All throughout church history, followers of Jesus have held fast to the belief that the Bible is the word of God. There are skeptics today who seriously doubt this claim, however, it has been an essential doctrine of the church down through the ages. Modern day Christians stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. Pastor John Piper has said many times that he hopes to “never teach anything new, but to teach truths that are very old”. The gospel is not breaking news, but it is good news. For this reason, it is vital to learn from the saints who have gone before. Every follower of Jesus should study the lives and teachings of believers from past centuries. Vast quantities of written material from the past can be found online. One excellent new resource, however, is the ESV Church History Study Bible (Crossway, 2022).
For an overview of the translation philosophy of the ESV, please reference an article previously published on RFTG titled Book Review: ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.
This new edition of the ESV, edited by Stephen J. Nichols, Gerald Bray, and Keith A. Mathison, seeks to share wisdom for the present, by listening to the voices from the past. The resource contains study notes from nearly 400 figures from church history, within the full text of the ESV. Featured in this edition are notes from Augustine, Athanasius, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, and Herman Bavinck to name a few. It also contains the notes of many lesser known figures as well. Many people in modernity tend toward what C. S. Lewis dubbed chronological snobbery, or the idea that the latest is best. Yet as stated above, the biblical gospel is very old. It has changed lives down through the ages. The point of the ESV Church History Study Bible is to study the Scriptures with some of the best minds and most committed followers of Jesus throughout history.
The ESV Church History Study Bible also includes other helpful features such as introductions to each book of the Bible, a glossary of historical figures, and a full concordance to name a few. In addition to the study notes, two features of the resource that prove to be helpful are the inclusion of the three major historical creeds: The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, and The Chalcedonian Creed. These three creeds testify through the centuries of the basic tenets of the Christian faith. All orthodox Christians can affirm each of these creeds, at least in major part. The other helpful resource is the inclusion of twelve articles at the back pertaining to major aspects of church history. These articles are written by trusted scholars and theologians such as Joel Beeke, Gerald Bray, Stephen Nichols, and Peter Williams to name a few.
The ESV Church History Study Bible is an excellent resource, and not just for church history nerds. There is much that the modern church can learn from saints down through the ages. This resource provides a wonderful launching point for deeper study of the writings of followers of Jesus from centuries past. A study of church history must not merely be an intellectual expertise, but must be conducted as a mode of discipleship. Studying the writings of figures form history, tethers us those who have walked this path before and by the grace of God made it to other side. Each of the saints featured in this resource, no matter how well known or important in history, are simply beggars trying to tell other beggars where they found bread. This is the testimony of us all.
Soli Deo Gloria
Zach Kendrick is the editor of Reading For The Glory.
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