Book Review – “The Reformation Study Bible”

I love reading through various study Bibles.  Each one brings its own unique take on Scripture, allowing us a deeper glimpse into the text and bringing new ways of applying it to our lives.  When I heard about the updated Reformation Study Bible, I immediately wanted one.  Ligonier was nice enough to give me a copy to look at and review.

The text base of The Reformation Study Bible is the 2011 edition of the English Standard Version (ESV).  I have grown to love this translation, as it strikes a good balance between being literal and readable.

This Bible is massive, with 2534 pages, not including the maps and a few blank pages.  The text is black throughout (no red-letters to mark the words of Jesus).  To some this will be a welcome format, as it keeps us from elevating some parts of Scripture over others; to other people, however, they like being able to glance quickly and see when Jesus is talking.  The paper used is very thin (it has to be to keep the Bible from becoming even more bulky than it is), so I cannot see using it as a note-taking Bible unless one is very careful about the pen/pencil used to keep from having a lot of bleed through from one page to the next.  The text is single column, and it contains cross references in the inside margin of each page.  There are some black and white maps throughout.  There is a concordance in the back as well as a Bible reading plan, a table of weights and measures, and a section of color maps.

The notes throughout are solid.  While I do not consider myself Reformed in doctrine (although I find myself very sympathetic with most of the Reformed views), I cannot help but notice that Reformed authors, teachers, and pastors tend to take us much deeper into the text than others, with few exceptions.  This is one reason that the majority of authors I read are Reformed/Calvinistic in their stance.  I read through the notes fully for Jonah, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 John (all portions I have memorized) to get an overview of what the notes were like.  I found much food for thought in all of them.

While glancing through other notes, I came across some that clearly show that the editors are cessationists (they do not believe in the continuation of sign gifts today) and at least one entry I read leaned towards a paedobaptist stance (baptizing infants as a sign of the covenant) as opposed to a credobaptist stance (baptizing believers upon confession of faith), although several notes also discuss baptizing believers who commit to be disciples.  In defense of the text in question, the author does a good job of presenting arguments for and against infant baptism, but ultimately the author seems very accepting of the idea.

The introduction to each Bible book contains information on the following: the title of the book, the author, the date and occasion of writing, the genre, literary features of the book, characteristics and primary themes of the book, theology of the book, the book in context of the larger story of the Bible, pointers to Christ in the book, a history of interpretation of the book, and special issues related to the book. This is followed by an outline of the book before the actual biblical text starts.  These discussions provide a lot of wonderful insights into each book.

Scattered through each book are articles discussing a range of topics.  For example, those in Genesis are “Human Beings Created in the Image of God,” “Covenant of Words,” “Original Sin,” “Covenant,” and “Infant Baptism.” Matthew contains “Excommunication,” “Legalism,” and “The Sacraments.”

This Bible contains the following Topical Articles: 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 Criticism, Old Testament Textual Criticism, The Preaching of the Reformation, The Reformation, and Worship.

One of the most handy parts of this Bible are the collection of Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms in the back.  It contains the following: The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Chalcedonian Definition of the Faith, The Heidelberg Catechism, The Belgic Confession, The Canons of Dort, The Westminster Confession of Faith, The Westminster Larger Catechism, The Westminster Shorter Catechism, and The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.  While I do not agree with everything in all of the creeds and confessions, there are some wonderful insights in them.  Take the following from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: Question – “What is the chief end of man?”  Answer – “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Who can do anything but say “Amen!” to that?

The above is enough to make this a welcome addition to anyone’s library.  As of the time of this review, however, the publishers are throwing in even more.

When you purchase The Reformation Study Bible, you get an access code that gives you several e-books, some video teachings, a 6-month subscription to Tabletalk magazine (which I subscribe to and love), and a 3-month subscription to Ligonier Connect (a site containing multiple teaching sets which you can watch at your own pace).

The e-books included are the following: Everyone’s a TheologianFive Things Every Christian Needs to GrowBy Grace AloneIn Christ AloneThe Daring Mission of William TyndaleThe Expository Genius of John Calvin, and Believing God.

The teachings included are as follows: Dust to GloryAttributes of GodA Survey of Church History (Volumes 1-4)Lessons from the Upper RoomWhat is Reformed Theology, and Why We Trust the Bible?

I have not heard anything yet about the 6-month subscription to the magazine, although it is not a huge deal, as I am already subscribed, so they may have just added to my current subscription.  And while I received the Bible probably a few months ago, I have not heard any word on access to Ligonier Connect.  Granted, other than one initial email, I have not really pursued the matter, so I cannot say much about it.  I would love to have had a chance to try it out and comment on it here, too, but this is a review of the Bible primarily, so it is not a huge loss.

I believe that the packet included with the Bible lists the above as being “more than $400 in additional Bible study resources,” and I believe it.  It is well worth the cost of the Bible for the Bible alone, but with this additional material included, it definitely increases the value.

If you are interested in a solidly Reformed study Bible, this is the one for you.  If you are not Reformed yourself, be aware that this leans very strongly in that direction.  Personally, I like expanding my understanding, even into areas that I may  not agree with 100%, so it was a great opportunity to be able to review this Bible.

Note: I received this Bible free from the publisher in exchange for and as compensation for my honest review. 

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12 thoughts on “Book Review – “The Reformation Study Bible”

  1. Legioner ministries and Cessationism makes me think Sproul, Continental voices, and such are the commentators… is there much of a moderate/ Scottish (stronger pnuemitological leanings) reformed voice in the commentary? I don’t really have bible stores in the area to thumb through one.

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