Starting Your Library: For Those Who Are Interested!

Hey, Sweet Things! I pray this Holy Week finds you full of wonder and meditation over the days of Christ leading up to His death and glorious resurrection. Melissa prayed in staff prayer time yesterday that this week would not just be like every other week. I so deeply Amen that. I don’t say that only to you. I want it to be true of me. We’ll have some posts up later in the week that are oriented to this season of Passion. Until then, something else occurred to me. So much happened last weekend in Little Rock on a heart level that it will have to wait until I can devote substantial time to a post. Several people have contacted the ministry over one of the points I made so, in preparing a resource list for them, I thought it might be helpful to some of you here on the blog, too. I made a challenge to new students of Scripture to start building their personal Bible study library. No matter what our gifts and callings may be, we know from 2 Timothy 3:15-17 that we can’t be equipped for our designated works without a working knowledge of Scripture.

So, where do we even begin? That’s what this post is for. Here are a few staples to start your library and then, Sister, the sky is the limit.


1. A Complete Concordance (like Strong’s).  Find one that corresponds with your translation (Strong’s for KJV, The NIV Exhaustive Concordance, etc.)


2. A good Systematic Theology Book. Here are two great choices:

*Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

*Christian Theology by Millard J. Erickson


3.  A good Bible Dictionary – Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary is terrific. There are also many others.


4.   For beginners: Several two (or few) volume sets of Bible Commentaries (My mentor started me on The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament and New Testament Volumes, but there are plenty out there. Your pastor may be able to recommend a set that is most reflective of your church’s approach.)

*You can access many commentaries free of charge online:,, etc.


5.   The 1st multi-volume set of commentaries I’d recommend is The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (12 Volume Set). They are consistently well written, thought provoking and really practical for teachers. You also don’t have to know basics about the original languages to understand them (They give good insights into the original languages and frequent definitions but the authors are not assuming you have a working knowledge of Hebrew or Greek). If you really love that set and want to keep going, the next step I’d take would be the full volume sets of NIVAC (NIV Application Commentary) and NAC (New American Commentary). Want to keep going?? The next step after that (where you’ll more often need some basic knowledge of original languages) is the Word Biblical Commentary series and New International Commentary of the OT/NT series. And it goes on and on, Sweet Thing! And it’s a head spinner and a blast.


6.  A Comparative Study Bible with multiple translations listed side-by-side.

And, then, start saving your money for Bible Software.   Melissa and I have personally used the following programs and would happily recommend them to you:

  • Logos (Beth)
  • Wordsearch (Beth)
  • BibleWorks (Melissa)
  • Accordance (Melissa)


Last thing:

A few of my favorite foundational books about the Bible are:

Baxter’s Explore the Book

Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth

Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible Book by Book


Last Last thing (this is Melissa now):

In terms of selecting commentaries, I highly recommend purchasing and consulting John Glynn’s book Commentary & Reference Survey. Glynn’s book will help you make the most of your money when you purchase commentaries and reference works.   The book is basically one massive biblical studies bibliography and he updates it often.  I think it is already in its tenth edition or something.  When it comes to commentaries, not all volumes in a series are written equally.  In other words, some are better than others and so you may not want to purchase an entire series.  Sometimes you can grab an entire series for a great price but other times it isn’t economical or necessary. Instead, you may want to pick and choose individual volumes within a series and Glynn will help you do just that. Also check out for a similar idea online.  It is an amazing website.  My favorite feature is the “forthcoming commentaries” tab where you can browse through the commentaries that are due to be published over the next few years.  Also, it goes without saying that commentaries, just like every written work, should be read carefully and critically.  If they are read in such a manner, they can be invaluable to one’s study of the Bible.


A very basic beginner’s biblical/theological library might look a little bit like this:

Are we having fun yet??


We sure love you.





296 Responses to “Starting Your Library: For Those Who Are Interested!”

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  1. 201
    Cyndi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this starting List. I printed it out to carry in my purse. I like a list because it can get overwhelming in Christian bookstores, which to get. I’ve started my Libary the last few years by taking names of resources out of your Bible study workbooks & other trusted Bible study teachers.

    I Love studying the word & have great resources to go to that help me understand it more.

    May God continue to Bless your ministry.

    Wishing you & your family & everyone at Living Proof Ministries & their families a very Blessed Easter weekend.

    Cyndi, Friendswood, TX

  2. 202
    Shannon Costanzo says:

    Thank you for the resources. This is a wonderful start. I didn’t know where to begin before now.

  3. 203
    dayna Emerich says:

    Awesome! Some great ideas. Thanks!

  4. 204
    Bev N says:

    There are several Bible software programs available, but this is what I use and familiar with. Hope this helps you and you find what works for you. Links for the books Beth & Melissa mentioned.

    Logos Bible Software for iPad App=Free App(with many bibles and books; then buy books you need or buy a package). (When I bought my books/bibles/etc for my PC, I could add them to my iPad after I registered it. Did not have to buy the same books again for each device)

    Logos on iPad does not have highlightening available yet.
    Copy/past Scripture or Commentaries, etc.
    Share scripture on twitter, facebook, email.
    Option to Split screen horizontally.
    Logos is a powerful workhorse.

    Watch for their sales (subscribe to their newsletter and blog)
    Click on the book links (below) and it will show Recommendations in a Package Deal.
    You can add/buy books at any time to add to whatever you start with.

    Strong’s Concordance (use Search feature to search in all bibles, commentaries, etc)

    Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem ($39.95)

    Christian Theology, 2nd Edition by Millard J. Erickson ($29.99)

    Holman Illustrated Bible Dictonary $29.99

    *The Bible Knowledge Commentary $54.95 (not available yet on iPad but on Windows & Mac. They are working to make this available on iPad)

    The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (12 Vol Set) $129.99 (on sale)

    The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Abridged 2 Vol) $55.99 (on sale)

    NIV Application Commentary NT ($382.99)

    NIV Application Commentary OT ($154.99)

    New American Commentary 13 Vols ($499.95) Also sold individually

    Word Biblical Commentary 59 Vols ($699.95)

    New International Commentary OT/NT 40 Vols ($1,599.95)
    Or sold individual

    PocketBible (Laridian) Free App for iPad
    If you buy for your PC, then register it you do not have to buy the same books again for your iPad (except to download the PocketBible Free App. Check to make sure this is still available. May work the other way too–buy for iPad and then get platform for PC and you won’t have to purchase your books again.)

    PocketBible features can copy/paste Scripture but not commentaries on iPad.
    Highlight scripture, but not commentary, dictionary.
    Share scripture on twitter, facebook, email–See their website for capabilities.
    Option to Split the iPad screen VERTICALLY to have books/bibles side by side OR bible/commentary side by side.

    What comes in the iPad/iPhone/iPod App (screen shots on right–click on iPhone or iPad):

    The Bible Knowledge Commentary IS available on PocketBible ($39.99).

    You can buy in “bundles” or individual bibles, books-commentaries, dictionaries, devotionals, etc.

    Library Bronze, Gold, Silver Edition (scroll down) might be cheaper to start with an edition that has the most bibles, books that you want then add bundles or individual books/bibles.

    Best Selling for Any Platform (iPad, PC, etc)

    All Products for Any Platform (click on catagory–Bibles, Commentaries, etc):

    LifeWay Christian Resources for Holman Christian Standard STUDY Bible for iPad App ($9.99) well worth the price.

  5. 205
    Marybeth says:

    Wow!! Just in time for Mother’s Day 😉

    Forgive me if this question was already asked and answered. If I had to choose only one of the Systematic Theology books, which of the two would you suggest I start with?

    **One of these years(when your schedule is not so hectic!!!), I’d love to see a copy of an outline for one of your messages that we could see and then listen to the “finished message” (via LPM download).

    Thank you again… have no idea how much this means to those of us God is calling to teach His Word!
    Marybeth <

    • 205.1
      Beth says:

      Darling, I do believe you are a true teacher! On the theology books, I hate to choose one over the other. They each bring a different measure to the mix. Start with Grudem’s but plan to get both. On your second question, I actually would love to have that very discussion and am also intrigued by the processes different teachers take. How about I think toward a podcast involving those kinds of questions? I’m honored to be your servant, Marybeth.

  6. 206
    Chrystie says:

    For this Jesus loving, bibliophile, you are definitely speaking the language of my heart. Thanks for sharing these resources!

  7. 207
    Patty M says:

    Thank you Beth and Melissa for stirring an ember that was fading. I do so desire to be a serious student of the word (even at 50 years old). I will save this post to my favorites and refer to it as I increase my library. Have a blessed Holy Day.

  8. 208
    Nikki L' says:

    If the only bible resources we have are what is contained in Logos itself, is that sufficient?

  9. 209
    Kayleen says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips. I was so excited to find I have many of your recommendations on my self and a bunch more inherited from my Grandpa, who was a pastor. I have found that many times I can get great resource books on “scratch and dent” sale from popular christian book websites. FWIW.

    May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

  10. 210
    Kim D. says:

    Thanks so much for your recommendations. I’ve often wondered what you use to help you study the Bible. I’ve been trying to build my own library for a while now, but wasn’t sure about which commentaries were worth the money. Now I know. I guess I’m a nerd like you Beth, because I get so excited over Bible study. I remember several years ago when I first found the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, and saw it was on sale, I literally squealed with delight in the middle of the bookstore. God’s word is so good!

  11. 211
    Jes says:

    i LOVE this post! 🙂
    i have begun building my library, but without having any idea what to do, and its nice to see some of the resources i’ve chosen on your list, and a few more that i can’t wait to add to my collection.
    *i have a strong’s concordance and an expository bible dictionary, although the dictionary was not quite as informative as i’d hoped
    *i have my beloved Life Application Bible, but after seeing it mentioned either here on the blog or in one of Beth’s books, I also picked up a Keyword study bible
    *i have just a few NIV Application commentaries, i LOVE them! I couldn’t possibly afford to buy all of them at once, so as I study a particular book, I’ll use a Lifeway coupon and pick up the commentary on that book 🙂
    *I also have a book of bible charts & maps because i love visual references 🙂
    …. its a start!

  12. 212
    hyoung4hisglory says:

    Years ago after hearing you speak about the grocery sacks of books that your mentor would give you to read I used to pray that I could meet you just for lunch or coffee one day, just long enough to pick your brain about what books were in those sacks. Thank you for this list and taking time to truly care about our spiritual journeys.

  13. 213
    Jodi says:

    THANK YOU Beth and Melissa for this post! This question, “Where and how do I start studying God’s word?” has been rolling around in my brain for months. Thank you so much for sharing your specific ideas about where to start.

  14. 214
    DJ Hughes says:

    This is a great starter list. What a great idea! I have several of them already, and I definitely want to continue growing my own library.

    I also love spending time at a local Christian university’s theological library. The librarian there is an invaluable resource; she directs me to certain texts whenever I am studying a particular topic or book of the Bible. For some serious study, if at all possible, I highly recommend spending time with a theological librarian. They’re awesome.

  15. 215
    Deana says:

    I got online to check Strongs. The Lord keeps laying the word “overshadow” on my heart. I looked up the meaning and He had such a special word for me hidden in the meaning of that word. He loves for us to uncover the things hidden in His word. We are so blessed to be able to know Him!!!! Thanks for the other resources.
    Made for Him

  16. 216
    jill wade says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! I have been wondering how and what I should have to study with….i got Strong’s Concordance for my 25th birthday, and after hearing Beth mention The Word Biblical Commentary, i almost got that for my 26th birthday, but decided against it when I saw how overwhelmingly HUGE they are! This helps me so much! THANK YOU!

  17. 217
    Liz says:

    This post was an answer to prayer. Thank you so much!

  18. 218
    faith says:

    wow! thank you for this list! i had no idea either!

  19. 219

    YIKES!!! Is that overwhelming! I have a hard enough time reading my bible let alone putting that many books into my daily life. But as I follow the headlights in front of me, I will do as I am told. I like the results that come from hard work and pleasing God!

  20. 220
    Katie says:

    This is….awesome!

    You have no idea how much this helps me. I’m just getting my feet wet with teaching God’s Word. I really needed this. Such perfect timing!

    I love learning from you. You are so wonderful to share all this with us!

    Love and hugs,
    Kate 🙂

  21. 221
    Kathy, Lizella, GA says:

    Thank you so much for posting this list! I have often wondered what books you have in your library.
    I looked at the Logos website and there are so many packages! Does anyone have a recommendation on which package would give the most “bang for the buck” (besides the most expensive)?

  22. 222
    Victoria says:

    I could print this sucker as a shopping list! Awesome, thank you!

  23. 223
    Pam says:

    I would like you to know, Beth and Melissa, that this Library post is a direct answer to one of my prayers! I am always so excited when God so obviously answers one of my prayers. It just continues to build my trust in Him and His Word.

    I am a new Christian ~ at the age of 40…something ;-), although I grew up in a Christian home. I have been asking the Lord to point me to resources that can teach me more about His Word, help me understand historical background and context, and really provide me with more knowledge than I currently have about the Bible and living a Christ-centered life.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your favorite titles with us. It has been overwhelming to attempt to choose these types of books on my own.

    Thank you for giving yourselves in service to Him!

  24. 224
    Diane says:

    I also think the following titles would be good additions: (1)Sinai & Zion(:An Entry into the Jewish Bible), by Jon Levenson; (2 The Ancient Near East Vol.1, by James Pritchard 🙂

  25. 225
    Charlotte in Arkansas says:

    I’m wondering if Beth has ever written anything about fasting and prayer. If not, can she recommend a good resource about this spiritual discipline. God began to lay this on my heart last summer and I am trying to learn more about “God’s chosen fast”.

  26. 226

    Wow, thanks for the library list Beth and Melissa! If it helps me know the Word better, I’m thinking I should look into it.

  27. 227

    Beth & Melissa…

    Can I just say my heart smiled wide when I saw this post today? I know I days late to this party, but I wanted to tell you that nearly 7 years ago I happened upon your Living Proof website and found the resources list that was there.

    As I was able I went out and bought a parallel Bible – I now own two, two chain references (couldn’t decide between Scofield and Thompson), a Key Word Study Bible, and a number of commentaries. 🙂 I now use WordSearch for my Bible software and have all my books in digital, and few more.

    I later invested in the Complete Word Study Old and New Testaments. I also cut my teeth on the Bible Knowledge Commentaries – I have the same brown covered copies that are in your picture. My parents bought them when I was a teenager and I use them often.

    I’ve had a Strong’s Concordance longer than I can remember – and a compact Strong’s for quick reference.

    My favorite Bible dictionary is Vine’s but each of us will have our preferences. 🙂

    Anyway. All of them came out of a comment I made in my early days of facilitating your studies. “How does Beth know that all those Scriptures are related?”

    I then discovered the chain reference and topical handbooks along with your list of resources – and I dug in hard and deep and found a wealth of treasure as I did. I’ve never regretted it. Oh, and I bought Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology before I knew you recommended it. I had to go to Mardel’s and they ordered it for me, but I got it just the same. 🙂

    So… Buy them one piece at a time and take your time. Go to your Christian bookstore and sit in the floor with the suggested items and buy what helps you the most in the season you are in… It is so much fun.

    Thanks for always sharing, Beth. My Library has most of what you offered and a few things you didn’t. Along with all your Bible studies and most of your books. 🙂

    IMAGINE! 🙂

  28. 228
    Groovewoman says:

    THANK YOU SOOO MUCH For this Post!!! THIS is what churches should be giving us. I’ve been relying on the Bible and a few devotionals or Bible Study workbooks from classes, and nothing like this. YAY – this makes me excited!!!

    Thank you Beth & Melissa!
    Granbury, TX

    • 228.1

      It is the most fun, Hollie. 🙂 I was in Granbury over the weekend. We attended Stonewater Church with my parents. I wish I would have thought about you being in Granbury a bit sooner… 🙂

  29. 229

    It’s like you read my mind! I have a few of these but when I get in the bookstore and want to add to my library I am always wondering what you girls have discovered. Beth, you and your girls, and entire staff, are a blessing indeed.

  30. 230
    Andrea Porter says:

    I’m interested, now I need a job, to start my collection. :o)

  31. 231
    Brittany says:

    I do not have any books on this list. I come back and reference it often because I would really love to dive more into God’s word. Thank you for taking the time to post this.

  32. 232
    Ashley says:

    October 2011… A full 6 months later and this post is still being utilized! After Baltimore this weeked, I had a strong stirring to STUDY more, to KNOW more and I vaguly remembered this post. LPM’s sweet Johnnie helped me find it & I’m so thankful! Printing and preparing my Christmas wishlist now! Thank y’all for sharing these recommendations!

  33. 233
    Windows 7 Professional says:

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  34. 234
    Bonnie Wallace says:

    Two years later, and I’m digging up this post. I can’t believe I remembered it … and I can’t believe I found it! I guess I best print it out! 😀

    Thank you so very much for this post!

  35. 235
    Stefani says:

    Ladies, I just wanted to you to know that I have forwarded this post so many times! Such great information!! I was in Eugene this weekend with a girlfriend and Ms. Beth said something to spark my memory of it and here I am forwarding it to her now! Thought I would take a moment to thank you for it…. Thank you, thank you!! xo

  36. 236


    Back in the days of LifeWay Forums and AOL email addresses (boy, I’m moving us back to the technology interwebby stone ages now)… I used to sit in awe of how you linked all those Bible verses and topics in your studies together thinking – “BOY! I’ll never be able to do that.” How does she know those verses link together like that? 🙂 Little did I know…

    I think it must have been around 2004 when I first did the Believing God study online through the Forums, I ran across your list of recommended resources on your Living Proof website. I saved money each quarter and jogged myself down to LifeWay when I had a bundle saved. I would go through their Bibles and Commentaries and pick up the treasures you had listed. A Key Word Study Bible. OH YES! And A Scofield Study Bible in NKJV (Cause that’s the only translation I could find.) I discovered Crossway Book Order and then I had myself a Strong’s Concordance with Dictionary, a Nave’s Topical Bible, and A Baker Commentary on the Whole Bible. I already owned a Bible Knowledge Commentary OT/NT set that I inherited from my parents. I was one excited baby girl leafing through pages of Scripture. THEN, I discovered Half Price Books and bought the Crown Jewels of my Bible study library. A set of Complete Word Study Bibles OT/NT. I added a Septuagint and an Interlinear Greek/NIV. I later acquired two parallel study Bibles with four versions each and a Vine’s Dictionary along with Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.

    And when you mentioned WORDSearch on your blog a few years later I discovered a less expensive, free download version of Bible Explorer and started buying step books. 🙂

    I now run WORDSearch 10 on my Mac Book Pro and have a 300 book library that contains all my favorite resources and then some. And it all started with just wondering how on earth you knew everything you knew about the Bible. Thanks for sharing and allowing us to follow after you in this way. It’s an amazing journey and well worth all the looking, searching, saving and finding. Like a treasure hunt.

    P.S. Tonight I ran across this post because I am looking to add a new commentary to my WORDSearch library. This fall I’m staring my first ministry school classes to earn a ministry degree. So Stinking Excited.

    Still a student… Life-Long Learner, studying to show myself approved. Ever I’ll be a disciple of Christ.

    Love ya,

  37. 237
    Carolyn says:

    I’m wondering if there is an updated list available since it’s been a few years or if this list is still what you would recommend? Thank you.

  38. 238
    Katherine says:

    I found this article because I am curently in your James study and you talked about (session two)Mellissa bringing her Hebrew an Greek bibles to church! I am trying to learn how to learn these languages because I would like to tech my daughter from an early age. She is 1.5 and I am 22, so I laughed particularly hard in session three about your natural birth, Beth!
    Thank you so much for all that you put into is viewers behind the screen in your studies.
    (And also I can’t wait to add some of the resources here to my home study centre, I recently got my first strongs concordance and was extatic!)

  39. 239

    Please don’t ever take this post down – over 6 years later and I am still looking it up to forward to new to study friends! xo

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