The ESV Study Bible

October 15, 2008

Tim Challies is a well known Christian blogger, Discerning Reader reviewer, and one of the top 500 reviewers on Amazon.com. His review of the ESV Study Bible is as enthusiastic as I anticipated. He notes that this Study Bible is around 700 pages longer than most of the other Study Bibles available today! He is impressed with the overall quality of the Bible; noting that it is made to be durable, uses color beautifully (full color illustrations and maps throughout, etc), and was produced by a team of scholars as good as any out there. In conclusion he commented:            

  

“I think the ESV Study Bible is an incredible resource. A long list of endorsers have expressed their excitement for its theological faithfulness, its accessibility, its insight, its scholarship, its practicality and its sheer excellence. I would simply append my name to this list. I agree wholeheartedly with C.J. Mahaney who writes, “I can’t imagine a greater gift to the body of Christ than the ESV Study Bible. It is a potent combination indeed: the reliability and readability of the ESV translation, supplemented by the best of modern and faithful scholarship, packaged in an accessible and attractive format. A Christian could make no wiser investment for himself, a pastor could recommend no better resource for his congregation.” This is a powerful resource and one that can aid any reader of Scripture. It is one I recommend wholeheartedly.”                             

 

To read his full review (including a helpful section on how to rightly use a Study Bible), click here.          

I’ve included what I think is the most helpful section of his review, on the theology of this Study Bible (including some helpful comparing and contrasting with other Study Bibles), below: 

   

Controversial Theology

One concern people are likely to have when considering a new study Bible concerns the theological perspective offered in the notes. Does this particular study Bible take a Reformed or Arminian position on salvation? A complementarian or egalitarian perspective on gender roles? An amillennial or premillennial position on the end times? I looked through many of the notes seeking what this Bible says on some of the more common controversies: end times, spiritual gifts and soteriology. I found this an interesting comparison with the Reformation Study Bible. It seems to me that the Reformation Study Bible came from a much more narrowly-defined theological position; it was Reformed, it was cessationist, it was amillennial. The ESV Study Bible, on the other hand, offers a wider or less-defined perspective. Where the doctrine is clear and undisputed among Evangelicals, so too are the notes. But where doctrines are controversial and within the area of Christian freedom or disputable matters, the notes tend not to take a firm position, even when the author or editor is firmly in one camp or the other. Whether this is positive or negative may well depend on the individual reader.

To satisfy my curiosity, I opened my NIV Study Bible, Reformation Study Bible, MacArthur Study Bible and ESV Study Bible and compared their notes on several areas of controversial theology—end times, predestination and spiritual gifts. None of these Bibles offered notes that were unbiblical so I was left looking for the differences in perspective. In general I found that the MacArthur Study Bible offered the most defined position. This makes good sense as it represents the position of a single individual. This was followed by the Reformation Study Bible which offers the position of many individuals but each of them drawn from a very consistent theological position. The ESV Study Bible came next, offering a charitable but open view on most of these issues. The NIV Study Bible seemed almost to shy away from some of the issues. So while it is clear that the ESV Study Bible is not distinctly Reformed in its position, neither is it Arminian. It is not cessationist or continuationist and is neither amillennial nor premillennial. In fact, it seems as if it emulates the parent who tells one of his children to cut the last piece of cake in half and the other to choose the first piece. In many cases a person from one perspective wrote the notes while a person from the other perspective screened them. This ensures the notes maintain both charity and some degree of objectivity in those areas of dispute.

Having looked at the areas of dispute, I would not hesitate to recommend the ESV Study Bible to either new or mature Christians. The matters at the heart of the faith are described and defended while the matters of lesser importance are presented charitably and non-dogmatically.       

                              

To read Tim Challies’ full review, click here.

                

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