Ten Reasons Why I Appreciate the ESV Study Bible

I received my ESV Study Bible a few weeks ago in the mail. I have to confess that the press releases raised my expectations pretty high. I mean how good can a study Bible be?

I’m happy to report two weeks in that my expectations have been exceeded.

I understand that no edition of the Bible can make the Bible better than it already is all by itself. I think that’s a point that can be missed and has resulted in a proliferation of niche Bibles (women’s, teens, worship, men’s, green, etc.) that we think somehow improve upon the original. They don’t.

What I appreciate about the ESV Study Bible is that it is helping me meet and love God in his Word. It’s correcting my tendency to read the Bible through my own preconceptions, filters, and biases.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how important it is for all Christians, but especially those who lead corporate worship, to grow in our knowledge of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. The better (i.e., the more accurately) we know God through his Word, the more genuine our worship will be. In fact, the moment we veer from what is true about God, we’re engaging in idolatry. We can’t lead people to worship a God we don’t know very well.

The ESV Study Bible is an excellent tool to help us know God better. Although I’m only working my way through Genesis at this point, I already have ten reasons why I appreciate the work that Justin Taylor, Wayne Grudem, and many others have put into the ESV Study Bible.

1.    It’s based on the English Standard Version, which is one of the finest and most faithful translations available today. While it’s always good to consult various translations for study, the ESV does a great job recognizing variants in translation in the footnotes.
2.    The introductory notes to each book are informative and helpful, and don’t overwhelm you with interesting but non-essential background information.
3.    The notes are extensive and answer questions I actually have about the text, without avoiding difficult passages.
4.    The notes cover material that is not only helpful, but pastoral, aimed at helping me understand God’s Word better and loving God more.
5.    The notes are well laid out. Larger section, shorter, then vs. by vs. I’ve found them easy to follow along with the text.
6.    The treatment of the first few chapters of Genesis is very even-handed and well-researched. The notes aim to give us an appreciation for the interplay of science and the Bible without giving ground on the ultimate authority of Scripture.
7.    The focus is always Gospel-centered. The notes seek to answer the question, “Where does this section of the Bible fit into the larger story of God sending Jesus to redeem a people for his glory?”
8.    The articles in the back of the Bible are almost a book in themselves (I’d love to see Crossway publish these separately), and address many significant issues clearly, briefly, and effectively. They include Biblical Doctrine, Biblical Ethics, Reading the Bible, The Reliability of Bible Manuscripts, The Bible and World Religions, and the History of Salvation in the Old Testament. In addition there are several additional articles between the Old and New Testaments that shed light on the inter-testamental period.
9.    The maps and illustrations actually contain the cities, areas, and details I want to know about, and are placed close to the passages they refer to.
10.    The notes don’t go beyond what the text says. They affirm what is clear, and plainly present different views when a word, phrase, or passage is unclear.

The only negative comment I’d make at this point is that the Bible is so big it’s hard to imagine carrying it around a lot. Unless I also want to use it as part of my exercise program.

But it’s a Study Bible, especially useful for personal devotions. I’m so eager to read through the ESV Study Bible that I’m setting a goal to read through the entire Bible with text notes by the end of 2009. It’s an ambitious goal, at least for me. The Bible and text notes come in at almost 2500 pages. Over 14 months, that’s about six pages a day, without missing a day. Like I said…it’s ambitious. But I’d rather aim high and fall short of my goal than aim low and miss it. I’ve found that I do better when I attempt a Bible reading plan that necessitates God’s grace than one that I can accomplish on my own.

And if I don’t make it by the end of 2009, that’s fine. I’ll keep reading until I finish it. And I’m sure I’ll know God better and love the Savior more when I do.

Oh, and one more thing. If you purchase an ESV Study Bible, Crossway gives you access to the ESV Online Study Bible. Everything in the print version appears in the online version, plus some additional goodies. I guess that makes eleven reasons I appreciate the ESV Study Bible.

If you’re already using a study Bible that you’re benefiting from, great. If not, I want to recommend you get an ESV Study Bible, and even join me in setting a goal to read through it. If you do, let me know. I’ll be posting updates on my own progress along the way.

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33 Responses to Ten Reasons Why I Appreciate the ESV Study Bible

  1. Ron Reffett October 28, 2008 at 12:15 AM #

    Hey Bob!
    Nice post on the ESV Study Bible. I picked one up recently and really do like it a lot. I was currently using the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible and will probably continue using it as well as the ESV…SOR is a lot lighter!
    I agree with you about the notes in the back, those were worth the purchase alone, very insightful and very helpful. I truly have not seen a study Bible with this many footnotes, ever! ‘
    I’ve been plugging the ESV study Bible to our worship team for some time, because I agree with you that it would be a great resource to help us to know the Lord better.
    We’re also enjoying going through Worship Matters as a team, the discussions have been very engaging and it’s definitely been a wonderful tool that the Lord has been using to help us understand better why we do what we do every week, Thank You for that!
    Blessings
    Ron Reffett

  2. Jared Duba October 28, 2008 at 1:04 AM #

    Good stuff, bro! I’m going to be working my way through it as well. I pre-ordered my copy as soon as I found out about it and read the endorsements! I had recently been looking into the ESV and bought a smaller edition to carry around in my pocket at all times, so when I heard about the study bible it was a given that I had to get a copy. (Since I had just decided to go with the ESV and I didn’t have a study bible for it. Although my mom has a copy of the Reformation Bible, which looks pretty good as well.)

  3. Bob Kauflin October 28, 2008 at 6:59 AM #

    Jared and Ron,

    Thanks for your comments. I read through the Reformation Study Bible a couple years ago and have been using it since then. While it’s a great study Bible, overall I’ve found the notes for the ESVSB more balanced, pastoral, and relevant. I think you’ll benefit greatly from it.

    Ron, thanks for your encouraging words about the book. I thank God it’s serving your team.

  4. West Breedlove October 28, 2008 at 8:43 AM #

    Hey Bob,
    Great post brother. I’ve been using the reading plan in the back of the ESVSB. Is that what you’re doing? If you aren’t, let me throw out another reason to appreciate the ESVSB.

    The reading plan has been structured in four categories: Psalms & Wisdom, Pentateuch & History, Chronicles & Prophets, Gospels & Epistles. When I read using the plan, it seems to be structured in such a way that the material you cover in one area is reinforced in another.

    I.e., yesterday’s Psalm was Ps. 87, where in verse 7 it says, “Singers and dancers alike say, ‘All my springs are in you,'” which is kind of confusing. But what made this verse really pop was the fact that the reading plan had Ezekiel 47:1-12 as our Prophets reading just a few days earlier. It is in this section that Ezekiel records his vision of water coming from the temple and turning into a life-giving river. This reading amplified my understanding of the Psalm. And it seems to do this frequently…kind of a cross-fertilization process of Bible study.

    Another reason for appreciation is the brief Hebrew lesson sometimes found in the footnotes. Often, the authors of OT Scriptures write with such nuance that only someone who understands the original language can get the occasional joke or ironic use of a word, which makes the story read much more poetical.

    Thanks Bob for over a decade of Worship Matters!

  5. Chris Land October 28, 2008 at 4:23 PM #

    Bob,

    I do not have one yet but have looked through some samples and as well as one Bible a Christian bookstore called Mardel has open for people to look at. I am praying I will be able to get one soon to use to study for personal growth and ministry use. You are right in saying it is big. I have carried other study Bibles in the past and they are hard to carry especially in backpacks.

  6. Chris October 28, 2008 at 4:47 PM #

    Bob,
    Thank you for your post. I share with you many of the reasons you mentioned for loving the ESVSB. There is one reason you listed that I actually have found to be a disappointment. Reason #6. I think it was even-handed in terms of presenting views, but it ultimately opted for metaphorical views of the days of creation. The interplay of science and the Bible was from a slanted perspective. Rather than looking at science from a biblical point of view, it began with science first, and then evaluated interpretations. I’m not saying we throw the ESVSB out or else we would need a very large bonfire for all those Scofield Bibles too that espoused similar theories. Here is my issue. If we account for long days in order explain fossil records and naturalistic theories, then we are in conflict with Rom. 5:12. By Adam sin entered the world and death by sin. To account for fossils and the like before Adam’s creation means that there would be death before Adam’s sin. How could God create the earth and say it was very good when it was already full of death?
    I was also not happy with the espousal of the localized flood. If the Noahic covenant promised not to kill flesh and destroy the earth, and we take this to be local, then God has already violated His promise. I think better arguments could have been offered that would preserve the authority of God’s Word better, because, ultimately, a day-age theory and a local flood do undermine two key parts of the gospel: the Noahic covenant and the entrance of sin and death into the world by Adam. Just some thoughts for you. I write more fully about this at my blog. I felt the need to comment because I mentioned your sixth point on my site. Thanks for taking the time to consider. BTW, your ministry in hymn writing has been an immense ministry to me.

  7. Bob Kauflin October 28, 2008 at 6:19 PM #

    Chris,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I find an even-handed approach in these quotes:

    “Therefore, it [the interpretation of “day” in Genesis 1] does not require an ordinary-day interpretation nor does it preclude an ordinary-day interpretation.”

    “Even though it is wrong to use Genesis as if it were directly furnishing information in modern scientific form, it is nonetheless crucial to affirm its historical account and its God-centered worldview in order to provide a proper foundation for doing good science.”

    “Like any other part of the Bible, Genesis is limited and selective in the information that it conveys. It does not tell readers everything that they could possibly want to know…Yet the text does not cease to be the word of God simply because it is limited in what it tells the reader; it need not be exhaustive in order to be true.”

    “To the extent that scientists deny that God is the Creator of all things, a fundamental conflict will exist between the foundation and conclusions of such scientific work and the Bible. At the same time, to the extent that the focus of science is on understanding and describing the world that God created, no conflict between the Bible and scientific work needs to exist.”

    “As divine revelation, Genesis provides knowledge that cannot be discovered by human investigation. Were it otherwise, there would be no need for Genesis to be a part of the Bible.”

    I could go on. But I appreciate the fact that the writer allows for variant interpretations without undermining the unique authority of God’s word.

  8. Chris October 28, 2008 at 7:37 PM #

    Bob,
    I do agree that they have tried to be even handed, but that the broadness has led them to give credence to views that actually may undermine authority. I’m still not sure how other positions account for death before Adam’s sin. Nonetheless, I do not want to make a huge deal, just to express a caution. BTW, I removed your name from my article, there really wasn’t any reason to cite you and cast any shadow upon your character, I have no reason but to regard you highly for your ministry and for the fact that you are my dear brother in Christ. I was simply citing a source, not trying to cast dispersion. Please forgive me for overstepping those bounds. God bless and thank you for the interaction.

  9. Dennis October 28, 2008 at 8:15 PM #

    I love this Bible! It has been a delight and I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks.

  10. Bob Kauflin October 28, 2008 at 9:31 PM #

    Chris, thanks for your humble response. I appreciate your concern for the authority of God’s Word. And of course, I’m happy to forgive you, although I didn’t take offense. Thanks for your sensitivity.

  11. Jack Fisher October 29, 2008 at 8:14 AM #

    Having read the ESVSB pre-publication download excerpts, and having had a copy of the ESV since it was first published, I had been looking forward to receiving my copy of the ESVSB. I decided that I would once again read the Bible from cover to cover. I calculated that reading four chapters a day, would take me through the entire 1189 chapters in just under ten months. After receiving my copy of the ESVSB on October 15, I read the introductions, and scanned the articles in the back, and then began at Genesis 1:1. Since then it has been hard to put down. So far, in 14 days, I have read from Genesis 1:1 through Judges 9! …or 220 chapters, including the helpful introductions, maps, charts and footnotes; and I am not a speed-reader. That is just under four times the rate I had anticipated. At that rate, I can read the entire Bible in under three months.

    Once completing my read-through, I will go back and begin various study routines, being then familiar with the many included helps.

    Being a Young-Earth Creationist, I also spent some time reflecting on the commentaries in Genesis, and appreciate your comments above. Thank you.

    May God coninue to bless many through the ESVSB.

    Jack

  12. Bob Kauflin October 29, 2008 at 12:03 PM #

    Jack,

    Do you have a day job? Two weeks and you’re already in Judges! Thanks for your dedication to take in God’s Word.

  13. Jack Fisher October 29, 2008 at 5:35 PM #

    Bob,
    I am retired. Age 75. I am out of bed by 4:30 AM, which is a good quiet time! I have been a sometimes lay pastor (Chaplain?) at retirement homes here in Roswell, NM. Used to live in Wheaton and work in Chicago. Completed Judges today. ;-) Have read through the Bible several times. Now with the ESVSB it is an enhanced overview with the introductions and footnotes. …a nice survey. I am looking forward to completing the read-through, so I can exercise the helps in depth by topic.

    Thank you for this blog. I especially agree with 3. and 4. of your post. Number 8 is a good idea, too.

    Blessings…

  14. Bob Kauflin October 29, 2008 at 5:50 PM #

    Jack,

    That helps. Just trying to head off readers feeling guilty for taking a little more than two weeks to get to Judges…Thanks for your example.

  15. Paulman October 30, 2008 at 10:17 AM #

    Don’t forget, even though the ESV Study Bible is hefty, it gives you full access to the online version! Which is weightless!

    And if you have something like an iPhone, you can access the online study Bible through the web wherever you’re at :)

  16. Thien Nguyen October 30, 2008 at 10:38 AM #

    I really want one, but it’s so expensive. Does anyone know where I can get a cheaper one? Thanks

  17. Jeremy G. October 30, 2008 at 11:13 AM #

    Bob,

    I work for InterVarsity and just recently moved to work at a new campus. Spend a lot of time with college students and have a huge passion for Scripture. Just wanted to let you know that I decided to start reading through the ESV SB as well. Going to shoot for the end of 2009. I was talking to my pastor the other night and he said he wanted to join me in it and we decided to challenge the men’s discipleship group we are part of to join us as well. Just thought I would share that with you. Looking forward to this process over the next year plus enriching and deepening my walk with the Lord.

    Thanks for the post, really enjoyed it. Also thanks for the challenge to join you in reading through the ESV SB.

    Grace & Peace,
    Jeremy

  18. Richard L October 30, 2008 at 3:49 PM #

    Not to start a debate on which one is more helpful, but if I already own the MacArthur NASB study bible, would you still suggest getting the ESV Study Bible? Thank you!

  19. Bob Kauflin October 30, 2008 at 4:48 PM #

    Richard,

    Great question! I think it would definitely be worth your while to get the ESVSB. While I deeply respect John and his insights into God’s Word, I wouldn’t want to limit my commentary on Scripture to one man. The ESVSB has numerous contributors who were chosen because of their expertise in specific books or areas. You can sample the book of Matthew if you want to check it out firsthand.

  20. Bob Kauflin October 31, 2008 at 2:29 PM #

    Thien,

    You can get an ESVSB at Monergism.com for $31.49, plus shipping.

  21. brian November 4, 2008 at 2:25 AM #

    I pre-ordered mine as well. I was pretty excited when it arrived…only to find that it was defective. All of Proverbs had ghosting on the text, as if the pages moved a bit during printing.

    Crossway is replacing it but they sold out of their first printing and they won’t even be able to ship me a replacement until the end of November…oh well.

    I guess the good part is I can get excited about a new Bible twice. :)

    AMDG

  22. Chris Land November 12, 2008 at 12:29 PM #

    Bob,

    Finally got one as a gift from my brother who is pastor and also uses the ESV. Been reading from it the last couple of days and love it. It is the greatest study Bible God has allowed the church to have as a tool for growing in holiness.

    Chris Land

  23. Prudence Chan April 1, 2009 at 5:31 AM #

    Hey thanks! Your sharing is very helpful. I’ve always liked the ESV but the study bible version wasn’t available at the shop I visited so I ended up buying the NKJV Study Bible.

    It’s encouraging that you’re setting a high goal! I think I’ll do that too. Let’s encourage each other to grow in the knowledge of God! :-) Maybe I’ll buy the ESVSB when I’m done reading my NKJV! One can never have too many bibles… :-D I’ll post your review on facebook so my friends can check out the ESVSB. Thanks again!

  24. Bob Lamb December 6, 2011 at 3:53 PM #

    I accepted Christ as Savior in 1964 and have always used a KJV Bible. I have taught Adult Sunday School for over 40 years. I purchased the ESV Study Bible and now use it reguarly when preparing and writing lessons. I think it is a great Bible and extremely helpful. I would reccomend it to everyone. I still teach from the KJV. but I feel the ESV has increased my passion for the Word of God as well as my knowledge. Having this Bible online makes it very easy to lookup subjects when I am typing my lessons on the computer. To me this Bible is a King James Bible that has old English words made easy to understand, and Greek words that were questionably translated corrected.

  25. Bob Lamb December 6, 2011 at 3:57 PM #

    Thank You Crossway

  26. lcrsgvaz January 17, 2018 at 2:41 AM #

    I need 12 point text or higher, ESV, and paper you can’t see through! I can find Giant Print, but only MacArthur’s in a study bible. Suggestions anyone.

    I just gave my gently used Lutheran Study Bible to a young couple because I grew tired of looking for my glasses to read it.

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