My Take on the ESV Study Bible

Earlier today I was at my favorite Christian book store, Berean, and they have an impressive display of the ESV SB.  So I decided to ask the guy in the Bible section about how the ESV SB is selling.  Now what follows  is the employee’s take and mine at the end:

Translation

Before I could ask him, to my surprise, he says that he’s not too fond of the ESV as a translation (I guess he was reading my blog).

ESV SB and Notes

He was rather impress with the amount of notes in the Study Bible.  He said that it was the largest that he had ever seen for a Study Bible.

During our conversation he told me that he’s a moderate Calvinist.  So I told him that the ESV SB would be a good fit then (he wasn’t buying that line).  In fact, he told me he was reading through Dr. Norm Geisler’s Systematic Theologies.

Then I gave him my impression.  First up, I told him that I’m not too fond of the translation either.  In fact, I told him that the translation has an agenda (we didn’t go into details).

Second up, I told him that the notes are decidedly Calvinistic.  He agreed.

Third up, I told him that no women contributed to the notes or the articles in the Study Bible (he already knew that).

So the Study Bible continues the slight against women in ministry as we’ve already noticed in the ESV Bible.

I do not own an ESV Study Bible…

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39 Responses to My Take on the ESV Study Bible

  1. Nathan Stitt says:

    Why does it matter whether or not a woman contributed to this SB?

  2. So I have mine, and now I am not so sure how much use I will get out of it. I mean it’s just a bunch of introductory notes. And most of the blogs that I read including this one won’t really benefit from it much.

    If you are a new Christian it may serve you better, but even then I don’t think that I would recommend it because of its Calvinist position. It has narrowed its audience because of this. This is not to say that it is not good, just not as useful as it could have been.

    I think that the On-Line version will have some really good use. The ability to take notes online correlated to a verse should be very useful. Also the highlighting verse feature, and how the reference are linked is also a great feature. I would have rather paid just for the online version and not have to have the printed copy.

  3. tc robinson says:

    Why does it matter whether or not a woman contributed to this SB?

    Nathan, one of the criticisms of the ESV is it’s bias translations against women.

    Now by including a few women as contributors to the SB, I believe they would have helped to correct that perception. Just my take.

    Robert, even if it reflects Calvinism, they should have reflected other positions on particular verses.

    I don’t think it is a good Study Bible for new Christians. Too overwhelming.

  4. Ben Ting says:

    Agenda? Really?

    But just because there were no female contributors doesn’t mean the committee is biased or has something against women right?

    If those male contributors are faithful husbands, loving their kids, loving Jesus, loving the Church, defending the faith, sharing the gospel – well, I think that should be more important “factors”.

    Just my thought.

  5. tc robinson says:

    Ben, thanks for you input. Are you up on the ESV as a translation? Are you aware of the issues regarding women in ministry and the ESV?

  6. R says:

    tc

    i agree with you. a bit overwhelming for new Christians. and too narrow-focused. also they say it is “catechistic.” meaning they even have a section on how the Bible should be used in a correct worship service. this is bafoonery. ESV SB is way too clique-ish.

    but i love the graphics! darn it.

    anyway. all of this is leading me to think about the New Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible (NKJV) with exec. editor Jack Hayford.

    any thoughts on the New Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible?
    does anybody own one? I would love to hear some insights. I know it is Pentecostal, but is it “balanced” somewhat, so that if a charismatic non-Pentecostal person picked it up they could agree with it?

    And what about the NKJV itself as a translation?

    thanks!

  7. Douglas K. Adu-Boahen says:

    Well as the somewhat satisfied owner of the ESVSB, I too have several concerns about it. Firstly, it seems to be too pointed for a translation-specific Bible. I also own a NLTSB and one thing I like about it is that it is a Bible I can buy for my Mum without her thinking, “My son wants me to be a Calvinist” (I’d never thought I’d say this but…) The ESVSB is too pointed towards Calvinism.

    Secondly, I have never really noticed the bias against women in ministry in the ESV, but then again maybe it is because of my beliefs on that issue.

    Thirdly, on the Spirit Filled Life Bible (which I haven’t got round to giving away to my bin), it is way too Pentecostal to give to someone who isn’t. Further, it is infected by Word-Faith ideas about prosperity, healing and the like – highly imbalanced, plus Oral Roberts contributed. If that doesn’t consign it to my personal scrapheap nothing will

  8. tc robinson says:

    i agree with you. a bit overwhelming for new Christians. and too narrow-focused. also they say it is “catechistic.” meaning they even have a section on how the Bible should be used in a correct worship service. this is bafoonery. ESV SB is way too clique-ish.

    R, I don’t think it was packaged for all Christians, unless they want to convert all to their way of thinking. Sometime I’m so opposed to.

    Douglas, Do you really want me to reveal my theological bent, and why I have so many problems with the ESV?

  9. Brent says:

    For all the complaints people have about the ESV-only people, your post is a pretty condemning blast that sounds like an anti-ESV activist.

    If others are wrong for slandering the motives of the translators of the NLT and TNIV, I think it is just as wrong to assign the motives of “slighting women” and “having an agenda” to the ESV translators.

  10. I don’t own a commentary by a woman. Does that make me have an agenda against women?

    Should they have a quota system? How about minorities?
    Jeff

  11. tc robinson says:

    For all the complaints people have about the ESV-only people, your post is a pretty condemning blast that sounds like an anti-ESV activist.

    If others are wrong for slandering the motives of the translators of the NLT and TNIV, I think it is just as wrong to assign the motives of “slighting women” and “having an agenda” to the ESV translators.

    Brent, I’m not pro-ESV. I’m pro-TNIV. But I’m not anti-ESV. Please read my blog.

    But I have a serious problem with the “slighting of women” as reflected in the ESV and now its SB.

    Would I ever recommend the ESV? Of course I would. But would I recommend it over the TNIV? By no means!

  12. tc robinson says:

    I don’t own a commentary by a woman. Does that make me have an agenda against women?

    Should they have a quota system? How about minorities?

    Jeff, the American church still has a lot of issues to overcome.

  13. Douglas K. Adu-Boahen says:

    If it would contribute to the discussion, feel free, Bro. TC

  14. Richard says:

    Personally I have never been a huge fan of study bibles, give me weighty commentaries any day! Not that they are useless, each to their own. 🙂

  15. tc robinson says:

    Douglas, you get my point.

    Personally I have never been a huge fan of study bibles, give me weighty commentaries any day! Not that they are useless, each to their own.

    Richard, when all is said and done, you may proved to be the wisest among us. 🙂

  16. sinaiticus says:

    TC,

    With great expectation, I finally received my ESVSB in the mail. I eagerly thumbed through the whole thing, taking in all the features and seeing how they treat certain passages. Some impressions:

    1) It is very verbose–almost overkill, certainly too much for the new believer.
    2) It is rather Reformed–kind of a redo of the Reformation SB Ligonier put out 3 years ago. For me, this is a plus: a rigorous, Reformed study Bible (they should just be honest about it!).
    3) In some places it does a good job of suggesting competing, faithful interpretations (e.g., creation, eschatology); however, this is not the case with women’s roles in the family/church. The materials are decidedly, homogenously complementarian (a la Wayne Grudem) without even explaining the other positions. My thoughts are that faithful, evangelical Christians can disagree some on how to apply biblical teachings to the church and family (just look at the Assemblies of God, who allow women leaders in churches!). This is unfortunate evidence of them pushing a particular agenda. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a useful resource!!! I look forward to using it much.

    R,

    You asked for input about the NKJV as a translation. Of course, it will get you where you need to go with the NKJV. However, the syntax of the NKJV is a strange melding of old KJV-isms with some modernization. And–Lord, help me if I touch off a controversy with this–the textual basis for the NKJV NT (the so-called Majority Text) is its fatal flaw, disqualifying it from serious contention as a useful translation.

    In Christ,
    Ray

  17. tc robinson says:

    Sinaiticus, thanks for you honest take on the ESV SB.

    True scholarship gives competing positions a fair day in court. 😉

  18. Richard says:

    Ray, I thought the NKJV was based overwhelmingly on the Textus Receptus not the Majority Text? I haven’t been persuaded to move from my KJV to the NKJV not least because it, as you put it, “is a strange melding of old KJV-isms with some modernization”.

    In terms of the ESV, I read it from the pulpit a while ago and kept stumbling, the sentence structure was not very good, way too many commas!

  19. Douglas K. Adu-Boahen says:

    I get your point loud and clear TC. I think if you already are Reformed/Calvinistic, this Bible will be a Godsend to you. If not, at best, it’ll be one you compare with other Bibles.

  20. Bryan L says:

    Study Bibles? Bleh!!

  21. Kevin Walker says:

    I also believe that the ESV is too pointed toward calvinism. My recommendation would be (1) The NLT Study Bible, or (2) The NIV Study Bible.

    The NLT is a good translation in my view. Yes, it is more of a dynamic equivalent than something along the lines of the ESV – but I believe that Scripture must be translated that way.

    The NIV Study Bible is my “old faithful.” I grew up using it (which is why I’m so fond of it), and the latest updated version is quite good.

    Of course, this comes from a Wesleyan-Pentecostal guy.

  22. tc robinson says:

    I get your point loud and clear TC. I think if you already are Reformed/Calvinistic, this Bible will be a Godsend to you. If not, at best, it’ll be one you compare with other Bibles.

    Douglas, it might just be a good fit for some Christians.

    Study Bibles? Bleh!!

    Yes, Bryan L! It’s another Study Bible! Don’t you just love them? 🙂

    I also believe that the ESV is too pointed toward calvinism. My recommendation would be (1) The NLT Study Bible, or (2) The NIV Study Bible.

    The NLT is a good translation in my view. Yes, it is more of a dynamic equivalent than something along the lines of the ESV – but I believe that Scripture must be translated that way.

    The NIV Study Bible is my “old faithful.” I grew up using it (which is why I’m so fond of it), and the latest updated version is quite good.

    Of course, this comes from a Wesleyan-Pentecostal guy.

    Kevin, the NLT and NIV Study Bibles are not bad. They provide good takes on competing views. Something the ESV SB lacks.

  23. Lowell Roggow says:

    There is a significant change in the NLT Study Bible.
    It is totally Non-Dispensational.
    It used to be that only Reformed Study Bibles were Non-Dispensational. But the NLT Study Bible does not show a bias in the Calvinist/Wesleyan debate over election and salvation.
    The NIV Study Bible still has some Dispensational statements in it. Usually the 2nd option when 2 views are presented. The NIV Study Bible has references to a future millennial kingdom in Old Testament passages.
    The NLT Study Bible has no Millennial references in the Old Testament.
    This is a breakthrough study bible for these and other reasons.
    Yes the ESV/Study Bible leans reformed. J.I. Packer is the Gen. Editor and most people already expect him to give a reformed view.

  24. tc robinson says:

    Lowell, thanks for stopping by. You seem quite knowledgeable on these major Study Bibles.

    I guess there’s a place for all these different Study Bibles.

  25. Nathan Stitt says:

    I find myself wondering what study bible is the most ecumenical. Perhaps study bibles are just like translations, no one should use a single one, but rely on several to reduce bias.

  26. tc robinson says:

    Nathan, I think that is the approach that needs to be taken. Yep, you’re so right.

  27. Kevin Sam says:

    Nathan, definitely ditto. If we’re in search of truth, we should always look at different translations and study bibles…and commentaries too.

    Well, I guess the consensus here about the ESV-SB is that it’s for Calvinist. If so, maybe the title should have been the ESV Calvinist-Reformed Study Bible?

  28. tc robinson says:

    Kevin, yes, I believe a variety is always a great approach.

    Well, look at the backers of the ESV SB and the choice of words used to promote. 😉

  29. The ESV Study Bible makes for a good commentary. Buy the TNIV.

  30. tc robinson says:

    John, yes, another perspective for sure!

  31. I don’t hear too much mention of The New Jerusalem Bible. Of course, it’s a CAtholic bible, we all know that. But it has a great usefulness in this: it helps you to look at your own version in a new perspective and gives feedback to make you think. I have found that some of it’s renderings of Scripture are enlightening to say the least. It’s always good to know what other versions are saying so that we can formulate our own personal inferences. The main thing is to be faithful to the text. You all know that. We always go back to the text.

    I enjoy the fact that all of you are serious about the Bible. It’s encouraging to me and very refreshing!

  32. tc robinson says:

    John, some of the guys, from time to time, consult the NJB. I’ve never really consulted it. Maybe I should. 😉

  33. I’m reading this great tome by Mark Strom entitled “The Symphony of Scripture.” I read it once and I’m going through it again. He develops a “whole bible” biblical theology which shows therecurring themes as the bible story unfolds and develops. I wish I had read this book 2o years ago. Also, I’m reading from the internet on the Second Exodus theme. Who says the bible is boring? I am rejoicing!

  34. tc robinson says:

    John, What does Strom say is at the heart of biblical theology?

  35. Creation, Covenant, and Kingship are repeated themes from Genesis on until the end of Revelation. It would take a whole book to show how these recurring themes run through the bible and develop until man is restored to his original estate and the cration is also renewed. Read Isaiah 40-55 and see how these themes, along with the Second Exodus theme, point to how the Book of Revelation ends…God’s people, in God’s place (Eden restored), under God’s rule. Strom’s excellent volume explains all this. Gramesworthy’s Kingdom Trilogy follows a similar track, but Strom’s tome makes for delightful, useful, and interesting reading. When you get this big picture of the bible and grasp larger segments of text, you begin to see what God has been working all through history. We are part of the story as God’s people. What glory awaits us !!!

  36. If you want to read large segments of Scripture, try using the NLT. It’s easier to read and comprehend and you will see more context. I carry a small TNIV with me and read it everywhere I get a moment free. I’m not saying we mustn’t get into details of exegesis, but w need to get the big picture and watch for three things–Creation, coenant, and kingship. you will see how these themes are wherever you are in your reading and they progress through to the end of the bible. Later I’ll explain better if anyone care to hear more. This is helping me immensely. The whole Bible fits together. May God open His Word to us even more!

  37. In the meantime I’ll work on proofreading my posts, LOL.

  38. How sweet is the night! I am alone with God and His word. How can I sleep? This is the time I treasure.

  39. tc robinson says:

    John, thanks for obliging. Yes, I too see the themes of creation, covenant, and kingship. But these days I’m focusing on kingship.

    But where does the priestly motif fit in?

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