as a form of meditation. Look up the texts your pastor referenced, and use the notes in your study Bible to augment your meditations. Pray for the assistance of the Spirit, and study with the intent to obey God’s Word.

RHSBible-KJV-2014Dr. Beeke is also the editor of the newly published Reformation Heritage Study Bible (KJV). For more information on that Bible, visit the RHB website, or read this review by Prof.R. Cammenga.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Good counsel. Far too many people think those notes are part of the Bible and far too many reformed people think their favorite confession is the rule by which to interpret the Bible. May God save us from our own opinions!


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