Skip to content

Book Review: ESV Global Study Bible

J. I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, and Ajith Fernando, eds. ESV Global Study Bible. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012. 1,984 pp. 

We live in an age when many excellent study Bibles exist to assist us in discovering the riches of God’s Word. Therefore, many ask which study Bible is the best available today. Although this question is impossible to answer since each person has their own tastes, the ESV Global Study Bible is certainly one of the top three study Bibles available in the English language today. It is an exceptionally well-designed resource for Biblical study and life application that every Christian would benefit from. In addition to the focus on the globally-applicable message of the Gospel found from Genesis to Revelation, this study Bible contains an array of well-designed, user-friendly features.

The ESV Global Study Bible is truly a global collaboration of Biblical scholars, which enables it to connect with audiences throughout the world. The version used as the base Biblical text (English Standard Version) had a fourteen-member Translation Oversight Committee that utilized more than fifty Biblical experts who served as Translation Review Scholars. In 2001 this team completed its work and provided an accurate and easily understandable English translation useful around the world. In more recent years another committee united to add concise, yet thorough study notes to this translation. Whereas many study Bibles are the product of just one theologian’s study notes, the ESV Global Study Bible is the product of a 65-member team of theologians that contributed to the study notes from Genesis to Revelation. Furthermore, a team of 14 authors from all over the globe wrote additional articles (located at the back of this study Bible) addressed to the global church, to help Christians worldwide make sense of highly practical issues in Bible study and personal spiritual growth. 

The most distinctive feature of the ESV Global Study Bible is the focus on the global nature of Christianity and the eternal purpose of God to call out a multitude of redeemed people from every kindred, tongue, people group, and nation. Just as the Jewish people of the Old Testament forgot that they were always supposed to be a light to the gentiles for salvation, so today many Christians do not recognize that the redemption of humanity truly was at the core of God’s plan from the foundation of the world. The ESV Global Study Bible helps readers recognize the golden thread of the gospel woven all throughout the 66 books of the Bible to present one unified story of God’s pursuit of mankind, whom He would personally reconcile and adopt into his family. This central truth is first clearly explained in the ESV Global Study Bible’s introduction to the Bible. However, each individual book of the Bible also has two introductions to that specific book. The standard introduction addresses issues such as author, date of writing, theme of the book, and outline of the text. In addition, each book also has an introduction to explain the global message of the book by explaining its place in redemptive history, as well as highlighting redemptive imagery and phrases. By the end of this introduction the reader understands the universal themes and global message for today for that particular book of the Bible. All of this causes the ESV Global Study Bible to have great practical appeal when it comes to understanding and applying the Great Commission in our generation. 

The ESV Global Study Bible also has great exegetical appeal, as its vast array of resources helps the reader understand the truth of God’s Word book-by-book and verse-by-verse. First, and one of the most helpful features in showing how each book fits together, are the use of timelines to create a chronological understanding of when all the historical events took place and when each book of the Bible was written. There are timelines in the introductions to both the Old Testament and the New Testament as well as in the introduction to each individual book. This is especially helpful, for example, when studying the books of the prophets and trying to make sense of what was taking place in the history of Israel and Judah during each prophet’s ministry. Second, to further add historical and background information there are 900 Fact Boxes (color coded in tan) and 125 profiles of key people in the Biblical record (color coded in grey) dispersed throughout the study notes at the bottom of the pages in key locations to help the reader understand cultural issues they might otherwise overlook. Third, and also scattered throughout the study notes, are 120 various charts and diagrams used to simplify huge amounts of information or compare and contrast important ideas and events. Fourth, since much of the Bible is written in narrative form to reveal God’s interaction with mankind in specific cultures and places, the ESV Global Study Bible also offers its readers more than 100 maps scattered throughout the study notes to create understanding of the ancient Biblical world and the significance of details given about each place. Fifth, the ESV Global Study Bible also offers a glossary of more than 300 words and phrases defining important concepts, in order to help the reader understand what is really being communicated by God through human language. Lastly, to help the reader locate important passages and see how they all fit together in presenting one unified theological message, the ESV Global Study Bible has an extensive 57-page concordance at the back of the Bible and 80,000 cross references located within the study notes.

Truly, the ESV Global Study Bible is an extraordinary resource. Yet, it must be emphasized that all of these wonderful study tools being placed in one volume are meant to be exactly that—tools. The study notes of Biblical scholars should not replace the reader’s own critical analysis of the Biblical text itself. The Christian today must still follow the example of the Jews in Berea from Acts 17:11. The study notes and articles found in this study Bible are excellent, but they are not the inspired word of God. Only the Biblical text of Genesis to Revelation is inspired and inerrant. Therefore, when reading the study notes we must then re-read the text itself to see if these things stated in the study notes are so. Thankfully, the theological positions stated in the study notes do clearly convey orthodox evangelical positions. In fact, the contributors to the study notes even offer the reader a summary of various theological positions on passages that are often debatable even within orthodox Christianity. This is certainly a strength as it teaches the reader how to think through the issues rather than just what to think about each issue. However, many readers will no doubt wish that the study notes provided further clarity on important issues to the global church in twenty-first century. Places where the notes seem to be especially unclear or overly one-sided theologically include: the cessation of miraculous sign gifts (1 Corinthians 12–13) and the actual expected chronology of events within the study of eschatology (end times prophecy). For example, in the notes from 1 Corinthians 12–13, the position that holds that miraculous gifts have ceased for today is only mentioned once in passing, but the whole rest of the passage is interpreted as if it to be seen as the normative experience of believers today. This is a serious deficiency and effectively silences the voices of those cessationists who would disagree with this interpretation of the passage. Also, the introductory material and notes on the book of Revelation are conspicuously silent concerning God’s future plans for the nation of Israel. This church-centric approach leaves the door open for misinterpretation and does not allow for the concerns of many who believe that God has specific future plans and promises for Israel as a nation. The theological positions and practical implications for modern Christianity on both of these issues are greatly debated today and although clearer positions in the study notes would be appreciated, modern day “Bereans” will study the text and come to their own conclusions through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

In conclusion, with all of these features in mind, it is no understatement to say that the ESV Global Study Bible is a world-class resource. At Central Africa Baptist College we highly encourage each follower of Jesus Christ to get a copy and study it diligently. The ESV Global Study Bible is available in paperback, hardcover, and leather bound printed Bibles. Plus, it is also available online, with all of the aforementioned resources. Therefore, even in its availability this study Bible lives up to its name.

Jamie Smith is the Director on Missions at CABC, and holds a Master of Arts in Evangelism and Church Planting from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He serves as an elder at Kitwe Church.


Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping

Select options