Have you ever been in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where all you see is water everywhere you look? Have you ever driven in North Dakota where you actually see the rolling hills? In both instances, you realize that you are only able to see a fraction of the beauty that you could otherwise see from high above in the air. However, in most cases, you must be content with the fraction that you are able to see and praise God for the beauty you can behold. The same is true for the ESV Study Bible. There is so much in this study Bible that one does not know where to begin.
With an editorial oversight committee including Wayne Grudem, J.I. Packer, and Thomas Schreiner, you know that you are getting quality study notes. The study note contributors come from institutions such as Union Theological College in Belfast, Regent College, Covenant Theological Seminary, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Westminster Seminary California.
In addition to the editors and the theological institutions, you have theologians like John Polhill, Ray Van Neste, Paul D. Wegner, and Gordon J. Wenham among those contributing to the study notes. As if these study notes were not enough, there are forty-four articles written by even more scholars that appear after the Bible itself. Some of the writers of these articles include Gregg R. Allison, Daniel R. Heimbach, Mark Dever, Darrell L. Bock, and Ron Rhodes.
A quick perusal of the table of contents pages shows how in depth this study Bible really is. The Old Testament begins with “The Theology of—” and then gives a timeline of the OT. Before each genre found in the OT, there is an introduction that explains how to read the next portion of scripture along with various themes found therein.
In between the testaments, there is a rather lengthy (18 pages) “Background to the New Testament.” The New Testament is introduced with the theology and the timeline of found in the Old Testament. Also included, is a great article on the date of the crucifixion of Christ. As before the various genres in the Old Testament, there is an introduction to the reading of the gospels and Acts and the Epistles. The Scriptures themselves are in a single column with a center-column cross-reference system. The single column is offset by the double column study notes at the bottom of each page.
Some of the articles after the text of the Bible itself include Biblical ethics, Biblical doctrine, the Bible and world religions, archaeology and the Bible, and the reliability of the Bible manuscripts. The color maps throughout the Bible are a nice added touch usually reserved for what is commonly called “The Book of Maps” at the end of the Bible. Finally, the concordance has been expanded for this study Bible.
Alright, with all that is right with this study Bible, there has to be something wrong, right? While I am sure there are more notable reviewers who have criticized various components of the ESV Study Bible, this particular reviewer is not one of them. However, I did notice a couple of things.
First, with over 2,750 pages, this Bible is best used at your desk. It is hardly a Bible that can be carried everywhere you go as some do with other study Bibles. Second, I would have liked to have seen an introduction to reading apocalyptic literature especially with the book of Revelation since this book has been at the center of much debate and discussion in recent decades.
The love affair with the ESV will not only continue, but, I believe, will escalate with the publication of this study Bible which has become (almost by default and certainly by design) the premier study Bible available to Christians today. A tip of the cap goes to Justin Taylor (project director and managing editor) and Lane T. Dennis (executive editor) for their work in producing this magnificent Bible.
I think it goes without saying that I would recommend this resource to any Christian unhesitatingly. The ESV Study Bible takes a backseat to no other study Bible available on the market. However, I would not recommend this Bible as an everyday Bible. What I mean is that when you are reading the Bible for daily devotion and personal edification the study notes end up becoming more of a hindrance than a help. It is too big to carry with you to church or in the car or to the coffee shop on a regular basis. I think it would be best suited as a desk reference Bible more than a “nightstand” Bible.
What more can be said than already has been said? I would like to submit that by reading through this particular study Bible a Christian would receive an introduction to the seminary educations found in the institutions represented by those who contributed.