It’s not the Bible I expected…I had visions of a juggernaut along the lines of Crossway’s ESV Study Bible, a massive tome that I could literally use to beat the heathen out of someone. Instead what I got when I opened the box was more like a mini me for the ESV Study Bible. The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible is unlike what I envisioned, but Crossway likes to surprise me and in this case, the Bible they sent is no exception.
Disclaimer: Crossway sent me the hardcover of the Systematic Theology Study Bible free of charge in exchange for an honest review; so let’s do that.
First, some particulars:
About the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible (from Crossway)
Theology should, first and foremost, be rooted in God’s Word. The goal of the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible is to demonstrate how all Christian doctrine arises from the pages of the Bible. Created to help readers understand how Scripture forms the basis for our understanding of God, humanity, sin, salvation, and eternity, this study Bible features over 400 short in-text doctrinal summaries connecting Christian beliefs to specific Bible passages, 25 longer articles explaining important theological topics in greater depth, and introductions to each book of the Bible that highlight the unique ways each book contributes to the whole of Christian theology. Created by an outstanding team of editors and 26 contributors, this resource has been created to help Christians better connect what they believe about God with the very words of Scripture.
- Double-column, paragraph format
- Book intros
- Topical index of sidebars
- 400+ doctrinal summaries explaining core doctrines and connecting them to specific Bible passages
- 25+ longer articles on key theological topics
- Lifetime guarantee on leather and TruTone editions
- Smyth-sewn binding
- Packaging: J-Card (Hardcover); Box (Genuine Leather and TruTone)
- Gregg Allison
- Bruce Ashford
- Gerald Bray
- Bryan Chapell
- Graham Cole
- David Dockery
- John Frame
- Michael Horton
- Kelly Kapic
- Michael Kruger
- Robert Letham
- Donald Macleod
- Chris Morgan
- Stephen Nichols
- J. I. Packer
- Michael Reeves
- Fred Sanders
- Sam Storms
- Scott Swain
- Stephen Wellum
- David Wells
I admit to not knowing some of the names on the contributors list but others (JI Packer, Stephen Nichols, John Frame, Michael Horton, and Greg Allison) read like a who’s who of theologians. Actually, there are two names, major players in the arena of theology, that are glaringly absent and I’m stunned that those names are not on the list of contributors, Drs. Sinclair Ferguson and R.C. Sproul. I suspect that is because of the role they play in the Reformation Study Bible.
The Fly in the Oatmeal
The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible does not include any Dispensational Theologians which means, necessarily, that I will have disagreements with the Eschatology and any Israelology that you may find. However, this does not mean that I would discard it off hand. In fact, I would say that I am in agreement with probably 95% of the supplemental material that you will find here.
An Important Point
“Theology should, first and foremost, be rooted in God’s Word” –the back-cover.
Crossway could not have stated it better; the font of our understanding of who God is stems from His revelation of Himself in the Bible. I understand that, for many, Theology is difficult to handle and, at times, can seem rather dry and boring. Thankfully, that problem does not exist within the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible.
This time around, the introductions bring more to the table with regard to theology including specific points on theology for each book of the Bible. The introductions also cover the author, the original audience, and provide an abbreviated outline for each book of the Bible. I say abbreviated because they are not as detailed as in other study Bibles.
Notes and Articles
In a change from traditional study Bibles, you won’t find verse by verse commentary at the bottom of the page. What you will find are 400 doctrinal footnotes and I, personally find these to be more useful. This is very important because of what Systematic Theology is, the discipline of formulating an orderly, coherent, and rational account of the doctrines of the Christian Faith.
The articles are expanded with larger articles in the back of the Bible. There are 28 articles and they are titled as follows:
- What is Doctrine and Why is it Important?
- How to do Theology: Worldview and Process
- A Brief History of Doctrine
- Theological Traditions Within Christendom
- The Origin and Authority of the Biblical Canon
- Doctrine in the Creed and Catechisms of the Church
- Orthodoxy and Heresy
- Doctrine and Preaching
- Reading the Bible Theologically
- The Christian Life
- The Person of Christ
- The Work of Christ
- The Holy Spirit
- Ordinances and Sacraments
- The Gospel
- The Church
Honestly, the only article I have any kind of problem with is number 28, eschatology. I am a futurist and a dispensationalist so my point of view on this doctrine will be markedly different from the contributors.
Thoughts on the Book
I am impressed. On the other hand, I would really like to see people stop treating Dispensationalists like the fair haired step child. That being said, I think that the Systematic Theology Study Bible will be a benefit to anyone who is not a theologian by trade. There is a real lack of adherence to any form of theology in western evangelicalism and it is my hope that the Systematic Theology Study Bible will help to address that gap.
The paper that has been provided is crisp white and the font is a deep rich black. As is typical from Crossway, we have a sewn binding so that you will get a lifetime of use out of the Bible.
If there were ever a Bible that screamed for a wide margin, this is it. The paper is thick enough that you should not have any bleed through with your pen and so a wide margin would be perfect here.
Would I buy it? Should you buy it?
I would buy it, most likely for gift giving purposes. I have a number of Systematic Theologies on hand including the volumes by John MacArthur, Charles Hodge, John Calvin, Luis Berkhoff, Stanley Horton, and Wayne Grudem so I am well versed in theology. I emphatically recommend this Bible because of the glaring need for coherent theology in the church today.