Story of Redemption Bible is a Crossway Books publication with commentary by Greg Gilbert, which I received from the publisher for review.
I am beginning to realize that Crossway tends to produce bibles that are more niche than universally directed. The bibles they release have unique, few, and specific features rather than a sampling of the typical and essential features.
Reviewing this bible, as it is different from the typical, allowed me opportunity to research bible formats, features, translations, equivalence, uses; also to consider what I would like in a bible version and format.
So, I’ll lay out a roadmap of how I’m going to go about reviewing Story of Redemption Bible:
- I’ll break up the review in sections:
- physical description, features, missing features, commentary, strengths, translation and purpose
- I’ll discuss my recommendation of Story of Redemption Bible
Review by Section
This bible is thick and hefty. It is hardcovered and I’d presume, a stay at home resource. Like many of Crossway’s bibles, it is embellished with beautiful flourishes. It has a lovely cover page and presentation page. It is illuminated with a cream and gold dust cover. There are also small illuminations on the cover page of each book. The page references and chapter numbers are gold. The text is in a single column with a nice readable text size. All the pages are cream. It has wide note-taking margins and note pages in back.
So, overall a very visually appealing bible, aesthetically unique from other bibles. Also physically unique to this format is that the maps provided are inserted into the text where they are relevant– this is actually consistent with the placement of the commentary as well. As much as possible, this bible is layered. It streamlines everything in the reading experience into one continuous presentation. This is opposed to how most bibles have divided and segregated sections– text here, references there, maps in the back, commentary below. This bible tells you what to look at when.
This bible features chapter and verse breaks, subheadings, translation notes (few), wide margins, maps inserted into text, commentary inserted into text, two reading plans at back, an index of title illustrations, an illustrated timeline of the bible, and a pertinent preface and introduction. So honestly, relatively few features, but very intentional features. Everything about this bible encourages you to read straight through without sidetracking or meandering.
Missing from this bible are some pretty standard features like a dictionary, concordance, word study system, cross-references, notes, or index of maps. The pages are visually pared down, looking nearly like a regular book– maybe a textbook more than novel, but definitely not like your average bible.
The commentary is very plain-spoken. It is written in a casual, understandable way. It is non-technical, without jargon, and Gilbert even explains himself when he uses an insider term, like “Lord’s day.” The commentary is inserted into the appropriate places in the text, rather than down below the columns of text how you’d typically find it. The commentary is not life application, it tends to deal in summarizing, introducing, or explaining the text around it. Gilbert serves as a narrator or tutor.
I love the reading plans. One reading plan layers books of the bible together so that you read contemporaneous texts at the same time. For instance, Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Esther are contemporaries of each other, but not all of those books are near each other because of how the bible is typically organized (by genre, length, then chronology.) The reading plan directs you to the books that would belong together if they were organized by association.
I here want to show how this bible is both a book and a bible, and to compare it to other bibles that fall in that same book-bible category, expressly due to biases that occur when creating a special-use bible, or a bible with an intended purpose.
So this bible is in fact a bible. This is because of the translation- it is a ESV translation. So the way the text was translated from the original language is above board and is in no way swayed by the intended purpose of the publisher and commentator.
Compare that to the Voice or the Message. The Voice, particularly, is a dynamic equivalence translation, meaning they chose the words in English that are, yes, a viable translation of the original words, but not necessarily the truest. The Voice picks from the array of possible translations the words that fits the worldview of the translators best. So you start to get not just a translation but an interpretation.
Story of Redemption Bible is not like that. The translation is totally fine, but an interpretation does present itself in that the commentary is inserted into the text making it less avoidable than if the commentary were below the text like most life application bibles. There are no theological arguments in the commentary, no cross-referencing or substantiating scriptures, but there are plenty of theological assertions.
For me, that starts to put this bible into a devotional category, or a bible study book.
The purpose of this bible seems to be: to answer common questions about the bible, and deal with the time, story, and bible-reading experience.
It also seems to be formatted and written for the unchurched, under-churched, and reluctantly-churched.
The commentary specifically has a “teacher’s voice” to it, like it is toned to make the bible more approachable and culturally accessible. Nothing about the commentary assumes the reader has prior knowledge of the bible.
My recommendation of Story of Redemption Bible
I definitely recommend this bible to anyone who really feels intimidated by bible reading, because the commentary is designed to help you sum up what you just read and prepare for what you are about to read. So, in effect, it helps you “keep track” of the storylines. That is very helpful in the Old Testament particularly!
This bible could legitimately be used as a group bible study resource with how relatable and explanatory the commentary is, as well as having ample note-taking space within the bible.
However, I wouldn’t recommend this bible for use in personal study for a more seasoned bible reader. The commentary inserted is a bit distracting, and it’s not really suited for depth. The lack of cross-references makes hermeneutic study impossible without other resources. I prefer not to use a Strong’s concordance in my personal reading time, so I like a bible with cross-references.
Overall, it is a unique format with an obvious commitment to making the unity of the biblical books evident and easily accessible. It is a learning about redemption bible.