Have you ever nodded along to someone talking, even though you had no idea what they were saying? I often feel like I’m doing a mental head-nod when I’m scrolling through all the products Olive Tree offers. As an employee, you’d think I would understand all the different Bible study tools—but to be honest, there’s always something new to learn. So, I thought I’d dedicate a blog post to the difference between a study Bible and a Bible commentary!


A study Bible is Scripture paired with additional notes and resources that are meant to help you understand what you’re reading. A non-digital study Bible is often formatted with the study Bible notes below the Bible text, allowing for quick reference without having to leave the passage you’re reading. Depending on the study Bible, you may see historical and contextual background information, cross references to other verses, maps, charts, and more.

Study Bible

Study Bibles in the Olive Tree Bible App work much the same way. While you’re reading the Bible text, the resource guide will pull in the content from any study Bible you have in your library to give you quick access to helpful information.


The first major difference between a Bible commentary and a study Bible is that a Bible commentary is its own book. In fact, it’s probably more than one book. Bible commentaries usually come in massive volumes—one for each book of the Bible! The print version of the 61 Vols. Word Biblical Commentary series would take up 7 feet on your bookshelf. This is probably one of the biggest reasons I’m in love with electronic Bible resources.

There are also single-volume commentaries, but don’t let that fool you. They still contain much more information than a typical study Bible.

Commentaries also come in three different types: devotional, homiletical, and exegetical.

Devotional commentaries focus on applying the Bible to daily life. These publications are much more relaxed, written by one person, and don’t cover the entire Bible verse-by-verse.

Homiletical (homilies = sermons) commentaries focus on interpreting the Bible and then applying it. Preachers wrote these commentary sets for other preachers. They are also great for preparing to teach the Bible in any capacity, not just from the pulpit.

Exegetical commentaries focus on the more academic processes of uncovering the author’s original meaning. Oftentimes, these publications will explain passages from the original Hebrew and Greek, go in-depth on cultural and historical references, and address scholarly disputes.

Bible commentary


First, it’s important to remember that study Bible notes and Bible commentaries are both interpretations of Scripture! Just as you would prayerfully evaluate a sermon, evaluate the contents of any resource you read. No human-made book is perfect in the way that God’s Word is!

If you are looking for quick, easy insights on Scripture, a study Bible or a one-volume commentary is a fantastic place to start. Try looking at the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible or the Zondervan Bible Commentary (1 Vol.). Or, search through our study Bible category.

If you’re wanting to go deeper, you may want to pick a commentary set like the Pillar New Testament Commentary (17 Vols) or something similar. You can easily look through all our commentary sets in our store. These can be pretty pricey because people spent decades researching and writing these! But if you watch our sales carefully, you should be able to find what you’re looking for discounted at some point or another! Make sure you’re getting our emails.

So, still stuck?

Reach out to us: in the comments, on Facebook, or email our support team. If you have Bible study questions, we’ll try to point you in the right direction! And, if you’re looking for a resource recommendation, we’d love to help you out!

Olive Tree Bible App iOS
Olive Tree Bible App Android


  1. Jimmy Meyer

    Thanks, this was helpful – even for a “decades-old” Christian! If you have more such insights, please, let us have them.

    • Cierra Klatt

      So glad you enjoyed this blog post, Jimmy! Make sure to subscribe to our blog if you haven’t already. We post usually 3 times a week, at least!

    • Sadi Danbaba

      I personally enjoy using your App for study please keep it on.Thanks

      • Kathleen deyo

        “Balaam’s Donkey Speaks Up!” is a 32 page richly illustrated book for teens and adults. It consists of Bible verses from Numbers 22:1-35 and some background commentary and maps of the land Balaam enjoyed around 1440 BC and photos of his writings unearthed by archeologists. Do you know of any publishers I can approach for this Bible study? Glad to email you a copy. Thank you and God Bless You.

    • Thanks for the info, I didn’t know the difference in each commentary.

    • Hello.. I am looking for a good easy read bible for some new believers. Please advise.

      • Daniel Gonzalez

        The NLT Study Bible would be a great place to start and if they would like they can read it side by side with the NKJV which is what I do since the translation is the closest to the original KJV without the old language style of speaking.

      • The John MacArthur study Bible in NSV or NASB would be reliable translations with solid bible doctrine in the notes.

  2. Pastor Ben Soon

    Thank you so much for sharing such excellent insight. Even as a Pastor, I am much blessed to read your clear, uplifting, sound write-up on this matter. Keep Up your very good work for JESUS. GOD bless you and all the faithful staff at OliveTree. Pastor Ben Soon

    • Cierra Klatt

      Thank you so much for your kind words! May you be blessed in your study of God’s Word.

  3. Tony Fanggidae

    Thanks for these knowledge. It is such useful because most people is thinking that both of them is same. I think, christian must have this window to look and learn the Bible

    • Cierra Klatt

      No problem, Tony! We love writing about God’s Word and how to study it. Glad it was helpful to you!

  4. This is valuable information! I was aware that we have different styles of commentaries but hadn’t seen them presented in this manner. Thank you!

    I use the Olivetree Bible Resource App more than any other tool. I would love to make a vocaction teaching others what a wonderful tool is provided here.

    Praying that you continue in your effort to make these tool so accessible.


    • Cierra Klatt

      So glad this was helpful to you, Ken! We definitely appreciate you telling others about our app! It means a lot to us.

  5. Rajesh Christian

    Thank you very much for the explaining the difference, I never realised until I read your blog!
    But still I have a question, how can I differentiate between those theee types of Commentaries until I go through them? Is there any way where I can make out it upfront?

    • Michael Hunt

      The most useful place to find this is to go to the website Best Commentaries (https://bestcommentaries.com/) where commentaries are scored and tagged. (Best commentaries uses the terms: Devotional, Pastoral, Technical & Special Study to describe the different types. They even have a filter to show which commentaries are available in Olive Tree)
      If you look at the listing for Psalms (https://bestcommentaries.com/psalms/) and filter it using Olive Tree you will see that the Word commentary is tagged technical (i.e. exegetical); NIVAC is tagged pastoral/devotional (i.e. homiletical/devotional) and the ACCS (Ancient Christian Commentary Series is tagged special study.

  6. Ken Crosby

    Thank you for your help understanding the difference between them.

  7. Andrew Osakue

    Thanks for your write up which has been highly enlightening.

  8. Honestly, now I understand the difference between the study bible and bible commentary. Your post was really helpful.

  9. Perry Wharton

    I prefer homiletical commentaries like Days of Praise by Institutes of Creation Research. They do throw in some Exegetical meanings too. Can’t use devotionals as I find them limited to what one is experiencing in their life, but not all are experiencing it.

  10. Edwin Uroejasun-Bani

    Thanks for this explanatory blog.
    I am in Nigeria and which to purchase the print bible commentary. I will like you to furnish me with cost plus shipping to Lagos

    • Cierra Loux

      Hey, Edwin! We only sell digital copies. If you download the free Olive Tree Bible App, you can purchase Bible commentaries in the app.

  11. Rich Weaver

    Good read thanks!
    Been in a bible study for many years, and used the serendipity study bible because it gave a series of questions for group discussions.
    Have been away from the Bible for about six years now, retired and trying to study by myself. There seems to be soooo much out there now!
    I want downloaded the Olive Tree bible app. Need a simple daily plan for me and a study bible to help me understand more of the Bible meanings!
    iPhone X and IPad user.

  12. Wynie van Tonder

    Excellent article! Thank you! Always wondered what the difference was between these. I think a study Bible just has so much more PRACTICAL tools for great and insightful day-to-day Bible study.

  13. Thanks for your enlightening article. I love the Word and have hard copies of study bibles (NIV & ESV) and commentary (Clarke’s).

    Olive Tree app is a mainstay in my Bible studies because it’s available even offline. For those who also write Bible messages, I’d like to mention the free Bible app CSB (Tecarta) I downloaded. I don’t have a hand in the making or marketing of this standalone Bible app, btw, but I also use it alongside Olive Tree app when I’m inside the Bible pages and writing a message. Every time I needed to copy-paste a passage from Scripture, I take it from the standalone app for it auto-completes the pasted copy with the chap-verse reference. Once pasted, no further sweat 🙂 Like this below —

    Proverbs 3:5-6 CSB
    Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; [6] in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.

    (I didn’t type the chap-verse reference above the passage when I pasted it, see?). Wish I didn’t have to toggle out of Olive Tree Bible app every time I had to copy-paste and enjoy this small luxury. As for the rest, your app is really wonderful and best resource to go to. More blessings to you!

  14. I am looking for a way to study the Bible solely by audio. I also want some commentary (also audio) to explain passages and provide context and interpretations. Is there an app for what I am looking for?

  15. ThanksGreeting to jesus christEphesians4:14-16 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forthby the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by thecunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow tobecome in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is,Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by everysupporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does itswork. This bible verse God bless us allThank youPeace and Grace.

  16. Hello.
    I was thinking that in Matthew 6:9 Jesus taught his disciples to pray to the
    Father and for the Father’s name to be glorified or sanctified.

    What could be that Name?

    Please help me to know.

  17. Christopher Smith

    Hope there is still help out there.
    I am looking for a study Bible (like the ESV study Bible) but offers insights, and comments, etc. after the verses, instead of at the bottom of the page.
    Any ideas?

  18. James Jenkins

    Thank you. That was a great, simplified explanation and helped me greatly in deciding on a direction.