Best Bible Study Books for Laypeople
Most religions have a holy book on which their tenets of faith are based. For Christianity, that book is the Bible. It makes perfect sense that every Christian should want to understand this book better. The best study books for that purpose are the ones that are easy to use and understand.
The most important tool you could possibly have is a good translation of the Bible itself. It needs to be accurate, but it also needs to be one you can read and understand. There have been three different approaches to Bible translation over the years: literal equivalence, dynamic equivalence, and paraphrasing. Literal equivalence is word-for-word translation, and dynamic equivalence is thought-for-thought translation. Paraphrases is not recommended for serious Bible study.
Handbooks give you a good overview of each of the 66 individual books. Once you have the big picture in your mind, it becomes easier to interpret the smaller sections of the books. Handbooks also serve another important function. They help you see how major sections of books relate to each other. That kind of broad overview makes it much easier to interpret specific verses in light of the overall teachings of the Bible as a whole.
Commentaries become useful after the overview stage. These books provide verse-by-verse or passage-by-passage interpretations of the text itself. Matthew Henry's "Commentary on the Whole Bible" is widely respected across denominational lines. Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart has written the most extensive commentary set ever published from the Pentecostal perspective. Any conservative commentary set will help you interpret the passages correctly so you can apply it with confidence.
A concordance will enable you to find every biblical occurrence of a specific word. The one prepared by James Strong is by far the most popular. If you want to study a particular topic, a concordance will help you locate every relevant passage. There is a numbering system that helps you find the Hebrew or Greek definitions of biblical words as well. You just look up the word's number in the dictionary in the back of the concordance.
Word Study Books
Words study books give you far more in-depth definitions of biblical Hebrew and Greek words than the dictionaries in the backs of concordances. The most popular book of this type is "Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words." Of course, not all word study is performed in Hebrew or Greek. A simple English dictionary is a powerful study tool. Understanding a word's meaning is often the key that unlocks an entire verse.
With at least one book in each of these categories, you will be able to research any Bible passage you want. Many of these books are available in electronic format as components of Bible study software. A broader library will place a greater diversity of resources at your fingertips. The advantage of this is that you can consult multiple resources if you fail to find the answer you seek in the first one.