Monday, November 16, 2015

Book Review: The ESV Men’s Devotional Bible - a new bible aimed at helping men

The ESV Men’s Devotional Bible,  Crossway Books (2015)

I was invited to receive a free copy of this new devotional
bible and it came at the right time. I felt I needed a fresh perspective and God delivered. I have several bibles in my library, but have consistently used a particular one through each decade. My first one was a the NIV Study Bible in hardback, back in 1985. I used that for over a dozen years. In 1997, I receive a leather-bound copy of “The Experiencing God Study Bible” (NIV) as a Christmas gift. I’ve been using this for almost 20 years, and have had to recover it once. Now I am giving this ESV Men’s Devotional Bible a shot.

The purpose behind this new bible is to “strengthen and transform the hearts of men through the power of the Spirit-infused Word of God.” Of course, God’s Word has the power to do this, but this book is aimed specifically at men who are facing a relentless assault from the world, the flesh and the Devil in ways unseen or unheard of before. We are under constant attack and need all the help and tools we can get. To that end, this new bible will be a valued weapon in our arsenal.

I have not read the ESV before. I was introduced to Jesus through an NIV bible and have made this my translation of choice for thirty years. For a spell in seminary, I had to use the NASB, and found it a little more stilted and eventually came back to the NIV. The ESV, like the NASB, is a literal translation, seeking to capture the precise wording rather than a dynamic equivalent like the NIV, that seeks to translate thought-for-thought not word-for-word. It’s a different style. The editors have used the RSV as the starting point and claim their legacy from the KJV and ASV before RSV. From the early readings I have done, this version is a little stiffer than the NIV but perhaps a little easier than the NASB. Any new version takes us out of our comfort zone, but perhaps let’s us hear God’s Word with fresh ears. I am all for this.

Let’s move on to the book itself. The copy I got was a hardbound version, although there are leather options as well. This book is almost 1600 pages and is in a comfortable size to handle easily. It’s a black-letter edition, meaning that the words of Jesus are in black like the rest of the text. That is different from my earlier bibles. The text of the Bible is in an 8.5 point serif font, slightly different from the added devotionals which are sans serif. This is just a little smaller than the font in my current bible, making it just a little harder to read for older eyes like mine, but not too difficult that I turn away. The pages are thin, but that is to be expected for such a long book. I would not try highlighting verses with a highlighter as I would expect the ink to be visible from the other side of the page. But underlining with a ballpoint pen should be no problem. I have tended to write notes in my bible margins, but these margins are very tight and do not allow enough room for such notations. That is a pity.

The bible itself comes with three distinct features. First, as a devotional bible, there are the devotionals themselves. Written by a team of over 50 pastors and teachers under the editorial oversight of Dr. Sam Storms, there are 365 one-page devotionals that are gospel-centered and tied to particular scriptures. They are interspersed within the text of the books, with at least one devotional in each Biblical book. They reflect on the text and its contemporary meaning. Their primary intention is to be read in conjunction with the biblical text, and if you start from Genesis and read through to Revelation you’ll not only complete the Bible in a year, you’ll have 365 daily devotions to complement the text. Another way to approach them is to just read the devotional and accompany text, starting in Genesis. This way, they offer a framework for understanding the key theological themes in one year. Another way is to refer to the index of devotions at the back of the book, and select what resonates. I am personally choosing to use this Bible in my current reading program, which is a 1-year New Testament plan, and will read the devotionals as I come to them. I am joining them in progress, in other words.

The second feature are the book introductions. Each one is kept to one-page and focuses on the background, the key theme, and the book and a man’s heart. This is useful information and sets the tone for how it will be relevant for the male reader.

The final feature is the dictionary of key terms in the back. It’s not comprehensive, but at 15 pages it covers several hundred words and phrases that a causal reader might not understand.

My initial impressions on this bible are that it is a reasonable size (not too large to handle, nor too small to read), has good features (not too many that they overwhelm, yet enough that they serve their purpose), and a clear intention, to help men live stronger Christian lives. I am going to enjoy reading a new version and see how God uses this to encourage me in my walk with Jesus.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting / Flyby Promotions for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for this honest review and post. 

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