Listening to the Text

January 11, 2010

“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13).

I have a 2 hour commute to church each Sunday.

I’m in an unusual situation in that I’m currently serving my church about 2 hours away while I wait for my permanent residency to come in so I can serve my church full-time and relocate to our area. As it stands now, we’re very thankful to be able to serve our church each Sunday as it is!

But, I get a lot of time to think, to pray, and of course in a car, to listen! And how often do we listen to the Scriptures any longer? Many times in most of our churches we have given up Paul’s injunction to devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture. In our Evangelical churches we may hear a brief passage each Sunday read and only if it is what the preacher is going to be preaching on. Yet, in mainline churches, they might get up to four major sections of Scripture read each Sunday! In someways, those who attend mainline churches may get more Scripture than many Evangelical churches!

But I digress… simply there are so many great resources to “listening” to the Scriptures when we have the opportunity to do so. In cleaning out my predecessor’s office at my church I discovered an excellent set of New Testament CD’s from the ESV narrated by Max McLean. On the car ride home from our PM service last night I listened to the first 16 chapters of Matthew narrated by McLean. It was so great to listen to the text. I was able to listen to the text carefully and hear it anew in a way that is so different than reading it on our own.

And speaking of reading the text on our own, we rarely do that even! I’m starting a new Bible reading challenge that will have me read 10 chapters a day! But I’m going to use the opportunity to listen to the text read to me. Using Professor Horner’s reading list and this neat system that will track it for me. I can listen to the text read from the ESV each day! What a wonderful opportunity to listen to the text of Scripture and to have it change us as we meditate on us.

We all have some time we can carve away from music, talk radio, television or the like. Take some time to listen to the text this year!

Awesome Contest over at “A Boomer in the Pew”

February 26, 2009

A chance to win a Calfskin version of the ESV Study Bible! This retails at $239.99 US and is therefore a steal at FREE! See the details here at A Boomer in the Pew.

Book Review – ESV Study Bible

December 22, 2008

I’ve had my NIV Study Bible since the early 1990’s. My parents got it for me and it has become one of my favourite Bibles. In seminary I used it profusely since I was convinced the “dynamic equivalence” model of translation theory was the best one. I did not like the NASB (a popular edition when I was in seminary) as it seemed rather wooden in places. There were places I was not thrilled with the NIV but I was happy with it for the most part. And I really enjoyed the study notes.


Then, something rather amazing happened! Well, actually something rather common happened. Another study bible was released. This was the ESV study bible. I had only briefly looked at the ESV and thought it to be similar enough to the NASB that I really did not give it a second look. But so many people were coming to embrace it that I thought it should be something I should look at. And now since seminary I review many books, I can get most books I ask for to review, so I asked Crossway for a copy of the ESV study bible. All I can say is that this is my new favourite Bible!


The ESV itself takes a more literal approach to translation theory than I have preferred but makes valuable improvements in both the weaknesses of the NASB and the NIV. Where the NASB was overly wooden, the ESV is much smoothers. Where the NIV took too much liberty in interpretation, the ESV is more literal. I feel the ESV strikes a nice balance between both the NASB and the NIV. It is solidly conservative and easy to read. If I had to pick a new favourite translation, I think I am leaning more and more from the NIV to the ESV. But, what about the study notes? I had become accustomed to the ones in the NIV so the ESV had some hard work to convert me. At least I thought it did. Instead, it took less than a minute.


My only complaint at the outset is the paper that most bibles use in hardcover editions (the one I was sent). It is very thin and hard to turn the pages and can tear easily. In leather editions this is not as much of an issue, but this is my main issue with the hardcover edition.


The first thing that struck me about the study bible is the incredible amount of resources it contains. It contains 66 articles and essays ranging from topics on the Trinity, Bioethics, Reading the Bible as Literature, the Septuagint, and a History of Salvation in the Old Testament. These resources written by major Evangelical scholars are weighty but succinct providing just the right amount of helpful information that satisfy’s the questions but prompts the reader for further study.


The next thing that strikes you is the full colour maps and illustrations. No study Bible I have ever had had full colour anything unless you count the maps that are put at the back of the bible. But every illustration and map throughout the bible is in full colour. This makes things really stand out and provides nice clear pictures to help aid in the study process.


When it comes to the notes themselves they are very thorough and balanced. They list major options of interpretation and usually let the reader decide. One of the most helpful items in the notes are what I will call the contextual notes. These, with a slight highlight, outline the sections in the text and give helpful brief notes focusing on the context of individual sections. So, not only are individual verses parsed specifically and given helpful specific information but even whole sections are given notes to help facilitate reading the text as a piece of literature. This helps the readers see the big picture of how each individual section fits into the work as a whole.

Before each book there is a helpful treatment of authorship, dating, and other common features. What sets the ESV apart from others are the literary features section which help to explain what is going on overall in the book and the history of salvation summary which put the content of the book in the context of the redemption story of the whole Scripture. This is a very helpful addition as it helps to put into context the book as a whole and helps to prevent moralizing the text but instead interpreting it in light of the rest of Scripture.


Obviously each note cannot be critiqued here in a brief review like this, but one will be looked at which always seems to generate much discussion, and that is the nature of the millennium in Revelation 20. Under Revelation 20:1–6 it describes this as “Interlude: The Thousand Years of the Dragon’s Binding and the Martyrs’ Reign.” Each of the premillennial, postmillennial, and amillennial, positions are described and represented fairly. It highlights different approaches to the next (literal versus symbolic) and the representative features of each position. The notes do not take a position on the issue but helpfully simply say, “Likewise, each of these views falls within the framework of historic Christian orthodoxy” (p. 2492). This is the sort of congenial attitude we need to have when discussing issues of debate that are not part of the fundamentals of the faith. While obviously this reviewer would take a particular position, he appreciates how fairly his position is described and would not hesitate to recommend this particular note to those of any eschatological persuasion.


Overall, I find the ESV study bible to be probably the best study bible on the market. Obviously, please continue to use your other study bible’s but if I was to recommend just one, I would highly recommend the ESV Study Bible. Now I just have to wait to get my hands on the Black Genuine Leather edition!


Get your hardcover ESV study Bible here or see all the editions available here.