booksWhen I first became a Christian, I was naturally very excited about reading and studying the Bible.

I quickly went to the local Christian bookstore and bought a few books which looked good. The catalogs then started coming and I bought a few more. Friends at church then began making recommendations and I bought even more.

Within the first six months of my walk with Christ I had spent well over $1,000 on books (most of which I no longer use or even have). Looking back, I wish someone had compiled a “must have book list” for young Christians (which is what I here offer).

In my personal and pastoral opinion, there are five books that every Christian should own for personal Bible study and they are listed below. All five can be purchased for less than $125 total. They can also all be read for free on the internet.

– Pastor Christian McShaffrey

The Bible – King James Version

kjv3While there are many good modern translations of the Bible on the market, anyone interested in serious in-depth Bible study should still own a King James Version.

Not only is it unsurpassed in its literary beauty, but it is one of the few translations that adheres to a strict formal-equivalence approach, distinguishes singular from plural personal pronouns (i.e., thou, thee, thy vs. ye, you, your), and uses italics to indicate words which do not appear in the original Hebrew and Greek text.


Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

strongsWhile its cumbersome title may not seem very warm or endearing, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is one of the most valuable tools a Bible student will ever own.

It is essentially an exhaustive cross-reference of every single word in the KJV.

It also contains a number-coded appendix which identifies and briefly defines the Hebrew or Greek word which lies behind our English translations and shows you where else in the Bible that particular word is used.


Dictionary of the Bible

dictionaryHaving a good Bible dictionary will essentially prevent a Bible student from getting lost in all the ancient and unfamiliar names, nations, cities, and events which he will undoubtedly encounter on the pages of scripture.

While there are many different Bible dictionaries available (e.g., Holman, Zondervan, Smith, Unger, Nelson, Eerdmans, Easton, etc.), any one of these will provide an abundance of useful definitions, maps, photographs, timelines, archeological information, cross-referencing, etc.


Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible

henryMany Bible commentaries are so grammatically and syntactically technical, that much of the information and insights contained in them are simply not accessible to the average Christian.

That is why Matthew Henry’s commentary is invaluable. Not only is it based on sound exegesis, but it is also written in a warm and devotional tone. It is filled with profound insights into the text of scripture and personal applications. There is also a concise (i.e., abridged) edition available.


Summary of Christian Doctrine by Charles Hodge

doctrineWhile reading the Bible from cover-to-cover is the first thing any Christian should do, the inquisitive Bible student will eventually come to ask more narrow and specific questions like:  “What does the whole Bible say about God’s holiness… or God’s power… etc.?”

This is where “Systematic Theology” becomes helpful, in that it organizes various scripture passages under topical headings in a logical order (e.g., God, Man, Sin, Redemption, etc.). Hodge’s Summary serves as something of a mini-systematic theology with proof-texts and discussion questions.