Reviewing an ESV Study Bible Sample

In an email this morning the ESV Study Bible has added a new sample to their site. Formerly the introduction to Luke was available this one contains the introduction to Revelation.
It contains 12 major sections

  1. Author and Title
  2. Date
  3. Genre:
    This information is taken from the ESV Literary Study Bible and I’m very glad to see this included.
  4. Theme
  5. Purpose, Occasion and Background
  6. History of Salvation Summary
  7. Timeline (of the writing not an interpretive timeline)
  8. Key Themes
  9. Literary Features (again from the ESVLSB)
  10. Schools of interpretation
  1. Historicism
  2. Futurism (both Historical Premillennialism and Dispensational Premillennialism)
  3. Preterism / Partial Preterism
  4. Idealism
  5. Mixed View
  • Millennial Views
    1. Premillennialism (Classical & Pretribulational)
    2. Postmillennialism
    3. Amillennialism
  • Structure and Outline
  • Overall the introduction is balanced and attempts to represent the divergent interpretive schools without tipping your hand in either direction. The ESVSB goes on to note,

    Each of these three primary millennial views falls within the framework of historic Christian orthodoxy. Though they difer in signifcant ways with regard to the interpretation of the book of Revelation and other passages related to eschatology, each view is well represented among Bible-believing, orthodox Christians.


    The Introduction to Luke lacks the Genre section and the Purpose, Occasion and Background section is positionally switched with the Timeline; the same transposition occurs with the Key Themes and Literary Features sections being switched. The interpretive struggles of Revelation not being present in the majority of Luke means of course that there is no need for an interpretive schools section. Each introduction also contains a color map indicating the setting in Luke in shows Israel and major cities while in Revelation it shows the location of the seven churches.

    It may be nitpicking but I hope the Luke Sample is only pre-press and that the ESV folks intend to standardize the order in which all of the sections are presented. Consistency matters to me and I suspect it will also matter to a great number of people.


    The preview also contains an early look at the first chapter of the actual text as well. The font is legible and presumably crisp – though the PDF is slightly fuzzy on my screen while cleartype makes all my other windows look nice.

    Chapter numbers are two lines high and are slightly lighter in color than the black text – they have what appears to be a slightly green tint to them. The note headings also appear to have a pale parchment background. The text as the website says is a “highly readable 9-point type”. It runs on average about 16 words across the page in a 4.5 inch wide paragraph format. To the side (left or right side on respective pages) of the Bible text are the cross references and standard annotations. Below the text in a dual 2.7 inch column format rests the study notes in a smaller but still legible font.

    In a study bible there’s usually not much room for taking your own notes. It appears the ESVSB is no different. The trim size of 6 ½ × 9 ¼ inches leaves ½ an inch on the inside gutter which is likely to be absorbed by the binding and a paltry .65 inch on the outside edge. It’s a pity, I would have easily accepted a slightly larger trim size for a full inch of space on the outside margin.

    Traditionally, Study Bibles are not focused on note taking they are about note reading. That being the case, the introductory notes together with the study notes appear to be fairly good. Important but easy to miss allusions to the Old Testament are indicated in the notes. One example is John’s prophecy being differentiated from Daniel being told to seal what he heard (Dan 12:4). That note may not be significant but it should signal a reader that he needs to pay attention to Daniel’s prophecies as he reads through Revelation. I will note, without revealing just now where, that I did disagree with a few of the notes but that is to be expected. No commentary is perfect and Study Bibles are just that: commentaries and the notes should be used and read as distinctly less authoritative than the Biblical text.

    Margins aside the ESV Study Bible does look like it’s going to live up to it’s hype. Since I’ve ordered one, we’ll see.