Study Bibles are a great resource for sermon and classroom preparation, and counseling duties that Ministers often face. Here is a list of study Bibles that I find the most useful for these tasks. In this article (updated 9/29/2017) we’ll look at the best study Bibles for preachers and pastors. They’re in no particular order.
As always, I cannot give a blanket recommendation on the accuracy of study notes as they all have a bias (even mine would have a bias). I still find them to be great resources.
NOTE- this has become our most popular article. It was originally meant to provide a short list, but due to its popularity we’ve decided to add to it and expand the information. Please be patient as we perform these updates.
Archaeology Study Bible (ESV)
The Archaeology Study Bible was published by Crossway in 2018. All of its articles and study tools are focused specifically on archaeology, and it does a good job of maintaining that focus. The articles are written by trained archaeologists, so the material provided is accurate and well-written. It has 15 in-depth articles and over 2000 notes, including charts, maps, photos, and diagrams. It also contains several indexes, a concordance, glossary, and a bibliography for further archaeological study.
ESV Study Bible
Crossway’s ESV Study Bible came out in 2008 and has been one of the most popular study Bibles on the market. With its vast amount of quality features, it’s not hard to understand why. With 20,000 notes and 50 articles, the scope of this Bible is so large that it seems to contain a full library of Bible study materials. It’s no wonder the list of contributor’s takes six pages. It includes 25,000 notes, 80,000 cross references, 50 articles, 200 full-color maps, 200 charts, word studies, and concordance. It’s printed in single column with a 9-point font.
Holman Study Bible (HCSB, KJV, NKJV)
Holman’s full-color study Bible series was designed with visuals and ease of use in mind. It features full color photos and maps throughout the text. The quality of its visuals, paper, print, tools, notes, and study material make this one the best study Bibles available. It contains 24 essay’s, 408 word studies, 100+ color photos, topical concordance, commentary, and more.
Thompson Chain Reference (KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV)
Rather than commentary, the Thompson Chain Reference has topical chains that run throughout the Bible. It also has topical lists in the back and an archaeological supplement. I consider it a ‘study Bible’ and not a ‘commentary Bible’ or ‘study Bible with commentary notes’. It still has lots of useful study tools.
NIV Cultural Backgrounds
The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is Zondervan’s replacement of the Archaeological Study Bible. This one is much smaller, making it a standard size study Bible. It includes enough notes, photos, charts, maps, and articles to make it a highly useful Bible for anyone interested in researching the culture and background of the writers and their original audiences.
Fire Bible (KJV, NIV, ESV)
Hendrickson’s Fire Bible series is an improved version of the original Full Life Study Bible. It’s an all-in-one reference library for Pentecostal Christians. It was originally developed for Pentecostal Pastors and lay-leaders as a tool for preaching, teaching, and outreach.
The King James Study Bible
Thomas Nelson’s King James Study Bible full-color edition is a nice update to the already popular KJV Study Bible. It’s cleaner and much easier to read. Everything is in color. It is a large Bible but it does have a lot of material. I especially like the maps, photos, illustrations, personality profiles, paintings, archaeological sites, and indexes.
NKJV Study Bible
There is a lot of good quality study tools in this Bible. I like the layout and it’s nice to see good quality color photos of places and artifacts. The section headings stand out exactly the way I want them to. Verse numbers are fairly easy to find. I found the word studies, culture notes, artifacts, charts, subject index, and concordance to be the most useful in sermon and class prep. So, it does have a good study system for pastors, teachers, and students.
Word Study Bible
Unlike the common study Bible which provides commentary on the text, cross references, articles, and other study helps, Thomas Nelson’s KJV Word Study Bible is a study Bible that focuses on word studies of the original languages. Almost every page includes a word study that’s keyed to Strong’s dictionary.
NLT Illustrated Study Bible
The NLT Illustrated Study Bible has a lot of information and useful tools. It isn’t filled with color photos just for the sake of color photos. There are plenty of charts, artifacts, places, character studies, timelines, word studies, commentary, articles, and indexes to help with any kind of study.
Minister’s and Pastor’s Bibles
CSB Pastor’s Bible
The CSB Pastor’s Bible is an excellent edition for reading and preaching. It has very few distractions within the text and the verses are easy to find while preaching. The helps are especially good for those new to ministry, but anyone in ministry can benefit from them. I would like this Bible even without the helps because the single-column paragraph layout in large print is a good design.
Crossway ESV Pastor’s Bible
Crossway’s ESV Pastor’s Bible is an all-in-one resource providing pastors with tools for services, special services, hospital visitations, weddings, funerals, etc. It also serves as a devotional Bible for pastors with devotions that include prayers, quotes, and poems. The Pastor’s Bible builds on The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry by R. Kent Hughes.
Hendrickson Ministry Essentials Bible (NIV, KJV)
Hendrickson’s Minister’s Bible was a popular Bible for those in ministry. It had a few articles in the back to help with ministerial events. Hendrickson replaced that with the Ministry Essentials Bible, which contains over 250 articles for those in ministry.
Wide Margin Bibles
Cambridge Wide Margin Bible (KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB)
The Cambridge wide margin series is a standard for preachers and pastors. It includes 38gsm paper, center column references, lots of notebook paper for notes, blank pages to create an index to your notes, concordance, maps, etc. Each edition matches a smaller Bible from Cambridge. The KJV is the Concord in 8-point font (vs the 9-point in the regular edition), while the others are a slightly enlarged Pitt Minion.
Crossway ESV Wide Margin Bible
Crossway’s Wide Margin Reference Bible provides one-inch margins to interact with the Scriptures and still provides other tools to support that study: cross-references, a concordance, and maps in genuine leather at an affordable price. It has double-column format with references under the last verse on the page and footnotes in the footer.
Hendrickson Large Print Wide Margin Bible
The King James Version Large Print Wide Margin Bible by Hendrickson contains a set of features that are not available together in any other wide margin Bible, such as large print, red-letter, and section headings. This is a nice edition at an affordable price, making this a great choice for taking notes and creating your own Study Bible. It matches the Large Print Personal Size from Hendrickson, making them a great combo.
LCBP Note Takers (also available from CBP)
Local Church Bible Publishers’ Note Taker’s is the most affordable high quality wide-margin Bible available. It includes a large dark print with the text presented in single column, 2.5″ margins on the outside, 2 ribbons, and a large concordance.
Note – This is now also available from CBP in red letter.
Well, that’s our list of the best study Bibles for preachers and pastors. There are lots of good study Bibles for preachers and pastors available and more are being published every month. We’ll update this post as often as possible with our favorites.
As always, we recommend using study Bibles for reference and do your own study. All study notes are created by fallible man and these Bibles are not meant to take the place of Spirit-led Bible study.
Did we miss your favorite? Is there something you would add to this list?
Updated: 9/27/2017 – added buttons
Updated 9/29/2017 – added wide margin and pastor’s Bibles categories, more Bibles, and better descriptions.