Writing a post about a Study Bible is not an easy task, especially when there are so many of them on the market, offering a high range of doctrinal trends and topics.
In Spain, the common thing until the 80s was fleeing from annotated Bibles, because it supposed to imitate what the Roman Catholic Church was doing with their Bible publications for years: the notes written by masters were almost more important than Scripture itself.
This thought has already been changed completely, partly because later generations have not known the Roman Catholic background, and partly because the international market is influencing our thinking.
Ligonier Ministries has published through its publishing arm, Reformation Trust, The Reformation Study Bible with the ESV translation. In this case, we will comment the Genuine Leather Burgundy Edition, sent to me by Reformation Trust to be commented.
On writing this post we will move from general to particular features.
At first, you find a beautiful burgundy clothed box giving room to a most beautiful burgundy leather Bible, a very carefully crafted Bible, printed in the USA. (This is the expanded and revised edition of the 2005 RSB). The meticulous presentation with the box makes you feel you have an important work in your hands.
Among the number of particularities of this Bible it is the privilege of being written by 75 distinguished theologians as contributors of OT, NT and theological notes, all of them led by the Reformed theologian R.C. Sproul. This team have written more than 20.000 notes, with approximately 1.1 million commentary words, giving soundness to this Bible publication.
The text layout, is presented in a single-column format and paragraphed division, helping the reader grouping units of thought. This layout makes the text to be read easily, as I have written in a previous post. However, the study notes layout is a three-column one, as a best use of the space.
Moreover, you will find a beautiful tipography, choosing for this edition Proforma typeface, designed by Petr van Blokland in the 80s, being the only typeface nominated for the Rotterdam Design Award. It is a clear and readable font with appropiate size (9.5 points), a fundamental resource in Bible production.
The paper size (6.5”x 9.37”) gives enough room for the type-size, although the inner margins should be wider. It is difficult, but not imposible, to read the 80.000 cross-references in a very adjusted inner margin. The designer has chosen to place the cross references in the inner margin, giving more room in the outer margin for reader’s annotations. In this case, the one-column layoutdoes not permit including the references in the middle of the page, so the most convenient alternative is placing them in the inner margin.
Where on page xxi (Explanation of Features) they refer to Center-Column Cross-Reference System it must say Inner-Column Cross-Reference System. Maybe a lapsus?
Quality paper is acceptable, avoiding ghosting and helping reading. In other cases, when the paper is extremely thin, the reader is able to see or read the back of the sheet or page which is an inconvenient. The selected typeface, elegant and thin, but readable, helps to this matter. In this edition I have found some blur words, but I guess it is only an occasional problem.
You will find three brown ribbons, but they are placed on the OT room, with the inconvenient of a ribbon crossing all the block of sheets if you want to use them on the NT room.
Genuine leather is of an excellent quality, with a fine grain, but perceptible to sight and touch. As you can see, when it is subjected to the yoga proof, its flexibility is note-worthy, even being a 2560 pages volume!
Leaving apart the external design, what is more interesting to the reader is the content. The clarity of the ESV guarantees a pleasant, fresh and familiar reading of God’s Word, even the translation follows the word for word pattern. NKJV will come soon, for those who like this translation.
Something that transmits confidence in this Bible, even I do not follow the Reformed Theology, is the amount of respected theologians and scholars who have been part of the team lead by R.C. Sproul. Even one does not agree 100% with Reformed Theology, there cannot be the slighest doubt comments are rich and inspiring, even in those passages about election, millenium and the doctrine of grace. A remarkable point is the respect they show to others theological positions, showing them in the text notes, but evidently stating their own. This is a plus in every serious treatment of faith issues. If one is not in the position of respecting different approaches to the dogma in a humble attitude and with the disposition of learning from others, he fails in broading his horizons of theological comprehension.
As supplementary helps there are book introductions, specifying Title, Author, Date and occasion; Genre; Literary features; Characteristics and primary themes; Theology of the book; The book in the larger story of the Bible; Christ on the book; History of interpretation and Special issues. It also contains an outline of the book. An specific characteristic is the inclusion of bar articles leading with theological and practical issues along the whole Bible.
This Study Bible also includes at the end 14 Topical Articles, dealing with topics such as Apologetics, The Bible in Church History, The Bible vs. other sacred texts; Canonicity; Covenant Theology; Creeds and Confessions; Hermeneutics; The Inerrancy of Holy Scripture; Interpreting Scripture by Scripture; New Testament Textual Cristicism; Old Testament Textual Criticism; The Preaching and the Reformation; The Reformation; and Worship. It also includes 10 creeds, confessions and Catechisms that connect the Historic Protestant Reformation (from The Apostles’ Creed to the 1689 London Baptist Confession). Evidently, a useful concordance accompanies this Bible, finishing with 19 colorful maps.
The Reformation Study Bible is a unique resource, a rara avis among the enormous offers of study Bibles. Its content and elegance meet to allow the reader enjoy a time of pleasant learning about the Holy Word of God, both delight for the soul and inspiration for your mind. The compromise editor and contributors show for the Word is praise-worthy and allow readers to have confidence in a respectful interpretation and application of the Scriptures to Christian live.
Good news: They are planning to translate this Bible into Spanish for 2017. We wait with expectation.
J M de Rus