A Good Study Bible?

By Donald P. Ames

To find a-good study Bible is not always an easy task. In my opinion, the recent Royal Bible (later published under the name of the Zondervan Cyclopedic Reference Bible both are now out of print) was one of the very best in the KJV, while I am still looking for a NASB with a concordance of any real depth. Since the Royal Bible is no longer available, I have had several people ask me what I would recommend, and the selection is not very easy.

In checking with others, several have highly commended the Open Bible (published by Nelson, available in both KJV and NASB), especially so one could profit by the cyclopedic reference in the front of it. Others have mentioned the Ryrie Study Bible (also available in both KJV and NASB), and it too has extensive footnotes, etc. in it. The latter is also carried in the latest issue of Truth Magazine’s catalog.

Frankly, I am not comfortable with either one of them. What one does not learn until you secure a copy is that both Bibles advocate the doctrine of salvation by faith only (which in and of itself could perhaps be overlooked to gain the other benefits). This would make me especially cautious in recommending it to a weak brother or someone who has not yet learned the truth.

But, even more dangerous than the false doctrine of salvation by faith only being advocated in them is the open teaching of the doctrine of premillennialism! For years brethren have strongly spoken out against the Scofield Bible because of its heavy premillennial footnotes, and now, because of a few good features, we are letting both the Open Bible and the Ryrie Study Bible slip in with the comment “you need to watch it closely in Revelation, where it does advocate premillennialism.” If we are going to use it, then why object to the Scofield Bible?

What we need to remember is that premillennialism is a system of interpretation. Brother Rodney M. Miller in his fine book The Lion And The Lamb quotes from a premillennialist, J. Dwight Pentecost, `The basic differences between the premillennial and amillennial schools and between the pretribulation and posttribulation rapturists are hermeneutical, arising from the adoption of divergent and irreconcilable methods of interpretation” (p. 17). Now that is it in a nutshell -and freely admitted by a premillennialist. Premillennialism is not confined to the book of Revelation, but is going to affect their notes and cross-references throughout the whole of the O.T” and especially in the study of the prophets -both major and minor prophets! In fact, the whole Bible needs to be “watched closely.” Even in areas such as the sermon on the mount such notes and cross-references are going to affect one’s interpretation.

Perhaps your immediate reaction is, “Well, I know the difference – I could separate such from the truth.” Perhaps -and perhaps not. I have learned, in recent years, that many brethren are not as clear on this subject as they might think they are, and some have begun accepting parts of the theory of premillennialism in one form or another without even thinking they were doing so. Now, how much easier (and likely?) will that become with the use of such texts as the Scofield, Open Bible and/or Ryrie Study Bible? Many people, and especially new or weak converts or people not yet even taught the truth, will accept such cross-references as “gospel.” To question them is to question the “unquestionable”! Many people are buying them, totally ignorant of the fact they do advocate premillennialism (and faith only) in their notes and crossreferences (and a few have been keenly disappointed in them as they slowly discovered the facts). Such confusion is not good, and is opening the door to many more problems in the near future. Brethren, I do not, and will not, recommend any of the three, and feel they need to be exposed and branded for being premillennial in their handling of the text of both the KJV and NASB. Let’s not let people swallow the doctrine unawares while we are fiddling on the roof-top.

Then what is there to recommend? That is a good question, and if any of you preachers out there have come across some real good study or reference Bibles in the KJV and/or NASB, it would be good to pass such information on. Holman publishes a “Key KJV Study Bible” which has some very good material and references in it, including a good topical index. Although the “plan of salvation” in the notes in the back passes salvation off as “by faith” (without mention of baptism), it is very ambiguous in its introduction of Revelation and actually avoids taking any real position on it – which is better than taking premillennialism (but far short of the good, firm stand taken by the Royal Bible). Holman also publishes a NASB reference Bible which includes a 220 page topical index (4414XRL) edition, which I have not yet seen, but assume to be fairly similar to the Key KJV Study Bible. So far, that seems to be my best choice to date. The only problem here is that I have heard rumors Holman may be in the process of discontinuing their Bible line also. So, the search is continuously on; but let us beware of accepting trouble in the future in some bad footnotes and cross-references in such Bibles as published in the Scofield, Open Bible and Ryrie Study Bible. And, let’s pass the word so others will not be drawn in unawares.

Truth Magazine XXIV: 37, p. 598
September 18, 1980