If I were to buy a new study Bible to use as my main Bible, there are certainly a number to consider. Some I would seriously consider; some I would consider for a short time and then pass on them; and some I might think about considering but in reality I wouldn’t.
I have to be honest and say that I would consider leather-covered versions of at least a couple that I already own in hardback form. The NASB MacArthur is so solid, I have to think long and hard about it. The NLT SB in a soft cover would have to be considered, although I still have some problems with it. And while I doubt that I would get another NIV SB, the Zondervan concept is good enough and executed well enough that I can see me getting a TNIV SB or a NASB SB from them, if I can find one for a good price.
But there are other study Bibles that have to be considered contenders. There are two elephants in the room: the obvious one is the ESV Study Bible. I haven’t taken the opportunity to look this one over very much, outside of just what I have been able to find on the internet. But what I have seen is very impressive. Crossway has loaded this Bible with an amazing amount of information, and it is very well done. The only problem I have with it is the ESV translation, which is the fly in the ointment. I could probably accept it in order to get the rest of the package, but it’s awfully hard for me to see the ESV, a warmed-over revision of the RSV, as an example of state-of-the-art English translation.
The other elephant sitting in the middle of the room, which very few people seem to be able to see, is the NET Bible First Edition. The translation is a good one, though a bit awkward at times but with good reasons. And those reasons are stated in the over 60,000 text and study notes it contains. This is an amazing study Bible that everybody should be talking about, but few are because it is not marketed outside of the internet. But it should be! This is arguably, in my humble opinion, the standard of current Bible translation. And nobody knows about it!
Of course, the NET Bible isn’t cheap. The standard First Edition in bonded leather sells for $49.95, and the prices go up from there. But it’s well worth the cost. And to many of us that price isn’t a problem, but for some of us it is a bit steep. Even so, when you consider those 60,000+ notes you get, along with the fine translation, and some very fine maps, it’s well worth it and pretty easy to justify.
One nice thing about the NET Bible, it’s available online, the whole thing with all those wonderful notes. So you can use it without buying it, and you can even download it for free if you like. And after using it for a while, and you find you must have it, you can always order the printed version. However, this also makes it harder for some of us to justify paying the price to own one, when we can always use it on the computer. (But there’s just something about holding a real Bible in your hands!)
Now I know there are many, many other study Bibles available. I haven’t said a word here about the Life Application Study Bibles, in various translations. I also haven’t mentioned the ESV Reformation Study Bible or it’s cousin, the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. There’s also the new NRSV John Wesley Study Bible which is selling like hotcakes, and would probably be a good choice for a Methodist like me. There’s the Thompson Chain-Reference Bibles; there are the Scofield Bibles; there are numerous NRSV Study Bibles based on liberal scholarship. There are many KJV Study Bibles: and Thomas Nelson has numerous NKJV-based Study Bibles. But I can’t review all of those. I can only look through them quickly to see if there are any I could consider for this.
I am a United Methodist, but I am also an evangelical. I have to consider Study Bibles that fit my own outlook and not deal with liberal Bibles that would only give me problems and make me angry. I also don’t want a study Bible that’s really geared more for the new believer, since I have been walking with the Lord since 1968. And I want a study Bible with a good, readable translation that reflects the latest translation scholarship. And I also don’t want a narrow, single-issue study Bible like those that concentrate on the writings and theology of the Reformers, as good as that is; or such study Bibles and the Archaeology SB and the Apologetics SB. I want something more mainstream than that, yet with good scholarship.
So, in a few upcoming posts, I will explore a few of these study Bibles, and then give you my conclusions.