ESV Study Bible
In October 2008 Crossway released the long awaited ESV Study Bible. If you’ve managed to get hold of it in the UK since then, congratulations – you’re one of the chosen few that managed to beat demand and receive one before the scheduled March 09 reprint. I too managed to get hold of a copy, but only after a couple of months on pre-order. This scarcity is a good indicator the greatness of this edition, and I’ll try and highlight some of it’s great features in this review.
Firstly, the Bible is the Bible, so I don’t really have any critique to give on that front (I’ll give it 10 out of 10). However, I would point to the ESV as a great and immensely helpful translation that has become the standard for Firwood Church (for some helpful insight into the benefit of the ESV translation, see John Piper’s article here.)
On a slightly shallow note, all the different formats of this edition are manufactured to the highest quality – the mere fact that they are bound is sure to prolong the life span of these Bibles to beyond that of many of my previously ‘glued-in’ types. Though this Bible will probably also last longer because it will hardly ever leave my house, given that it is the size of the Moon. It is definitely not for sticking in your pocket (perhaps try this to fill that role).
This is, after all, a study Bible, and it is here that this edition really excels. The ESV SB is packed with notes and commentary throughout. I have found in previous study Bibles (I’m looking at you here, NIV), that, quite often, you would come to a verse that you really struggled with and so you would look to the study notes to shed some light on the issue, only to find that the notes commented on the easy verse before your tricky verse, and the easy verse after it, but any comment on the puzzling verse in question would be mysteriously absent. Granted, I haven’t read through all of the notes yet, but I haven’t come across this problem at all with the ESV to date. The notes offer great insight, frequently highlighting key Hebrew and Greek words in the text in an effort to extend the reader’s understanding. Alongside these notes are the usual charts, maps and diagrams (some colour drawings in certain cases, the illustration of various aspects of the Tabernacle, for example), but as with most of the features of the ESV SB, there seems to be something extra about them, something slightly deeper and more impressive. For an example of these notes, click the picture to the right.
Each book is preceded by an extensive introduction covering areas such as the author, date and purpose of each book, the cultural background, key themes, literary features, and, uniquely (as far as I am aware), a ‘history of salvation’ summary, describing the book’s place in God’s salvation story.
This brings me onto yet more resources available in the ESV SB. As well as the myriad of notes and book introductions, charts, diagrams etc, the ESV also contains a host of articles on issues facing the reader today, including the doctrinal and ethical teachings of Scripture (the Trinity, the person of Christ, Marriage and Sexual Morality, and Bioethics, for example), summaries of the basic differences in understanding of the Bible within Christianity, descriptions of other world religions, and an overview of a number of prominent cult teachings and their departure from Scripture. The articles are in-depth and even-handed, yet holding firmly to the Truth of Scripture. It is here again that the ESV SB shines – with editors such as JI Packer and Wayne Grudem (author of the awesome Systematic Theology, click here to read the review) the resources and articles are of the highest quality.
At the risk of sounding like a salesman, that’s not all! With every purchase of the ESV SB, the owner receives a registration code for the ESV Study Bible online. You can receive a free preview by clicking here. The ESV online is everything that the ESV SB is, online. Literally. All the notes, charts and articles are there for access from any computer worldwide with your own personal log in. There is also the option to add your own notes in the margin; these notes are then stored centrally and can be accessed from any other computer. It’s a really great example of a successful transition from print to digital form.
So, in short, this edition, endorsed by numerous renowned Biblical teachers, is definitely one that is worth considering if you’re in the market for something to deepen your understanding of God’s word and give you a greater love for it’s beauty and brilliance. The best price I could find was about £27 for the imitation leather, and a ridiculous £147 for the premium calfskin, but I would warn you to check with any supplier for availability before your purchase as it seems that no one can get hold of any more of them until the March 09 reprint.