A study bible for a beginner who is new to reading Scripture, or who has recently committed to the Christian faith, is a great way to begin studying God’s word. Reading the bible can be challenging – it’s a long book, written a long time ago, and can be hard to understand. The notes and illustrations found in study bibles help readers understand Scripture by providing easy-to-understand information that is simple and straightforward. Study bibles for beginners don’t assume the reader has been in church their whole life.
The study bibles below are suggestions based on significant research written for other pages on Best Bible Commentaries, like this chart which compares 50 different study bibles and this article, How to Choose a Study Bible. The first five study bibles listed below contain general information that provides an overview of the bible. The second five listed focus more on certain people and subjects.
Study Bibles for Beginners: 5 Suggestions
Life Application Study Bible – New Living Translation
This study bible is great for beginners because the New Living Translation is one of the easiest English translation to understand and because it’s filled with so many study tools, that’s it’s like having several books all in one. The study notes focus on how to apply Scripture to one’s life, though there is still plenty of information on history and theology, too. It also comes in the NIV translation and the King James Version.
- Nearly 10,000 Life Application® notes and features
- Over 100 Life Application® profiles of key Bible people
- Introductions and overviews for each book of the Bible
- More than 400 maps & charts placed for quick reference
- Extensive side-column cross-reference system to facilitate deeper study
- 16 pages of full-color maps
- Words of Jesus are in red letter
NIV Study Bible – New International Version
This study bible is great for beginners because the NIV has survived the test of time as a solid, dependable, and accurate English translation. Since it’s been around longer than a lot of study bibles, it is considered a classic by many bible readers. It won the Gold Medallion Award in 1985 and has built a positive reputation ever since. Since this study bible is produced by the NIV company, it does not appear in other English translations.
- Complete text of the accurate, readable, and clear New International Version (NIV)
- Over 20,000 study notes, with icons to make important information easy to spot
- Introductions and outlines provide valuable background information for each book of the Bible
- In-text maps, charts, diagrams, and illustrations visually clarify the stories in the Bible
- 16 pages of full-color maps plus time lines and presentation page
- Words of Jesus in red
ESV Study Bible – English Standard Version
This study bible is great for beginners because, though the ESV is a relatively new translation (first appearing in 2001), it is becoming the preferred version for many Christians. The ESV uses modern English, not old English, and was produced by a team of bible scholars who had average reading in mind. The notes and articles are why this study bible won the ECPA Book of the Year Award in 2008. The notes cover application, history, theology, literature, and much more. Illustrated pictures are in color. Dozens of articles are included at the end of the book on various topics from the Trinity to Islam to how the bible came to be. Because this study bible is published by the ESV company, it only comes in one translation.
- 20,000+ study notes
- 80,000+ cross–references
- 200+ charts
- 50+ articles
- 240 full-color maps and illustrations
CSB Study Bible – Christian Standard Bible
This study bible is great for beginners because the CSB is a new, yet well-reviewed, English translation and it’s packed with helpful illustrations. The book itself is high-quality, but affordable. Sometimes when study bibles pack so much information in its pages, it’s challenging to even hold the book open. But that’s not the case here. In relation to cost, this is one of the better deals on study bibles. Because the CSB company produced this study bible, it is not offered in other English translations.
- 368 word studies to introduce you to the context and meaning behind key Greek and Hebrew words
- High-quality smyth-sewn binding that will lie open whether you are reading Genesis 1 or Revelation 22
- Full-color visuals to help you see the structure and context of Scripture come alive, including 94 photographs, 55 maps, 44 paintings, 21 illustrations/reconstructions, 19 charts, and 61 timelines
- Introductions and outlines for each book, including background information, theological themes, and insights into the unique contribution of each book
- Easy-to-read layout with two columns of text, Jesus’ words in red, center-column cross-references, and three columns of notes
Illustrated Study Bible NLT – New Living Translation
Attention visual learners! Welcome to your new favorite book! The NLT Illustrated Study Bibles takes illustrations — from maps to charts to other graphics — to the next level. Though it’s relatively new, this study bible has already received a lot of positive reviews, including being the recipient of the 2016 Christian Book Award for Bible of the Year. The NLT translation is also one of the easiest to read, which makes this study bible an engaging tool for people that are new to reading the bible.
- Hundreds of information-rich windows to the Bible world instantly communicate foundational truths and complex information in an understandable, compelling way for today’s visual generation.
- The who, what, where, when, and why of the Bible come alive with stunning photos, illustrations, infographics, and full color maps integrated seamlessly with background material, study notes, and theme articles.
- The Illustrated Study Bible empowers readers to draw closer to God by opening their eyes to Scripture’s living, powerful message.
More Study Bible Suggestions
The five study bibles suggested above contain general information that provide an overview on reading Scripture. The five study bibles below have notes and articles that are more specific or they are written for a particular audience in mind. These are also great study bibles for beginners.
The Woman’s Study Bible
From the publisher: “The Woman’s Study Bible poignantly reveals the Word of God to women, inviting them to receive God’s truth for balance, hope, and transformation. Special features designed to speak to a woman’s heart appear throughout the Bible text, revealing Scripture-based insights about how godly womanhood grows from a woman’s identity as a Christ-follower and a child of the Kingdom. Now with a beautiful full-color redesign, The Woman’s Study Bible reflects the contributions of over 80 women from a wide variety of ethnic, denominational, educational, and occupational backgrounds. Since the publication of the first edition of The Woman’s Study Bible under the editorial guidance of Dorothy Kelley Patterson and Rhonda Harrington Kelley, this landmark study Bible has sold over 1.5 million copies.” Also in the New King James Version.
- Beautiful full-color design throughout
- Detailed biographical portraits of over 100 biblical women
- Thousands of extensive verse-by-verse study notes
- Over 300 in-text topical articles on relevant issues
- Insightful essays by women who are recognized experts in the fields of theology, biblical studies, archaeology, and philosophy
- Book introductions and outlines
- Hundreds of full-color in-text maps, charts, timelines, and family trees
- Quotes from godly women throughout history
- Set of full-page maps of the biblical world
- Topical index
The New Inductive Study Bible – New American Standard Bible Translation
From the publisher: “Every feature of the Gold Medallion-winning New Inductive Study Bible is designed to help you gain a more intimate understanding of God and His Word. You’ll be guided through the inductive study approach with the help of tools and questions that will enable you to make the most of the spiritual riches offered in Scripture.” This study is also offered in the English Standard Version.
- A guide to completing the steps of observation, interpretation, and application
- Individualized overviews and study instructions for every book of the Bible
- 23 pages of full-color charts, historical timelines, and maps
- A one-year Bible reading plan and a three-year Bible study plan
CSB Apologetics Study Bible
From the publisher: “The CSB Apologetics Study Bible helps today’s Christians better understand, defend, and proclaim their beliefs in an age of increasing moral and spiritual relativism. This revised and updated edition includes new articles and extensive apologetics study material from today’s leading apologists to reflect and provide deeper understanding of the relevant apologetics issues and questions being discussed today.”
- Includes commentary from over 90 leading apologists, including: Ted Cabal, Lee Strobel, Chuck Colson, Paul Copan, Norm Geisler, Hank Hanegraaff, Josh McDowell, Albert Mohler, J.P. Moreland, Ravi Zacharias, and many more — plus a lead article by Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ).
- Book Introductions
- Study Notes
- Apologetics articles from leading apologists
- “Twisted Scripture” explanations for commonly misunderstood passages
- Profiles of Christian apologists
- Two-color interior, Two-column text, 9.75-point type size, Smyth-sewn binding, Ribbon marker
- Full-color maps
KJV Study Bible – King James Version
From the publisher: “The KJV Study Bible honors the beauty and majesty of the KJV by presenting the ONLY full-color KJV study Bible available. All of the features and tools are designed to help you understand the Bible and be transformed by it. Our hope is that you will use this study Bible to deepen your walk with God who has graciously revealed Himself in the Bible.
- 15,000 study notes
- 141 photos, 62 timelines, 59 maps, 16 illustrations & reconstructions and 15 charts
- A 40-page concordance
- 20 articles and essays
- A helpful glossary of 17th century expressions relative to the KJV’s signature phrasing
- A two-column Bible text setting with center-column cross references
- The words of Jesus in red
- A one and three-year Bible reading plan
NKJV Study Bible – New King James
From the publisher: The NKJV Study Bible, Second Edition is the most comprehensive study Bible available! It has the most complete study system for pastors, teachers, or students who desire accurate study in God’s Word. Using the trusted New King James Version, The NKJV Study Bible has “the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor.” Thomas Nelson’s skilled team of scholars has produced the study system to reach for when accurate study in God’s Word is the goal.
- More than 15,000 verse-by-verse study notes
- 150 Bible times and culture notes
- 114 articles on key Bible doctrines
- 350 word studies with Strong’s numbers
- “Christ in the Scriptures” feature
- Topical index
- Deluxe Nelson concordance
- Full-color maps