I was recently blessed to receive a review copy of the much-anticipated revised Reformation Study Bible published by Reformation Trust. This is such a massive resource, that I’ve decided to dedicate several posts to reviewing it. Each post will be dedicated to reviewing a particular aspect of the tome (Book introductions, maps/charts, articles, study notes, etc). This review series will be slightly different from my other reviews. Obviously I haven’t been able to read the whole Bible, several articles, all the book introductions, and hundreds of pages of study notes in the course of a month. I have read what I believe to be a sufficient sample and will base my review on that.Today I will be reviewing the Book introductions. These introductions are similar to what you might expect from a study bible, but there are a few key features that are extremely valuable that I would like to point out.
Each book introduction covers the same basic points.
- Title – While it may seem intuitive to most who are familiar with the Bible, the title indicator explains where the title of a book comes from. (eg Isaiah indicates that the book was named after the prophet “whose oracles and ministry it records.”)
- Author – Sticking to the traditional author in most cases, it indicate who the author of a given work was and tells us a bit about the author. However, it does not shy away from indicating where there is question or dispute over the author (eg Genesis indicates that although Moses provided the “essential substance” that there are components that have been edited or supplemented by a later editor).
- Date and Occasion – This is self-explanatory. This section simply tells us when a book was written, and for what purpose.
- Genre – Understanding the genre of a given book or section of a book is one of the most important contextual data points toward properly interpreting the book. The notes indicate not only what genre a book is, but also gives information about how that impacts interpretation.
- Literary Features – Related to genre, this section highlights literary techniques or features which are significant to the interpretation of a given text (eg The judge cycle in the book of Judges).
- Characteristics and Primary Theme – This provides an overview of the work as a whole, and keys in on the specific theme of a given book.
- Theology – Similar to the theme of the book, this section approaches the Biblical Theology on a broad level.
- In the Larger Story – Unique, at least in my experience, to the RSB is an attempt to position the narrative components of a book (or in cases of non-narrative texts, the role of a given book) within the larger Biblical context.
- Christ in the Book – Again, a unique feature of the RSB, is a section which reflects the current resurgence of Christ centered exegesis. Seeking to reveal how all of the Bible is about Jesus (Christocentricm), there is a section of the introduction that highlights theophanies, allusions, and typology related to the Son (in the case of the Old Testament), or any specific ways that Christ is communicated differently than other texts (in the case the New Testament)
- History of Interpretation – The RSB provides a brief explanation of how a given book has been understood throughout the history of the Church. This is very helpful for those who would like to know the broader historical role that a given book has held.
- Outline – At the end of each introduction is a detailed outline of the book.
In addition to the book introductions, major sections of text (Pentateuch, Wisdom, Prophets, etc) also have introduction sections. I will not treat them in detail, but they are very similar to the book introductions and cover essentially the same information on a broader level.
Overall, I found the introductions to be very thorough and informative. The language is approachable for lay persons, but also sufficiently scholarly that it was helpful for a person who is well versed in Biblical studies. The unique entries in the RSB provide a welcome level of context and exegetical insight that seems to be lacking in many other Study Bibles.
As we will see when we get to the study notes, this thorough treatment makes the RSB a sufficient commentary for most lay-persons who desire to understand on a deeper level what is being communicated in the Bible.
Please note: Reformation Trust / Ligonier Ministries has provided me with a review copy of the crimson hard cover edition of the Reformation Study Bible. They do not require positive reviews, nor have they edited or modified this review in any way.