Well, probably not necessarily, as, like with translations, each has its own purpose and usefulness, but probably, the better ones are those that encourage actual engagement with the text of Scripture – and, in my opinion, the “best” “study” Bible available that encourages in-depth engagement with the biblical text, is one put out by Precept Ministries: The New Inductive Study Bible (Harvest House Publishers) (the main “new” part is that it was reformatted and updated when the NASU came out).
In fact, this one probably does so well at encouraging actual and in-depth engagement with the biblical text that probably just looking through and thinking about what it encourages people to do, could make you tired…. lol!
So what does the New Inductive Study Bible ask the user to do?
Well, the dead giveaway is at the bottom of the photo to the left: discovering the truth for yourself. Well, at least, discover the truths of Scripture for yourself utilizing the Inductive method of Bible study!
First, it asks him or her to spend time observing the text asking “what does the text say?” This stage is also known as the “overview.” One way to observe the text is to use the “5 w’s and an H.” Other ways involve marking out specific “key” repeated or theologically weighted words and or phrases and such in a definitive way so as to make things stand out; then make lists recording the observations and so on and so forth. Even outlining or structuring is a kind of way to observe the text – which forces you to do the most important part of observation: read and reread, and reread the text, over and over and over again. the more you read the text, the more you’ll see and the more you see, the more you’ll begin to understand. In the observation stage, you are dipping in and out of the text so that at times you see the forest and at other times you get in closer to take a look at the trees and their roots looking to get the context of the passage or book being studied. (see here for some examples)
Next, it asks the user to begin interpreting the text asking “what does the text mean?” Now, usually, good interpretation flows out of observation – so once we begin to get an understanding of what the text says or is saying, we can begin to understand it’s meaning. Interpretation involves doing context studies, background studies, word studies, reflecting on the text itself comparing passages or versus “letting Scripture interpret Scripture” and so on. Al this is to be done on your own – no commentaries and such until after you have done as much work on the text yourself.
Finally, it asks the user to begin applying the text asking “what does it mean to/for me or to/for us?” Now that we have begun to get a handle on the meaning of the text, we can begin to apply it’s truths to our own lives or our own faith communities. The moment we engage a truth we should begin applying which can happen any number of ways: when your eyes are opened to some concept it brings some level of personal transformation be it an understanding about God, the church, one another or even our own self. Once that truth is understood, we can begin waking in it – be it God’s love and acceptance for us, learning to love, accept, and forgive one another; the need to evangelize and share the hope we have in the Lord, etc.
Of course there are various study tips and mini-articles and so on, and I am sure we could all find something to quibble with or quarrel over, but the whole point of this particular “study Bible” is to get people into the text and to do their own work – instead of relying on edited notes and such at the bottom of the page helping you understand the passage, the Inductive Study Bible utilizes the Inductive method so you could, in following the method, write your own notes and think for yourself about the truths of Scripture! 🙂
So, all that so explain why I believe the New Inductive Study Bible is one of the best out there for really and actually “studying” the Bible. and this is why I’ll be getting a new one soon since I had to throw away my other one.
I realize this probably isn’t the best Bible to give to a brand new believer (though I have heard of new believers doing well learning the Inductive Method) – that might be too much too fast (probably would not give any “study” bible to a new believer but instead a regular Bible to read and gain basic familiarity with the Bible and its contents) – but the ISB is better for the person read to get in personal study of the Bible (and especially done in a group with others such as done one’s one work (like homework) then meet up with others to talk about what you learned to help keep each other on track).
As to other kinds of Study Bibles such as the ESVSB, NLTSB, NIVSB, etc, what I would prefer to see is the Inductive Study Bible as the primary one worked with and used – then other others used as references (after one has finished with the overview of the passage or book under study first). The same would go for commentaries, they are fine and good to use, just wait to look at them after you do your own work.
Lastly, I realize I am probably emphasizing a method more then a kind of “study” Bible per se as one can utilize the inductive method with any Bible or by just printing out the passage or book under study on regular paper to put in a notebook, but I do feel the NISB is the best in utilizing a method of study over just giving commentary notes at the bottom and articles spread throughout and leaving folks to figure out what to do with them.