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.
I began this review series a year ago, and have since been provided with a copy of the New King James Version edition of the Reformation Study Bible. As far as I can tell, there are no differences in the supplementary material, so I will continue my reviews where I left off.
Before I proceed with the review, I just wanted to comment on the differences between the ESV and the NKJV. The ESV is based on what is called the Critical Text (CT) or Eclectic Text (ET). I am not qualified to go into a long discussion about text criticism, but the basic explanation is that in the CT or ET scholars have looked at the totality of the Greek manuscripts and made decisions based on a variety of criterion. The NKJV is based on what is called the Textus Receptus (TR) or Received Text. The TR was formulated in much the same way, but was formulated in the 16th and 17th centuries, with a much more limited number of Greek manuscripts available. Although the preface to the NKJV does include some discussion regarding these issues, I would have liked to have seen an additional full length article regarding this subject provided by the contributors (Michael Krueger perhaps).
The result, as it is germane to our discussion here, is that the CT and TR differ in some places, a few of which are substantial. (For example, Mark 16:9-20 is present in the TR, but most CT based translations either do not publish it or have it bracketed with a note saying it is not in the earliest extant manuscripts) While some of the disputed passages are noted in the study note, there are many that have no indication of their disputed status (eg Acts 8:37, 1 John 5:7). I would have preferred some kind of indication of this, but also recognize that this may have been a limitation due to publishing rights for the NKJV text.
Apart from that, the RSB treats these verses exactly as it treats non-disputed verses, with appropriate study notes and explanations. This demonstrates that while it was not likely a tremendous amount of effort, this is not simply a reprint with a different version. Additional content was produced and added for this edition.
Today I would like to review the study notes provided, as well as the short format theological articles.
First is the study notes themselves. As I remarked previously, the study notes follow a similar format to the study notes I’ve seen in other study bibles. Generally this takes the format of identifying which verse a note is associated with, and then providing a phrase or words which the note is a specific explanation of. For example, the note on Genesis 1:26 identifies the words “Let Us… Our… Our” indicating that it is referencing the entire phrase “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Occasionally, a note is not tied to a specific phrase, and is either a reference to another note, or a note on a broad passage. For example, the note on Genesis 1:27 refers you to the short format theological article on the same page, while the note on Genesis 2:4-3:24 is a broad note on the change of scope that occurs when the narrative zooms in on Adam and Eve.
The notes are appropriate for an average layperson with little or no formal theological training, and serve to answer basic questions that might come up over the course of reading a text during devotional studies.
The short form theological articles serve as a kind of expanded version of the study notes themselves. They cover the same kind of ground as the study notes themselves, but at a slightly deeper level. For example, the note associated with Genesis 1:27 is a discussion on what it means to be created in the Image of God. It covers what is meant by the term man as a word which applies to both men and women. It also discusses the concept of creaturely analogy to God’s uncreaturely existence. It also looks forward to how this creaturely image was affected by the Fall into sin.
These short form theological articles serve as a sort of middle point between the study notes and the long form theological articles which appear (primarily) at the end of the book. As you would expect, they appear in areas which contain central topics (Image of God in Genesis 1, Covenant of Works in Genesis 2, Original Sin in Genesis 3). The only complaint I have about these short form articles is that they are too sparse. They serve as excellent primers on major concepts, and their proximity to the biblical texts which they are associated helps to connect the Systematic Theology represented to the texts from which it is sourced.
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.