Bible Study Tools

What is the most important tool in your Bible study toolbox?

The Bible study tool I find most useful is studiously avoided by almost every advocate of Bible study.

I say that because it is almost never mentioned.

I cannot imagine why.

It may be because many authors and teachers don’t know about my favorite Bible study tool themselves. It may be that they have never used it enough in Real Bible Study themselves, so it has not become their own favorite.

I have read many of the writings of Dr. Wilbur M. Smith. He wrote a very helpful, even fascinating book titled Profitable Bible Study. My hardbound copy is from 1953, a revision of the original publication in 1939. The subtitle states “Seven Simple Methods—with an Annotated List of the First One Hundred Best Books for the Bible Student’s Library.”

This volume by Dr. Wilbur Smith mentions the “fascinating little book, What Can Literature Do for Me?” on page 25. I was able to secure a used copy of that work, and have made its chapters into lesson plans for teaching literature to my English classes.

Literature can do commendable things in our lives, but the Bible can do far more.

I once had a student in my remedial reading class who was not interested in reading anything unless it was Bible-related. I typed up special reading selections just for her benefit. She especially liked what I shared about how to study Bible people. She wrote many reports about the characters in the Bible using the study outline I provided her.

I don’t suppose very many English teachers would have been prepared to meet the needs of a student like her. I’m thankful the Lord placed her in my class so she could have a teacher willing to adjust the course material for her study in a way that would meet her interests.

We need to study the Bible, and learn the Bible, and live the Bible.

But back to the writings of Dr. Wilbur Smith: though he shows great familiarity with the value of good cross references, mentioning those given in the Nestle Greek New Testament, and even those in The New Testament with Fuller References, he never once mentions The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, which has the greatest collection of cross references of all.

I have been privileged to expand and correct the cross references in The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge in my first work, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. The New Treasury is no longer available in printed book form from the publisher. It is available in Logos and Libronix Bible study software.

My second work is available only in printed book form, Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible.

The New Treasury and the Cross Reference Guide are the most important tools in my Bible Study Toolbox.

Any person who has any interest whatever in the Bible will certainly find that this extensive collection of cross references will, upon repeated use, become his or her own most important Bible study tool too.

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12 Responses to Bible Study Tools

  1. ken sagely says:

    hello jerry thank you for posting of bible study tools, its a blessing. when i was first saved i was concerned about my faith and growing in the lord i focused on alot of books about the bible and not so much on studying the bible. about that time i ran across a copy of treasury of scripture knowledge and new i had found a jewel of a bible study tool. i began to see more and more how the bible is its own best interpreter! what a blessing it has been to go from passage to passage in his word. i was really excited about ntsk when it came out. i prepared my sunday school lessons only from tne ntsk. the helps and explanations were excellent and easy to understand. i went to my local book store and asked to be put on the list when the crg came out. i got a call one day and praise the lord i added it to my collection! rom 10/17 has shown me and i am still learing daily that faith is built on the word of god and if i want some one else to grow as a believer the best thing i can do is share the word of god with them. col 1/10 is a part of a prayer paul made for the church at colosse. to me it really brings out the end result of bible study, “that you might walk worthy of the lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of god”. thank you jerry for how the lord has led to provide these great tools to us bible students!

  2. Pat Tea says:

    When studying a section of scripture, I like to have available different translations. It gives different insights to words. I use The Faith Database or I also love the reference and cross reference checking available through

    Overall, though, I would say most important is to follow four steps:
    1. Read through the section for overview and understanding.
    2. Take it apart phrase by phrase, sometimes word by word and plumb the deeper meaning and role of any people included in the passage. Check the meanings of words and references.
    3. Put it all back together and read it again.
    4. Sit quietly, wait for your mind to still, and listen with your heart.
    This will fill your heart and inspire your will to live the Word.

  3. Jerry says:

    Thank you, Pat, for a wonderful post!

    You have given valuable Internet references for Bible study, and a nice 4-point Bible study process.

    I hope you will find it possible to contribute more ideas here.

  4. Unfortunately, is no longer in service. The link is dead. The cross reference guides Jerry mentions are my main tools also. I found a NTSK printed book online through a reseller and value it tremendously. The new Nelson’s guide is still available and I bought several copies when was clearing out their stock (Amazon still sells the book). I’m in the process of having one of those copies leather bound to take with me on the go. I just haven’t settled on a book binder yet.

  5. Jerry Weinhausen says:

    Jerry – In what way are the NTSK and the Nelson Cross Reference guide different from each other apart from size and weight? If I own one, do I need the other?

  6. Jerry says:

    Dear Jerry Weinhausen,

    The NTSK has indexes and notes, and chapter outlines or headnotes. The Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible has only the cross references. The CRG cross references are actually more complete, but they are consolidated to eliminate duplication and to keep the size of the book down.

    I use both. The CRG is easier to carry. Its references are more complete and more accurate (I caught many errors in cross references while working on the reduction in size). But when I need the notes and indexes, I still use the NTSK. Unfortunately, the NTSK in book form is no longer available new from the publisher, but it is available on Amazon used. The NTSK is also available in software, and except for omitting what I consider to be a most important index (the Topic Number Index), it works just fine.

    So the answer in brief is, it is best to own both.

    Thank you for visiting and commenting here. I hope you will feel free to visit again, and ask a question or post a comment if you wish.

  7. Jerry Weinhausen says:

    I’ve seen several places in your posts that you advise using a plain text Bible for studying scripture. I guess I could use a little clarification here. Do you mean we shouldn’t use Reference and/or Study Bibles at all? If they’re okay to use, when do we bring them into our study? On the other hand, if you think it best to keep away from this variety, what about wide margin Bibles that have cross reference included? I just bought a KJV Ryrie hardback just to have some margin space to make notes but could return it if the wide margin reference copy is preferable.

  8. Jerry says:

    Dear Jerry Weinhausen,

    I suggest starting the study of a verse, passage, chapter, book or subject by using a plain text Bible. I include in the category of plain text Bibles those that provide cross references in a center or side margin or at the end of verses.

    The reason I suggest this is that we should first grasp as much of the meaning of Scripture directly from Scripture itself. Once we have uncovered as much as we can, using a plain text Bible, using plain text Bibles in different versions or translations, then it is time to get added help.

    A plain text Bible is a must when it comes to doing your own book and chapter Bible study. I find it most helpful to use a plain text Bible that does not divide the text into paragraphs. It helps in our own study to read the text carefully enough for ourselves until we can discern the natural breaks in thought and make an outline of our own paragraph divisions and give each paragraph a short, distinctive title to convey the main content of the paragraph. After outlining the Bible book that way, you will have noticed certain words that are frequently repeated, and certain phrases. It helps to chart these too. But to get very far in that kind of study, you must use a literal translation like the KJV, which usually has some consistency in its rendering. Young’s Literal Translation and others based on the literal principle (RV, NASB, etc.) should also work well.

    If we start with a study Bible, we may unknowingly pick up on the teaching of that study Bible without being aware that the teaching may be biased, slanted, or in actual error. There is bias, mistaken bias at that, in almost every study Bible. Even in what I thought would be an innocuous enough Bible, the Chronological Study Bible, I have found instances of such bias or error in the notes. I don’t mind encountering bias, I may have some myself. But I have found, after long years of study, that the Bible is a self-correcting book, if we will let it speak for itself first, and last.

    I suggest this, too, as a procedure to help us get out of any denominational “rut” we may have fallen into. There are some very good denominations that are mistaken about some things. Often, denominations that have “doctrinal distinctives” are mistaken about some of those very distinctives!

    How do I know they are mistaken? I find the law of non-contradiction to be a marvelous principle to keep in mind when doing Bible study. If a teaching can be shown to contradict the teaching of the Bible considered as a whole, such teaching of course is mistaken. Even so, we must be most careful before jumping to conclusions, or resting on our previous learning. I am always willing to be corrected on the basis of new evidence from the Bible.

    Though I am not stubborn, I am not an easy “push-over,” as evidenced by the four years of study the JWs held weekly with me in my apartment. We had many discussions, and I had to dig deeper into Scripture than ever before to learn the answers to their many mistaken positions. Those caught up in an error or system of errors, like JWs, and on some issues, Seventh-day Adventists, always fail to account properly for all the evidence. They fail to maintain the balance of emphasis found in the New Testament and the Bible as a whole. They declare as truth teaching that Robinson Crusoe on his desert island with three good Bibles would never dream of, even after reading them for years in careful study.

    Using a wide margin Bible is an excellent idea. I have used wide margin Bibles for many years. That is where I collected cross references as I studied the Bible. That came in very handy when I ended up producing a new corrected and expanded edition of the original Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Of course, the wide margin can be used for other things besides collecting or noting cross references. I found using a loose-leaf wide margin Bible to be very helpful. It gave me more room for notes from my studies.

    Don’t give up your Ryrie KJV hardback just yet! I have the Ryrie study Bible and find it helpful to consult from time to time.

    Should we use Reference or Study Bibles at all? Indeed we should. When I began my current study of Jeremiah in my process of furnishing more cross references for as many verses as possible, I first read the introductory material about the book of Jeremiah in a half a dozen or more study Bibles I have at hand. I started by reading the information provided in the Dickson New Analytical Bible, which was most helpful. I followed that with reading from the NIV Study Bible, the MacArthur Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, the Lutheran Study Bible (which, while I am not Lutheran, I find their study Bible very good, with better cross references than most), the NLT Study Bible, the The Literary Study Bible, the NIV Disciple’s Study Bible, and The Reformation Study Bible. Reading all that, though there was some overlap and repetition, helped strengthen my understanding of the historical background of the book of Jeremiah.

    If I did not make myself clear, or if I only succeeded in muddying the waters further, feel free to ask more questions or add comments of your own.

  9. Brian Summers says:

    Dear Jerry Weinhausen,

    You mentioned “My second work is available only in printed book form, Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible.” Computer & smartdevice are so much more handy and efficient for bible study than big large reference books. Are you working on making this available in Logos Bible study software? If not are you willing to make this available in Logos Bible study software? Because of the way I study this is probably the only way I could ever take advantage of this amazing resources you have created.

  10. Brian Summers says:

    Here are some free online cross references I have found handy

    Same site with an amazing topical study link

  11. Jerry says:

    Dear Brian,

    I am currently working on a major expansion of my previous two works on cross references. I am now as far as working on James chapter 2. When done, it is currently planned to have my work available for use with the e-Sword Bible program. But there has been a little informal discussion regarding having it available also for Logos Bible study software. Currently, my first work, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, is available in Logos software. It may come with the base package. It did when I bought the Nelson Libronix software CD several years ago, now updated to Logos 5. You can get a slight “picture” of what my new expansion looks like by consulting the references I have given for the “Daily Bible Nuggets.”

  12. Jerry says:

    Dear Brian,

    Thank you for sharing the link(s) for cross reference Bible study. I found an especially helpful cross reference resource on line at a site called something like the blueletter Bible. It displayed the full text of the cross references from the original Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. The references I have compiled are more complete and accurate than those original references, but my references are not on line.

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