I was asked by one of our college students to compile a list of Bible study resources I recommend. Here’s my response. These are the books I pull out regularly (Gentry’s is not published yet, I have his class notes from my seminary days).
There’s a lot of other reading and sermons I’d recommend to grow in your walk with Christ. This list is limited to tools I think would help you study the Bible for a lifetime. They don’t replace the SKILLS and WORK of doing that study, but should aid you as tools in that work.There are also a lot of things online. But I’m not as familiar with the atlases, dictionaries, and study tools online since I’ve used the below titles and BibleWorks computer software only for the last 7 years.The ESV Study Bible really does a wonderful job at many levels. It would be the first tool I would buy as it will gives you the most concise but thorough introductions, commentary, atlas, and instructive articles you can get in one volume. Read what other “big wigs” have to say about it: http://esvstudybible.org/endorsements/
ESSENTIAL TOOLS 
I. Bible Study Tools
- These are the tools you should be turning to regularly in your Bible study.
- Please remember these are not the only books I would recommend. These are ones that will help you understand the Scriptures better. The Christian life is cultivated by sitting at the feet of Jesus. Our goal is to be his disciples, worshipers of God in Spirit and truth. There are many other books, articles, and sermons I would recommend in those areas. These are the books that I recommend as “tools”, resources that you should keep in your toolbox and refer to often for your personal Bible Study.
A. ESV Study Bible
A. The Baker Atlas of Christian History
A. The Crossway Comprehensive Concordance of the Holy Bible, English Standard Version compiled by William D. Mounce
4. Intro to NT and OT
A. The ESV Study Bible provides great introduction
[I recommend buying the following later:]
B. Introduction to the Old Testament by Tremper and Longman
C. Introduction the New Testemant by Carson, Moo, and Morris
5. Bible Dictionary (pick one)
A. The Illus. Bible Dictionary (3 volumes)
B. The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary
A. ESVSB notes
B. New Bible Commentary by G J; Motyer, J A; Carson, D A ; France, R T Wenham
II. Guides to understanding the Scriptures and theology
- These are books I’d recommend you work through steadily over the course of a couple years to deepen your knowledge of the Scriptures and theology.
- The books by Dempster, Dumbrell, and Thielman listed below go book by book through the Scripture. As you do your normal Bible reading, I recommend reading the corresponding chapter of each book by those authors (I did this, much to my benefit). They’ll help you “see” what you’ve likely never seen before.
7. Systematic Theology
A. Systematic Theology, 2nd Ed. by Wayne Grudem
8. Biblical and Exegetical Theology
A. OT – Kingdom Through Covenant by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum
B. OT – Dominion and Dynasty by Stephen Dempster
C. OT – The Faith of Israel by William Dumbrell
D. NT – Theology of the New Testament by Frank Thielman
E. NT – New Testament Theology by Thomas Schreiner
 The specific books mentioned are my recommendations. They have been more helpful to me than others like them. There are probably many, however, that I have not seen or used that would do the job.
In the purest sense of the word, only the Bible itself is “essential”