Crossway’s ESV Concise Study Bible, which has a strong Beeson Divinity School connection, will be released on Oct. 7. The purpose of the new publication is to offer the strengths of the much larger ESV Study Bible in a more accessible, understandable and relatable form to a broader readership.
Comprising the committee of editors were Beeson Divinity faculty members: Paul R. House and Frank Thielman; Paul’s wife and veteran editor, Heather House; Grant Taylor, Beeson alumnus and former associate dean; and Ethan and Kadie Smith, who are married and both Beeson alumni.
Paul House, who like Thielman, is a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version (ESV), assembled the ESV Concise Study Bible editorial team in 2018 at Crossway’s request. Both Paul House and Crossway recognized a need for a study Bible that was smaller, less commentary-like, and more translatable and easily understood by readers across the world.
In order to achieve this, the committee reduced the study notes published in the ESV Student Study Bible by 30%. While many charts and maps were adopted or adapted from prior Crossway publications, new introductory articles were written for each book of the Bible and study notes were reduced, revised or replaced for critical precision.
To assist with the project, a focus group was formed and overseen by another Beeson alumnus, Matthew Swale, Bible instructor at Cornerstone High School in Birmingham, who provided revisional feedback from high schoolers’ use of the ESV Student Study Bible in his classroom throughout the 2017-18 academic year.
“Men and women come to Beeson because of world-class scholars like Dr. House, and it forever shapes our interaction with God’s Word,” Swale said. “The ESV Concise Study Bible represents a commitment by the likes of Dr. House and Crossway to make first-rate biblical scholarship accessible to others, too, so that their interaction with God’s Word can be strengthened also.”
The ESV Concise Study Bible features more than 12,000 study notes, brand-new introductions, a glossary, maps, clarifications of key terms and phrases, explanations of important people, places and connections between biblical passages and cultural insights aiding readers’ interpretation of the biblical texts.
For example, a note compares a Corinthian woman’s head covering to a modern woman’s wedding ring. Timothy and Titus are described as veteran missionaries, and other biblical figures, such as the prophets, are made more real through similar, relatable descriptions, according to Paul House. He credits Kadie Smith, who wrote many of the book introductions, with insisting on vivid descriptions of Bible characters.
This new product also meets another goal—it is easily translatable.
“I always thought ESV would have most of its impact abroad, not here,” said Paul House. “What I’m most excited about is the Spanish edition, which will be part of missions in South America. I think the study Bible will help a lot of people here, but you really write books to teach people you’ll never meet.”
Nonetheless, Paul House said he does expect to use the new ESV Concise Study Bible among those he does know—Beeson people. First-year Beeson students might find the study Bible listed in their Old Testament Theology syllabus.
“I’ll probably replace the big ESV Study Bible with the ESV Concise Study Bible,” he said. “New students meet a similar demographic. I think I’ll at least try it once.”
Paul House said he mostly enjoyed working with all the committee members not only because of his personal connection to them but also because "they are good Christian people." Additionally, all the editors are proficient in both biblical Hebrew and Greek, which he said is rare to find among editing teams and a noteworthy contribution to the ESV Concise Study Bible.
“It was an incredible gift and humbling experience to work alongside world-renowned scholars like Paul House and Frank Thielman,” said Ethan Smith. “I truly believe Beeson is a special place where theological charity is paired with unmatched love for God's Word. I was honored to be a part of a team that gets to share that with the world.”