5 Best Reasons to Use an ESV Study Bible

Contributing Writer
5 Best Reasons to Use an ESV Study Bible

If you want to deepen your knowledge of the Bible, then using a study Bible is a great tool to use. If you don’t own a study Bible, then I would strongly encourage you to get one. There are a variety of study Bibles available on the market that you can choose from, but one you should add to your consideration is the ESV Study Bible.

Study Bibles are associated with a specific translation, so you can find an NIV Study Bible, KJV Study Bible, NLT Study Bible, and many more. Your consideration for a study Bible must be the quality of the translation and the quality of the study notes that come with it. For that reason, I would give the ESV Study Bible high marks on both.  

What Is the History of the ESV?

Crossway publishes the English Standard Version Bible (ESV), and it is essentially a modern literal or word-for-word translation of Scripture. Over 100 leading scholars and pastors collaborated to create and first publish the ESV in 2001. One goal of the ESV translation was to stay as close to the original text of the Scriptures, but to do so in a manner that is easier to read by incorporating elements of more modern English. Here is how they stated this on their website:

“The ESV is an ‘essentially literal’ translation that seeks as far as possible to reproduce the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on ‘word-for-word’ correspondence, at the same time taking full account of differences in grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and exact force of the original.” 

You can feel confident the ESV is a solid, reliable translation of Scripture. The ESV, a relatively new, 21st century translation, gained quick acceptance by many church leaders and is now widely used across many denominations. This is helpful because this reliable translation sets the foundation for the ESV Study Bible, which was introduced by Crossway in 2008.

What Are Some Components of the ESV Study Bible, and How Do You Use Them?

The purpose of any study Bible is to take you deeper into the Scriptures so you can broaden your knowledge and understanding of Scripture. The ESV Study Bible checks this box and fulfills that objective. Here is how Crossway describes the creation of the ESV Study Bible:

“Created by a diverse team of 95 leading Bible scholars and teachers — from 9 countries, nearly 20 denominations, and 50 seminaries, colleges, and universities — the ESV Study Bible features a wide array of study tools, making it a valuable resource for serious readers, students, and teachers of God’s Word.”

Here are some of the key features that are found in the ESV Study Bible. I don’t want to give the impression that the ESV Study Bible is the only study Bible that has these features, because they are not. However, the quality of this study Bible reflects the team of people who helped create it.

1. Book Introductions

Each book of the Bible in the ESV Study Bible begins with an introduction to the book. This introduction provides background on the author and includes charts and timelines. These introductions set the tone of the book from a thematic and theological perspective. However, it is also helpful to set up the book from a historical perspective as well. Sometimes we forget that real people who played a role in history wrote these books. The introductions allow us to see that place in history, understanding what was going on when God inspired them to write.    

2. Commentary

You will also notice each chapter is filled with commentary. According to Crossway, the ESV Study Bible has “2 million words of Bible text, insightful explanations, teaching, and reference material.” This is extremely helpful as it allows you to dive deeper into the meaning of the text all in one place. As a Bible student, it is common to have different commentaries to refer to. If you don’t have the access or resources to purchase different commentaries, then a study Bible like this can give you a solid background on the various passages you are reading.

3. Concordance

A concordance is a useful tool that helps you reference specific words in the Bible and where they are used. For example, you may want to know where the word faith appears throughout the Bible. A concordance will list the word and give you the Scriptural reference where you can find that word. Just note that concordances that usually come with study Bibles are not exhaustive. According to wordcounter.io, the ESV Bible has 757,439 words, which makes it challenging to attach an exhaustive concordance to it – especially with all the other features. However, if you are looking for an exhaustive concordance as a separate item, you can get one for the ESV.

4. Maps and Illustrations

The ESV Study Bible provides 240 full-color maps and illustrations. These maps are useful to give you more understanding of where people of the Bible lived and what they experienced. For example, Abraham’s journey to Canaan began in Ur of the Chaldeans (modern day Iraq). Along the way, he stopped or settled in 17 locations. If you were to add up all his travels from the time he left Ur, he walked over 1500 miles. Remember, this involved moving livestock and servants, so this was not a minor feat. As a point of reference, walking 1500 miles is like walking from New York City to Austin, TX. Imagine doing that while herding livestock. 

Bible maps and illustrations like these add more color (no pun intended) to the lives of the people you read about in Scripture. Again, it allows you to see Scripture from a historical perspective, giving insight into the people, places, and cultures where the activities of the Bible occurred. These maps and illustrations bring validity to Scripture from a historical and spiritual aspect. 

5. Cross-References

Another highly useful feature of the ESV Study Bible is the cross-references that help you tie together various points of Scripture. It confirms other places you can find a similar teaching. For example, let’s consider Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The ESV Study Bible provides twelve cross-reference Scriptures that speak to God creating the heavens and the earth. Here are a few of them:

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6).

“For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other’” (Isaiah 45:18).

“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them” (Acts 14:15).

Cross references can be extremely helpful, especially when you are dealing with more challenging parts of Scripture. One rule of Scripture interpretation is that you allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Sometimes finding other Scriptures that are tied to the one you are looking at can confirm your understanding of the teaching. This is where having a cross reference can be of tremendous value.

The ESV is an extremely well-done modern translation of Scripture and so is the ESV Study Bible. Some people like the modern translations because they are easier to read and understand. If that is you, then you will probably enjoy the ESV. And if you use that translation, then getting the ESV Study Bible would be a great accompaniment.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Tim Wildsmith

Clarence Haynes 1200x1200Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com