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An Outstanding New Study Bible

By Mark D. Roberts | Friday, October 31, 2008

I’ve just seen a copy of the newest study Bible. The ESV Study Bible, published by Crossway, is a work of excellence in both scholarship and beauty. Truly, I don’t know of any study Bible that shows such attention to the quality of its presentation as well as its content.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Crossway published my latest book, Can We Trust the Gospels? So I do have a strong appreciation for Crossway, its mission, and its people. But, if you read my blog very often, you know that I’m not solely devoted to Crossway’s translation, the English Standard Version, though I think this is an excellent “more literal” translation. It is one of the three English translations I consult and use most often.

If you’re familiar with the ESV and/or with Crossway, you won’t be surprised to learn that the ESV Study Bible represents conservative evangelical scholarship of a broadly Reformed strain. And you won’t be surprised to learn that the notes and essays in this Bible represent the very best of this kind of scholarship. Crossway’s commitment to excellence is as evident in this Bible as its rock-solid commitment to biblical authority.

If you line up with conservative evangelical scholarship of a broadly Reformed strain, then this Bible is a must for your library. But even if you find yourself on a different place in the theological spectrum, as do many of my blog readers, I would still recommend this Bible to you. It will help you get a balanced perspective on the meaning and application of the biblical text. Moreover, I have checked the study notes in many passages, and found them to be insightful, helpful, and thorough (given space limitations, of course). They reflect solid, well-informed biblical scholarship. You can check out a representative passage online, if you wish.

In addition to the notes on the text, the ESV Study Bible includes a compendious collection of theological and scholarly essays, all written by experts for lay readers. This is really a study Bible and a Bible dictionary in one volume. You’ll find top-notch articles on such topics as: The Reliability of the Bible Manuscripts, Biblical Ethics, The Roman Empire and the Greco-Roman World at the Time of the New Testament, and The Time Between the Testaments.

One of the most impressive features of this study Bible is its collection of illustrations. You’ll find several hundred maps, charts, and pictures. For example, check out this illustration of Solomon’s Temple. (You can see it in much more detail here.)

Even more impressive to me, however, is that fact that this entire Bible is accessible online. If you buy the print edition, you automatically have access to the ESV Online Study Bible. Everything in the print version appears in the online version, plus some extras as well. Crossway continues to lead the Christian publishing pack with their wise and extensive use of the Internet and other technologies. (For example, my book published by Crossway, Can We Trust the Gospels? is available in a Kindle edition. I’m sure this made Oprah happy.)

Crossway explains its goal and vision for the ESV Study Bible in this way:

The goal and vision of the ESV Study Bible is, first and foremost, to honor the Lord—in terms of the excellence, beauty, and accuracy of its content and design; and in terms of helping people come to a deeper understanding of the Bible, of the Gospel, and of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Crossway is a not-for-profit publishing ministry and all receipts from the ESV Study Bible go directly toward the support of this ministry goal around the world.

In my opinion, the ESV Study Bible has more than fulfilled this goal and vision, and I am grateful for this powerful new biblical resource.

Topics: Book Reviews |

7 Responses to “An Outstanding New Study Bible”

  1. J Falconer Says:
    October 31st, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Rev Roberts, Thank you so very much for giving your usual excellent commentary on your website. The detailed explanation of this Bible study guide is extremely helpful & appreciated. Have a nice weekend j & family

  2. Bill Goff Says:
    October 31st, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Let us know when Oprah invites you to her show to discuss “Can We Trust the Gospels?” and your other books and which version of the Bible she should recommend to her fans. Happy Halloween!

  3. Nathan J. Norman Says:
    November 1st, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Thank you for alerting us to this fantastic resource. I just purchased a copy and registered it online. The features of both the print and Internet edition are quite useful . . . especially the large number of high resolution maps and illustrations. God bless!

  4. Dave Steane Says:
    November 1st, 2008 at 8:22 am

    I concur with Mark’s assessment of the ESV Study Bible. I’ve been using it for a while now, and like it so much I downloaded it to my iPhone! If you’re of the Reformed persuasion, Ligonier makes a nice Reformation edition of it.

  5. A Mind Awake » Blog Archive » Around the Blogosphere Says:
    November 1st, 2008 at 10:14 am

    […] of the new ESV Study Bible - Mark Roberts; Tim Challies; Bob […]

  6. David Ormand Says:
    November 1st, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Mark, I’ve been watching the International Standard Version (ISV), an “open-source” translation that is nearly finished. While I’ve looked at the ESV, and still prefer my NASB, I wonder if you have an opinion on the ISV?

  7. D. A. Reed Says:
    November 4th, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Based on what I have seen on the website, it appears that the ESV Study Bible is among the best, if not the best, study Bibles on the current market.

    Unfortunately, that is not an enthusiastic endorsement as one might suspect. I have long been concerned (and annoyed, quite frankly) at the lack of quality explanatory notes and introductory materials in study Bibles that actually explain what the author meant and what the readers/hearers understood. And, it would seem, the ESV Study Bible offers much of the same. For instance, Clinton Arnold (the ESV Study Bible contributor for Paul’s letter to the Colossians) states that the theme of the letter is (and I quote in full):

    “Christ is Lord over all creation, including the invisible realm. He has secured redemption for his people, enabling them to participate with him in his death, resurrection and fullness.”

    What he says above is true, in so far as it either speaks to aspects of or leads to the letter’s main theme. Yet, Arnold fails to mention the main reason Paul wrote the letter, which is his call to maturity for God’s new community in Christ. Of course, this call to maturity is based on what Arnold says is the theme, but this misses or obscures the main thrust of the entire letter. When he finally does mention this, it is found at the bottom of a long list of themes of Colossians. But this is not one theme among many; it is the very heart and purpose of the entire document.

    The main argument of the letter (i.e., the ‘probatio’ for those familiar with Greco-Roman rhetoric) is found in 2:6-2:23. Here, Paul calls the Colossians to continue living and being strengthened in the faith (2:6-7), which is made possible by our identification with Christ’s death and resurrection when they were baptized (2:8-15). Because we are in Christ, therefore, Paul calls them to stop submitting to the rules of this world rather than Christ (2:16-23). This leads into the exhortation section of the letter (i.e., exhortatio) in which he provides principles for living the new life in Christ, first, in the Church (3:1-17), second, in the home (3:18-4:1), and third, in the world at large (4:2-6).

    The above analysis of Colossians is based largely on a rhetorical analysis of the letter based on first century Greco-Roman letter writing rhetoric. Now, it seems to me that this could have been easily expressed and written for non-experts to understand, teach and apply. For instance, why not call the ‘probatio’ the ‘Main Argument’; and call the ‘propositio’ the ‘Central theme’ (which is found in Colossians 1.24-2.5), and call the ‘exhortatio’ the ‘Exhortations’, and so on.

    This begs the following question: why is this sort of analysis essentially absent from every study Bible that has been published in the last 25 years regardless of translation? This is not difficult and well worth the effort I have discovered. I do it all the time in my own college and even Sunday school classes with great results.


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