Spurgeon’s classic Lectures to My Students contains a chapter for “workers with a slender apparatus”—aspiring pastors who cannot afford to buy many books. Although we 21st century Americans don’t struggle with lacking sufficient resources, we do struggle with knowing how to sort through and use the wealth of resources we have. If Spurgeon’s 19th century students needed money for books, we need to know which resources are the best and how to use them in the best way.
With this in mind, I offer this list of free online Bible study sites. I chose to include only those resources that help you interact with the biblical text itself. I did not include ones that simply tell you about the text, require you to download a program or that distract you with ads. In sum, these resources are free, fully functional online, and focus on Biblical exegesis.
Keep in mind that none of these online resources can replace the power and depth of resources provided by paid Bible software such as Logos, Accordance, or BibleWorks. However, for the “workers with a slender apparatus,” these resources can go a long way, if used well.
What is Biblearc?
Created by Educational Resources and Services (ERAS) , with the copyright held by Bethlehem College & Seminary, there’s no question that Biblearc outpaces any other fully online Bible study tool by a long shot. Its ability to provide you with sophisticated tools for analyzing the text also means that Biblearc has a steeper learning curve. Nearly all the features of Biblearc are free (which is why I’ve included it in this list), but a modest $3.95/month is required to save your work.
What can Biblearc help you do?
Although Biblearc has many outstanding features (for example, sharing and collaboration), its central focus is helping you deeply process the text itself—from seeing how the individual words relate to each other, to discovering the connections among the bigger units of thought. It does this by providing “scholar search,” discourse analysis through arcing, bracketing, and block diagramming, sentence diagramming, and other in-depth tools.
Summary of Biblearc’s strenths
- Geared toward users who are trained in Biblical Greek and Hebrew, but useful for others as well
- Sentence diagramming
- Outlining passages and entire books by placing hierarchical divisions within the text
- “Arcing” passages to display the thought structure of the text
- Enables collaboration with other Bible students
- Free to use, $3.95 to save work
Bible Web App
What is the Bible Web App?
From the creator of bestcommentaries.com (John Dyer), the Bible Web App has a sleek and intuitive interface. It allows you to customize columns displaying an array of information, including the flowing text of the Bible (in Hebrew, Greek, and a variety of other translations), maps, public domain commentaries, and word study stats.
What can Bible Web App help you do?
Like Logos and Accordance (and unlike Blue Letter Bible), the Bible Web App generates attractive graphs based on word searches. For example, with two clicks on Isaiah 40:1, I can tell how many times the Hebrew word for “comfort” occurs, and see a bar graph of hits per OT book.
If you’re looking for a resource that will provide complete parsing for the Greek and Hebrew words, you’ll have to go to the Bible Web App’s Reader (In the default Bible Web App, the Greek verbs I sampled are identified only as verbs. The nouns are parsed often more completely, but inconsistently). With parsing and definitions at the beckon of the hovering cursor, this tool can help you read the Bible in the original languages more efficiently. However, if you want to avoid becoming overly dependent on these aids, you can choose to hide some or all of them.
Overall, the Bible Web App is excellent for doing word studies and exegesis, finding illustrations, and searching relevant public domain commentaries and other resources.
Summary of Bible Web App’s Strengths
- Usable by users untrained in Greek and Hebrew
- Clean, intuitive interface
- Quickly generates graphs
- Access to dozens of other resources
- No ads
Blue Letter Bible
What is the Blue Letter Bible?
The Blue Letter Bible allows you to compare multiple versions of the Bible, see the underlying Greek and Hebrew texts, do word searches, and access dozens of related Bible study resources. It is the granddaddy of online Bible study tools, and its age is most evident in its interface. But it works, and it’s not hard to figure out.
What can the Bible Letter Bible help you do?
Like the Bible Web App, the Blue Letter Bible is good for doing Hebrew and Greek word searches, and discovering resources relevant to the passage you are studying.
The Blue Letter Bible might distract you with its ads and dozens of places to search and click, so it’s best to have a purpose in mind when you use it. For example, “I want to find what the major older commentaries say about this verse,” or, “I want to see every occurrence of the Hebrew word translated ‘comfort’ in Isaiah 40.” This resource can be especially helpful for users who don’t know the original languages of Scripture, or whose knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is limited.
Summary of Bible Letter Bible’s Strengths
- Geared toward users untrained in Greek and Hebrew
- Quick access to many public domain resources
- Multi-verse retrieval
- Customizable interface
- Word studies
What is Lumina?
Lumina, a feature of Bible.org, is a study suite that “lets you dig deep into the original languages with word studies, and Strong’s tagging.”
What can Lumina help you do?
If you’re looking for something simpler than the Blue Letter Bible, Lumina might just be your cup of tea. With just two columns (one for the Scripture text, the other for some resource), Lumina still allows you to do word studies, but without the potential distractions of dozens of links and ads.
Summary of Lumina’s Strengths
- Word studies
- Simple and distraction-free
- Access to other public domain resources.
Use it well!
The most important thing that makes a Bible study tool effective is its user, and that’s you. Even the most sophisticated Bible study tool cannot do the thinking for you–it can only help you do the thinking, meditating, prayer, and personal application. So whichever tool serves you best in understanding God’s Word more accurately, use it well.