If you will ask me what is the single best study Bible in the market today, I will tell you in a heartbeat that it is the ESV Study Bible. This Bible is in the market for about 13 years now and it has proven itself to be a credible resource and a primary staple for a deeper study and understanding of the Holy Scriptures. I personally love it and I have owned copies of it in different editions, covers, and sizes. Just recently, Crossway released a new edition of it in deep brown buffalo leather cover. To set the record straight, this is not a revised or updated version. It is the same ESV Study Bible that we have loved over the years with just a new cover. Having said that, much of my review will be focused on this Bible’s physical attributes.
For the benefit of those who are new to this masterpiece, the ESV Study Bible was created by a diverse team of 95 leading Bible scholars and teachers from different countries and denominations, designed to help people understand the Bible in a deeper way. It has more than two million words with 20,000 notes, 80,000 cross-references, and an extensive concordance. It has 200 full-color maps, more than 200 charts and illustrations, and more than 50 articles on theology, ethics, and biblical teaching. This Bible has over a million copies in print and loved by pastors, ministers, and lay-persons.
First off, this Bible is massive. If you have not owned any copy of the ESV Study Bible before, I am setting your expectations that this Bible is huge. It measures 6.80 x 9.75 x 2.5 inches and weighs 4 lbs. 9 ounces. It will not be so easy to carry around and would certainly occupy a space on your desk where it will surely spend most of its time. I compared it with my NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible in burgundy bonded leather and they almost have the same foot print.
What’s with the cover?
Over the past year, Crossway has released and re-published many Bibles in Buffalo leather cover. Honestly, this is my first time to have a Bible with this cover, and it is amazing. The deep brown buffalo leather is astonishingly tough and stiff. For a moment I thought it was synthetic. It has a uniform pebbling that I would liken to a basketball leather and it has a grainy texture. It is perimeter-stitched and has a brown vinyl paste-down liner. I believe much of the stiffness of the cover comes from the vinyl paper liner which also causes the leather cover to wrinkle up when you crack the Bible open. But I am pretty confident it will endure constant and daily use. Physically-wise, what I love most about this Bible is its spine. Crossway added four raised hubs in it and it looks stunning! It gave a premium look to it and at the same time supports the spine whenever the text block is open. It is incredible! Crossway did an excellent job with this.
This Bible also has a good text block. It is smyth-sewn and lays flat in spite of its thickness. The paper is nice and white at 30 gsm. It is adequately opaque with some ghosting. On the other hand, the gold gilding on the edges is subpar. It looks uneven and seems like it was rushed in production. This is not that big of a deal for me, but I did not expect this as I am always impressed by Crossway’s gold gilding on their Bibles, but not this time. This Bible also has a single, underwhelming, cheap-looking deep brown ribbon. It is disappointing given the size of this Bible. It would have been much acceptable if this is a thinline Bible, but we’re talking about a 2.5-inch-thick Bible. I have lost count of how many times Bible enthusiasts have called out Crossway for their poor ribbons. I believe it is about time for them to step up their game.
As aforementioned, this ESV Study Bible is not an updated or revised edition. That being said, this one has the same layout, study notes, articles, and illustrations as the other editions. The scripture text is at a 9-point typeface and set in a single-column, verse-by verse format while the study notes are at 7-point in a double column format. Textual footnotes are located in between. This layout is neat and very pleasant to read. However, the cross-references could have been much better and more readable if they have printed it in the outer margins instead of the inner margins. They are tiny and too close to the gutter which makes them hard to read. I hope Crossway consider this in the future.
Yea or Nay?
Overall, I highly recommend this edition of the ESV Study Bible. For those who enjoyed the paperback, hardback, and trutone editions, and have been wanting to upgrade without breaking the bank for the premium and heirloom editions, this is the perfect one for you. It is a notch better than the genuine leather edition and has the premium look of the heirloom edition. It is remarkably cheap at $149.99 but you can score it at much affordable price tag on Christian book retailers and outlets online.
This Bible showcases the 2016 ESV text edition and is printed in China.
Disclosure: A review copy of the ESV Study Bible (ISBN 9781433575921) in buffalo leather was provided for review by Crossway, from whom you may purchase a copy.