Chances are if you’ve read even a little bit of the Bible then you’ve realized we often need help understanding it.
Not only that, but understanding the history, culture, and context behind each book of the Bible sets a backdrop that helps us to chew on scripture without indigestion.
On my own journey for wisdom as a fledgling Bible scholar I often had trouble picking up key points in scripture that are easy to miss if one isn’t learned on the greater, big-picture framework of the Bible as a whole.
Nevermind trying to be a Bible scholar: even daily Bible reading for an experienced believer can present difficult challenges if we are not properly equipped with the teaching tools and discernment skills we need.
So maybe you’ve been looking for a translation or study Bible that works well for you and helps you to see this big picture. But then there is a question of which translation to use and, well, what is the best study Bible available? Hopefully my Crossway ESV Study Bible review can help to answer that question.
What’s So Great About the Crossway ESV Study Bible?
In my walk with the Lord I have sought meaning in life, truth, and freedom, and God has guided me well in finding various means of interpreting and studying His word so that I might better know Him. The ESV study Bible is one of those tools, and it’s my favorite Bible as well.
When I was looking for a quick and handy reference on any given verse I needed some detail on, I didn’t want to be flipping back and forth between two giant books.
This ousted my initial idea for a full commentary and instead helped me decide that a study Bible was the way to go. That way I had something quick yet scholarly that would work for both casual reading and deep study of scripture.
This study Bible gives you background, context, cross-references, cultural/historical points, and quick theological notes all in a convenient split-reading view with the scriptures taking up the top of the page and the note underneath.
As a side note, I thought it was neat that in the introduction of the Bible this is noted as a representation of the fact that the notes themselves are not scripture, and that the scriptures themselves are far above the notes in authority and divinity.
Notice in the scan above how the notes are at least half of each page. Most of the pages are like this, giving verse-by-verse details for better understanding. Notice the map which shows the geographical areas surrounding Jesus’ earthly life: these helpful illustrations are regular occurrences in the note section that often help to bring greater overall understanding to scripture as a whole.
But the “study” part of this Bible is not merely in the notes. There are a variety of other features I love about the ESV study Bible which I outline below.
Front Sections: Translation Information, Preface, etc.
First off, it is useful for a lot of people to have room for notes in the front and back of their Bibles. In this aspect you won’t be disappointed: this study Bible contains several blank pages for dedications, introduction letters, or what have you. I should note there is not a family history section for listing births, deaths, and marriages like in some Bibles. There is not a presentation page (to, from) either.
At the front of the big book we see of course the table of contents and all that standard stuff. Most Bibles contain a preface and notes on translation, but the Crossway ESV study Bible is unique in its detail of worldview, doctrinal perspective, and list of scholarly contributors. They hold nothing back!
Perhaps the most unique and interesting part of the front is the Bible overview: a section that gives a real bird’s eye perspective of the Bible as a whole. It also ties in the inevitably married theme of salvation and explains the history of this concept.
One of my favorite features of the ESV study Bible is the introduction pages in place prior to each book of the Bible. Each introduction includes extensive notes on the author or orator (whether known or speculated) and details both biographical information on them as well as historical and cultural context of the writing.
The subsection headings can differ depending on book but include notes such as “purpose, occasion, and background,” “relevance for Christians today,” “literary features,” and a full summary of the book.
That’s still not all; these introduction sections also include easy to understand maps and charts that help to explain timelines, expeditions & conquests, key themes, and much more from book to book. Visual aids like this really help to bring understanding, especially in areas of the Bible that seem dry and mundane.
Back Sections: A Library at Your Fingertips
Glossary readers and index users will find the back of this particular study Bible to be a real worthy resource. There are references on God’s plan of salvation, Biblical ethics, interpretation, scripture canon, and much more.
One of the sections I find delightful are explanations of the different ways to read the Bible whether you are studying it from a theological perspective, reading it it as literature, extracting from it to build sermons and devotionals, or to commune with God.
Another is a quick reference on varying religious ideologies. There are comparisons to other major world religions such as Judaism and Islam and also explanations of various Christian branches (ei Roman Catholicism, eastern orthodoxy, and evangelical Protestantism.
I should note there is even a concordance in this study Bible though it is understandably not very detailed or comprehensive (they were running out of room!) The designers acknowledge the concordance is limited and note that they attempted to include the most common and useful words.
See Related Article: 7 Myths About the Bible
Physical Look & Feel
Although this is often the first thing to be described in a review like this, I think it’s the least important aspect to consider when shopping for a Bible. Nevertheless, the Bible in question is of course a high quality product and should last a lifetime.
Note that there are several different styles and sizes of this Bible so this aspect of my review could be variable. But rest assured that CrossWay tends to be consistent with their product quality regardless of how the style may differ.
Plus it’s not one of those stiff Bibles that tries to close if you’re not right in the middle of it – it’s flexible and soft but also durable.
As far as the size: this is not a pocket Bible. Depending on which version you get it’s not as big as it could be (there is a TON packed into this thing) but it’s not small either.
I’d say it’s slightly above your average Bible size, so it’s not much more to carry than usual. It is perfectly suited to leave at home, though, and use more as a reference if you prefer a more travel savvy Bible for transport.
And on And on
There is so much more in this Bible. It’s dotted with full-color illustrations of important artifacts and structures. It summarizes the 10,000 foot basics of the original languages. It tackles archaeology and how it relates to both the old and new testaments. It discusses and educates on the historical poetry in the Bible.
Oh, and you get a free digital copy of the Crossway ESV study Bible when you buy a hard copy. Whether you use it for ease of access, sharing with family, or give it away is up to you.
That’s becoming the norm with all media today and Crossway is keeping up with the technology. Oh, did I mention the plethora of online resources you can find on the website? Just check them out now!
Honestly there is so much packed into this study Bible I probably missed or forgot some of it. Whether you are a new believer or an experienced Bible scholar I think it is a must-have resource!
If you ever wondered what the best study Bible available is, I hope I answered your question. Overall I’d recommend the Crossway ESV study Bible to just about anyone. It’s a solid translation with solid notes and tons of resources inside. I feel like I’ve already harped on this Bible enough, so now I encourage you to check it out!
What Bible translation do you read? Which study Bible do you use?
Let me know in the comments below!