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.