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The ESV Study Bible: A First Look

October 14, 2008


This week Crossway Bibles publishes their much-anticipated ESV Study Bible.  Using the English Standard Version, the ESV Study Bible was produced by 95 evangelical contributors, led by

I received my review copy today from the publisher. 

I have over twenty Bibles and love to collect and use various translations and study bibles.  My initial impression is that the ESV Study Bible reflects the most aggressive Study Bible agenda I’ve ever seen from a publisher.  The array of features of the ESV Study Bible is truly impressive and the production values are excellent.  I was immediately struck by the over 200 full-color maps spread throughout the text and the full-page maps in the back of the volume.  A welcome addition to their selection is a map of the Middle East as it exists today. 

Also notable are the over 200 charts that are found in various places of this study bible. 

The ESV Study Bible offers over 50 articles on a variety of topics including

  • The Roman Empire and the Greco-Roman World,
  • Jewish Groups at the Time of the New Testament,
  • Biblical Doctrine:  An Overview (28 pages in small print),
  • Biblical Ethics:  also an oveview which covers divorce and remarriage, abortion, homosexuality, War, Racial Discrimination,etc.,
  • The Canon of the Old Testament,
  • The Canon of the New Testament,
  • The Reliability of the Old Testament Manuscripts,
  • The Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts,
  • The Bible in Christianity which covers Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Liberal Protestantism, and Evangelical Protestantism,
  • The Bible and Religious Cults which covers Mormonism, Jehovahs Witnesses, Christian Science, and the New Age Movement,
  • Hebrew and Aramaic, and How They Work (!),
  • Greek, and How It Works (!),
  • etc.

Also notable are the color illustrations where the editors have made an attempt at biblical accuracy where information was available.  Illustrations include 

  • the Ark of the Covenant,
  • Tabernacle and Court Architectural Plan,
  • Solomon’s Temple,
  • Jerusalem in the Time of Nehemiah,
  • Herod’s Temple Complex in the Time of Jesus,
  • Synagogue Architectural Plan,
  • etc. 

Regarding their theological orientation, the editors write,

The doctrinal perspective of the ESV Study Bible is that of classic evangelical orthodoxy, in the historic stream of the Reformation. … Within that broad tradition of evangelical orthodoxy, the notes have sought to represent fairly the various evangelical positions on disputed topics such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, the future of ethnic Israel, and questions concerning the millennium and other events connected with the time of Christ’s return.

The ESV Study Bible features 20,000 explanatory notes, 80,000 cross references, and a concordance. 

The Bible text itself is in a very pleasing single column format with an easy-to-read 9 pt. font. 

Purchase of this Study Bible also includes a code that allows the user to visit the ESV Study Bible Website and access every feature of the Study Bible online, an audio version of the entire ESV, and other features only available online as well. 

At this time, the Crossway Bibles is offering six editions of the ESV Study Bible, which can be found at the Westminster Bookstore with a price range of $28.49 for hardback to $143.99 for a premium calfskin leather edition. 

A few quibbles:  There’s no bookmark ribbon in the hardcover edition.  And I would have liked to have seen a separate section on poverty and the Christian’s responsibility in the Biblical Ethics overview. And it would have been good to have seen a mention of the various soteriological opinions (e.g. Calvinism/Arminianism) when the editors mention particulars where there is disagreement among evangelicals. 

That being said, in my opinion, the ESV Study Bible sets a new standard for Study Bibles and will be a valuable addition to the library of any pastor, lay leader, or earnest Bible student.

I’m genuinely looking forward to dive more deeply into my copy. 


Stephen Shields

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