Book Review: “Reformation Study Bible”

Posted: July 20, 2020 in Book Reviews
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Since becoming a Christian in high school nearly 50 years ago, reading my Bible has been among the most important things I do daily. I wish I could say that I’ve never missed a day, but that but be woefully untrue. Still, by God’s grace I’ve been able to read the Bible cover to cover over 30 times in the past 40+ years. Each time I finish a reading, I choose a different translation or study Bible or edition I’ve never read before and then embark on the next trek through that new-to-me translation or edition. It is not at all surprising that each time I read it, the Lord teaches me things and reveals Himself to me in ways unique to where I am and what He knows I need at that point in my life.

Yesterday I completed reading through the massive, 2534-page Reformation Study Bible. Of all the study Bibles or other Bibles I have read through the decades, this is by far my favorite. I have loved and benefited from many others that I continue to use when prepping a Bible study class such as the ESV Study Bible, the MacArthur Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, the Archaeology Study Bible, the Gospel Transformation Bible, The Spurgeon Study Bible and more, but for reasons I’ll share below, the Reformation Study Bible is the one I’d choose to have with me if I was stranded on that proverbial desert island if I could only choose one.

The late, great Dr. R. C. Sproul was the general editor of this Bible which was last released in 2015 with an update to its previous, somewhat smaller edition. With Sproul as the editor, you can be assured that the commentary reflected by the contributions of 75 theologians is soundly Reformed in its understanding of the Scriptures and of our faith. As one aligned with that tradition, it was a pleasure devoting about two years to praying my way through the ESV biblical text and studying my way through all the related commentary, theological articles, study aids, notes, confessions of faith, etc. Admittedly, as a Southern Baptist I have to disagree with the editors’ stand on infant baptism, but that one issue aside, I can honestly say I never encountered another topic in its pages with which I disagreed with the explanation. The notes are thoughtful, thorough, and defended from the whole of Scripture.

Each Bible book begins with ample introductory material about such matters as the book’s title, author, date, occasion, genre, literary features, characteristics and primary themes, theology, where that book fits in the larger story of the Bible, how Christ is reflected in that book, its history of interpretation, and any special issues noted. A generous quantity of commentary notes are provided at the bottom of each page with some pages having more commentary than biblical text, although that is not the norm. Major Bible sections such as the Pentateuch, historical books, poetry, wisdom literature, prophets, the Gospels and Acts, and the epistles have additional introductions. I loved reading through the 100+ pages of several creeds, confessions and catechisms. Sprinkled throughout the book are 70 helpful theological notes or articles and the detail notes on particular verses point you to those theological notes as appropriate. I have found many of those notes useful when preparing to speak or teach others on a host of subjects. As you would expect from most Bibles, you’ll also find plenty of cross references inside verses to related passages elsewhere and brief textual footnotes along with helpful maps, tables, a concordance, and other resources.

I have to say that the only real issue I had was with some of the print itself. The cross references in the margins and in the brief footnotes in between the biblical text at the top of the pages and the commentary at the bottom are of such a tiny size that it was difficult for my aging eyes to read them if I had my contact lens in which I need for distance due to being nearsighted. I never had an issue reading the biblical text, commentary, theological notes, etc. with or without my contacts, but when I was settling in for my hour a day of personal study I had to remove my contacts for the smallest print to be readable. Also, be prepared to carry some weight around with you if you intend to make this the Bible you take to church or elsewhere. My copy weighed in at a hefty four pounds and five ounces. It may result in a few strange looks from others on occasion.

There are many excellent study Bibles on the market. I hope you use a number of them regularly in your study of the Word as I do. I especially hope and recommend that you own the Reformation Study Bible for the excellent, thorough, biblically sound study notes in addition to the wonderful English Standard Version (ESV) translation it uses. It will be a source of help and insight worth using the rest of your life.

Check out the brief promotional video below by Dr. Sproul. Several options are available in terms of binding to fit a variety of budgets – all worth the cost many times over.

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