Posts Tagged ‘ESV Study Bible’

ReformationStudyBible2012It has been my practice for about 40 years to take a different edition or translation of the Bible each 1-2 years and read all of it. I suppose I’ve done so about 30 or more times now, although I haven’t kept track so I can’t say for sure. Most times I read it through within a year’s time. Sometimes I’ll take two years to read it. I recall one that I spent three years reading. It’s a great practice of exposing myself to nearly all of the translations of the Bible available and to the wealth of commentary and notes available in study Bibles that are filled with articles and nearly as many notes from scholars as Bible text itself. As long as one remembers that the primary content is the Bible text itself and the eternal Author behind that text, it never hurts to glean from the insights and wisdom of others who have spent far more years studying particular books of the Bible and periods of history than you or I ever will.

For 2015 my goal was to read through The Reformation Study Bible for the first time. At the time of purchase in late 2014, the latest edition available was a 2012 printing, so that’s what I got. I chose to go with one that uses the English Standard Version (ESV) translation since it is one of my personal favorites. It has over 1950 pages of content, so reading 3-4 Bible chapters a day along with the corresponding study notes and commentary accomplishes the year-long goal on schedule. (OK, I confess I finished it on January 1 and not December 31.)

It did not take long into my 2015 reading before I knew I had finally found a study Bible that I was very much at home with in terms of its theological outlook and commentary – one I was inclined to settle in with for multiple readings over many years. I’ve read several other study Bibles and benefited from each, but this one stood out as… well… outstanding to me. With the general editor being R. C. Sproul – pastor, theologian, author, and founder/chairman of Ligonier Ministries – I already trusted as biblically sound the general editor and looked forward to reading the work of the 50+ additional editors and contributors.

The introduction to The Reformation Study Bible explains why it is so named:

The Reformation Study Bible contains a modern restatement of Reformation truth in its comments and theological notes. Its purpose is to present the light of the Reformation afresh. The Reformed accept the Christian faith as expressed in the ecumenical creeds and believed by Christians everywhere. The distinctive ideas of the Reformed are the result of accepting the Bible as the supreme authority for faith and practice. The words of the Bible are true and its message is powerful. It conveys the infallible promise of God, its Author, that it will not return to Him empty, but will certainly accomplish His intended purpose.”

Since some of my personal study in recent years has been about the Reformation and Reformed theology, this study Bible seemed a perfect match for me at this particular time, and it was.

Let me provide two caveats up front before I discuss more of the specifics of this study Bible, especially as a warning to my fellow Southern Baptists and like-minded folk:

  1. If you can’t handle what the Bible says about election, then you may want to avoid The Reformation Study Bible. Of course, if you claim to be one who loves and cherishes what the Word of God teaches, then you ought to be open to what it says regardless of how much your church or denomination may avoid the topic. It’s a soundly biblical subject and this study Bible isn’t afraid to point that out and remind the reader of it regularly.
  2. You may need to agree to disagree with the study note contributors on the subject of baptism, particularly infant baptism. While they fairly treat the traditional Baptist view of baptism as a believers-only act, you will be exposed to another view within these pages. Being exposed to other views, though, is not a bad thing. Perhaps it will help us understand one another better. With general editor Sproul being a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (the largest conservative Reformed denomination in the United States), one would expect some denominational differences between them and their Baptist (or many other) brethren on the subject.

Now, on to more about this study Bible…

In addition to the Bible text of the ESV, you’ll find the following as listed in the Table of Contents of The Reformation Study Bible:

  • Introduction by R. C. Sproul;
  • List of 50+ contributors from around the world along with their place of employment;
  • An explanation of features (cross-references, footnotes);
  • A preface to the ESV;
  • Nearly 100 brief articles (called theological notes) inserted as appropriate near relevant Bible passages from Genesis to Revelation;
  • 19 in-text maps and a dozen in-text charts also scattered throughout the biblical text from Genesis to Acts;
  • A list of the Old and New Testament books;
  • Old Testament introductions to the Pentateuch, Historical Books, Hebrew Poetry, Wisdom Literature, Prophets, and the Intertestamental Period;
  • New Testament introductions to the Gospels and Acts, and the Epistles;
  • 72-page concordance;
  • Bible reading schedule;
  • Six full-color maps.

Each Bible book contains its own introduction with sections discussing author, date and occasion, interpretive difficulties, characteristics and themes, title, and outline (although not all books will contain all sections). The introductions are fairly brief – usually 2-3 pages.

The text on each page is split into two columns (something that has changed with the 2015 Reformation Study Bible) with a center column for the ESV cross references and footnotes at the bottom of the second column. Study notes are at the bottom of each page except for the theological notes (brief articles) mentioned earlier that are inserted into the main text as needed.

I purchased the brown imitation leather binding and find it attractive with a good feel and very sturdy. After a year of daily handling, it hardly looks used at all from the outside. On the inside, my only complaint is that the pages are so thin that the simple task of underlining with a mechanical pencil would with some regularity start to punch a hole in the page – nothing really noticeable and something I easily stopped each time before doing any damage, but still annoying. It may just be the size and sharpness of the lead I use, but I don’t recall experiencing that with other Bibles I’ve read through in recent years using the same pencil.

One minor content annoyance relates to the ESV footnotes and not the unique writings of this study Bible’s contributors. I’m referring to the repetition of some ESV footnotes in full countless times as you read through books. It seems like there is an unnecessary quantity of notes repeated in full in each chapter of the same book or at least once per book where relevant. That’s an ESV decision, though, and not a decision of the editors of The Reformation Study Bible.

Saving the most important unique quality for last, the content of the introductions and study notes from The Reformation Study Bible contributors are superb. They are informative, helpful, consistent across the books of Old and New Testaments, and a pleasure to read – a great source of knowledge and inspiration. I did not read any Bible book’s notes or supplemental material where I thought there was a noticeable and unwanted difference in the quality of scholarship as I did in 2014 reading through The Apologetics Study Bible. Any reader will learn much about the biblical text by taking the time to read these notes along with the related biblical text. It is a spiritual exercise well worth the time.

I’ve read several study Bibles – ESV Study Bible, MacArthur Study Bible, Apologetics Study Bible, Evidence Bible, and maybe a few I’ve forgotten after too many years – and I can say without reservation that The Reformation Study Bible is at the top of my list of preferred ones. I suspect that is because it came at a time where its theological foundations and mine converged around the Reformed tradition.

For 2016 and beyond I have purchased the newest Reformation Study Bible that was released in 2015. It has about 500 more pages of notes and resources such as the text of numerous historical confessions of faith and more. I look forward to tackling this version over the next 1-2 years. I won’t commit to reading it all in one year because I’m taking a different approach in 2016 of Praying the Bible rather than trying to read it all in a specific time frame, so however long it takes me this time is fine with me.

It’s important for Bible readers to focus on the primary text of scripture and not on what others say about that text. Only one Author is perfect and infallible and He has arranged it so that all who read His word seeking to know Him and His will can understand what He has written through the inspired human authors. It’s also helpful, though, to continually learn new insights that come from the shared research and writings of others who have devoted their lives to such study and scholarship.

If you are looking for a new Bible to read or just a great one to add to your shelf of Bible study resources, I heartily recommend The Reformation Study Bible. Why let it just sit on your shelf, though, for special studies? If you get it, read it all. You’ll be glad you did.

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?

Body Mind SpiritTo start 2013, I want to share with you my goals.  In an attempt to be fairly well-rounded in them, I have made sure to include some in the categories of body, mind and spirit.  I make them public to invite you to hold me accountable.

Goals for my body:

1. Keep my weight at or below 150 pounds.  After reaching my top weight of 167 last March, I decided in June 2012 to get back to 150 where I hovered for many years until the 2011 Thanksgiving-Christmas holidays.  I reached that goal on July 26, 2012 and am glad to say I’ve not had a day since then above 150, including the most recent holiday stretch.  I know many advise you not to weigh yourself daily, but I do it, anyway.  What I weigh each morning determines how many meals I eat that day.  It works for me.

2. Walk/jog/run a total of 10,000 steps per day three days per week.  My company, Humana, supplies pedometers to employees and encourages activity for our health with periodic campaigns, competitions and ongoing ways to earn rewards for healthy behaviors.  A reasonable goal of about five miles per day three days per week helps me do that.  So does having a dog that needs a lot of exercise.

3. Average at least six hours of sleep per night.  I know this doesn’t sound like enough, but I assure you it is more than I have averaged in many years.  Of all that I do to my body, lack of sleep is probably the worst, so I need to do much better in this regard.

Goals for my mind:

1. Read a book every other week.  In a normal year, I read many thousands of pages of information, but it’s mostly online – articles, reports, surveys, studies, blogs, etc.  I don’t read that many books in a typical year.  For 2013, I want to finish one every other week and then write a book review or blog about it in some way.

2. Blog every other day (at least).  Having achieved the every day blog goal for 2012, I’m cutting that in half for 2013, although I’m sure I’ll still have back-to-back days occasionally now that I’m in the habit (such as this week).  2013’s blog posts will be a variety of reflections on life and work like most of 2012’s, plus book reviews and other things that strike my fancy along the way.  The subheading change for the blog reflects this as now it reads “like a blog of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get” (obviously a take-off on the line from the movie Forrest Gump).  I won’t impose the 366-word limit per post this year, but I’ve learned the value of brevity both in forcing me as writer to be clear and in attracting readers, so I promise not to get too long-winded.

3. Continue to follow My 3 Words: Ground, Stretch, Reflect.  This is the framework with which I approached each day in 2012:  ground myself daily in that which is most important and foundational to me, stretch myself to excel and do more than others expect, then take time to reflect on the day to be sure I learn from it.  I’ll capture many of those reflections in the every-other-day posts.  The framework worked so well in 2012 that I see no need to change it for 2013.

4. Double the blog’s readership from 10,000 views in 2012 to 20,000.  While this isn’t entirely up to me, there are things I can do to be more intentional about promoting readership.  This means I’ll have to learn about the subject and do more than just post on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn when I publish a new post.

5. Continue to write hand-written letters to my sons.  It may be only once or twice for the year, but it is important to capture in black and white significant memories and thoughts to pass on to the next generation.  This goal might cross the “mind” and “spirit” categories.

Goals for my spirit:

1. Finish reading the ESV Study Bible and read half of The Apologetics Study Bible.  I’ve read the Bible cover to cover 20+ times in my life (and need to continue until it sinks in this thick skull), but the last several times have been focused on also reading all of the study notes that are part of certain study Bibles.  I’ve read the MacArthur Study Bible and The Evidence Bible in recent years, and about half of the ESV Study Bible, so I want to finish the ESV (English Standard Version) this year and get at least halfway through The Apologetics Study Bible.  Reading about 3-4 chapters per day plus the accompanying notes will do the trick, so I’ll start with five chapters per day to make sure it gets done.  If you’d like a handy half-sheet chart of all the chapters of the Bible to mark off on your own pursuit of reading it through, you’ll find one I created here.

2. Review 100 Bible memory verses weekly.  For the last several years I have worked on remembering the same 100 Bible verses that I chose years ago as my top 100 should I be stranded on some deserted island without a Bible.  You’ll find them here.  (And I’ll keep hoping for that “stranded on a deserted island” thing!)

3. Come to some resolution to an unsettled situation where I worship.  I’ll spare you the details, but tension, dissension and unhappiness don’t exactly lead to spiritual health in any body of believers.  I don’t know what the answer is, but I know the situation can’t continue as is without much damage to many.  I have many beloved friends there, and I only want what is best for all in the end.  I’ll pray for wisdom along the way.

So there you have my goals for 2013 for body, mind and spirit.  Putting them out there for the world to see helps hold me accountable.  I’ll let you know how I do along the way.

What about you?  What do you want to happen in 2013?