The Reformation Study Bible (ESV) by Reformation Trust (2,534 pages, 2015)
Ligonier Ministries (and the teaching ministry of R.C. Sproul) have had a profound influence on a generation of Reformed believers. It is entirely possible, however, that among its greatest legacies will be the production of the Reformation Study Bible (RSB). The first edition of the RSB was in 2005. Incidentally, my parents bought me a copy when it first came out, and the original RSB has been my daily reader for ten years now. Overall, I loved it. But as the years rolled by I noticed several features that seemed missing. The lack of maps in the back and the curious omission of any Reformed creeds or confessions (why would something called the Reformation Study Bible not have the doctrinal statements of the Reformation included?) were just two examples that come to mind. In 2015, however, Reformation Trust released a completely re-hauled and revised edition of the RSB. Since the original RSB has been on the market so long, I’ll simply focus my review on the changes made in the 2015 edition.
And believe me, the new edition brings plenty of changes. They’ve added almost 600 pages of content (including expanded introductions to each book which point out the place of each book in the history of redemption), 16 pages of high-quality color maps, new topical and theological articles, a yearly reading plan, and 10 ecumenical and Reformed creeds, confessions, and catechisms. In addition to the expanded content, the new RSB has significantly changed it’s form. In place of the familiar double-columns (with matching double-column study notes) the new edition has gone to a single-column format with three columns for the study notes. The typeface is beautiful, the layout is packed with resources, and the content is outstanding. Bottom line: this is a very good study Bible.
But it’s not perfect. As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” and all the wonderful additions come with a price as well. The added commentary and resources means that this already large Bible (the first RSB was almost 2,000 pages) is now positively massive. While well suited to the study it would be difficult to carry this Bible around to worship or Bible studies. In addition, in an (unsuccessful) effort to keep the size under control, the publishers seem to have gone with a thin paper that has a good bit of ghosting. Especially when one is on the last page of a book of the Bible you can see a lot of bleed-through. For whatever reason, the print can also sometimes be hard to read and the placement of the cross-references on the inside of the page makes them very hard to read.
Still, in most ways, this is the study Bible I’ve always dreamed of. The layout is attractive, the notes are sound, and it comes packed with a boatload of resources. If you’re in the market for a study Bible (and if you don’t have one, you should be in the market) this is the one to get. It’s not perfect, but it does some very important things well.
I would like to thank the good folks over at Reformation Trust for providing me with a free review copy of this book. I was not obligated to provide a positive review.