Bible Review: ESV Reformation Study Bible, Student Edition

ESV Reformation Study Bible, Student Edition. Ligonier, 2021, 2400 pages.

Reading Level: Teens, 12 and up

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up

Reformation Study Bible Student Edition

The ESV Reformation Study Bible has been around for years. Based on R. C. Sproul’s notes and teaching, the original version is a hefty tome chock-full of helpful aids, commentary, and meticulous notes on multiple verses. I have an early edition, published in 2005; it’s big enough that I take a different Bible to church. It’s my go to Bible, though, for personal Bible study and for reading to and with my children. Thus, I am delighted to announce that Ligonier has finally put together a student edition!

As with other student editions (like the ESV Study Bible, Student Edition), the ESV Reformation Study Bible, Student Edition, is quite a bit smaller than the large version I have. (The regular Reformation Study Bible has been condensed over the years, so it’s not quite as big either: page thickness, font-size, and other bookmaking concepts have contributed.) The student edition is sized just right for portability and comprehensive study notes. My middle-aged eyes find the font in the student edition a touch small, and the page thickness means that a little “ghosting” sometimes appears (the type and text boxes on the following pages are a touch visible). My teens assure me this is not a problem for their young eyes, and, after all, they are the target audience! Of possible interest: the text is in a single column, unlike the more common two-column format.

Interior Notes and Features in the ESV Reformation Study Bible, Student Edition

I was skeptical about the notes and commentary, given the size difference between my large version and this new student edition. However, nearly every verse I checked included the same notes in both editions; where they differ is largely an issue of summary, not substance. Each book of the Bible begins with a concise, information-packed introduction, including the history, structure, themes, and lessons of the book. The title page of the book includes a brief synopsis and the facing page includes a verse quotation from the same book. Notes and commentary are from a distinctly Reformed perspective, as are most of the resources from Ligonier Ministries and the late R. C. Sproul.

Text boxes throughout are a light, neutral green and cover everything from people (“Who was Herod?”) to topics (“What is the Sermon on the Mount?”) to theological questions (“Can I pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit instead of the Father?”) (all of these examples are from the book of Matthew). Cross references abound, and there are multiple footnotes to clarify meanings from the original texts. Front matter includes a succinct preface and introductory material; back matter includes a concordance, full color maps, a table of weights and measures, and a yearlong Bible reading plan. The table of contents includes the 66 books of the Bible, but it also includes a full listing of the various text box explanations (such as those from the book of Matthew above). This is handy since it’s hard to remember where you read something, or perhaps you haven’t even gotten to a particular book, but you have that same question. Bonus: there are two bookmarks (especially handy if you follow the Bible reading plan since it includes readings from two spots each day). This particular study Bible doesn’t have as many maps and charts as Bibles like the ESV Student Study Bible. Some will find that welcome, while others may wish they had more visual aids.

Does the ESV Reformation Study Bible Feel and Look Like a Kid’s Bible?

My review copy is an imitation leather (in marigold); I’ve also seen/held the genuine leather (in a beautiful midnight blue!). Both have a great feel. The Bible is also available in a less expensive paperback version (linked below) and a clothbound hardback. These Bibles feel “grown-up” and not like a children’s Bible. They’d make a great next step when your children are ready to graduate from clunkier, more colorful, illustrated children’s versions, to a robust study Bible. Your teens won’t outgrow this Bible, either. They can take it with them into adulthood.

All in all, this is a truly outstanding choice for your teen’s next Bible. I bought my three teens the ESV Student Study Bible several years ago; the Reformation Study Bible, Student Edition would have been every bit as good. If you’re curious, both the Amazon link for this Bible and the Ligonier website include photos of the interior; you can also download a sample from Ligonier.

Overall rating: 5 (out of 5)


Resource: Free Best Bibles Guide! (This doesn’t have the Reformation Study Bible, Student Edition, because it hadn’t been printed when we created our guide. This guide includes basic information on choosing a Bible for your child or teen plus our top recommendations for each age group in several different translations.)

Resource: See our Mega-List of Bible Reviews!

Reviews: Transformed by Truth offers teens an advanced course in how to study the Bible for themselves. Exploring the Bible (starred review) is a devotional workbook designed to encourage middle-graders to take independent first steps toward the same.

We are participants in the Amazon LLC affiliate program; purchases you make through affiliate links like the one below may earn us a commission. Read more here.

We encourage you to buy this directly from Ligonier; they discount the books and materials on their site from what you will find on amazon, and you’ll be supporting a Christian publisher. Don’t forget: members get an additional discount! (Golden Key page, Silver Key page; find out more about membership here.)

Of course, you can always purchase from Amazon, too:

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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