Saturday, October 18, 2008

ESV Study Bible | First Impressions

After my initial reaction of "WOW," I thought of more substantial things to say about the new ESV Study Bible. I've been a fan of well-planned study Bibles for nearly thirty years, so I've been anticipating this one all year long. Since its arrival Thursday evening I've been getting acquainted with my new friend.

The first thing I noticed about this new study Bible, obviously, is its size. It's big, but not bloated. In addition to copious explanatory footnotes the ESV Study Bible provides meaty introductions to books and short summaries of sections within individual chapters in the NT to help the reader grasp the flow of thought. Some of these summaries suggest application. Charts, maps, and illustrations adorn many sections of the footnotes as visual aids. A lengthy section on "Articles and Resources" appears in the back before the concordance and maps at the end.

One of the articles, "Biblical Ethics: An Overview," seems geared toward arming the Bible student with the knowledge necessary for serving God in today's postmodern age. I use the word postmodern because this article addresses many of the latest challenges to evangelical Christianity, which target the believer's basis for faith and practice—biblical authority. For instance, in dealing with the topic of abortion the ESV Study Bible first presents scriptural support for protecting the unborn, and then concludes:

A strong argument can in fact be made for this even apart from biblical revelation, for the only differences between babies in utero and babies that are born are: (1) their location; (2) their size; (3) their level of dependence; and (4) their level of development—but these are not morally relevant factors that would allow death for one set of babies (the preborn) and life for the other (those who have been born). (p. 2539)

The feature that the ESVSB contributors emphasize the most is the Word of God itself. They tell us that the “best way to use a study Bible … is always to begin and end with the words of the Bible” (p. 9). Read and meditate on the Scriptures, use the study helps to aid our understanding, and then “return again to the Bible itself, reading it with a new and deeper understanding, asking God to speak through his Word to the situation of our life and to draw us near to himself” (p. 9). May the Lord see fit to use this rich resource in bringing honor to Himself and in “helping people to come to a deeper understanding of the Bible, of the gospel, and of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior” (p. 12).