Bible Review: ESV Literary Study Bible

Ryken, Leland, Philip Graham Ryken, eds. The Literary Study Bible: ESV. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2007. 1913 pp. $49.99. Available from Westminster Books

Yes, this is a “Johnny-come-lately” review of the ESV Literary Study Bible (ESV-LSB). However, we here at Said wanted to do a review for our readers even though Said Alumni writers iMonk and McCoy have written their own reviews both of which are worth checking out.  For what it is worth, here is my overview of the ESV-LSB.

Before Each Book

At the beginning of each book of the Bible there are 1-3 pages worth of “study information” which is quite impressive when you get to one chapter books like 2 and 3 John and the Minor Prophets. They break down the introductory statements into the following sections:

  • The Book at a Glance: Offers the number of chapters and verses per book as well as a (very) brief synopsis of the individual book as well as how it fits into the canon as a whole.
  • Genres: helps the reader to understand how the book should be read. Poetry is not read like history and prophecy is not read like narratives. This section also introduces the reader as to how the particular book was composed which helps quite a bit in understanding the historical context and authorial intent.
  • Additional Info: There are other bulleted items at the beginning of each book that include information such as the cast of characters, the story line, the time frame of what took place, unifying elements and many different other tidbits of information that you might not think about when approaching a text of Scripture.
  • Book Outline: This includes a breakdown of the passages in order as found in the book as well as the content of each individual passage. The theme element shows how various passages are unified. Perhaps the best way to describe the breakdown is to use the funnel analogy. The wide opening of the funnel is the passage (chapter and verse) with the content flowing down into the more narrow passage of the theme. Finally, the location of where the events took place is given.
  • Inferred Literary Intentions: This section offers to the reader what the particular book tries to achieve regarding a literary purpose.
  • Theological Themes: breaks down what theological themes to look for while reading the book. Themes like the sovereignty of God, God’s revelation of Himself, Covenants, Judgment and Salvation are made explicit in this section.
  • The Master Story: This section pays particular attention to how a particular book fits into the whole story of the Scriptures. Here, the editors show how a book looks forward to or backward upon Christ. This is my personal favorite sub-section of this part of the LSB.

Within the Text

The text itself is attractively formatted and very clean to read.

  • Section Head Notes: Each literary section has notes offset from the rest of the text before you begin reading the passage. This important feature enables you to best understand how to read what you are reading. It is kind of like a refresher from the Genres section that is before each book.
  • Single Column: Unlike most Bibles, the ESV-LSB is formatted to a single-column with 8.5 size font. This makes for easier reading of the text. With the shading of the study notes and the single-column formatting, one can quickly find a text and the preceding note on the particular genre being read.
  • Footnotes: The only footnotes found within the text are the translation footnotes used by the translators of the ESV.
  • Margins: The margins where one can write are larger than a “normal” Bible. As you read each section with the genre at the forefront of your mind, you are quite likely to take many notes as you begin to read passages differently in light of your newfound knowledge of reading according to the genre.

Post Script

Just like most Bibles, there is a table of Weights and Measures. However, there are two additional features not found in other Bibles (sort of).

  • Glossary: There is an 18-page glossary of literary terms and genres. The editors anticipated many questions when they put together the LSB. One of those questions might be, “What exactly is an aphorism?” Or, “What in the world is a paraenesis?” The glossary section explains all of these terms and then some. The glossary will be referenced over and over as one reads through the LSB.
  • Bible Reading Plan: Ok, this is not new to most Bibles. However, this particular reading schedule is divided according to the passage divisions in the LSB. It is designed so that the Bible may be read once in a year reading a section from Psalms and Wisdom Literature, Pentateuch and History of Israel, Chronicles and Prophets and the Gospels and Epistles each day.

Conclusion

The ESV-LSB would be a nice addition to anyone’s library. For those who make it a point to read the Bible in a year, it would add a certain twist not found in other Bibles given all of the extra information about the style of what is being read. I would highly recommend it for any seminary or Bible School student and even more so for anyone in the ministry.  The formatting of the text along with the literary study notes makes this a unique study Bible.  In other words, it will not replace your other study Bible.  Rather, it will greatly supplement your Bible study.

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