Another study Bible? Seriously? Don’t we have enough already? What makes this one stand apart from all the others? These are the questions I asked myself upon learning of my next review opportunity. But let me tell you this: I’m so very pleasantly surprised, I can’t wait to share this new study Bible with you.
According to my research, the first study Bible named after its sole editor was the Scofield Study Bible. Published in 1917, this Bible included both the King James Version of the text and copious notes written by Rev. Cyrus Scofield. This study Bible, selling over 2 million copies, unquestionably shaped how people worldwide interpreted the Scriptures. It popularized the premilennial-dispensationalist worldview which found a welcome home in the fundamentalist movement.
Personal Aside: The Scofield Study Bible was also the very first study Bible I ever owned—I still have it, in case you’re wondering. Black with gold edging and my name imprinted in gold on the front cover. Because. Reasons.
The study Bible finally gained traction in the mid-to-late 80s when I was in college and managing the Bible department at Berean Christian Store. Although the Scofield and Ryrie (comments by Charles Ryrie) study Bibles had garnered great popularity, each reflected the singular view of its sole editor.
Enter Zondervan Publishing House. Their beautifully designed NIV Study Bible (ca. 1985) featured not only comments from a variety of scholars, but also complex charts, full-color timelines, family tree diagrams, intricate maps, and more. The commentary was intended to help the reader understand the historical and geographic contexts of the Scriptures.
And then the floodgates opened, and new study Bibles were developed for just about every niche you could think of:
- Want help applying the Bible to your day-to-day life? We’ve got a Bible for that! The Life Application Study Bible
- Need help understanding conservative Christian doctrines? We’ve got a Bible for that! The Disciple’s Study Bible
- Want to know more about the cultural context in which the Bible was written? We’ve got a Bible for that! The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
- Wish you could have a study Bible in the NJKV? We’ve got a Bible for that! The Open Bible
- Need a Bible to help you defend your faith? We’ve got a Bible for that! The Apologetics Bible
- Want a Bible that teaches you a conservative evangelical Christian worldview? We’ve got a Bible for that! CSB Worldview Bible (I actually reviewed that study Bible here.)
- And on and on it goes…
For a while, these “topical” study Bibles sufficed, but with the advent of social media and the niching-down of the marketplace, the pendulum has swung back to study Bibles featuring notes from specific people. It sure seems like anyone who has a popular ministry has edited a study Bible (this is NOT exhaustive):
- John MacArthur: The MacArthur Study Bible
- Joel Osteen: Hope for Today Bible
- Joyce Meyer: Battlefield of the Mind Bible
- Charles Ryrie: The Ryrie Study Bible
- Phil & Al Robertson: Duck Commander Faith & Family Bible
- David Jeremiah: The Jeremiah Study Bible
- Charles Swindoll: The Swindoll Study Bible
- C.I. Scofield: The Scofield Study Bible
Fast-forward 100 years from the first publication of the Scofield Study Bible, and the selection of study Bibles now available is pretty staggering and pretty homogeneous. For example, do you notice any similarity in the aforementioned study Bible editors (listed in order left to right, top to bottom):
So, back to my original questions: Another study Bible? Seriously? Don’t we have enough already? What makes this one stand apart from all the others?
Meet Dr. Tony Evans
As one of the country’s most respected leaders in evangelical circles, Dr. Evans is the founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, is founder and president of The Urban Alternative, served as chaplain of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and is author of over one hundred books, booklets, and Bible studies.
Dr. Tony Evans now holds the distinct honor of writing and publishing the first full-Bible commentary and Study Bible by an African American.
While the ethnicity of the editor is noteworthy, it’s the extensive study notes and ancillary resources curated from Dr. Evans’ sermons, teachings, and writings that makes this study Bible a truly unique and valuable resource for everyone.Dr. Tony Evans now holds the honor of writing and publishing the first full-Bible commentary and Study Bible by an African American. #TonyEvansStudyBibleL3 #BibleStudyRocks Click To Tweet
Video Overview of Bible
Below is the promotional video for the study Bible, and you can click here to download a 33-page sample including a letter from Dr. Evans.
Similar to the CSB Worldview Study Bible, the Tony Evans Study Bible was published to promote a specific worldview. When asked about this, in an interview for Christianity Today with Adelle Banks of the Religion News Service, Dr. Evans replied:
It’s seven years of intense work, but the reason for it is to promote a specific worldview. I believe the Bible has a very specific worldview, which is the glory of God through the advancement of his kingdom. And so I wanted to thread that worldview through the Bible and the commentary.Dr. Tony Evans, Christianity Today (November 13, 2019)
I believe Dr. Evans’ experience as a black man in America has given him a perspective on the Bible that many of his white colleagues may not have considered, and his bold efforts to address the misuse of certain passages is informative and refreshing. In the same interview, Dr. Evans offered an example of black presence in the Bible and insight into his Kingdom approach:
In the lineage of Jesus are a number of people from the lineage of Ham. The lineage of Ham goes back to African people since he settled in Africa. We deal with the curse of Ham that was used to promote slavery in America and apartheid in South Africa…What I want to say to African Americans is if you see what’s really in the Bible, you can find yourself there. You don’t have to lose yourself to believe in Jesus. In fact, much of who we are is in Jesus.Dr. Tony Evans, Christianity Today (November 13, 2019)
“Wow! I can read this!”
The Tony Evans Study Bible (TESB) is both refreshing and insightful, and an essential addition to the Bible study library of any serious student of the Word.
Beautifully designed with clear divisions between Biblical text, notes, and articles, the text is set in a font large enough that even my farsighted husband can read it.
In fact, the first words out of his mouth when I showed him the Bible were “Wow! I can read this!” Without hesitation, he immediately whipped out his smartphone, scanned the QR code on the page, and began watching one of Dr. Evan’s supplementary videos related to that passage. Very cool.
The TESB contains the Christian Standard Bible version (which I reviewed here) and a variety of study helps created and curated by Dr. Tony Evans:
- Study notes crafted from Evans’ sermons and writings
- 40 inspirational articles
- 50 “Lessons on Kingdom Living”
- 60 “Questions & Answers” (questions from Evans’ audience)
- 40 “Hope Words” (brief statements of encouragement)
- More than 120 personal application questions
- Digital links to 150+ videos of sermons, devotionals, and other teaching from Dr. Evans
- Study helps including key definitions, theological and doctrinal charts, a basic concordance, and full-color maps
- Two different Bible reading plans
I love the fact that the study notes in this Bible highlight the presence of different ethnicities, especially Africans, throughout Biblical history and in the royal family tree as well as the ancestry of Jesus of Nazareth. For far too long, this has been either under-emphasized or completely neglected in other study Bibles.
While I continue to be baffled at B&H Publishing’s decision to intermingle passages from Christian books into the Bible and call it a study Bible, I do believe the TESB is more than a mash-up.
The Tony Evans Study Bible is a work of art pulled together over the course of many years for a singular purpose: to clearly demonstrate a theme of advancing God’s Kingdom throughout every book of the Bible. This is no small achievement, and this fresh perspective should inform our research from this point forward.
Having the perspective of an African American pastor at my fingertips for any given passage is invaluable.
I highly recommend every pastor, Bible study leader, and Sunday School teacher to purchase and use The Tony Evans Study Bible regularly in their sermon and lesson preparation.
What’s Missing from this Study Bible?
As is often the case with newer study Bibles, I was extremely disappointed to see NOTHING about the intertestamental period anywhere in the TESB. I think that any study Bible should have SOMETHING about the 400 years between the rebuilding of the Second Temple and the birth of Jesus. This time period is often referred to in Baptist circles as “400 years of silence,” but I can easily argue that they were far from silent.
It is unfortunate that the readers of the TESB will embark upon their study of the New Testament with no knowledge of how the Sanhedrin came to be; how the Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, Zealots, (and Essenes!) were formed; where synagogues originated; and so much more. It’s critical that any teacher of the New Testament understand what happened under the reign of the Seleucid Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who the Hasmoneans were, and why Herod held so much power in the Judean province under Roman rule. Not to mention Rome’s role in Judea. This history should be an essential part of EVERY study Bible. Full stop.
I’m also disappointed to see a semi-patriarchal approach to passages about the roles of women in the church—affirming them in some roles while continuing to justify their exclusion from others based on traditional interpretation of controversial passages—and the lack of sensitivity for those who identify as LGBTQ.
Although this study Bible is a major step forward for everyone, there is still a long way to go. I do believe that someday, we will have a study Bible that reflects the equality and inclusion that Jesus taught and modeled for us, and I look forward to reviewing that when it is published. Oh, and if you’re still reading, thank you. This was a long review.
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