Several weeks ago I began a series of posts on the importance of a good study Bible (here). After stressing the value of a good study Bible I usually (actually, almost always) recommend the ESV Study Bible (www.esvstudybible.org).
In 2009, The ESV Study Bible won the Christian Book of the Year Award by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), becoming the first Bible ever to win the award. Here is how it measured up in the categories I outlined in my earlier post.
The ESV Study Bible has extensive book introductions, some of which are pages long. In addition to covering issues of authorship, date, key themes, and an outline, the ESV Study Bible also has helpful sections on “The History of Salvation” and “Literary Features” of the books among others. Here are some sample pdfs of the Introduction to the book of Isaiah and the letter to the Ephesians with some of the text and notes as well.
The maps of the ESV Study Bible are full color and there are over 200 hundred of them! The illustrations are first rate. My particular favorites are the architectural drawings of the tabernacle and temple. There is even a drawing of the ancient synagogue at Gamla, a place I visited on my recent trip to Israel, and the details are impressive.
There are more than 200 charts and timelines incorporated into the text at appropriate points.
20,000 study notes help to illuminate the text and interpretive issues in key passages. One may not always agree with their conclusions (the contributors are more Calvinist/Reformed) but they are overall fair and accessible.
The concordance is sizeable and is followed by a daily Bible reading plan.
80,000 cross references! Just so you know that isn’t a typo, there are eighty-thousand cross references.
In addition to all of these features, the ESV Study Bible also has over 50 articles in the back covering everything from how to read the Bible to basic Christian doctrines to ethics to religious cults. Each ESV Study Bible also comes with a pass-code to online versions of the text, notes, articles, as well as the maps, charts, and illustrations. The font-size of text of the Bible is easy to read while the font of the notes are much smaller but not illegibly so. The text is from the English Standard Version (ESV). This translation claims to be “essentially literal” while also being in contemporary English. So while not quite as readable as some more dynamic translations (e.g. NIV, NLT, TNIV, etc.), it does try to follow as much of the same word order of the Hebrew and Greek as possible.
This Bible is like having an entire library full of resources. This major benefit leads to its major critique: it is big and heavy! The outside dimensions are 6 ½ by 9 ½ inches and weighs almost 4 pounds! However, it is still the Bible I carry with me to church and to the office.
There are several other good study Bibles that have hit the market in recent years. I will review some of them in subsequent posts. However, the ESV Study Bible has been my Bible of choice for two years now and I have recommended it heartily to many friends and family members.