Choosing the Right Bible for the Journey

by Navy Christian

If you’re a Christian and you’re like me, you are struggling with the scientific data coming to you. Sometimes it seems like Christianity, and the traditional reading of the scriptures, can be defended fairly easily. Then there are times that make you doubt what you believe. This is normal (at least I hope it is) and you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it.

You have to have the right tools for this journey. A family doesn’t usually just jump in a car and drive across country (believe me, that would be a disaster). As a military family, we’ve moved plenty of times, and every time we’ve done it, we’ve had to have a plan. Where will we stop? What supplies do we need for the trip? Where are the gas stations and bathrooms along the planned road? Do we have time to make a stop at that cool place to explore? Yes, the questions are plenty.
And if you’re embarking, or have embarked, on a journey like the one I’m on, to discover as much as possible about the truth, you need to have the right supplies. For a long time, I have existed with a study Bible on my iPad. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. More than anything, I like having my notes electronically. That way, through the Olive Tree app, I can access my notes on my iPad, my iPhone, or my MacBook. No matter where I am, I can always get to my notes.

Another reason I have tried not to buy another physical Bible is that I think we, particularly in the western world, are inundated with Bibles while so many overseas are too poor to afford one or don’t have access to one. So as my old KJV Thompson Chain wore out, I held out buying a new one. That one was a gift from my church in my hometown when I graduated from high school, so no shame that it couldn’t last. It’s been 20 years! I do still go to it periodically, but it’s time to retire it.

But I’m an old soul in an aging body, and I still like to turn pages. Even more than that, I like to have research notes handy. That’s why my wife and I both decided it was time for a new Bible. I ordered the ESV Study Bible after reading a great article on choosing a study Bible. I highly recommend the article!

My Review:

The ESV Study Bible is big (4.2lbs)! I usually don’t take it to church because of its size, but I did this weekend and, as I had expected, it was really too big to be toting around. I don’t regret buying it, though. It’s big for a reason. It has more notes than I can hope to absorb and a lot of study guides. All of that information comes for a price though, and it’s size is the price.

Update (August): I’ve started taking the Bible to church more often because, with the lighting system our church has, the overhead lights glare off of my iPad screen. I’m concerned sometimes that I might be blasting my worshipping neighbor with the glare!

Speaking of information, the notes are amazing! As a sailor stationed aboard the USS Hue City (CG 66), it helps immensely. I was able to take the notes on Matthew 6, for example, and teach a class on the Lord’s Prayer to a few fellow sailors. I’ve had a lot of Bibles over time, most of them including some form of notes, and this is the best I’ve seen.


As the picture to the left shows, the notes come complete with drawings as well. As with many,probably most, study Bibles,  the ESV Study Bible comes with maps also. I found them to be more than adequate. It is the drawings that I find most useful, however.

The notes are listed in order of verse number. Inside the verses themselves is a letter combination system that cross-references other passages with the same theme. Those are found on the inside margins.

Another thing I found particularly useful was the concordance. I’m doing a word study on forgiveness (I’m sure that’s something I’ll blog about at some point) and having such a large listing without going to another source is very helpful. I still plan to go to outside sources like commentaries and my trusty copy of Strongs that my grandparents used to have in Kansas, yet I’m more than pleased with the ESV Study Bible.

I’ve never had a daily reading plan before in a study Bible, and I found it both interesting and helpful. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to mark out the passages as I read them or keep track of what I do another way, but it’s nice to have. As I go through the Bible, however, I think I’ll stay with my daily readings from the Olive Tree app that I use on my iPad and iPhone.

Update (August): Here’s how I’ve started working the electronic and physical copies of my Bible. I have started using the physical book for actual research while using the electronic Bible to record my notes and run searches for words and phrases. When I’m at church, to avoid the glare that my iPad screen produces, I use my iPhone to update the Olive Tree app if the pastor says something I want to keep hold of.

Update (August): This is a blog on creationism and evolution, so how does the ESV Bible handle the issue? Very well, I’m pleased to say. I was concerned about how a relatively conservative group of scholars might work through Genesis 1, but I’m very excited. A full two pages are devoted to the ideas of Genesis 1, including a discussion on the different ideas of how Christians explain the creation. Day-age, the gap theory, and others are all given their due here. Most importantly, the scholars report that none of the five major creation theories are in conflict with Genesis 1. Theistic evolution, however, is not mentioned in that group and therefore must be considered suspect by those scholars (Dr. Miller would be upset I’m sure).

The scholars also discuss the issue of genealogies, which means they have probably accepted the idea that Ussher inadvertently miscalculated his time of creation. Go to that post for specifics on the matter.

I’m very excited about having the ESV Study Bible for this research project because it will give me the ammunition I need as a theologically conservative Christian while encouraging me in the freedom I have in Christ to learn and expand my horizon.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask about the ESV Study Bible, please do so in the comments and I will do my best to answer them as I use the Bible. Thanks!