A couple of months back, a new study Bible hit the shelves. It’s the English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible. Up until now, my favorite study Bible was Zondervan’s New American Standard (NASB) Study Bible. It had almost the exact same study notes as the more popular New International Version (NIV) Study Bible, also by Zondervan, but with the notes tailored to the NASB, along with the Bible text in the NASB translation.
What drew me to purchase the NASB was that it looked to translate word for word from the Hebrew and Greek. The NIV tends to translate thought for thought, which can be very helpful at times, but I personally wanted a ‘word for word’ translation (as much as that can happen translating from one language to the next).
But in 2001, the ESV was released as a new, yet scholarly (rather than contemporary), work in which a team of 100+ Bible scholars looked to faithfully translate the Biblical text from the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament. The ESV was somewhat similar to the NASB, as it looked to pretty much translate word for word (or it refers to itself as an ‘essentially literal’ translation). But even with the NASB updated version released in 1995, which is the version the NASB Study Bible used, there has still been much Biblical and theological scholarship unearthed since, as many theologians look to stay on their toes in regards to new textual and historical findings. Thus, you had the release of the ESV in 2001. But, the task was not done yet. A team of 95 scholars was then assembled, some from the original team that produced the ESV translation, with the purpose of constructing the ESV Study Bible. Thus, seven years later, we have the release of such a work.
I would definitely say that this study Bible is the best of its kind available today. The whole resource has a total of 2752 pages; 20,000 study notes; 80,000 cross-references; 200+ full-color maps; 200+ charts; and much more. One very interesting thing is that this study Bible has over 50 theological articles. These articles look at things such as an introduction to Biblical doctrine, an introduction to Biblical ethics, how to read the Bible, how to interpret the Bible, the canon of Scripture, the reliability of Bible manuscripts, world religions and cults, not to mention introductions to every section and book of the Bible. I would estimate that these theological articles and extras equal some 300 pages. You could say that the whole ESV Study Bible is quite like a mini-commentary and an introduction into Biblical doctrine.
Wayne Grudem is the General Editor of the work. No doubt he is a solid theologian, his most well-know works being his Systematic Theology and Bible Doctrine. Yes, he is reformed, which I am quite ok with myself. And, yes, he is also not as open as I would personally like him to be in regards to the gifts of the Spirit or the role of women within the body of Christ. So, you do get that ‘Grudem flavor’ throughout. But, overall, this is a very solid work as a study Bible. Matter of fact, as I stated previously, I would say it is the best study Bible available today.
Not only that, but when you purchase this Bible, you are given a code in which you can log on to the ESV Study Bible website with the ability to electronically access everything in the study Bible – maps, charts, study notes, articles, etc. So, for me, I leave my paper copy at home and utilise the electronic copy via the internet at the office.
So, if you are a Christian and have about $35 extra following the holidays (that amount will at least get you the hardback edition), I would encourage you to consider investing into a Biblical studies resource such as the ESV Study Bible. I believe it will be a solid and helpful tool for growth in understanding the Scriptures.
Oh, and no, the ESV team did not pay me to write this little blog article.