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Book Review: The ESV Archaeology Study Bible

Several years ago, I ran across an ESV Archaeology Study Bible while perusing a Christian conference bookstore. I didn't know it existed until then, and I thought, "Archaeology is a subject I don't know much about. That'll be a good Bible for me to read through." So, I bought it and read through it from 2021 to 2023.

Now that I've read all of it, I'll share a few thoughts about the experience.

The study Bible accomplishes its purpose of focusing on archaeological information in the bulk of its many notes, articles, and Bible book introductions. According to the publisher, Crossway, this study Bible contains over 2,000 study notes, 400 full-color photographs, 200 maps and diagrams, 200 sidebars, 14 articles, four timelines, a dictionary, and concordance. * I probably read more about archaeology going through this study Bible than all of my 51 years as a Christian combined. I won't remember more than a fraction of it, but the Bible will retain its place along with other study Bibles on the top of my roll-top desk as a resource I include in weekly preparations to teach the Bible to my adult class at church.

My overall experience reading through the ESV Archaeology Study Bible was positive. However, one recurrence frustrated me through much of the reading of the first half of the Old Testament. An overwhelming quantity of study notes in the books before Psalms seem to concern the practices of other pagan religions. That may have a basis in the archaeological findings from the time period reflected in the biblical stories of those books. Still, I don't buy a study Bible to learn about other religions. I buy a study Bible to deepen my knowledge and understanding of my Christian faith, and its biblical roots and history. There were far too many times (in my opinion) when the study notes at the bottom of the page seemed to jump to other nations' and religions' beliefs immediately. For example, the study note regarding the phrase "gate of heaven" from Genesis 28:17 says: "The idea of a gate as the entrance to heaven was a common motif in ancient Near Eastern literature. For instance, the high priest of Thebes in Egypt was called 'The Opener of the Gates of Heaven.' The Egyptians believed there were gates to the east that opened into the Fields of Paradise. The Sumerians understood the abode of the dead to be guarded by a gate." That may all be true and interesting to many. I wouldn't mind reading such notes now and then reading through the entire Bible, but having such a high proportion of my time reading study notes about non-Jewish and non-Christian religions quickly annoyed me. I was grateful when that pattern changed significantly once I reached Psalms. That aspect of this Bible may thrill other readers, but not me. (By the way, when searching for the above example of such a note, I randomly opened the Bible and started flipping, and it took less than a minute to find an example, thus proving my point." <End Rant>

I've been a fan of study Bibles for years. I'm always eager to purchase one I haven't read before and take a year or more to read it and learn new things. They are written for various purposes by numerous authors and contain complementary material. To that end, and as an ongoing resource to help me prepare lessons and sermons, the ESV Archaeology Study Bible is worth having. The full-color illustrations, photographs, articles, and informative notes will continue to benefit me and others I teach for years. I have long been a fan of the publisher, Crossway, for their excellent publications, especially the ESV Study Bible. They do quality work. This is a good resource for anyone interested in learning more about biblical archaeology.

You can find an ESV Archaeology Study Bible description on Crossway's website. You can also buy it from, Amazon, or other major book sources. It retails for $69.99 from Crossway, but you can find it for less in other places ( being the cheapest of the three at $44.99 at the time of this post).

If you are like I was that day, rummaging through a Christian bookstore, thinking, "Hmmm. I didn't know there was such a thing as an Archaeology Study Bible. That sounds interesting," I encourage you to pick up a copy. There is much to learn on the subject within its 2048 pages.


Data and photos from the publisher's website:

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