Tag: Bible as literature

Literary Study Bible Review

Literary Study Bible Review

 

Of all the ways to study the Bible, considering it as literature is probably the most overlooked. Crossway has answered that for a second time by re-releasing the ESV Literary Study Bible. It comes back to us in a slightly smaller format but maintaining all of the study tools from the original version.

(Note: Crossway provided a copy of the ESV Literary Study Bible in hardcover free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review-my opinions are my own.

 

Click Here fpr Photos

 

From Crossway:

In order to understand the content of the Bible, readers first need to understand how the content is expressed. The literary forms and features of the Bible are a crucial part of understanding the Bible’s message—both for its original audience and for readers today. Compared to conventional study Bibles that answer the what of a passage, the ESV Literary Study Bible guides readers through the Bible text, showing how to read the passage. Combining over 1,200 insightful notes with the complete ESV Bible text, this volume highlights literary features such as genre, images, plot, setting, stylistic and rhetorical techniques, and artistry so readers can more richly understand the unity, flow, and profound depth of the biblical text. First published in 2007, the ESV Literary Study Bible has been refreshed with an all-new typesetting while retaining all the same content that helps readers discover and teach the message of the Bible embodied in its literary forms and features.

 

Reader Friendly Format

The Literary Study Bible is laid out in a single column paragraph format. The layout very much resembles a novel; it is very close to the ESV Reader’s Bible but different enough to classify it differently.

 

The literary study Bible has an 8.5-point font. The updated edition is quite a bit darker than in the original, which makes it more readable. Both editions are black letter texts, a preference of mine as red letters can be quite distracting. One change that Crossway made I do not understand-they took away the wide margins.

 

Each book gets an introduction outlining the book at a glance, literary genres covered by the book, theological themes, literary inferences etc. Interspersed among the text, you will find study notes on items of literary note, around 1200 in all. These notes appear to be adaptations of the materials from Ryken’s Bible Handbook, which would make sense considering that Leland and Phillip Graham Ryken are the editors of the literary study Bible.

 

Let’s break down the format:

  1. Format.The ESV text is single-column, black text set in 8.5-point Veritasfont. The Veritas Font Family is quite a bit more readable than the Lexington Crossway normally uses.
  2. Introductions and overviews. Each book of Scripture receives a detailed introduction and content overviews. The overall literary genres and styles are summarized at the beginning. This section is where we are introduced to the particular literary contexts that are addressed in each book.
  3. Subsection prenotes.Before each subsection of Scripture (normally one chapter in OT and every half chapter in NT), the editors provide important literary notes and an overall snapshot of the upcoming content. These are like prenotes, compared to the footnotes common in study Bibles. These prenotes peak interest and drive the reader into the text. “This literary Bible is a guide to the Bible that pushes the reader into the text instead of providing mere summaries of the content that readily become substitutes for reading the Bible” (xvii). These chapter notes reinforce the literary styles mentioned in the book introductions, provide overviews of upcoming Scripture content, and function well in helping the reader chomp through large sections of Scripture in single settings.
  4. New reading plan. The daily readings include one section from each of the four categories: Psalms and Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch and the History of Israel; Chronicles and Prophets; and Gospels and Epistles. But four important books – the Psalms, Isaiah, Luke and Romans – are read twice annually (It could be argued and I do, that these 4 books are the most foundational to a well-rounded understanding of the Scripture). The readings through the OT are arranged chronologically, and the NT readings by author.

 

The Bible as Literature

From the introduction:

“To approach the Bible as literature as this literary Bible does is not like dessert — something pleasurable to add to more important aspects of the Bible. The literary approach is the first item on the agenda — the starting point for other approaches to the Bible. This has been a point of neglect among Bible readers and Bible scholars that this literary Bible aims to correct” (ix).”

 

Dr. Ryken goes to length explaining, including rebutting the idea that Literary Study Bible reduces the Bible to mere literature.

Dr. Ryken suggests  “meaning is conveyed through form, starting with language itself but moving beyond that to a whole range of literary forms and genres” and “There is no meaning without the form in which a piece of writing is expressed” (vii). Forms directly impact interpretation.” When you stop and think about it, this is precisely why we study Greek-styles and forms impact how we understand that Scripture.

 

Cover and Binding

The new edition of the Literary Study Bible is offered in a hardcover format with smythe-sewn binding. It is everything we have come to expect from Crossway.

 

The Bible Experience

The best literature invites us into the story. We see ourselves in the hero and are pulled into the action. The Literary Study Bible does this for us to a degree. The format invites us to consume large portions of the Scripture and “get lost” in the story.

Again quoting the introductory matter,

“The goal of literature is to prompt a reader to share or relive an experience. The truth that literature imparts is not simply ideas that are true but truthfulness to human experience. The implication for interpretation is that Bible readers, teachers, and expositors need to be active in re-creating experiences in their imagination, identifying the recognizable human experiences in a text (thereby building bridges to life in the modern world), and resisting the impulse immediately to reduce a biblical passage to a set of theological ideas” (xi).

 

I very much concur with Drs, Ryken; far too often we reduce study of the Bible to cold and impersonal facts. The Bible is described as a living book (Hebrews 4:12) and it draws us into it because the Bible is not only the story of God, it is also the story of the Redeemed.

 

A Use Case Scenario

The Literary Study Bible is suited to the classroom, ideally so. As we progress through our schooling, we are exposed to literature, how to understand it, and its impact on our lives. It happens that the Bible should be read in community and the Literary Study Bible lends itself to communal reading and study rather well.

 

Final Thoughts

The Literary Study Bible is a novel concept. I rather like it and happily recommend it to others.