Study Bibles as Theological Tool Kits – Justin Taylor

Source: Study Bibles as Theological Tool Kits by Justin Taylor | Reformed Theology Articles at

TTCover-Sept-2015The above-linked article is the third featured one in this month’s issue of Tabletalk, which is on the theme of Study Bibles. In this article Justin Taylor shows us how a good study Bible functions as a useful “theological tool kit”. At the end, he also gives us some practical pointers on how to use a study Bible well.

This too is a profitable article in learning whether you want to use a study Bible or not, and if so, how to use it best. I give you the first part of Taylor’s article and encourage you to use the link to read the rest.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to his young friend and pastoral protégé Timothy, he gave him a clear command about how to handle the Scriptures: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). We may draw several implications from this brief exhortation. First, handling God’s Word takes effort and skill. Timothy is to be a “worker,” doing his “best”—that is, striving by the Spirit to deploy careful excellence—as he undertakes this sacred task. Second, though Timothy is to interpret Scripture for himself and to serve others—so that he can know the truth and can teach it faithfully to others—interpretation is ultimately done in the presence of God and for the glory of God. It is before the Sovereign Author that our interpretations stand or fall. Third, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle God’s Word. Paul encourages Timothy to interpret “rightly” so as to avoid being “ashamed.”

Study Bibles can be a gift from God to help us understand His Word rightly and to plumb its depths. They can give us guidance in understanding history, practicing exegesis, and making theological application. I will explore these one at a time, quoting from the ESV Study Bible to illustrate—not because it’s the only good study Bible, but because it’s the one I know best.

And a little further into his article Taylor adds this specifically about how a good study Bible assists us theologically:

A good study Bible can help us become better theologians. First, it can show us how theology is derived from Scripture. For example, a note on John 1:1 will explain that this verse contains “the building blocks that go into the doctrine of the Trinity: the one true God consists of more than one person, they relate to each other, and they have always existed.”

Second, a good study Bible can help you avoid theological misinterpretation. When Paul says in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation,” the ESV Study Bible note helps us understand what this is and is not saying:

It would be wrong to think in physical terms here, as if Paul were asserting that the Son had a physical origin or was somehow created (the classic Arian heresy) rather than existing eternally as the Son, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the Godhead. What Paul had in mind was the rights and privileges of a firstborn son, especially the son of a monarch who would inherit ruling sovereignty. This is how the expression is used of David: “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27).

Third, many study Bibles contain theological articles that go into greater depth on theological truths of the faith. All of these tools can be a great aid in helping us become better theologians.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. ESV as a study bible, I think not. The ESV removes hell 40 times. “devil and devils” removed 83 times. The word “Christ” 39 times. The word “Lord” 66 times. And “God” 38 times. Do I need to present more evidence.


  2. The ESV is corrupt. why are ye promoting such a corrupt book?


    • Two things in response to your comments: 1st, I was NOT promoting the ESV Bible – in fact, the quote I used only made a passing reference to the ESV Study Bible. I was simply supporting the idea of using a study Bible as as a theological tool, as this article in “Tabletalk” did. 2nd, I have not done a close study of the ESV Bible, so I am not in a position to call it “corrupt.” But I would be careful about using such language without careful study. The KJV is inaccurate in places too and mistranlates some significant words in the original – does that make it too “corrupt.” There is no perfect translation of God’s pure and holy Word, since all translations are the work of imperfect men.


  3. Good Evening Chuck,
    Listen in to the Convention 2015 Singspriation last night on Utube and enjoyed the singing of “O Great God of Voices of Victory” Has the quartet put on CD any songs?
    Regarding the KJV and modern bibles be they NIV – ESV, whatever name they give themselves, they all come from the same corrupt manuscripts that Westcott (1825-1901) and Hort (1828-1892) used for their revision. These two men are noted for their “Higher Criticism” “Mariolatry” “Anti-Protestantism” “Evolution” “Ritualism” “Papal doctrine of the Atonement” No doubt ye are acquainted with their evil work and writings?
    The translators of the KJV said, “we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one…but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one.” The King James translators did not regard their work as perfect or inspired, but they did consider it to be a trustworthy reproduction of God’s holy Word, and as such they commended it to their Christian readers.
    Tyndale’s famous words ring loud in my ears; “If God spare my life, before long I shall cause a ploughboy to know the scriptures….” I am one of the many ploughboys who have come to love and willing to contend earnestly for that Word of God I believe is found in the faithful translation of the KJV.
    Yes I have researched the many new versions that are claiming to be the word of God and I have found them to be only the word of men!
    In Steven Houck pamphlet, The King James Version Of The Bible he writes; “Some men praise it for its pure English and forceful style, others for its beauty and majesty, and still others for its accurate translation. It is all that and more. But even more important, we must recognize that the King James Version is the Word of God which God has graciously and loving given to His English-speaking Church. It is a faithful translation of the inspired originals which have been providentially preserved by God in the thousands of manuscripts which have come down to us. Thus we can be sure that we have the authoritative Word of God. ….Evening though the King James has its weaknesses, it is an excellent translation and by far the best version available today. We must not be taken in by the modern versions and their claims. Our 400 year old Bible is better than them all.
    1) It was translation by men who are unsurpassed in their knowledge of Biblical studies.
    2) The translators were pious men of God who believed in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.
    3) It is the mature fruit of generations of English translations as well as the careful work of its translators.
    4) The King James Version is based upon the Received Text rather than the critical Greek text of modern versions.
    5) It is a word-for-word translation which faithfully and accurately reflects the originals.
    6) The language is one of reverence and respect which gives honor to the majesty of its Author.
    7) Of all the English versions of today, it alone is the Bible of the Reformation.
    8) Our spiritual forefathers thought so highly of it that they were willing to suffer and even die for it.
    9) It is the version which has been recognized for generations and generations as the Bible God has given to His English-speaking Church.

    In Christian love,


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