One method to grasp the complexities of our ancestors is approach their lives from the sidelines. For example, you can’t fully know about their religious and spiritual life. However, clues to this closed door can be identified by understanding their understanding. If we can determine what they heard in church and how they may have interpreted that message, we can gain valuable insights. This is why I use Study Bibles. These can also be an excellent secondary tool when seeking background information when developing a narrative for your family history.
Types of Study Bibles
There are many different Bibles on the market today. Some are general and some are specific. For example, for a Scots-Irish Presbyterian family, the Calvinist based Reformation Study Bible provides excellent insight. If your ancestors were of the Irish Brethren tradition, then you certainly would be interested in The Scofield Study Bible. For a Roman Catholic perspective (even if a contemporary one), The Catholic Study Bible provides helpful information. I use the commercial site Christianbook to identify reference material such as these.
It’s the study notes at the bottom of the pages which you will find most informative. Many also have special discussions on specific topics. These notes typically guide the reader through belief, theology, history and culture. Even if an ancestor was illiterate or semi-literate, they would have understood principles taught at church.
Tradition Specific Study Bibles on the Market Today
Upon arrival in an immigrant country, both Irish Catholics and Protestants may have changed religious affiliations. This affects your family narrative and history; opening up a variety of Study Bibles as references.
Faith and understanding are progressive. What a modern Study Bible states may not necessarily be how your ancestors saw their faith. The demands of orthodoxy also do not necessarily correspond with what the person in the pew practices. Even with these considerations, you can draw some important understandings. Below is a selection specific to a particular tradition.
The King James Study Bible (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
Calvinist (Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregational)
The Reformation Study Bible (Orlando, Florida: Ligonier Ministries, 2005)
CEB Study Bible with Apocrypha (Nashville, Tennessee: Common English Bible, 2013).
The HarperCollins Study Bible Including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Revised Edition (San Francisco, California: HarperOne, 2006).
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 2003).
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, Fourth Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).
The Scofield Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1909, 1917).
ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2008).
HCSB Study Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010).
NIV Study Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011).
NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, Revised and Updated Edition (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
The Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1999).
The Jewish Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Latter-day Saints (Utah Mormons)
The Holy Bible (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979).
The Lutheran Study Bible: English Standard Version (St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 2009).
NIV Concordia Self-Study Bible (St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1973).
The Orthodox Study Bible (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2008).
Life in the Spirit Study Bible: Formerly Full Life Study Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992, 2003).
New Spirit-Filled Life Bible (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2013).
Anselm Academic Study Bible: New American Bible Revised Edition (Winona, Minnesota: Anselm Academic, 2013).
The Catholic Study Bible: The New American Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2010).
Little Rock Catholic Study Bible (Little Rock, Arkansas: Little Rock Scripture Study, 2011).
The Navarre Bible: New Testament (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2008).
Andrews Study Bible: Light, Depth, Truth (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 2010).
The Remnant Study Bible with E. G. White Comments (Coldwater, Michigan: Remnant Publications, 2009).
Wesleyan (Methodist, Holiness)
Wesley Study Bible (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 2009).
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