Many Christians enjoy spending time in the study of God's Word. Whether you are new in the faith or have been a Christian for many years, using the right Bible will help you in your walk with God. Reference and study Bibles offer different, yet critical tools for serious students of God's Word.

Cross References

Reference Bibles share this main feature in common with study Bibles: Bible verses are cross-referenced with each other, mainly with other words, themes or ideas. For example, if a scripture mentions "water," the cross-references will direct the reader to other Bible verses which use the same word. Some reference Bibles offer more extensive cross-reference materials than others. Once the student looks up the new reference, he can then continue to follow other references as he studies.

Book Introductions

Study Bibles provide book introductions and information with context, background, author, date, themes, intended audience and circumstances. Usually, an outline offers a brief overview of the book. Depending on the study Bible, the length and approach of these notes may differ and can be biased, depending on the authors' religious persuasions and backgrounds.

Study Notes

Study Bibles include footnotes or resource material within the text to explain meanings of words, background, circumstances and ideas behind the passage. They offer a brief commentary on the text. These notes are not a part of the Bible itself but help clarify the section.

Concordance and Dictionary

The study Bible includes a concordance and Bible dictionary, which may be combined. The concordance easily helps you find a verse in the Bible, even if you only remember one or two words. Make sure you use a concordance which matches the version you are using, as the wording of verses differs by translation. In other words, use a King James concordance with a King James Bible. The concordance will also show you where other verses with the same word are. It is often used in this capacity when the student wants to study all the uses of a word, such as "baptize."

Topical Index

A topical index, like a concordance, helps the reader locate specific verses. This section of the study Bible groups verses by subject, and not just by words.

Maps

Maps help you locate certain cities and towns during the referenced time period in the Bible passage. Geography changed throughout Bible history, so many study Bibles have several maps showing a historical progression and will specify which one to reference.