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ESV Gospel Transformation Bible
by ESV Bibles by Crossway
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The Gospel Transformation Bible is not a Study Bible, at least in the traditional sense. A team of scholars and pastors have joined together under Bryan Chappell’s and Dane Ortlund’s editorial direction to answer two questions: (1) How is the gospel evident in all of scripture? and (2) How does the gospel of grace bring about our transformation? Each of the books of the Bible have a brief introduction which describes authorship and date and how the gospel is illuminated (how it fits into the larger story of salvation). The notes on the bottom of each page, continue this dual focus on God’s larger plan of redemption and implications for our life. Sometimes the notes are as detailed (particular books have more expansive and detailed notes). Some passages are passed over without comment (i.e. certain narratives in the Old Testament historical books do not carry much comments). The reason for this is that the notes are focused and so do not attempt to untangle every difficulty in the text (like a Study Bible would).
What is the gospel that contributors describe? It is focused on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as God’s plan of redpemption for humanity. But Jesus did not come in a vacuum. The Bible tells the story of God’s relationship to his people and the First Testament anticipates Christ’s coming. Thus the contributors to this volume, read the Bible Christologically (yet sensitively).
Some great scholars and interpreters have contributed to this Bible. Among them are Michael Horton (Joshua), V. Philips Long (1-2 Samuel), Bruce Ware (Psalms), Graeme Goldsworthy (Jeremiah, Lamentations), Bryan Chapell (Daniel), Frank Thielman (Matthew), R. Kent Huges (1-2 Timothy) and more. Because some of the scholars are more scholarly and others more pastoral, there is a lack of consistency from book to book. Each of these individual interpreters give their particular spin on the gospel implications of a passage or book, though they share a broad agreement on the gospel.
Scot Mcknight argued in The King Jesus Gospel (Zondervan 2011) that certain evangelicals have reduced the gospel to the message of personal salvation, rather than describing how Jesus fulfills the hopes of Israel. In general I would say that most of the interpreters in this volume are not guilty of McKnight’s charge. They have attended to the wider biblical story and not just the ‘order of salvation.’ However there are occasional lapses. For example, Daniel Doriani’s notes on James reduce the book’s gospel value to illustrating our inability to enact ‘true religion,’ driving us back to the grace of Christ. I would say that James carries social implications (care of widows and orphans) which make the gospel manifest. The gospel in James should not be reduced to the level of personal sin (only). But this is one example. At other points, I think the notes are brilliant and illuminating.
Another feature I appreciate about this Bible, is the use it makes of the ESV cross-reference system. Following these cross references sheds light on particular themes and I find that helpful. Purchasing the Bible in print gives you access to the Bible online (it is easier to access cross-references if you don’t have to flip through pages for every verse). This makes this a very practical choice for personal study.
In general I am pretty happy with the quality of this Bible. The notes are not always perfect (some interpreters are more perfect than others), but the inspiration of the Bible does not extend to marginal notes. I appreciate how well executed the final product is. And I absolutely loved finding Phil Long’s contribution (on Samuel). Long was my professor for two classes of Exegesis at Regent College (neither of which focused on Samuel, but because it is an area of some expertise I heard plenty of Samuel examples). From Phil I learned to read Old Testament narrative sensitive to its narrative craft, its historical value and theological import. I like having some of his practical insights in print form.
I give this Bible 4 stars and would recommend it for personal study. I am not a huge fan of ‘study Bibles,’ but the unique features and perspectives of this Bible make it a valuable contribution.
Thank you to Crossway for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
This is another great resource from Crossway that I was excited to see released a while back. I love good Bibles, and this is a good Bible. Jesus taught explicitly that all of the Bible is about Him and it is good to see more and more teaching that not only acknowledges this as truth but sees it as a focus of Bible study.
Bryan Chappell writes in the introduction about the “twofold” purpose of this work.
The goal of the Gospel Transformation Bible is twofold: (1) to enable readers to understand that the whole Bible is a unified message of the gospel of God’s grace culminating in Christ Jesus, and (2) to help believers apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart-transforming way. Our hope is that, as Christians throughout the world learn to see the message of salvation by grace unfolding throughout Scripture, they will respond to God with greater love, faithfulness, and power.
There has been much written recently focusing on the continuity of the Bible, the overarching narrative of Scripture from beginning to end that frames all we find in its pages, and for that I am so thankful. Growing up spiritually in a Dispensational world that embraced an almost Marcionite disjuncture between Old and New Testament, it was not until I was exposed to Reformed theology that I had any use for the Old Testament other than as an obstacle on my yearly pilgrimage through the Scriptures (a pilgrimage that seemed to wander in the desert with the Israelites but never seemed able to cross that Jordan River with Joshua).
My own dislike of the Old Testament stemmed from teaching that was wrought with an implied, and at times explicit, dismissal of anything beyond moral teachings and prophetic appearances of Christ in its pages. This left the vast majority of the Old Testament irrelevant much beyond who is the fourth guy in the furnace or “What is your Goliath?” That is why I am excited about more and more resources that seek to show the “unified message” of the Bible as “the Gospel of God’s grace culminating in Christ Jesus” and seek to teach believers how to “apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart transforming [rather than simply conduct transforming] way.”
How does the Gospel Transformation Bible seek to accomplish this?
(T)his edition of the ESV Bible features study notes for the entire Bible that show readers, passage by passage, how each particular book carries forward God’s redemptive purposes in history, culminating in Christ. These notes enable readers to see how the gospel of grace is the overarching message of the Bible, and how it transforms the human heart.
To aid in this, The Gospel Transformation Bible offers
Introductions to each book of the Bible are also provided, which include a section called “The Gospel in [Book].” This section orients readers to the big picture of how that book develops the story line of God’s redemptive plan. In addition, there is a full index to help readers see the unity of Scripture and how various themes course through the Bible from beginning to end. By looking up various biblical themes—such as temple, idolatry, feasting, or marriage—readers can appreciate the way the Bible picks up and develops various motifs in a coherent, unified, and progressive way.
Crossway assembled an exciting and interesting list of contributors. If you are familiar with Crossway Publishing, most of the contributors will be familiar names. What is unfamiliar for the production of a study Bible is the amount of contributors from outside the world of academia. Bryan Chappell and Dane Ortlund headed up a fun group of contributors for this work including: Sean Michael Lucas, Michael Horton, Jared Wilson, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Bruce Ware, Ray Ortlund, Graeme Goldsworthy, James Hamilton, Nancy Guthrie, Darrin Patrick, Kevin DeYoung, J. D. Greear, R. Kent Hughes, and Burk Parsons, among others.
This list is not as scholarly as many study Bibles. Take for instance two of my favorites, Crossway’s ESV study Bible and Zondervan’s Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. The first had Grudem, Packer, C John Collins and Thomas Schreiner as section editors and contributors almost entirely made up of seminary professors and leadership. Zondervan’s Spirit of the Reformation Bible has for section editors the likes of Richard Pratt, Bruce Waltke, Poythress, Frame, GK Beale, Packer, Boice, Clowney and Roger Nicole. This one also had contributions from almost exclusively seminary people. The list of contributors shows that Crossway’s Gospel Transformation Bible is, like the contributors themselves, academically capable but not academically focused. This study Bible is pastorally focused, “doctrine for life” if you will. Not to be misunderstood, allow me to express clearly that this is not an either/or situation where seminarians know nothing about day to day pastoring or that non-seminarians are incapable of diagramming a sentence in Greek. Both, pastors and professors, are necessary and good. You will find much doctrine in the Gospel Transformation Bible as you will find much pastoral instruction in the ESV Study Bible, they really complement each other quite well. I was just struck by the list of contributors being highly pastoral and I am surprised at how much I have enjoyed that.
The Gospel Transformation Bible has two goals it seeks to accomplish.
Our goal will be to identify gospel themes through methods readers can identify and repeat in their own study of Scripture….common approach to understanding the redemptive nature of all biblical texts is to identify how God’s Word predicts, prepares for, reflects, or results from the person and/or work of Christ.
Along with that is the second goal of the Gospel Transformation Bible to
help readers apply gospel truths to their everyday lives. Faithful application typically answers four questions: 1) What to do? 2) Where to do it? 3) Why to do it? and 4) How to do it?” It is the Gospel of God’s grace, empowered and applied by the Spirit of God, that motivates and enables faithful obedience.
I am excited about starting a little project for myself and I am going to offer a review of each book/section in the coming months to see specifically how and how well this is accomplished, but I was initially interested to see how much of the contributors voice finds its way into the notes while also keeping an eye out for how the two main goals were fleshed out in a sampling of the work. To do this I focused on a couple of contributors that I am familiar with to see if I can distinguish their particular voice in the notes and to see how they handled the text in light of the goals of this Study Bible.
Out of all the contributors I am probably most familiar with the work of Michael Horton so I chose to look specifically at his introduction to Joshua. As you read, it is fairly clear that this is the voice of Horton. Some of the topics he emphasizes and the verbiage he utilizes to teach on Joshua is distinctly him. I didn't necessarily see this as I read from other contributors, even ones I am pretty familiar with like Jared Wilson and Kevin DeYoung, but I think that has more to do with my inability to see what is probably clear to many who are more familiar with individual contributors. I think it is fair to say, from what I read, that although I am sure there was an extensive editing process for all involved, the voice of the contributor can be found in their notes. I like that. It makes the work feel more like a community effort, many voices saying the same thing in many unique ways—which is, in a way, what the project intends to convey about Scripture. Sure Paul wrote, and Moses wrote, and John wrote and you can hear each of their voices distinctly in how they write and topics they address and emphases they place, but they are all writing the same story, the story of God redeeming a people He has chosen to be His own as a display of his manifold glory.
I also wanted to see how well this work accomplished the goals set before it. I plan on looking at that in-depth for a while, but from the parts I have focused on, it does very well. Take for instance the work of Jared Wilson on Jude.
Wilson, in his notes on Jude, shows the Gospel Transformation type of theme that pervades this work, and the Scriptures themselves.
Seeing the Gospel from cover-to-cover, Wilson writes:
Jude reminds us of God’s saving work in Christ that echoes across all of human history. Jude startlingly remarks in verse 5 that it was Jesus who brought God’s people out of Egypt—centuries before the incarnation! Whatever Jude meant to convey here, at the least he is reminding us that Christ’s saving work is not an isolated and disconnected historical event. Rather, Christ’s work of redemption is the climax to all of God’s mighty deeds on behalf of his people.
Wilson also helps the reader see the “transformation” aspect of the Gospel, writing on verses 5-7,
Grace forgives disobedience but it does not produce disobedience, nor is it a free pass to disobey. Jude recalls God’s mighty deeds in history to remind his readers of coming judgment for the wicked…Jude displays the “photo negative” of the gospel, giving us a vivid and dark picture of those who twist the lavish grace of the gospel into a license to sin.
Horton also sticks with the goals of this work. Commenting on the sin of Achan in Joshua 7, Horton takes the opportunity to discuss covenant headship and the believer’s position in Christ.
Achan, representing the people, deserved to be killed for his sin. Jesus, representing his people, did not. “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). In both cases we sense both the seriousness of sin and the lengths to which God will go to preserve his people from sin’s contagion and corruption. Both Achan and Jesus were executed to turn away God’s wrath. But in a breathtaking act of substitution, we sinners, deserving the fate of Achan, are freely forgiven and welcomed into God’s family because Jesus, our representative head, has paid for our sins.
Elyse Fitzpatrick's work on Esther shows the same.
Note on 3:1–6--Many times throughout God’s story of redemption down through history, the wicked have sought to lay hands on the godly, as Haman sought to do to Mordecai and to the Jews. We see this, for example, in the lives of Joseph (Gen. 37:23–24), Moses (Ex. 2:15), David (1 Sam. 18:10–11; 24:1–2), Daniel (Dan. 2:13), and Jeremiah (Jer. 38:6). Evil may have its day, but God will have the final say. The ultimate example of this is Christ himself, whom wicked men seized and wrongfully crucified.
Graeme Goldsworthy, commenting on the call of Jeremiah, has one of the most beautiful quotes I have seen in a while. He writes in his note on verses 1:4–10
The call of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet demonstrates the sovereignty of God. Before Jeremiah was conceived in the womb, God knew him, consecrated him, and appointed him as his prophet. This foreknowledge of the man is more than foreseeing his future. It establishes a relationship between God and his chosen one that is sure and that will fulfill God’s purpose. In this it foreshadows God’s foreknowledge of his people as expressed throughout the New Testament (e.g., Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:2).
James Hamilton, highlighting God’s faithfulness, comments on Hosea 4,
Hosea often uses Ephraim (the most prominent tribe in Israel) to personify both the sin of Israel and the undeserved deliverance the nation will receive—even as Ephraim’s original blessing was undeserved (cf. v. 17 and Gen. 48:15–17). This literary tie to the nation’s origins reminds us that the grace of God is never out of sight even when Hosea cites the nation for her sin and prophesies coming judgment. The unrest in our hearts caused by the prophet’s disturbing allusions to Israel’s sin (and our similar patterns of unfaithfulness) can be settled only by the grace of God glimmering in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the ministry of Christ, to whom Hosea points. The accusing voice of the Lord in Hosea 4, so right in its denunciation, will ultimately be directed toward God’s own Son, on behalf of those who trust in him.
I really could go on and on. The Gospel Transformation Bible becomes more and more encouraging and edifying the more time I spend with it. It is a work that sees the glory of God, as manifested in the person and work of the Son of God, on every page of the Bible. This is a work I look forward to spending a lot of time with.
I love my 82,000 page ESV Study Bible. I love that it seeks to tell you everything about everything. How many miles is Nazareth from Jerusalem? I don’t know, but I am pretty sure I can find it in the ESV Study Bible along with how many DOT camel-weighing stations and 7-Elevens you would find on your trip from one to the other. The ESV Study Bible wants to show you every tree, shrub, animal, and flower in the forest and I will never cease to enjoy that. However, sometimes I need to step back and take a good look at the forest and the Gospel Transformation Bible really attempts to make sure you see the forest, the big picture. I look forward to being blessed by this work for some time to come!
I received a copy of this from Crossway for my honest review. I already had a hard copy because it’s awesome and am happy now that I can bless someone else with it. Grab one of these and enjoy!
About a month ago I received a copy of the Gospel Transformation Bible from Crossway. This new study Bible, edited by Bryan Chappell (General Editor) and Dane Ortlund (Managing Editor), contains hundreds of notes appended to the biblical text, each seeking to help readers see the central message of Scripture: the grace of God manifested in Jesus Christ. As I used this Bible everyday for a month, I asked myself two questions:
- What purpose would this Bible serve in the church?
- How helpful are the notes to the reader?
In the rest of the review I hope to provide my perspective on the Gospel Transformation Bible through the lens of these two questions.
The Gospel Transformation Bible is unlike any other study Bible I have used before. Others--like the ESV Study Bible and the Ryrie Study Bible--provide notes to explain each verse in-depth. These type of study Bibles can almost become commentary-like, helping explain the cultural or biblical background for the reader.
The Gospel Transformation Bible, on the other hand, does not try to explain each and every verse. Instead, the purpose of this study Bible is to show readers how God's redemption plan--culminating in the cross of Jesus Christ--can be found in every passage. This purpose is best expressed in the tagline for this Bible, found printed on the hardcover versions: "Christ in all the Bible. Grace for all of life."
Each of the 12,000 notes (written by over 50 different pastors & scholars) seeks to show how a passage fits in God's redemption plan. This is immensely helpful for new believers--especially those without a church background--as it shows the reason for reading the Old Testament and some of the hard-to-read, harder-to-understand passages. In other words, the notes in this study Bible are trying to explain what each passage means for followers of Christ today.
The layout of this Bible is one of the underrated features of this Bible. The ESV text is in two columns, with the notes and cross-references appearing below the text. This is a big advantage for me; while I love cross-references, I can get easily distracted by them when they are situated between the columns of biblical text. These cross-references, however, are situated out of the way enough so as not to clutter the biblical text, but close enough to not be inaccessible. This format can be seen better in this sampler PDF.
A remarkable feature of this Bible is the Topical Index. Found in the back of the book (in front of the Concordance), the Topical Index is a list of relevant topics covered in the notes. At 30 pages long, this is a sweeping list covering all the major--and minor--characters, themes, and images in the Bible. I could see this index being a great introduction to biblical theology, helping readers see the unity of the Bible along certain subjects.
I received the black hardcover edition to review. This cover is perfect for studying while at the desk or at a table. However, I am not used to a hardcover Bible, so it felt awkward using it in the sanctuary during the worship service. Again, this is my personal preference, but if you are like me, there are several Tru-Tone and leather options available.
After spending one month with the Gospel Transformation Bible, I am impressed by it. All the notes--focusing on God, his redemption plan, and the Gospel--are helpful in devotional reading. At times the notes read more like sermonettes, making me say to myself "That will preach!"
The folks at Crossway have produced a very nice study Bible, perfect for new believers or those looking to supplement their devotional reading. I will likely use this Bible in that manner: as the first thing I grab to read in the morning. This will also become the go-to study Bible I give away to those students and adults I am discipling. I would encourage pastors and church leaders who are already using the ESV Bible to purchase a case of these Bibles for giving out to new believers.
I received a complementary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English (1)
Produced out of the conviction that the Bible is a unified message of God's grace culminating in Jesus, the Gospel Transformation Bible is a significant new tool to help readers see Christ in all of Scripture, and grace for all of life.
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The text is quite easy to read, although the study notes are a bit smaller. However, I didn't have any trouble reading the study notes despite them being a smaller. One thing I like about the study notes is that they are extensive and really explain the Scriptures in a detailed way.
I also love the explanation in the front of the Bible on how to use the study notes, footnotes and other extras inside this Bible. There's also a section to record family information, maps, and a concordance.
This Bible is wonderful and a great resource for your time in the Word. With all it's wonderful study notes, you'll get a greater understanding of God's Word and what could be better than that?
I highly recommend this Bible and give it 5 stars.
*This Bible was provided to me by Crossway. I received a copy of this Bible to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this Bible ( )