A beef about study bibles

During the release last year of the ESV Study Bible, I made some randy comments about my opinion of study bibles – and because I didn’t want to be seen as a hater, I held back my thoughts on study bibles until after the hoopla had settled down.

You know what? Lots of people own study bibles. Lots of people own concordances. Lots of people own commentaries. LOTS. So if you own any of these devices, I say good on you – learn to use them wisely and so be it.

But here’s the truth: most of the people who own these things don’t really know how to use them. And for many people, my experience is that all that extra paper and ink gets in the way of actually reading the Bible itself. If you add half-again the volume of the actual Bible to the Bible, and nobody was reading the Bible itself before you added all that other stuff, why would they read the Bible-plus-stuff afterwards?

My 2-bit opinion is that people substitute a study bible for bible study – and let me be as specific as possible about this. Often people will buy a “study bible” for a new believer, or an older teen, and hand it off to them as if that’s all they need – go and make yourself a disciple now.

But that’s not actually the Great Commission, is it? The Great Commission is, “Go, therefore and make disciples.” That means somehow you personally have to get involved with somebody to help them grow in the faith.

So my beef with Study Bibles in general – not the ESV specifically, but as it resides in the universe of Christian publishing among similar items – is that they usually are an inadequate replacement for actual study and discipleship. And like much of Christian publishing, they are unintentionally-harmful to the local church and to believers because they stand in the way of real fellowship, discipleship, and the building of a local community which God has established and ordained to glorify himself.

I am sure that’s more than you wanted to know. Now back to work with you.