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. 51
    Stephanie says:

    This is AWESOME! Thank you so much for this post.

  2. 52

    Oh makes me so giddy to read through this post and comments! To share in the joy and desire to delve into studying God’s Word with others…just awesome!

    Blessings to all,

  3. 53
    Lauren says:

    Beth, I also love Rose Publishing’s books of maps and timelines and other FUN visuals!!!

  4. 54
    Anita Kemp says:

    Where do you begin? In studying I feel overwhelmed – I don’t know how to start. A topic? An issue? A person? I start my reading and I want to look up every word, pretty soon I am nowhere and off on a tangent. Tip on how to begin would be great…thank you for Little Rock.

  5. 55
    medstudent2012 says:

    Great post! Thank you!! I want to add to my library!
    PS there are apps for the iPhone that give you multiple bible versions you can compare them side by side on your screen (I have “wave bible” app)

    • 55.1
      Bev N says:

      Both Logos & Laridian Bible software have been around from the beginning of personal computers-both are reliable. Logos started for PCs and Laridian PocketBible for handheld devices, but now either one can be used on your computer or iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, etc without having to buy your books all over again for each device. I think they compliment each other because each has books or features the other one may not have available.

      Allow youself time to learn how to use the features and it will save time in the long run. Bible software makes studying enjoyable. PocketBible has highlighting of verses & Logos is working on it for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch (Logos does have highlighting, marking, etc for PC). PocketBible the screen can be split horizontally on iPod Touch so it is probably like that on the iPhone, but on the iPad the screen is split vertically to have books side by side.
      Logos is split horizontally on the screen on the three Apple devices. Either of these have Free Apps with several Bibles & basic books to try them out then buy to add specific books or packages as you need.

      Expositor’s Bible Comm abridged $55.99 or 12 Vol set $129.99 (saving $326.69) on sale @Logos Isaiah 25:6

      Holman Christian Standard Study Bible is available as an iPad App for $9.99 (limited offer) very easy to use. LifeWay Christian Resources. Great buy!

      PocketBible offers a FREE iPad App with Bibles, Bible dictionary for free then you expand to buy books of your choosing. As does Logos.

  6. 56
    Tammy says:

    oh thank you! I have often wondered what were some good choices to start with. As one siesta already said, it is overwhelming. I have added some of these to my list to check out further. Can’t wait for Passion posts too.

    Thanks so much mama beth and sweet melissa

  7. 57
    Hollie says:

    Thank you so much! I have been looking at a few of these so it’s really nice to have some suggestions!

  8. 58
    Ruth says:

    Great Post, Ladies!! And so pleased to hear that the LORD was so very present in AR, Miss Beth!! Prayed for his ministry to you as well as through you on this trip!!
    May I add another software tool that is very good…and FREE 🙂
    It is a very user-friendly format, pretty easy to learn and use, and you can download for free or use online. Then, when your ship comes in (and if you like the software) you can send them a donation 🙂
    No matter how, it is always good to dig in, “deeper still.”

  9. 59
    Living4Him says:

    Thank you Beth & Melissa….what a great list to print out and use as I strive to study the Word more. Easter Blessings.

  10. 60
    Hannah says:

    Thank you so much Pudens!!! My friend that went with me to the Little Rock LPL was just talking about how we wished we had a list of what you said because it was so fast we couldn’t write it all down! You are such an inspiration and blessing.

  11. 61
    Andrea says:

    This is a great help and can I say when I scrolled down and saw the picture…that was the best 🙂 I’m such a visual person and it made me smile! Thx!

  12. 62
    kimberly says:

    i love this post! my dream has always been to go to school to study the Bible, but God directly told me no, that He has other things planned. i’ve been praying for a mentor to help me navigate this journey on my own, but this list is so helpful until God brings me that person.

    thank you!

  13. 63
    Chesney says:

    LOVE this! I just found out Saturday that I got accepted to Moody Bible Institute! God has given me such a deep passion for studying and teaching His Word. I am so excited to study at MBI and cannot WAIT to see how Jesus is going to use all I learn in my life! Thanks for sharing these great sources-glad I have a birthday coming up! : )

  14. 64

    Bless you gals. I’ve so very often wondered where to even start when it comes to gathering a Bible study/knowledge library. Heading off to Bible school at this point in my life isn’t even an option and I know that’s not where I need to be anyway. Digging into God’s Word and exploring it from my kitchen table is where I hear God telling me to start. This is incredibly helpful!! Thanks for being such servants, you are deeply loved.

  15. 65
    Lauren says:

    Thanks for these suggestions! I am continually amazed each and every time I delve into the Word. I haven’t even got one of these books… just been soaking the Bible in as I read it, but this gives me some ideas about which direction to go to get deeper! Thanks again!

  16. 66
    staciehope365 says:

    Melissa! I am so excited that you posted this. I tweeted this question to you just last week! Thanks to you and your mom taking the time to do this for all of us.


    • 66.1
      Melissa says:

      Hey Stacie, yes, I saw your tweet and didn’t have enough room to tweet back…too much to be said… ha ha ha. Love, Melis

  17. 67
    Jim Fisher says:

    The Blue-Letter Bible is available on-line for free. It has a number of translations and if you pick the NASB and click “Show Strongs” each English word is hyperlinked to its Greek or Hebrew/Aramaic Strong’s entry. From there you can research root words, other occurrences, and nuances of meaning. Great stuff.

  18. 68
    betty marschner says:

    Thanks for that exhaustive list. Hears something you won’t hear often but I use alot of Bible reference material from our Concordia Publishing House of St Louis Mo. I have a NIV

  19. 69
    Connie Hein says:

    Thank you so much for the great information! So valuable!! I have a question about a comment you made Beth during the Revelation series. You explained the difference in the NIV and other versions of the Bible such as the King James. Could you explain the difference breifly or lead me to a place i can read about the differences? Thanks so much! God bless you all.

  20. 70
    Tasha says:


    I’m writing from little ‘ole Pudensville for all you wonderful women that were in Little Rock… to all the Pudens.

    What a wonderful time of spiritual healing, restoration and glorious worship. God’s timing is always perfect and I am so thankful that I was able to be there. I am free-er (is that a word?) than I have been in ages.

    And here is an amazing thing to me. I was invited to go with a group of ladies and I only knew one of them. We bonded over homework Friday night and shared our burdens and past hurts. Two of the ladies had lost spouses in the last 6 months. Two had recently received diagnosis that will forever change them. One is a cancer survivor still reminded daily by the scars. Two had been hurt in ministry so badly that they testified that they understand why people walk out the doors of a church and never return.And God met with us in the hotel room we all gathered in and prepared our hearts for the message the Lord had for us on Saturday.

    We all left changed Saturday afternoon. Forgiveness extended to those who were no where to be found. Yet in our hearts we left totally different than we arrived.Free.

    Thank you for sharing the message that God gave you. I am so challenged and have goals to work on. I know Satan is going to taunt me to clasp that set of shackles back on. I will be in the Word and resisting his urging to go back to before.

    To all your team and all the worship leaders,
    “Thank you!!!”
    I have woken up several mornings with the song “I’m changed because of You….” humming through my brain. I can truly say that I have been changed. May God continually work on me to change me to be more like Him and less like “selfish me.”

    God bless and thank you for all the time and effort and energy you gave for us this weekend. I love you….


    • 70.1
      Michele says:

      Is that where the “Pudens” comes from, Little Rock?? I keep hearing that on Twitter and had no idea what it’s about.

      • Bev N says:

        Michelle, I don’t know, but maybe Beth’s message included Pudens from the NT.

        Pudens (Gk. Poúdēs; Lat. Pudens)
        A Christian in Rome who, with Paul, sent greetings to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:21).(Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible)

        PUDENS (Pūʹ dĕnz) Personal name meaning “modest.” Roman Christian who greeted Timothy (2 Tim. 4:21). This Pudens is sometimes identified with the friend of the Roman poet Martial. (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

      • Tasha says:

        Beth taught from 2Tim 4 in Little Rock and made reference to “us” that were there being her Pudens. He is mentioned at the end of the chapter as a friend of Paul.

        • Michele says:

          That’s the piece I was missing! I knew about the 2Tim4 reference, but didn’t understand why Beth & others kept calling each other that.
          Thanks!! 🙂

  21. 71
    Brooke S. says:

    Thank you so much for the great list! My succinct life goal is to know the Bible and the people who are in it the best I can so that I may teach others. I would love to know enough of the Bible to become a bible study leader or Sunday school teacher someday. Thank you for coming to Little Rock so I could have a revival in my soul!

  22. 72

    THANK YOU, ladies, for some very valuable information!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. 73
    Kerri says:

    Thanks Beth…i couldn’t write the list fast enough last weekend! I’ve officially asked for a systematic theology book for Mother’s Day; my 10 & 6 yr olds just shrugged their shoulders and nodded. I think I should also go put the hint in to my man. So excited to get started…God gave me a specific teaching idea while sitting in church on Sunday; it was one of those moments when I could jot notes fast enough to keep up with Him! Fascinating! The great thing is, I think I’m going to teach this lesson to my small children after I study it for a while. Can you tell I’m pretty pumped?!?! ha!

    • 73.1
      Tracey Knight says:

      kerri, i love this. i have written in the front of my Bible a quote from Beth: “if my children don’t think i’m genuine in my faith, no one else’s opinion matters.” words to live by. 🙂
      and p.s. you were across the crowd of siestas so i didn’t say hello but i saw you saturday, recognized you immediately from your pic here & it made me smile. 🙂

  24. 74
    betty marschner says:

    Thanks for your great list. I am just in the process of writing some simple Bible studies and devotions for our publishing house and need to build my library. I am sure you do not get many telling you this, but I get alot of my study helps from Concordia Publishing House. I am a LCMS christian and used a NIV study Bible for the Daniel study we are just finishing and though it was not on the same page with your thoughts on everything pertaining to eschatology, I am happy to say the spine issues were right on! We are an untra conservative leturgical church and I was reared in a Baptist church. We are alike on the spine issues as are all churches who love the Lord and follow the Bible. I am excited about living in this time of history and feel an urgency in learning and teaching the Word. I have experienced alot of crazy circumstances over the course of my married life. I raised special needs kids and battled serious diseases which could have resulted in death to two of them. I stood by the bed side of two dear ones as they slipped into Jesus arms. I suffered for years with mood swings of bipolar but since I have been involved in Bible study I have seen a lessening of my need for couseling and even medication. No I am not some crazy woman in a manic state I am perfectly stable but am wondering how God wants me to share this wealth of knowledge I have obtained by going through these and some other unbelievable situations. I am living proof that you can lick depression by focusing on Him and His word. bless you and your ministry and I look forward to hugging your neck next month in Mn!!! Hugs from the Heartland, betty M

  25. 75
    sharee says:

    Hey Girls,
    I know you get tons of comments so I have no idea if this particular one will reach you…but thank you for posting this list of books! I had started a small collection of books last year with what was posted on the LPM website but this new list is giving me a direction to go even further. There is so much I want to learn but sometimes it gets overwhelming with where to start. A willing heart doesn’t always seem like enough?!

    Thanks for using the blogging world to mentor others…I want to make sure you know that the heart, the time and the passion you put into this blog is making an eternal difference in my life (and many others).

  26. 76
    Cara says:

    Oh my THANK YOU for this post! And THANK YOU for taking the time it took to make it! Really. I just started seminary and only beginning to tap the resources that are out there. I’m sure my school will give me more direction but this is invaluable! With strength/weakness combo of input/indecisiveness, I often feel like a kid in the candy store. And wish everything was served in a sampler platter version. It’s clear I’ll be needing a separate savings account for this 🙂

    You all encourage me beyond words!
    God’s richest blessings,

  27. 77
    Rosalie says:

    Thanks, Beth. When I am doing one of your studies I always check out the sources you are using and buy accordingly. Thanks for putting this list together.

  28. 78
    Susan says:

    Thank you so much for this post, I am so grateful. I have only been studying Scripture for a short time, as I don’t have a church background. Feeling inadequate in my knowledge, I needed a jumping off place for resources.

    The list is wonderful, and I truly love the photo of the stack of books.

    Thanks again!

  29. 79
    Nancy says:

    I have no idea how to put this in words-Easter is the hardest celebration of the entire year for me. Let me explain-we lost our son to brain crancer almost 3 years ago..I’ll never forget the first Easter without Mick..

    He had a beautiful wife, 2 of the greatest kids in the world (now age 11 & 14). He worked in our family business and all was well..until that Friday evening when he passed out and came back ‘to life’ after not breathing for 22 minutes. (I was scheduled to fly down to Dallas to your Life Today taping along with one of the ladies from our church)

    After 6 weeks, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor/lived for almost a year..The first Good Friday after Mick passed, I was listening to a song (on the radio) about Mary knowing who her Son was…It was the FIRST time in my christian life/upbringing that I could understand the pain that Mary would have gone through-watching her Son die…I was with Mick while he suffered and died; I can’t describe the pain and agony of watching your only son die; but when I think of the SON dying for all the sins of the world…

    But Sunday’s coming!…..Someday, soon SUNDAY will come for ALL of us–never to feel the pain, sorrow and no more tears….until then, HE KNOW HE IS ALIVE FOREVERMORE! LET US PRAISE HIS HOLY NAME!!

    • 79.1
      Beth says:

      How tremendously painful, Nancy. I am so sorry. I am asking God right now to please invade this year’s resurrection season with such joy and peace that you know it could only be Him.

  30. 80
    Lisa Nelson says:

    WOW! Thanks so very, very much! I have been hoping for just such info often the past several weeks, you are an answer to prayer.

    Have had more time for study this year (thanks to a double mastectomy and chemo) and can not begin to tell you how much your teaching has helped and encouraged and motivated me. I’ve been praying for a mentor that would really speak truth and be bible-focused. Until I have that relationship with someone here near home, Beth has been that for me.

    I am so thankful for my laptop and I sure do hope you have enjoyed our treatment times together! We go again tomorrow…I’ll bring the chocolate!

    This list sure provides plenty of ideas for the “WooHoo I’m done and get to treat myself!!” shopping times. THank you, thank you!

  31. 81
    Ashley says:

    Y’all rock! This is the kind of thing people need to know, but don’t usually get in such a neat little package. I’m going to look into the last last thing, that sounds fabulous. Thanks!

  32. 82
    Brandi says:

    Oh my goodness God is so funny. I seriously just started digging through Amazon and other websites for anything other than a concordance… I am a wanna be scripture scholar too and am eating this up!! Thank you! Now I know where to start!!

  33. 83
    Aunt Rhody says:

    Thank you so much! I’m going to give you TMI now, so skip this if you want. When I first started using a computer, eons ago when our oldest went off to college and I was forced to learn how to email or never communicate with her again, my husband tried to get me to learn Logos. I found it cumbersome and slow and just dragged out my Bibles and concordance. Then I broke down and bought my own computer by the time the fourth daughter went to college, started keeping most of my violin studio information in there and began using other music software programs. After that, Logos seemed easier. Two years ago I bought a MacBook, and a few months ago my darling Muffin ordered the Mac version of Logos and I love it! I can just get lost in the referencing and meanings of words and origins of names. I’m still learning my way around the library, which is VAST, and really don’t have as much time as I would like to learn more.
    Thanks so much for this post. Keep us updated on phone apps and tools that make learning easier and more fun, please. I don’t know how I would function without YouVersion on my iPhone. Used it this morning at Bible study.
    Blessings to you ladies.

  34. 84
    Katrina says:

    You both are awesome!! Thank you so much!! I got Strong’s Concordance for Christmas and have found myself fascinated with that kind of in depth Bible study and want to do much more, so your recommendations will be so helpful!! Thanks again! 🙂

  35. 85
    Beth says:

    Thank you so much! I have always wanted to know your recommendation for commentaries! Excited to go shopping! Happy Easter! Love you and praying for you.

  36. 86
    Pam McDonald says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. There is so much good information for us if we will just take the time to make use of it.
    I did get a little giggle out of the picture. My 19-year old daughter had just posted on her fb page a little picture that said “I want a boy who can build me bookshelves.” She is a true bibliophile! She will appreciate the post.

  37. 87
    Candice says:

    Here is another online resource for commentaries…my pastor sent this to me awhile ago- one of my favorites included is a PDF version of Dr. Constable’s Study Notes for every book of the bible. I believe he was a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (where my pastor went) and he highly recommended that. It is very easy to read and understand.

    Blessings ladies! All of these books are such wonderful resources! May our hearts be renewed by our pursuit of the LORD and HIS WORD.

  38. 88
    Dori says:

    You have NO IDEA how many times I have wanted to ask you for a post like this, but I just didn’t want to bother you! Thanks so much for taking the time to do it!!


  39. 89
    AnaLisa says:

    Wow! Who knew? Truth is, I didn’t! Looking forward to buying one of these to start, and going from there. Thank you. Looking forward to hearing about Little Rock.

  40. 90
    Leslie says:

    WOW! Thanks for this post! I have several of these but needed some “new” stuff to use in my personal study! I have heard you mention a few of these through the years so it is great to have a list from the two of you! You guys are loved and appreciated! Have a great Easter! He is Risen!
    Risen Indeed!

  41. 91
    Tracy says:

    I started back to college in August (at age 47!) and my major is Biblical and Theological Studies. I’m discovering I need most of the books on your list. Both the school library and our local library have provided many of the books quickly for research, but as time goes by all of them will be added to my library – I’m so looking forward to my first set of commentaries!

    Thanks for the great list!

    • 91.1
      Tracey Knight says:

      tracy, this is a little freaky… i’m tracey, also 47. and i work at a Christian university. b/c of a point beth made during the LPL last weekend in little rock (hence this post), i’m really thinking of going back & getting a degree in Bib Studies/Theology (a class at a time so it will take me forever). so your comment was encouraging – just to know i’m not the only one. 🙂

  42. 92
    kimberly mason says:

    cool! thanks! looking forward to hear about little rock when you have time.


  43. 93
    Diane Trail says:

    Just wanted to say “Thanks for this.”. It is so great that you are encouraging women to study God’s Word and find good helps to do that. So many women recognize the need for help in studying the Bible and don’t know where to start. I thank God for you all in Living Proof Ministries for the valuable, God-honoring work that you do.

  44. 94
    Diann says:

    Someone mentioned that you did a class once on how to study the Bible. Oh, how I would LOVE to see a video on that or attend a class. I look at all these books on this list and feel overwhelmed. Wouldn’t even know where to start on my own! So, please, let us know if you ever do that class again or if a video would become available.

    In the meantime, I’m memorizing and studying the Word through your Bible studies. 🙂

  45. 95
    Carrie says:

    I started my library this year for my birthday. I have the Bible Knowledge Commentary NT and the Key Word study Bible. I have to dig out my husband’s concordance and dictionaries out of boxes. I LOVE studying God’s word. It has healed, strengthened and comforted me like nothing else!! I’m turning our spare room into my library/Bible study room. I’m so excited not only to decorate it : ) but to have a designated place to study and pray. Thanks for the list I will be working on getting these books.

  46. 96
    Sara says:

    Thank you so much. This will be very helpful.

  47. 97
    Anne says:

    I, too, want every one of these resources for my library! Thank you. Now, I just have to fortify my kitchen table so I can have them all out and open at once!

    I discovered when I did the Believing God study online. There are many free resources on this site.

    Also, don’t forget to scan thrift stores, library book sales, and used book stores.

  48. 98
    Marti says:

    I have been waiting for THIS post for 5 years!!! THANKS. And a big hug to you both…

  49. 99
    Christina says:

    Ok, you all this post made cry! This is such an answer to prayer for me! I have felt pressed & have been praying for the last little while about building a library…I want so much to dig deeper but I didn’t know how to go about it how even to get started. I have often wondered what your recommendations would be for a 50+ year old beginner. I just wasn’t sure about contacting you…I didn’t want to be a bother or anything. Well DUH!! isn’t He wonderful??…Thank you so much for this list…now I just need to make a plan to begin building my library.

    Many many blessings and big thank you Beth and Melissa…for listening to Him and responding, you have no idea how much this has blessed me today. Christina-Edgewood, Kentucky

  50. 100
    Diane says:

    I study with my computer at hand. So I reference Strongs’s concordance here: and cross reference bible verses and translations at:

    What are some other good sites on-line that are available to us? I’d be especially interested in some good on-line commentaries.


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