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Book Review: The Reformation Study Bible

Since becoming a Christian in high school over 50 years ago, reading my Bible has been among the most important things I do daily. I wish I could say I’ve never missed a day, but that would be woefully untrue. Still, by God’s grace, I’ve been able to read the Bible cover to cover over 30 times in the past 50+ years. Each time I finish reading it, I choose a different translation or study Bible or edition I’ve never read before and embark on the next trek through that new-to-me translation or edition. It isn't surprising that each time I read it, the Lord teaches me things and reveals Himself in ways unique to where I am and what He knows I need at that point in my life.

In 2020 I completed reading the massive, 2534-page Reformation Study Bible. Of all the study Bibles or other Bibles I've read through the decades, this is my favorite for the quantity and quality of doctrinal study notes. I have loved and benefited from many other study Bibles that I still use when prepping a Bible study class, such as the ESV Study Bible, the MacArthur Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, the Archaeology Study Bible, the Gospel Transformation Bible, The Spurgeon Study Bible, the Grace and Truth Study Bible, and more. Still, the Reformation Study Bible is the one I’d choose to have with me if I was stranded on that proverbial desert island and could only have one.


The late, great Dr. R. C. Sproul was the general editor of this Bible. The 2015 edition I read was an update to its previous, somewhat smaller edition. With Sproul as the editor, you know that the commentary reflected by the 75 theologian contributors is soundly Reformed in its understanding of Scripture and the Christian faith. As one aligned with that tradition, it was a pleasure devoting about two years to praying my way through the ESV biblical text and studying my way through all the related commentary, theological articles, study aids, notes, confessions of faith, etc. As a Southern Baptist, I disagree with the editors’ stand on infant baptism. That one issue aside, I can honestly say I never encountered another topic in its pages with which I disagreed. The notes are thoughtful, thorough, and defended from the whole of Scripture.


Each Bible book begins with ample introductory material such as the book’s title, author, date, occasion, genre, literary features, characteristics, primary themes, theology, where that book fits in the larger story of the Bible, how Christ is reflected in that book, its history of interpretation, and any special issues noted. A generous quantity of commentary notes is provided at the bottom of each page, with some pages having more commentary than biblical text, although that is not the norm. Major Bible sections such as the Pentateuch, historical books, poetry, wisdom literature, prophets, the Gospels and Acts, and the epistles have additional introductions. I loved reading through the 100+ pages of creeds, confessions, and catechisms. Sprinkled throughout the book are 70 helpful theological notes or articles, and the detailed notes on particular verses point the reader to those theological notes as appropriate. I have found many of those notes helpful when preparing to speak or teach about various subjects. As you would expect from most Bibles, you’ll also find plenty of cross-references to related passages, brief textual footnotes, helpful maps, tables, a concordance, and other resources.


The only practical issue I had was with some of the print itself. The cross-references in the margins and the brief footnotes between the biblical text and the commentary are so tiny that it was difficult for my aging eyes to read them if I was wearing my contact lens, which I need for distance due to being nearsighted. I never had an issue reading the biblical text, commentary, theological notes, etc., with or without my contacts, but I had to remove them for the smallest print to be readable. Also, be prepared to carry some weight with you if you intend to make this the Bible you carry. My copy weighed in at a hefty four pounds and five ounces. It may result in a few strange looks from others on occasion. (A smaller, condensed version is now available.)


There are many excellent study Bibles on the market. I hope you use several of them regularly in your study of God's Word. I especially hope and recommend that you own the Reformation Study Bible for the excellent, thorough, biblically sound study notes in addition to the excellent English Standard Version (ESV) translation it uses. It will be a source of help and insight worth using for the rest of your life.


Several binding options and editions are available to fit various budgets – all worth the cost.


(The above review is adapted from my original review published elsewhere.)

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