Links updated May 2010
THE following is a list of books that I would recommend to beginning students. I have made an attempt to find these books in the catalogs of online booksellers, and have created some links for those that I could find. Click on the titles to go to a bookseller's catalog. (NOTE: I am not a "partner" of any of these booksellers, and so I gain nothing from these recommendations). The books that are not linked to a catalog are currently out of print, but you can probably get them second hand from one of the used booksellers listed below. Also, try the used book search form at the bottom of this page (it really works).
Bible Versions. No version is perfect. I have never seen a version of the Bible that completely satisfied me. But I recommend the following three versions for people who are able to read English at a twelfth grade level.
- The King James Version. This is historically the most important version and it continues to be the most impressive literary translation of the Bible ever made. All serious students of the English Bible should make themselves thoroughly familiar with it. The best editions are those printed by the Cambridge University Press.
- The New King James Version. Probably the best all-around.
- New American Standard Bible. This is (usually) the most literally accurate version of the Bible. It is sometimes difficult to understand, and "hard to love," but it is always very useful for close study.
- English Standard Version. More accurate than the NIV, more idiomatic than the NASB, with good literary quality.
- The American Standard Version (1901), which is even more literal than the NASB, is also available now in a reprint by Star Bible Publications.
- The Cambridge Interlinear Bible. I recommend this convenient edition for those who want to use the KJV while taking regular notice of the text of a more recent version (the English Revised Version of 1885). Where the two versions are identical, only one line of type appears. Where there is any deviation, the Revised Version is given as an upper line of smaller type, and the KJV as the lower line. This method immediately indicates where variations exist, yet it is possible to read either version with ease.
Commentaries. Rule of thumb: The old commentaries are generally more helpful for orthodox theological interpretation than the newer ones. Be especially cautious about works published after 1900. Most of them are heterodox, and even the "evangelical" ones tend to avoid theological interpretation.
- Matthew Henry's Commentary. This classic commentary is by far the best resource for traditional Protestant interpretation. Be sure to get the complete, unabridged edition (6 volumes) and not the one-volume abridgment.
- Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament. 7744 pages in 10 volumes (Hendrickson reprint, 1996). Much more technical and precise than Henry's commentary, and regarded by many conservatives as being the best Old Testament commentary.
General History of the Bible
- A General Introduction to the Bible. By Norman Geisler and William Nix. A good resource for information on the history of the canon, texts, and versions. Written from a conservative evangelical point of view.
Response to the 'King James Only' Movement. The following books written from a fundamentalist perspective are very helpful in answering the claims of those who say that all modern versions of the Bible are perversions of the Word of God.
- From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man: A Layman's Guide to How We Got Our Bible, edited by James B. Williams (Greenville, South Carolina: Ambassador-Emerald, 1999). ISBN: 1889893382. Contributions by Earnest Pickering, Mark Minnick, James B. Williams, Randolp Shaylor, Paul W. Downey, John E. Ashbrook, John K. Hutcheson, John C. Mincy, William H. Smallman, J. Drew Conley, and Keith E. Gephart, all of whom are associated with Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.
- God's Word in Our Hands, edited by Randolph Shaylor and James B. Williams (Greenville, South Carolina: Ambassador-Emerald, 2003). In this volume the authors build upon their earlier book (see above) and focus on the doctrine of preservation.
Canon of Scripture
History of English Versions. Unfortunately, nearly all books on English versions published since 1950 are written with the special purpose of promoting either the RSV or the NIV. But the following books, written by men who were not involved in the making of these versions, are relatively free of such bias.
- History of the Bible in English, by F. F. Bruce. (3rd edition, 1978, reprinted by Lutterworth Press in 2002). This is a revised edition of The English Bible: A History of Translations (Oxford University Press, 1961). It is by far the best short history.
- Geddes MacGregor, A Literary History of the Bible from the Middle Ages to the Present Day. Nashville: Abingdon, 1968. More detailed than Bruce's book, and also out of print. Try to get one from a used book dealer.
- The English Hexapla published by Samuel Bagster in 1841 presents the full text of several early English Bible versions. This is an expensive volume, but it will give the student a better idea of the characteristics of early English versions than any description can do.
- Accuracy of Translation, by Robert P. Martin. There are plenty of superficial books that advocate "dynamic equivalence." But be sure to read Martin's book for the other side of the story.
- The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God's Words, by Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem. Explains very thoroughly what is wrong with conforming the Bible to the latest tenets of political correctness.
- The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation, by Leland Ryken (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2003). Ryken is professor of English at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of How to Read the Bible as Literature and coeditor of A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible.
- Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2005). Contains some good articles by Wayne Grudem, Vern Poythress, and Leland Ryken.
Textual Criticism. There is no way around it: knowledge of Greek and Latin is necessary for any serious study of NT textual criticism. For the OT, you need to know Hebrew and Greek. The books listed here assume that you are at least somewhat familiar with these languages.
Theology. Here is my advice for learning theology at home. Read from the books listed below, in this order, (1) the Westminster Shorter Catechism; (2) the Larger Catechism; (3) the Westminster Confession; (4) Watson's Body of Practical Divinity; and finally, (5) Berkhof's Systematic Theology. If you do this you will get within a year a better theological education than most seminary graduates.
- Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications, 1994). This edition (ISBN 0902506080) contains the Shorter Catechism, Larger Catechism, and Confession (all with Scripture proofs in full), a subject index, and several other useful documents. Accept no substitutes. This is the edition you want. Also available here.
- A Body of Practical Divinity by Thomas Watson (1692), reprinted by Banner of Truth in three parts: Body of Divinity, The Ten Commandments, and The Lord's Prayer. A classic Puritan exposition of Christian theology and ethics, highly edifying and practical.
- Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkhof (Banner of Truth, 1958). This volume is a clearly-written presentation of Reformed theology that has been used as a standard text in Reformed seminaries. I recommend it highly.
- Biblical Hermeneutics, by Milton S. Terry. (1890). A valuable comprehensive treatment, typical of the careful and detailed scholarship of the nineteenth century. This should be your first choice.
- Interpreting the Bible, by A. Berkeley Mickelsen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963). This was for a long time the most widely used introduction in evangelical seminaries.
Doctrine of Inspiration
- The Battle for the Bible (1976) and The Bible in the Balance (1979), by Harold Lindsell. Although these books deal with events that happened some time ago, they are very instructive and relevant to the present time. They emphasize the importance of upholding the principle of inerrancy, and describe the bad results of departures from this principle.
- The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. More than 500,000 cross-references, covering nearly every verse of the Bible. 778 pages. This is an invaluable tool for Bible study, first published in the 1800's and available in many reprints. The new edition prepared by Jerome H. Smith is a very thick volume (1659 pages) that adds many questionable interpretive comments. The original edition is cheaper and handier.
- Interlinear KJV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, by George Ricker Berry. (Zondervan reprint, 1993). By far the best interlinear Greek Testament. Text of Stephens 1550 with footnotes showing variant readings of modern critical editions of the text.
- Interlinear Hebrew-Greek-English Bible edited by Jay P. Green Sr. (Hendrickson, 2004). 4 Volume Edition. ISBN: 0565639804. This is the best interlinear for the Old Testament.
Electronic Books and Bible Study Software
- Sola Scriptura Publishing. Early English Bibles, annotated Greek texts, and some hard-to-find scholarly books from the 19th century on CD-ROM. Mostly scanned in Adobe format. The owner of the business is Mark Langley, pastor of Reformed Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.
- Gramcord. Useful for finding examples of various grammatical constructions in the Greek New Testament. Designed by Paul A. Miller of Multnomah Graduate School.
- The Online Bible. A good Bible program you can download to your computer for free. After downloading and installing the program, you can return to the site to add many different English versions, also for free.
- BibleWorks. A sophisticated program designed for academic work.
- Logos Research Systems. Another sophisticated program for academic work.
- 1534 Luther Bible. A facsimile reprint (Cologne: Taschen Verlag, 2003) of the first edition of Luther's Bible (Wittenberg, 1534), with more than 120 tinted woodcuts by Lucas Cranach, in two volumes. Contained in a third volume is an introduction by Stephan Füssel.
- The Cambridge Geneva Bible of 1591. Superb facsimile by the Cambridge University Press (1998). $400.00.
- 1560 Geneva Bible Facsimile. A Hendrickson reprint of the facsimile originally printed by the University of Wisconsin Press. Another reprint (by Vintage Archives) is here.
- 1599 Geneva Bible. Reproduced with new typesetting by Tolle Lege Press.
- 1611 edition of the King James Bible with original spelling, reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, 2003. Also available for purchase here. This edition gives the original text, notes, preface, etc., but it has been set in Roman type instead of the original "black letter" (gothic) type, and it is much reduced in size. A similar reprint was issued by Thomas Nelson in 1993.
- The King James Bible-1611 Replica Edition (Greyden Press, 1999). This is an exact replica of the 1611 edition, original gothic type and folio page size. A huge pulpit Bible, like the first edition. At $250 it is actually a bargain compared to other similar editions I have seen.
- The Wycliffe New Testament 1388: An edition in modern spelling, with an introduction, the original prologues and the Epistle to the Laodiceans. Edited by William Cooper. London: The British Library, 2002. 544 pages. ISBN: 0712347283.
- The New Testament: 1526 Tyndale Bible, Original Spelling Edition. Transcription by W.R. Cooper. Introduction by David Daniell. London: The British Library, 2000. 576 pages. ISBN: 0712346643.
- Tyndales's New Testament ... in a modern spelling edition and with an introduction by David Daniell. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989. 480 pages. ISBN: 0300044194.
Useful books in a particular field of interest can often be found by browsing or searching the catalogs of booksellers on the web. There are two kinds of theological booksellers on the web: those who sell only conservative books and those who sell anything and everything on the subject. I would recommend the following conservative booksellers:
For students who are looking for a particular book or author, the following booksellers can also be very helpful, although they include books written from a secular perspective in their catalogs. Discretion advised!
- Amazon.com. This is a very helpful site. For many books you can browse several sample pages and read reviews.
- Christian Book Distributors. Good prices and selection here, but take the book descriptions with a grain of salt. Many ultra-liberal books are described in such terms that you would never guess their character.
- Eisenbrauns. "Specializing in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Studies." This publisher also distributes books of European publishers, and sells used books.
- Bohley's Used Christian Books
- Baker Books
- Dove Booksellers
- Loome Theological Booksellers. This bookseller does not maintain a complete online catalog, but it is the best source for used theological books in America. In order to purchase books through Loome, send them an email listing the books that you want, and they will notify you if they have the books in stock.
- Good Books in Springfield Illinois carries many used and out-of-print theological books, especially those from a Reformed perspective. Contact them by writing to Curt Daniel, 2456 E. Devonshire Rd. Springfield, IL 62703, or by calling (217) 585-8770.
- Bibliomania Book Searches gives links to many book-finding search engines, the most powerful of which are AddAll Book Search and abebooks.com. Try the AddAll search form at the bottom of this page. Another good bookfinder is at chambal.com.
- Finally, there is the Zentrales Verzeichnis Antiquarischer Bücher (ZVAB), which searches the catalogs of many European antiquarian booksellers.
Used Book Search