ApologeticsStudyBibleI finished reading trough The Apologetics Study Bible earlier this week and want to write a bit about the experience. It has been my practice for nearly four decades to read through a different translation, version or edition of the Bible every 1-3 years. I haven’t kept track, but I’m guessing I’ve done it now somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 times since college. My preference is for study Bibles because of the wealth of notes and supplemental articles provided. There is value in exposing oneself to as many translations and commentaries as possible in a lifelong, systematic way, so this approach works for me. Of course, the thrust of any trek through the Word of God is to hear from the primary Author of the original scriptures and not the notes and commentary on it by others. Still, it doesn’t hurt to hear from both!

In January 2014 I started reading through The Apologetics Study Bible both because (1) it focused on defending the Christian faith with its supplemental reading, and (2) because I had never read completely the translation it uses – the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). It took me a few weeks longer to complete it than planned, spilling over into 2015, but I won’t tell anyone if you won’t. It was definitely a worthwhile endeavor.

Like most study Bibles, there are ample footnotes on nearly every page, worthwhile introductions to the books, helpful reference materials in the back, plus those articles and short inserts scattered throughout the text that address a host of questions, issues, interpretations, and ways in which some religions try to twist the meanings of certain passages to stray from historic, biblical teaching. I found these brief “Twisted Scripture” segments to be among the most helpful features because they specify how particular groups misinterpret certain passages, and they are located right by the verses in question, easily standing out visually on the page.

While I have certainly benefited from study Bibles that are largely the effort of a single person (e.g., The MacArthur Study Bible or The Evidence Bible), I generally prefer editions that contain the thoughts and writings of many contributors as is the case with The Apologetics Study Bible with its many dozens of contributors. Of course, that method lends itself to potential inconsistency in the type and quality of notes provided. This isn’t a major concern, though, as there were only one or two books where I found the notes to be very repetitious and, frankly, frustrating to read after a few chapters.

For example, after completing the Old Testament book of Numbers, I wrote the following note in it:

“The notes in Numbers are very frustrating to read. The writer correctly rejects the idea that it is a composite of various priestly, Yahwist, and Elohist sources. However, instead of addressing that point once in the introduction or in an article about it, he constantly references it in the notes. There is no value in filling notes repeatedly with “some think such and such, but I disagree.” Tell us more about what is true about the text – not what is not true about it.”

Fortunately, such objections were limited to no more than a couple of books, so the objections shouldn’t and wouldn’t keep me from heartily recommending the edition to anyone interested.

At just over 2000 pages, it isn’t an overwhelming size compared to some other study Bibles on the market, so it tends to be a quicker read than, for example, the ESV Study Bible at more than 2,700 pages which is what I read through over 2012-2013.

With this being my first time reading the Holman Christian Standard Bible, I found it an enjoyable, readable, understandable translation that seeks to be true to the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. Like any translation, it sounds a bit odd at times when the wording is very different than what I may have grown up memorizing or hearing frequently, but that is to be expected and is not at all a fault. I consider the HCSB a worthy translation for use, although I drift more toward the English Standard Version (ESV) and New American Standard Bible (NASB) as my go-to translations.

Overall, I can heartily recommend The Apologetics Study Bible as a valuable resource for helping the reader build up a strong, rational defense for the faith. After all, that is what Christian apologetics is all about. It is well worth the time to read every word of it and to keep it handy, especially for its plentiful articles and helpful resources in addition to the biblical text. It may not be the study Bible you choose to be your primary, permanent Bible to carry to church, but it deserves a place within arm’s reach as you explore the meaning of various texts.

What’s next for me? I’ll tackle The Reformation Study Bible the remainder of this year. About a year from now, I should be sharing with you about that experience.

What about you? What version/translation/edition of the Bible are you reading now? Which have you found most helpful?

  1. Walter says:

    Thanks for posting this. I never new about this type of Bible until now so I am definitely going to check in to it. Did you have a physical copy or read it on a digital device? I have a Kindle and like being able to make notes on it especially since my handwriting has deterioriated so!!!!

    • Jeff Ross says:

      I used the physical copy, Walter. I prefer that for my daily reading and underlining and note taking. However I use the Kindle app all the time for versions to have handy on the go.

  2. Patty Bellinger says:

    In the early 1900’s we lived in two Francophone countries. My French study had been in my first year of college in the 1940’s so I was not ready to read or speak much French. What I did was to read a French version alongside an English. Yes, I struggled through the French but the English helped me through it. One way this was very helpful was getting a fresh interpretation or just a new way of saying what the English had said. I should return to that way of reading.

  3. Patty Bellinger says:

    Wow@ What a mistake I made in my comment. It was early 1990’s and not 1900’s when we lived in Francophone countries in Africa.

  4. […] Book Review: “The Apologetics Study Bible” (jeffrossblog.com) […]

  5. Dale Seaton says:

    Thanks for your blog. I’m 67 and have read the NIV and HCS through two times each but without notes.The HCS Apologetics is next. Jeff, what would you say to a KJV Only beliver?

    • Jeff Ross says:

      I have a really hard time understanding the KJV-only crowd, Dale. I choose Bible translation preferences on what I understand to be sound scholarship based on all the manuscripts and information available. I prefer those that lean a little more literal and true to the original languages. I understand the preference for KJV for those raised on it and who prefer familiar verses, words and phrases. Some verses will always naturally come out of my mouth according to my rearing on the KJV. But I don’t understand any “logic” that results in a KJV-only stance. So I’d say to them, “God bless you. The Lord will speak to you through any valid version of His Word that you choose to read and study in search of Him.”

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