A Bible handbook is a reference book that provides information on all aspects of the Bible. Bible handbooks are valuable tools for those new to the Bible, those wanting to pursue deeper study, and those needing a wealth of biblical information at the ready. Bible handbooks provide answers for a variety of biblical questions with short commentaries, maps, photos, outlines, historical and archeological backgrounds, lists of kings and judges, genealogies, and more. Bible handbooks also provide a brief summary of each book of the Bible.
Here are some common reasons a person would use a Bible handbook:
1. To learn the cultural and historical background information about a book of the Bible.
2. To discover how a certain passage fits into the whole book and why it is included.
3. To learn the key words, themes, and verses in a book.
4. To learn more about the Bible’s history: its compilation, printing, and preservation.
5. To better understand the particular doctrines taught in each book and how they correspond to the overall message of the Bible.
6. To research the geography and archaeology associated with the Bible.
One of the most well-known and trusted Bible handbooks is by Dr. Henry H. Halley (1874—1965). Halley was a minister, author, and lecturer with a passion for Bible study and Bible memory. Fueled by his belief that every Christian should read the Bible daily, Halley created a 16-page booklet to encourage Bible study. From that booklet came the current Halley’s Bible Handbook, an 864-page collection of biblical reference material used by Christians around the world. First published in 1924, Halley’s Bible Handbook has undergone many updates and is available in many editions.
Other Bible handbooks include The MacArthur Bible Handbook by John MacArthur; The New Unger’s Bible Handbook by Merrill F. Unger; With the Word, a chapter-by-chapter handbook by Warren W. Wiersbe; The Zondervan Bible Handbook; and The Holman Bible Handbook.
The use of a Bible handbook is one way to “study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). While preaching, teaching, and personal meditation are all critical for spiritual growth, the use of a Bible handbook can take a Christian from a simple surface reading of Scripture into a deeper study of the types, themes, and doctrines we find throughout. A good Bible handbook can help us understand the Bible and better apply Scripture’s doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness to our lives (see 2 Timothy 3:16–17).