Truth be told, I am a little late jumping on the ESV bandwagon. So I have decided to drive my own bandwagon. This is not the first review of the Single Column Reference Bible in the ESV translation published by my friends over at Crossway/Good News Publishers. I will be reviewing the SCR in black premium calfskin leather and will attempt to give more than a perfunctory review. Yes, I am a fan of the ESV translation but it is not the only translation I use nor is it the only one I recommend. I think everyone should use more than one translation, including the KJV, NASB and NIV. I also recommend the use of a Bible quiver, more than one Bible for specific use.
By God’s good grace we live in a time and place when where we can own a Bible let alone a plethora. Believe it or not, there are places on this planet where Bibles are outlawed and have to be smuggled in. Trying to keep things in perspective, there are saints that are happy to have just one Bible. One! They probably do not care if it’s a paperback or hardback, genuine leather or Trutone or whatever proprietary name is given to the fake leather. They are happy to own a Bible, lest we forget what a luxury we have. I say this only because there seems to be too much nit-picking about Bibles. This leads me to why I have decided to write this blog.
The internet, like most other things have very good aspects to them that can easily be exploited. In the dark ages b.p.c (before personal computers) news travelled much… much slower than it does today. News used to take hours, yes… hours to get to us, now with everybody owning computers and with new technological advancements like the Apple i-Phone you can get news as it is happening no matter where you are. Another thing that travels at the speed of life, aside from the news, are myths and urban legends.
Far too many Bible reviews are simply bogus. According to Rick Mansfield there are 84 translations or paraphrases of the Bible in English. Aside from all the translations available there are different bindings, covers, colors and sizes to choose from. If that wasn’t enough, you can also get a Bible that’s made specific to your needs such as a Soldiers Bible, Marines Bible, Adventure Bibles, Blossom Complete New Testament, Duct Tape Bible, Revolution: The Bible For Teen Guys Bible, Mom’s Devotional Bible, True Identity Bible and even a Woman Thou Art Loosed Bible… I am not joking. It is safe to say that there are Bibles that fill just about every niche out there, although I am still looking for a Too Fat and Too Old to Skateboard Bible in the SCC Version (So Cal Cholo.)
Since there are countless combinations of translations, bindings, covers, colors and sizes to choose from it is ridiculous to give a Bible a bad review for something that it was not intended for. I’ve seen people give a thinline Bible a bad review for having thin paper, or a compact Bible for having type too small for reading. If you are are willing to use only one Bible then you will have to compromise. If you want a Bible with large print set in a paragraph format with study notes, cross references, concordance and maps… you may have to give up portability. Judge a Bible for what it’s intended purpose is. Study Bibles tend to be large and bulky, compact Bibles are small and portable. It’s unreasonable to give a Bible a poor review for something it wasn’t designed for so buy the Bible that suits your need.
Which leads me to Crossway’s Single Column Reference. According to many reviews, it appears to suffer from paper that is too thin. Too thin for the purpose of note taking. Having been made with wide margins, note taking seems to be what it was made for. More on the paper, later.
The SCR was released earlier this year and features the ESV translation with the minor updates from 2006 which, really are very minor. The calfskin used by Crossway is among the best leather available by any publisher. The black calfskin is a matte black, it doesn’t have the sheen that the goatskin leather on Cambridge or R L Allan Bibles. The cover is cut slightly larger than the book block itself and it is also leather lined making the covers very limp and durable. This copy has very soft leather with grain that is striated and a smell that is wonderful. The spine has 6 raised bands giving it that “old world craftsmanship” look. The stamping on the spine is precise, clean and straight. The leather cover itself is framed by a line that has been rolled or stamped 1/2″ inside of the edge. When open, the book stays that way no matter where its opened to, in the hand, it feels like an old broken in baseball glove, an extension of your hand. This has much to do with the a binding that is smyth sewn, making this a Bible that will probably out last me.
The book block itself is 6.5″ x 9.25″ x 1.5″, the leather cover is slightly larger but not a true semi-yapp. The Bible has color maps in the back with presentation page, marriage, birth and death page in the front. As with all ESV Bibles I have seen, this one has the preface which speaks of the history and philosophy behind the ESV translation as well as a section that gives an explanation to the features, such as how to use the cross references as there are over 80,000 of them. The Bible also features a concordance with over 14,500 entries. All this goes to make a very usable Bible for the purpose of in-depth studies.
Another feature that will help in making this a usable Bible is the readability. The font size is 10 point which some may say that it should be larger but because of the setting is more than enough to make this a very easy read. The layout of the page is not cluttered, the verses are not crammed and the cross references are on the inside margin making this a very neat layout. The chapter introductions are brief and are printed in a shaded portion at the top, as each chapter starts a new page. The chapter title, also at the top of the page and it’s in a font different than the verses.
The feature that sets this Bible apart from many on the market is the single column setting. Most Bibles available are in a double column setting with cross references in the middle, this one however has the cross references on the inside margin and there is only one column of verses. Each verse starts a new line and there are paragraph marks to let the reader know when a paragraph starts. The space between the verses is roomy, especially in the poetic portions of the Old Testament. The side margins are a little more than an inch wide which is plenty of room for me to make my notes, but others may need slightly wider margins. The verses are bracketed by a thin line at the top, bottom and along the side inside of the cross references which is a very aesthetically pleasing detail. The type is distinctive and very readable even at arms length.
Now, to the paper. Everywhere from blogs to the comments section at Amazon, people mention the paper being too thin and it suffering from too much bleed through. This is a matter that has been blown out of proportion by a vocal few and been carried along by those that have yet to handle this book in person. This to me is a very subjective matter, although there is bleed through, it is not as distracting as some have suggested. If bleed through is an issue, this may not be the Bible for you but if it is something that is not so important. In my opinion it is not much more than other Bibles and for as good a Bible as this is, it something that should be overlooked. If you are going to take notes in this Bible do not use highlighters, use pigment liners to underline. Not only will they not bleed through they will keep your Bible looking neat. For writing your notes use the 005 and for underlining do not use anything bigger than a 03, 01 or 02 are preferable. The 01 will appear as dark as the print itself from the other side. Paper too thin? I don’t know, maybe. As I said thats a subjective matter. What I can tell you is that I dug out my old micrometers and measured the thickness, well, attempted to measure. It’s been such a long time since I had used them I am not sure if I read them correctly but the paper is .0017″ thick. There is some bleed through but it’s not distracting and if you use the right pens, underlining and note taking will not be a problem. You can even use colors that will be less not noticeable than black, be sure to try them out prior to use in less visible spot like the concordance to be sure you are happy with the results. The only issue I have with this Bible is the ribbon markers, much too thin for a book this big, aside from that, kudos to Crossway for putting together a very elegant and useful tool for the study of Gods Word. Check out the WTS Bookstore for the best price on the Single Column Reference ESV.