Review: the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible

Review of the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, Bryan Chappell (General Editor) and Dane Ortlund (Managing Editor), Crossway, 2013.

Available here from amazon.com and thinkivp.

The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible is a new study Bible from Crossway to go alongside the ESV Study Bible. (The ESV Study Bible is available here from amazon.com and thinkivp.)

Essentially, while the ESV Study Bible focuses on exegesis, the Gospel Transformation focuses on biblical theology and gospel-centred application. It is perhaps an over-simplification, but the ESV Study Bible will address the question, ‘What does this mean?’ while the Gospel Transformation will address the question, ‘What does this mean today?’ (Click here for a fuller comparison.)

The introduction says: “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 life in a heart-transforming way.” (vii)

Each chapter has notes which show how the passage points to Jesus. “It should be emphasized that placing every text in its redemptive context does not mean that every text mentions Jesus. Rather, every text relates some aspect of God’s redeeming grace that finds its fullest expression in Christ.” (viii) So this is not just a matter of identifying speculative allegories, but instead showing how “God’s Word predicts, prepares for, reflects, or results from the person and/or work of Christ.” (ix) The application is not simply about identifying What and Where to put the Word into practice, but also Why and How. This involves emphasizing the motivation and power of grace.

I have not read all the notes, but what I have read looks good. It reflects good Christ-centred biblical theology.

My complaint would be that at times the notes appear somewhat thin. Perhaps this is inevitable – otherwise the resulting book would be very thick! I had a particular look at a couple of books I’m working on – 1&2 Samuel and Titus. The comments on Samuel are good, but they tend to comment on the story as a while without much engagement with the text itself. My fear is that this will make the comments ‘samey’ without the colour and texture that the text itself brings. Again the comments on Titus are good, but somewhat thin. For example, the only comment on the crucial agenda-setting introductory paragraph of Titus is “Opening”!

But as a guide to the general reader the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible will be a great help. I already know who I’m giving my copy to.

You can make up your own mind with this 70-page sample or watch this introductory video …

The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible is available here from amazon.com and thinkivp.


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