Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pulpit Review: Bibles


VanderPool, Charles, English Translator and Editor in Chief. Apostolic Bible Polyglot (The Apostolic Bible literal interlinear translation of the Greek Old and New Testaments, The Lexical Concordance of The Apostolic Bible, and The English-Greek Index of The Apostolic Bible) Apostolic Press, 2006. pdf downloads provided. CD-ROM and bound editions available. Prices vary. (P)


ESV Single Column Legacy Bible. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012. 1664 Pages. TruTone. $49.99. (P)


ESV Student Study Bible. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 1856 Pages. Cloth. $37.99. (LHP)


The Expanded Bible. Contributing Scholars: Tremper Longman III, Mark L. Strauss, Daniel Taylor. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011. 1910 Pages. Cloth. $34.99. (P)


Jackson, Donald, Artistic Director and Illuminator. The St. John's Bible: Letters and Revelation. Collegeville, Minnesota: St. John's College/Liturgical Press, 2012. 100 pages. Cloth. $54.95. (LHP)



Choosing a good Bible for study is important.

Luther declared that his conscience was captive to the Word of God.

If a given Bible is to bind a Christian's conscience as God's Word, it had better be accurate.

Five editions are before you in this review.



Apostolic Bible Polyglot is an impressive resource. 

Since our review copy was digital, we regrettably lost track of it for a time (unlike the books pending review sitting in foot-high stacks). We apologize for the delay since we received our copy in late summer 2010.


The Apostolic Bible Polyglot consists of three major works – The Apostolic Bible literal interlinear translation of the Greek Old and New Testaments, The Lexical Concordance of The Apostolic Bible, and The English-Greek Index of The Apostolic Bible. These three works are numerically coded with the AB-Strong numbering system. Future plans call for an Analytical Lexicon and a Grammar to the Analytical Lexicon. Updates can be found on the website (website).

This is a massive undertaking. Even taking on editing an edition of the Greek New Testament would be a daunting task. This project includes the Greek edition of the Hebrew Scriptures, a concordance, and an index.

The primary resources we have reviewed focus on Greek and English. The main page of the website indicates a Portugese website, forecasting a 21st century true polyglot resource!




The above is a sample of a page from The Apostolic Bible Polyglot Old (LXX) Testament. 


The Apostolic Bible Polyglot is a numerically coded Greek-English interlinear Bible with auxilliary works. Each Greek word in the text has an AB-Strong number above it and an English word below...see example above. The AB-Strong number corresponds to the numbering system of the 1242 page Apostolic Bible Polyglot Old Testament (LXX) (which does not contain the Deutero-canonicals), the 372 page Apostolic Bible Polyglot New Testament, the 366 page Lexical Concordance of The Apostolic Bible Polyglot click here, the 88 page English-Greek Index of The Apostolic Bible Polyglot click here, and the 419 page Analytical Lexicon of The Apostolic Bible Polyglot (available via the CD-ROM and Full Download only) click here. All of the above are available in the full PDF version download below or on the CD-ROM available at the BOOKSTORE. The printed edition, available on the BOOKSTORE, does not contain The Analytical Lexicon of The Apostolic Bible Polyglot (website).

One could print off all of the resources and use up a lot of paper and ink, or you could make use of the pdf files on your laptop, Kindle, iPad, or tablet device. There is a wealth of scholarship to explore.

Personally, there is nothing like the smell of a leather-bound hardcopy printed Bible, also available in their bookstore. Multiple hardcopy editions are available. The only difference is the cover material. Watch this project for further developments! 

Crossway's Single Column Legacy Bible is an ideal reading experience!



The ESV Single Column Legacy Bible is a new text-only edition with a fresh design. Based on the Renaissance ideal of a perfect page, it features a simple, clear layout that includes wide margins. With a concordance, full-color maps in the back, and the readable ESV text, this is a quality edition that can be read and enjoyed for a lifetime (Publisher's website).

I prefer text-only editions because there are far fewer human interpretations and opinions to get in the way.

Pages are crisp and clean-looking. Editor-provided headings are pushed to the outside margins. Textual notes and alternate translations appear at the inside bottom of a page. Nine point type is pleasant to read.


I can personally attest to the lifetime guarantee promised by the publisher. 

When the ESV translation was new, I purchased an edition whose cover wore out in the first year. It was immediately replaced. Crossway's customer service is stellar. And I have never received better packaged books in shipment from ANYONE else.

Later, at the 2004 LCMS Convention, I purchased a pocket ESV edition with the same TruTone Smyth-sewn binding. I've carried it with me for every national and district convention since in addition to its regular duties as my Bible for shut-in and hospital visits. After eight years of use, I am pleased to share that it still looks nearly new. This edition should wear as well for you.

When the ESV Study Bible came out, we had concerns. (Since our pdf files are temporarily unavailable, we reproduce our ESV Study Bible review here from Liturgy, Hymnody, & Pulpit Quarterly Book Review Volume 3, Issue 3, Apostles' Tide, 2009.)

LHP Review

ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. 2768 Pages. Hardback with dustcover and online access. $49.99.

During the summers of 1993 and 1994, I worked full-time as Camp Staff at the Nebraska State 4-H Camp. My study Bible went along with me, of course. Over the course of three plus months, you can get to know people rather well, especially if you live in the same house all that time. One of my coworkers had a hard time accepting the Bible as God's Word, especially when "man's word" was needed to explain it at the bottom of each page. I've never forgotten that interaction. While I still use and see the value of study Bibles in general, I too have a mistrust of "man's word."

The Concordia Self-Study Bible has served me well since then, but I desired a more literal Bible translation. I rejoiced to discover the New King James, New American Standard, and English Standard Version. The ESV is now used widely in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod thanks to Lutheran Service Book, our 2006 hymnal.

The CSSB was a Lutheran revision of Zondervan's NIV Study Bible. The New International Version, as a translation, was not my preferred translation for a study Bible. I was optimistic when I heard that study Bibles were in preparation that used the ESV

I was disappointed by The Reformation Study Bible, which was biased toward Geneva and often hostile to the Lutheran Reformation. That volume, while using the ESV, had notes that contradicted the clear words of the ESV.

The Literary Study Bible, offered by Crossway, is very useful for what it is, but its thickness alone tells you it doesn't have the depth of notes most Christians want in a general study Bible.

Amid much hard work, fanfare from the proud publisher, and critical acclaim from the Evangelical Christian community, I eagerly awaited the ESV Study Bible.

For the purpose of this review, I examined the ESV Bible text itself only in passing. My focus was upon all that surrounded the ESV translation.

Fonts are attractive and easy to read. Nine point type is not exactly large print, but larger than in some study Bibles. Notes are in a 7 point sans serif font. One could easily tell the difference between Bible and notes.

Bible books and types of literature are introduced with explanations, maps, and timelines. Color illustrations are a great addition. Tan is used as a color to highlight more important notes and to aid in reading charts. Charts and maps are found in abundance throughout. Yet, charts sometimes add to the confusion of the reader, especially when multiple views are presented (e.g., The 70 Weeks of Daniel 9, 1608).

When I first read the notes on Mark 1:4-5, I noted that the commentary contradicted the clear text of Scripture. Consider: John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

And the notes: Mark 1:4 John prepares the way by calling people to repentance (see notes on Matt. 3:2; 3:5–6): turning away from sin and turning to God for forgiveness of sins. Repentance had to precede baptism, and thus baptism was not the means by which sins were forgiven but rather was a sign indicating that one had truly repented. John labors in the wilderness as a place of purification and fulfillment of prophecy (Isa. 40:3). « Less

If the ESV notes were to acknowledge that John's baptism of repentance was for (for the purpose of giving and delivering) the forgiveness of sins, the Reformed authors of the notes would HAVE to acknowledge that Holy Baptism, instituted by Christ, ALSO delivers the forgiveness of sins today. (Compare Acts 2:38.

I found it troubling that the notes explaining Matthew 16:8 say that understanding "this rock" as "Peter himself" has the strongest evidence. Further notes clarify this explanation, taking up nearly half of the page (1855), but this note may give a reader a false impression that Peter was actually the first Pope.

Lutherans will note a reformed numbering of the Ten Commandments throughout. (See 2552 for "You shall not murder" as the sixth commandment." That there are three numbering systems for the Ten Commandments should be explained somewhere.

Numerous helpful articles on understanding Christianity and the Bible are found between Revelation and the ESV Concordance. One article on reading the Bible of note to our readers is "Reading the Bible for Preaching and Public Worship." I would have wished that this article would note how some Christians (like Lutherans) make use of sung and prayed texts as part of long-used Christian liturgies in common with usages in the Synagogue and home (Seder meal). Lutherans (Luther, Gerhard, Quenstedt) are mentioned by name in an article on Evangelical Protestantism (2620).

I am able to recommend many resources by Crossway because of what we as conservative, Evangelical Reformation Christians have in common. For some reason though, people are more likely to discount theological opinions in a general hardcover or paperback than they are in a study Bible. As a Lutheran pastor, I am therefore unable to recommend the ESV Study Bible to the laypeople I serve because of the solid and consistent Reformed bias of the notes and articles.

The ESV Study Bible will likely serve well its intended audience, but Lutherans probably won't purchase it in great numbers for the reasons above (and others). Unfortunately, it simply won't help me keep my pastoral ordination and installation vow "that all [my] preaching and teaching and [my] administration of the sacraments will be in conformity with Holy Scripture and with these [Lutheran] Confessions." While the ESV Study Bible is a tremendous resource due to numerous useful charts, maps, and the online access (, it will remain a supplementary, rather than primary resource on my desk.

The Rev. Paul J Cain
is Pastor of
Immanuel Lutheran Church,
Sheridan, Wyoming,
Headmaster of
Martin Luther Grammar School,
Wyoming District Worship Chairman,
 and Editor of QBR

Yes, when the ESV Study Bible came out, we had concerns. When Crossway edited that volume down to the ESV Student Study Bible, many of those earlier concerns fade away.


The ESV Student Study Bible is ideally suited for students who are serious about God's Word—who want to learn more about what the Bible teaches and how the Bible applies to all of life. 

With 12,000 clear, concise study notes, the ESV Student Study Bible provides numerous new features—including nearly 900 "Did You Know?" facts, 120 new Bible character profiles, and 15 new topical articles. It also features a new glossary of key terms, more than 80 full-color maps and illustrations, an extensive concordance, and 80,000 cross-references. These and many other features make it the most comprehensive, colorful, and content-rich student Bible available today. Suited to high school and college students, the ESV Student Study Bible is also a versatile resource for anyone engaged in serious study of God's Word.

Created by an outstanding team of more than 100 evangelical Christian scholars, teachers, and pastors, the ESV Student Study Bible is adapted from the highly acclaimed and best-selling ESV Study Bible. With numerous new features, the ESV Student Study Bible is an invaluable resource.  For high school and college students, but equally for all students of the Bible—for everyone who loves to read and learn more about God's Word.
(Publisher's website)

This is what I would consider a flagship resource for Crossway. I would rank it head and shoulders above all of the print study Bibles we reviewed last December (


How does this adapted edition fare? Let's revisit some points from before.

  • Regarding Mark 1:4, note the abbreviated version of the note from before: John prepares the way by calling people to repentance, which means turning to God for forgiveness of sins. Baptism was not the means by which sins were forgiven but rather was a sign indicating that one had truly repented. See Isa. 40:3
    • This is inadequate from a Lutheran view, denying what the text itself says.
  • The notes explaining Matthew 16:8 still say that understanding "this rock" as "Peter himself" has the strongest evidence. 
    • Further notes clarify this explanation (1269), doing a better job than before, but not clear enough for me.
  • Lutherans will note a reformed numbering of the Ten Commandments throughout. This remains the same. 
    • I repeat: that there are three numbering systems for the Ten Commandments should be explained somewhere.

I like the resource overall, but cannot endorse it because of issues primarily with the teaching of the Sacraments of Christ (15:29, 1 Corinthians 11:24). A Study Bible's notes should be trustworthy and bold, teaching what the text says, rather than merely explaining what different groups think the words mean.

The bottom line? 

The ESV Student Bible is a more concise and more trustable resource for a Lutheran Christian than the ESV Study Bible, but my preference will remain The Lutheran Study Bible (ESV). 

If you're looking for a new plain-text ESV Bible, go with The ESV Single Column Legacy Bible. Pair it, or The Lutheran Study Bible (CPH) with the ESV Bible Atlas (


Thomas Nelson sent us a complimentary review copy of The Expanded Bible


Explore the Depths of the Scriptures While You Read

Expect understanding! Experience the full meaning of God's Word. The Expanded Bible has been developed by a respected team of skilled Bible translators to make God's Word easier to understand—and more relevant and real for today's Christian—with innovative expansions in the text itself that exhibit the complete meaning of each passage in its context—while you read.

  • Perceive what God is saying in language that's easy to understand
  • Discover the significance of each passage with helpful expansions in the text
  • Comprehend full meaning with alternative, literal, and traditional wordings
  • Understand the Bible's culture and setting with descriptive comments where needed
  • Compare scripture with scripture using key cross-references
  • Add your own expansions and observations in wide margins on every page

Contributing scholars:  Tremper Longman III, Mark L. Strauss, Daniel Taylor 
Also available for your eReader!
(Publisher's Website)


I expected an updated version of The Amplified Bible, where the base text was the KJV descendant American Standard Version, the base text here is the New Century Version. The differences already can be predicted.

The KJV, ASV, RSV, and ESV are essentially literal word-for-word translations. Since the NCV is "meaning-based," or functional-equivalent, similar to the NIV, I am already discouraged. This, I believe, is the primary weakness of The Expanded Bible. It would be a much stronger resource with a literal Bible translation as a base text.


Here's a sample:

In the beginning [or In the beginning when] God created [this Hebrew verb is used only when God is the one creating] the sky [heavens] and the earth.

Genesis 1:1 sounds predictably like we would expect it to. The note on "created" is helpful. Some might question how helpful "sky" is as a translation over the traditional "heavens."

Reading Joshua 24:15 makes it clear that the "choice" is between to sets of pagan gods. Reading 1 Corinthians 11 on the Lord's Supper does little to clarify the Greek of the text in controverted places (diatheke, "body," et al).

Understand what kind of tool this Bible is. It is not designed to be read aloud, necessarily. Unless one is skilled with leaving out all of the bracketed notes, it would sound choppy. This is a help for a Christian or pastor who doesn't know the Biblical languages and yet wishes to know the fuller range of meaning that the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek provide.  It would serve as a reference Bible alongside another version. Instead of purchasing The Expanded Bible, I would urge a student wanting a similar tool to purchase instead a parallel column Bible with the KJV, ESV, and other translations as desired.



There is really no substitute for The Saint John's Bible. For the ESV translation, The Four Holy Gospels gives a reader a sample of what is possible in Biblical art (,  but there is no calligraphy and it only covers the four Gospel accounts.

With this volume, The Saint John's Bible is now complete.


After more than twelve years, the creation of The Saint John's Bible has reached its remarkable conclusion. Renowned calligrapher and illuminator Donald Jackson has collaborated with scribes, artists, and theologians to hand-create, with stunning lettering and exquisite illustrations, the entire Bible. The complete project spans seven volumes in published form.

Letters and Revelation is the final volume of the entire monumental project. It includes some of the most crucial works of all the Christian Scriptures: epistles traditionally attributed to Paul, John, Peter, James, and Jude, and the fascinating book of Revelation. Donald Jackson's artistic vision lends them a new life and vibrancy for modern readers.

Letters and Revelation contains more than thirty illuminations and special text treatments. Among the stunning illuminations:

  • And Every Tongue Should Confess (Philippians 2:5-11) includes the word "Lord" painted in gold in fourteen different languages: Armenian, Chinese, Coptic, Greek, English, French, Ge'ez (Ethiopian), German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Vietnamese
  • Letter to the Seven Churches with the Heavenly Choir (Revelation 2:1-5:14), includes crosses representing several different Christian traditions and the words "Holy, Holy, Holy" written in Greek, Ge'ez (Ethiopian), and Latin
  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Revelation 6:1-8) depicts unsettling symbols of power, greed, and exploitation—military tanks, oil rigs, and nuclear power.

Written and drawn entirely by hand using quills and paints hand-ground from precious minerals and stones—such as lapis lazuli, malachite, silver, and 24-karat gold— The Saint John's Bible celebrates the tradition of medieval manuscripts while embracing twenty-first-century technology to facilitate the design process and collaboration between Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and Donald Jackson's scriptorium in Wales.

Donald Jackson is one of the world's leading calligraphers and the artistic director and illuminator of The Saint John's Bible. He is a Senior Illuminator to the Queen of England's Crown Office. He is an elected Fellow and past Chairman of the prestigious Society of Scribes and Illuminators. His 30-year retrospective exhibition, Painting with Words, premiered at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in August 1988 and traveled to thirteen museums and galleries. A new exhibition, Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible, premiered a national museum tour at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in April 2005. Exhibitions of The Saint John's Bible continue in museums around the United States and at Saint John's Abbey and University. 

(Publisher's Website)

I have loved the gold illumination throughout the seven volume set. Initial Capitals and Chapter Titles are stunningly beautiful in their complex simplicity. 

As a Lutheran Christian, I rejoiced in the Romans 5 art treatment of "since we are justified by faith..." And I was a little surprised at what line needed to be creatively inserted from the bottom of the page, 1 Corinthians 11:25-26, "it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat..."

Readers will observe 2 John, 3 John, and Jude viewable on a single two-page spread. 

The Revelation to John is where the artists pull out all the stops. As Scripture's bookend to Genesis and the consummation and fulfillment of all things, artistic motifs first seen in the other six volumes return as parts of a greater whole. It was of great encouragement to see various crosses and tongues come together as the multitude sings "holy" (pages with Revelation 3-5).

I would love to see The Saint John's Bible in person, particularly to view the reflected gold of the Revelation 21 Throne and Lamb scene. Save up if you must, but invest in the whole SJB set.

God's Word is our great heritage as Christians. I take its meaning and consequences seriously, and try not to take myself too seriously. Consider the resources reviewed here as you dig deeper into the riches of Holy Scripture.



The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

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