I recently received a copy of Crossway’s ESV Archaeology Study Bible. I want to give a short review of this excellent and up-to-date resource.
With a team of over 15 archaeologists and experts providing historical and cultural insight into the biblical text, this study Bible is a fantastic support for students of God’s word, pastors, and teachers who seek to present the Bible in its appropriate contexts. This Bible is loaded with beautiful images to help supplement one’s understanding of the ancient world in which the Scriptures were written. Controversial topics are handled in a fair and balanced way (see the discussion of the yam sup on page 106 for an example) while also taking intelligent positions on largely settled topics (such as the location of Golgotha, see pages 1584-1585). There is material included for each book of the Bible, which makes studying the archaeology of individual books much more accessible.
Many archaeological resources are strong in the OT but weaker in the NT. This does not appear to be the case with the ESV Archaeology Study Bible. There are strong insights not only into OT times, but also into the Greco-Roman world of the NT. As an instructor of NT archaeology, I have been frustrated at times to find contemporary information on the archaeology of Turkey, Greece, and Rome. This study Bible proves biblical archaeology is not for the OT scholar alone.
I can see myself using this Bible as a resource for both academic study and expository preaching in the days to come. I would exhort fellow pastors and teachers to approach this Bible as a tool for answering the important question “what was significant about the cultural and social world in which this text was written?” Texts do not exist in vacuums; they are written in time and space by individuals who are deeply influenced by their societies. Understanding the life and times of the original authors gives us invaluable assistance into correctly interpreting the texts.
Crossway has done evangelicalism a great service in compiling this resource. I would highly recommend it to any interested in biblical backgrounds, Bible geography, or biblical archaeology.