Last week I gave myself an interesting goal: study a particular chapter of the Bible a little every day and see what I can get out of it. The problem is that most of my Bibles and study materials (some of which appear in the picture at the top of this post from a year and a half ago) are currently in storage because of a move last year. But I do still have a number of resources at my disposal, and I decided to see what I could come up with!
The first day I read the passage from the New Living Translation (which is what my pastor uses during his messages) from my NLT Life Application Study Bible. This gave me a basic overview of the passage, plus some real-world applications. I don't really have a lot of trust for the NLT as a study text (not for inductive study methods, anyway) but it reads easily and it's certainly good enough to give you an idea of what the writer is talking about.
There was something that was puzzling me, hinging around one specific word in the passage, so the next day I fired up the Logos app on my phone. It's kind of a little brother to the Logos/Libronix software you can buy for your computer. It's actually pretty good for doing light Bible study using a phone; the screen can divide into two parts which hold different translations or books, and it can do some simple word study kind of stuff. It's nowhere as good as the desktop version, but I just had my phone handy at the time, and it satisfied my curiosity. I read the passage again using the New American Standard Version on the phone, and it is tied in to the Greek/Hebrew stuff, so it was simple to do my word study.
The next day I fired up MyStudyBible.com and read the chapter through in the Holman Christian Standard Version. I actually used my phone browser for this, and it worked out reasonably well. I still wasn't 100% satisfied with my word study results from the Logos app, and MyStudyBible.com has a terrific "click the underlined word to see the Greek or Hebrew source word" thing going on, and it clarified what I had discovered the day before. And you can't beat the price for using the HCSB Study Bible on this site... free!
The next day I read the chapter in the ESV translation on ESVBible.org. On this site you can read the ESV Study Bible notes, and although there is a minimal cost to access them, I highly recommend it; the ESV Study Bible is still my preferred study Bible. The notes were terrific; I was really getting a good handle on what I had been reading all week.
The next day I pulled out my NIV Study Bible to read the passage in the New International Version. This is my second favorite study Bible, a close runner-up to the ESV Study Bible. The NIV is probably my second-favorite translation, too... I thought for a while that the HCSB was going to take over that spot, but I've been disappointed with the translation in a few spots... maybe I'll blog about some of them one day. I still like the Holman translation, but I like the NIV better. This is an older copy of the NIV Study Bible, so this is the 1984 NIV, although I have no problem with the parts I've read from the newest edition.
The next day I pulled out the Life Application Study Bible and went through the chapter again in that book; I wanted to see if what I read made better sense to me after being through the chapter so many times. Sure enough, the text and the study notes were more meaningful to me this time through than before. I must have learned something!
How much did I pay to do all of this? Nothing! Of course, I already had the materials at my disposal; maybe you own a study Bible or two, or maybe you don't. But there are plenty of Bible study resources online; you could study a passage for weeks just using the resources on Blue Letter Bible alone and never run out, and that site is free!
I used a couple of physical volumes in my study, but the astonishing fact is that I did most of my study of this passage (it was 1 Peter 1, by the way, but it could have been any chapter) using only my low-powered Android cell phone! Just a few years ago that would have been science fiction; these days there are a wealth of materials available to anyone with a smart phone, anywhere they have a data connection (or in some cases, even without a data connection). With only the meager resources at my disposal, I did a study that would have taken hours in a physical library full of Bible commentaries fifteen years ago. We are truly blessed these days with a rich variety of sources of information about the Bible literally at our fingertips.
The real question here is: why do Christians not have a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Bible? With all of these resources available, there is no reason every Christian couldn't know as much about the Word as a graduating seminary student a half-century ago. Why don't we?
I'll leave you to answer that question yourself in the comments section below.