Charles C. Ryrie (1925—2016) was a writer, theologian, and for many years a professor of systematic theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. His books include Dispensationalism Today, Basic Theology, The Grace of God, and What You Should Know About Inerrancy. He is probably best known for providing the notes for the Ryrie Study Bible, which has sold more than 2.6 million copies since its initial publication in 1978.
A study Bible is a Bible with extensive explanatory notes. Perhaps the first study Bible was the Geneva Bible, which contained extensive explanatory notes and cross references. The Ryrie Study Bible contains more than 10,000 explanatory notes by Dr. Ryrie and is published by Moody Publishers. Ryrie’s notes take a literal approach to biblical interpretation and exhibit Ryrie’s skill in making biblical concepts understandable to the average reader. The theological perspective of the Ryrie Study Bible is that of dispensational premillennialism. It is available in multiple translations (NIV, NASB, KJV, ESV, NKJV) and in a variety of bindings.
In addition to the study notes at the bottom of each page, the Ryrie Study Bible includes several other resources to aid the Bible student:
• 1- to 3-page introductions for each book of the Bible, including a paragraph on each book’s author, the date and historical setting of the book, a summary of the contents of the book, and an explanation of the book’s distinctives
• cross-references in the margins
• symbols indicating the giving of a prophecy and the fulfillment of a prophecy
• a synopsis of Bible doctrine
• articles on historical events, archaeology, and theological issues
• a harmony of the Gospels
• a daily reading plan helping readers go through the Bible in a year
• a concordance
• a topical index
• lists of Jesus’ miracles and parables
• a chart converting biblical weights and measures into metric and U.S. values
• 16 full-color maps and charts
Here are two examples of Ryrie’s study notes: 2 Corinthians 6:11 says, “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged” (KJV). The Ryrie Study Bible provides this explanation: “I.e., our speech is frank and our heart is ready to take you in.” Esther 2:1 says, “After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her” (KJV). Ryrie’s notes on this verse say, “After these things. After Ahasuerus’ defeat at Platea in 479, he probably began to long for his queen again.”
When Ryrie was asked about his style of writing, he said, “When I was working on the study Bible, I thought of people in home Bible classes, and I would sometimes ask, ‘Would they want a note on this verse or an explanation of this doctrine? Simply?’ These people were my make-believe audience. Actually, they weren’t make-believe, they were real people. . . . On the human side, I think [the ability to be concise] is because off and on through the years, I’ve taught children. If you want to advise your writers to write more clearly, tell them to go host a Good News Club somewhere, and teach it” (quoted by Sandra Glahn, “Dr. Charles C. Ryrie Tribute,” DTS Voice, February 11, 2016).
Other popular study Bibles today include the (John) MacArthur Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, and the Life Application Bible. Other teachers who, like Charles Ryrie, have produced notes for a study Bible include David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll, Warren Wiersbe, and Charles Stanley. Historically, the Scofield Reference Bible was one of the most popular study Bibles for several generations of American Christians. It is important to remember that the notes in any study Bible are not part of the inspired text. They are provided by teachers or scholars to help the reader understand and apply the text.