I have a confession to make: I have come to hate annotated Bibles. Maybe hate is too strong a word… I’ll still use them occasionally when preparing for a sermon, but by-in-large I find the insight they provide to be limited, along with their usefulness. Much more useful in my opinion, especially if someone has studied the historical context of scripture in more detail elsewhere, is in-depth study of the scripture themselves with personal commentary–that is, note taking, preferably with wide margins.
One of my college English professors used to say “If you’re reading and not writing you’re not thinking” and I took it to heart. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a wide variety of wide margin Bibles available, and none in the translations I would prefer to study with–RSV, NRSV and now the ESV. For a while the only attractive wide-margin version was the New Living Translation’s “Note-takers Bible,” which seems to have went out of print. Additionally, the NLT, whatever it’s strengths as an introductory translation, is not one that I would recommend for exegesis or critical study. Thankfully, I’m not the only person who’s been bemoaning this lack, and recently Crossway publishers has released a slick new “English Standard Version Journaling Bible” that adopts many of the best characteristics of moleskin notebooks. J. Mark Bertrand has written a review of the new format that I encourage visitors to take a look at.
The ESV is a wonderful translation and I’m glad to see that they are making a growing variety of styles available. Now all we have to do is convince Crossway or someone else to print an Anglican Version (With Apocrypha!) of the LCMS ESV/Daily Office bible. At any rate, I recommend this edition of the ESV to anyone interested in a note-taking bible with only one caveat, the print may be rather small for those with poor eyesight–hopefully there will be improvement in that area, but the typeface is clear even in the small font and that says something about the quality of the publication.