Your top list of the best study Bibles for Women to encourage and strengthen your faith this new year
A good study Bible is like a treasured friend and travel companion as we venture into God’s Word. There are so many options available, I’ve always found it an exciting but somewhat overwhelming decision! Which version is best will depend on whether you want to use your Bible mostly for prayer, devotions, or in-depth study. And as we find ourselves maturing through each stage of womanhood, we’ll be drawn to different Bibles to lead us on our way.
Here are my top choices of best study Bibles for woman to inspire and help us grow in faith. But first, let’s explore what makes a good study Bible and how to choose the right Bible translation for you!
What makes the best Study Bibles for Women?
One of the amazing things about the Bible is that it’s both the Word of God and the words of humans sharing their experiences and revelations. As God’s Word, it has the power to transform and bring us into an intimate encounter with Jesus. In this way, it’s a living text that continues to speak to our situations centuries later.
As a human writing, it also includes the perspectives and limitations of its many authors. God’s relationship with us is a developing relationship. There are differences between ideas contained in one book and the next. This is where study Bibles can really help us. Their extra notes and reflections allow us to appreciate biblical context and open our hearts to new understandings. A study Bible for women may also include special articles that feature women in the Bible and speak to our unique gifts and the challenges we face.
Questions to ask when choosing your Study Bible
1. What is your purpose?
How will you use your study Bible? Are you interested in learning more about the Bible’s historical context or nuances of the biblical languages? Do you want to dive deep into theology? Be able to cross-reference people, places, and topics? Or have a Bible designed to help you apply its teachings to your everyday life? When I was a new mom I loved reading the reflections and devotions in my Bible. Those little notes of encouragement and support. Other times I valued knowing more about Jesus’ culture and traditions. As we change, we are strengthened by different features our study Bibles have to offer.
2. Who is writing your study notes?
Consider who is on your study Bible’s editorial team. The notes and articles that we rely on in the best study Bibles for women are written by scholars and church leaders, each with their own interpretations. Who do you want to learn from? Is there a person(s) that really inspires you? What are their credentials? Which perspective and points of view do they bring to the text? Are they historians, linguists, theologians, or pastors? Who is the publisher?
3. What features do you want in your study Bible for women?
This is the fun part! All those extras that help us open up and dialogue with the biblical text. While I believe it’s important to spend time personally and prayerfully reflecting on the biblical text itself, study notes can assist us by challenging a new perspective, providing keys to the text’s background, or showing us how events and ideas relate to each other. Some key features to look for:
- Book Introductions that give information about its author, audience, purpose for writing, date, context, literary devices, and major themes.
- Study Notes with helpful cultural, historical, and archeological details, word studies, theological connections, or real-life applications.
- Articles that explore a topic in more depth such as family or prayer.
- Biblical Portraits that highlight the woman of the Bible (and others) that can teach us valuable lessons about faith, love, patience, and perseverance.
- Charts, Timetables, Illustrations, and Maps, for example a list of Jesus’ parables, family trees, or a map of Jerusalem in biblical times.
- Concordance with citations to certain words found in the Bible (i.e. a list of scripture verses containing the word ‘peace’)
- Reading Plans (i.e. topical, chronological, Bible in a Year etc.)
- Space for you to add your own notes, reflections, and questions.
How to choose the right Bible translation for you
The Bible was first written (mostly) in Hebrew and Greek. Each translation has its strength and weakness. Some of the concepts in these original languages can be difficult to express in English. Scholars must make choices for us as they try to communicate the meaning of the text.
Today’s Bible translations exist on a continuum between word-for-word translations, to thought-for-thought, to paraphrase translations.
Word-for-word translations try to translate the exact Greek or Hebrew words into their English equivalent. They hope to maintain the structure of the text as much as possible and avoid any elements of interpretation. If you have ever learned a new language, you know that each language has its own quality and idioms that don’t always have an English match. For example, a single Hebrew word has several meanings that scholars must translate based on context. But if you are looking to get as close to the original text as possible, this is the way to go. Word-for-word translations to check out: New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), or the Amplified Bible (AMP).
Thought-for-thought translations focus on the meaning intended by the text using language we can understand today. They are often easier to read but do rely on translators making interpretive decisions for you. Many do an excellent job of this but it is something to keep in mind. Popular thought-for-thought translations are: New Living Translation (NLT), Christian Standard Bible (CSB), or the Good News Translation (GNT)
Paraphrase translations try to simplify the biblical message so that it’s even easier to understand. I don’t recommend them for biblical study as the editors often infuse a lot of their personal interpretation and views into the text. Examples include The Message and The Living Bible.
My Favorite Mid-Range Translations
Good mid-range translations that use both a word-for-word and thought-for-thought approach are the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and New International Version (NIV). In school I used the NRSV for biblical studies and I love the NIV for my personal devotions.
5 Best Study Bibles for Women
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1. The NIV Woman’s Study Bible (Thomas Nelson)
Created by women for women, this study Bible subtitled “Receiving God’s Truth for Balance, Hope, and Transformation,” is packed full of notes and special features to encourage and support woman of faith. I appreciated the diversity of women lending their voice and scholarship to this Bible and their writings on themes that I could relate to. Download a free sample of their NKJV translation here.
- A full color floral design
- Over 100 biographical portraits of biblical women
- More than 300 special topic articles such as Lessons from the Model Prayer, Servant Leadership, to even a list of significant Plants in the Bible
- I loved reading the many quotes from inspirational Christian women scattered throughout
- Contributions from female scholars with different voices and backgrounds
- Detailed book introductions that include background information (setting, purpose, original audience, literary characteristics, major themes, and outlines)
- Verse-by verse footnotes
- Extensive index of study note topics and easy to use Concordance
- Full color in-text maps, timelines, family trees, and comparison charts
- Pages to record your family’s births, family memories, and spiritual mentors
What it’s Missing:
- Next to no white space to add your own questions and reflection notes.
- This is a big and heavy Bible to carry around making it best for personal devotions.
- A selection of reading plans.
2. CSB She Reads Truth Bible
A simple but truly beautiful full color Bible designed to encourage women to read the Word of God everyday without the distraction of sometimes weighty commentary. Instead, the emphasis is placed on an easy to read CSB translation and full page devotionals on a range of topics. You’ll love the reading plans included in each book’s introduction and their “Going Deeper” section pointing to cross-referenced scriptural passages to deepen your understanding. Check out their free sample here.
- 189 devotional responses for reflection
- Each book features a key verse with a full page beautifully illustrated word-art to inspire
- Scripture is formatted like a regular book instead of separate columns
- A well thought out reading plan with additional “Going Deeper” cross-referenced passages for each book to guide you
- Books are color coded by literary genre (i.e. poetry, wisdom, history)
- Full page maps and timelines throughout the text really helped deepen my understanding of the narrative
- Wide margins for journaling
- Quality linen binding with 2 sewn in ribbon markers
- Online #SheReadsTruth community and corresponding app
- Easy to read translation
What it’s Missing:
- While I enjoyed many of the devotionals included in this Bible, it lacked the study footnotes I’ve come to rely on for translation, context, and exegetical details.
- I personally like more background information in the book introductions but they do provide a good general overview.
- The pages are thin. There’s lots of room for journaling but be conscious of possible bleed through.
3. The NLT Everyday Matters Bible for Women
It’s not always easy to find time to study the Bible in the midst of our busy lives, but this Bible’s mission is to help us do just that. It’s structured around developing a practice of 24 spiritual disciplines to enrich and deepen our Christian faith (for example sabbath & rest, service, prayer, gratitude, reconciliation, simplicity). Rather than having verse-by-verse study notes, all the commentary and devotions in this Bible are meant to give more meaning to each spiritual practice and their application.
- Feature-length articles on each spiritual discipline
- 25 biblical woman celebrated as they relate to each spiritual practice
- Q&A sections to help you apply the practice in your everyday life
- 5 to 10 short reflective essays per discipline by contemporary Christian authors
- A comprehensive index of the spiritual practices and their related passages
- General book introductions
What it’s Missing:
- Book titles are located within a side border and faint font make it hard to navigate.
- Better binding, some people have found pages coming loose.
- Exegetical footnotes.
- Thin pages.
4. NIV Life Application Study Bible
A long time best selling study Bible emphasizing how we can apply God’s Word to make real and lasting changes in our daily life. This Bible helps to bring the biblical message alive and relevant for the modern reader!
- Over 10,000 study notes offering in-depth explanations of the passages and how it can be applied to our life
- Detailed book introductions with author and setting information, outline, timeline of events, major themes, and often maps of key places
- 100 + biographical profiles and what we can learn from them
- 500 + charts, maps, and diagrams
- a running list of cross-referenced passages in a side-column that accompanies the text
- Biblical text is formatted as a single column.
- Detailed index along with a handy dictionary/concordance
- A 15 page “Christian Workers” resource guide with essays for new believers and tips for helping others grow in their faith
- Sewn binding and two ribbon markers
What it’s Missing:
- This study Bible is packed with information. It can be a little daunting and distracting when trying to meditate on the biblical text.
- Less information on archeological, historical, and linguistic details in the notes (emphasis on life application instead).
- Unlike our other study Bibles reviewed, this Bible is not specifically geared for women but I loved the life application approach either way.
- No white space for personal notes.
5. ESV Woman’s Study Bible
This study Bible for Women takes the best scholarship from the well loved ESV Study Bible and blends it with reflection essays from the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible. It offers a great balance of exegetical notes and inspirational messages to encourage our faith.
- 13,000 + detailed study notes written by experts in a variety of fields
- 350 + reflection essays
- 15 articles diving into theological questions like God’s Plan of Salvation, Missional Living, The Godly Wife, Nurturing Children to Love and Follow God
- Elegantly illustrated and embellished by award-winner artist Dana Tanamachi including full page art pieces for each book and key-verse word-art
- 120 biblical profiles
- I really appreciated the two-page spread illustrations of important objects and cities structures along with the text matched maps
- Bottom of the page cross-reference points
- Reading plan and concordance
What it’s Missing:
- The biblical profiles were easy to read but short and did not provide much extra information.
- Limited information in the book introductions which only included brief explanations of author, date, audience, key themes and a simple outline.
- More than one ribbon marker.
- Some ghosting from page to page. The gold ink used in some details is light and can be difficult to read.
I would love to know which study Bible you choose or any other recommendations you have to share!
Melissa A. says
Thank you for these thoughts. Sometimes when I have drifted away from the Lord and I need to get back on track, I find that starting over in a new Bible helps. I’m on a search for one right now and your opinions were very helpful. God bless you!
Thank you. Sometimes those new sets of tools and commentaries are just the thing we need. I’ll be thinking of you in your search ♥
Chaniece E. says
Thank you so much for this. I am a newlywed and have been looking for a specific bible that will lead me to not only be a better women but also a better spouse, child of God, woman of God, and future mother. Which one out of the mentioned would you recommend for this?
Thanks for your note and blessings on this new journey together. I think I would look at the Thomas Nelson NIV Women’s Study Bible. It is a good mix of biblical study notes as well as topical devotional reflections written by Christian women leaders for us. It also features biographical portraits of women of the bible that can teach us so much by example. Wishing you the best in your search!
Libbie Edwards says
I chose the Thomas Nelson study Bible it lays flat and your video showed a lot of benefits from this Bible. I can’t wait to get it so I can start studying.
Wonderful! I hope you enjoy your new studies!
Very helpful- thank you! I just ordered the CSB She Reads Truth Bible. I have found CSB is easy to read, making studies much less intimidating. There are times that I like to see a passage interpreted differently, so I plan to have the Bible app open for those times.
Thank you for taking the time to leave well- thought reviews about each Study Bible!
You’re very welcome! I’m so glad you found a bible that works for you. Great idea to use the bible app along side your studies too!
I’m looking for a Bible or intro to for my 19 year old daughter, who has HF autism spectrum disorder. She has had some difficulties, spiritually, she feels lost and alone, and unloved (which she certainly is not!( but we all know how that feels, we were all 19 once…) I found our family Bible on her night stand, and I almost cried, because it was the Old King James version, and I could just imagine how lonely my little girl had to be feeling to read through that text! It’s hard to select for her…it has to be something that makes sense to her (and no flowery stuff!) (her parents are D atheist and M…well maybe agnostic, but probably not though…I grew up in a Scandinavian country that has a national state church, and it has always stayed with me. Thank you very much for any guidance you can give us!
Hi Iris, I hope this note finds you well. I think I would recommend the NLT Everyday Matters Bible for Women. The translation is not too bad for reading level. It is also well laid out and has very practical ways of applying the message. I wonder if she may find some of the spiritual practices it encourages comforting. I also like the essays written by Christian authors that talk about real life issues and questions. I apologize for the delay in my responding to you. Unfortunately your post was redirected to my spam. I’ll be thinking of you both. If you need anything further, just email me.