The 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.