What is the Best Study Bible Available? My Crossway ESV Study Bible Review

Photo of a man reading a glowing book -heading image for "What is the Best Study Bible Available?"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.

Example scan of ESV study Bible notesThis 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.

Book Introductions

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.

Scan image of one of the book introductions in the ESV study BibleNot only do these introductions provide very helpful historical information but they also summarize literary and theological themes for each book.

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.

ESV-Ornament-DesignI got the faux leather mahogany ornament design and it’s gorgeous. The leather look, gilded page edges and standard built-in bookmark make it an all around win for design.

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!



8 thoughts on “What is the Best Study Bible Available? My Crossway ESV Study Bible Review”

  1. This is a very good review of this newest development about the bible. Well maybe for me, it’s very new and I am glad you wrote this. We all know that it is hard to read this ancient book from long time ago. And I also feared it has been tampered a lot of times to make it easy to read.

    Even if it was, I still couldn’t have a good grasp of the bible’s historical stories but having these good references about each chapter would really help bible readers understand a good general overview of each chapter.

    Does the ESV version have the 2 testaments together or separated into 2 books?

    • Hey, Raymond! Thanks for commenting.

      The Study edition of the ESV Bible was published in 2008 so while it is new in the perspective of the last century it has been around for nearly a decade.

      Fortunately the scriptures have been well preserved by what I’m sure is divine protection and a good 98-99% of the most common modern translations are accurate. Although there are paraphrases such as the Message and the infamous Word on the Street Bible, they are admitted to paraphrases and do not claim to be inerrant nor divinely inspired.

      You’re definitely right about the references and overviews: they help a LOT with understanding the theme and context of each book and heck, each passage.

      To answer your question I am not aware of an ESV version that splits the new and old testaments into two physical volumes. Then again, I haven’t really looked for an edition like that (small new testament versions might exist for handout purposes). The Study Bible for sure has both testaments in one physical book and the notes in the Bible refer to scripture as a whole. I hope this helps.

  2. All you have shared in your article about reading and understanding is so true, I remember when I first started reading the bible I was so confused.

    I agree a good study bible is a must when starting out studying the bible, if I had not got myself a study bible I would still be so confused about so much of the bible.

    The crossway esv study bible sure is a good looking bible , very beautiful cover and what is inside is even more impressive I am sure.

    • I appreciate you dropping by!

      A good study Bible extremely important. This is especially so for new believers, kids growing into their first adult Bible, and unchurched people like myself who did not grow up going to Sunday school every week.

      I would argue that every believer should have a study Bible, but then I remember all of my brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who are overjoyed simply to have the Holy scriptures translated into their native languages for the first time. Well, that and the few people who grew up around Bible scholars and already know so much about the Bible’s historical backdrops.

      I had one of these engraved for my 11 year old sister whom had never been given a dignified adult Bible before to my knowledge. I don’t think she has much interest in it now but when she does it will be good for her to have such a wonderful study resource for guidance.

      It’s definitely a great Bible inside and out.

  3. Interesting review. I like what this bible has to offer. These are nice options to find in a bible. However, the cost is a bit high for me. The Bible I like to use and I would like to see you do a review of is of comparable quality and also has many illustrations and it has footnotes for each word that may be difficult to understand. Also it is written in modern day English making it very easy to understand. It is the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. One of the best things is, they cost nothing. You can get one either by going to jw dot org, or ask anyone of Jehovah’s Witnesses for one when they come to your door. That’s where I got mine. I must say though that the work you have done on your website is very good and I am glad I have had the opportunity to see it. You have put in some very good information. Thank you.


    • Thank you for your comments and compliments, I appreciate the feedback.

      About the price: it is pretty standard for a quality print study Bible. This book is thick and durable with plenty of color on some pages and I can’t imagine it’s cheap to mass produce them. The price range depends on the level of personalization (cover design style and material) and a few other factors of edition.

      I was unable to find any but an online version of the New World Translation and even then it is not a fully noted verse-by-verse study Bible but a simple translation with footnotes. Not only that but the need, reason, and process behind the New World translation is questionable to say the least. It is a translation born of the Watchtower organization alone and to my knowledge is not used outside of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

      Contrast with the ESV which has gone through a very long and extremely rigorous translation process by scholars from various denominations and spiritual disciplines. It is accepted and used by a variety of well known, respected, and effective Christian leaders. It has the clarity of formal language and simplicity just a level above street English, and the few hiccups and difficult phrases are generally explained in the notes.

      I don’t wish to nitpick or begin a my-translation-is-beter-than-yours battle, but there are several translations accepted by regularly used by orthodoxy for a reason and there are others translations which are typically avoided for a reason. Unfortunately the NWT falls in the latter category.

  4. I couldn’t agree more, I own this exact bible and I love it! The amount of resources are incredible! I checked out more of your site and I like what you are doing, it looks like you are pressing some issues and challenging christian culture. I like it, and keep it up!


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