Study Bibles reviewed

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)*

Choosing a Bible can be a complicated task. With a plethora of versions and editions to choose from, with an equal number of study/reference editions, along with bindings. It seems like a daunting task.

The primary consideration is first picking what translation to use. Although there are Christians who, due a lack of information and reasoning skills, venerate the King James Version in a manner which even the translators who brought this into being would find objectionable, I am not one of them. Although it was a great translation in its time, our knowledge of the original languages of the Bible has increased in the four centuries since it was initially published. Moreover, the English language itself has changed such that: (1) some phrases which were perfectly acceptable in English as it was used four hundred years ago are considered vulgar and obscene by today’s standards; (2) many of the terms common to Elizabethan English are obscure today; (3) many terms have changed in meaning in the past four centuries.§

For these reasons, I advocate that one consider a contemporary translation of Scripture. While one can have fruitful study using an archaic translation, that is the equivalent of tying weights onto a baby’s ankles when he is just beginning to walk.

In choosing a translation, the first consideration is the theological background of the translation/translators: (1) Protestant v. Catholic v. Eastern, (2) Conservative v. liberal, (3) multi-denominational v. denominational. All translators bring a certain bias to the task. Some conscientiously work to insure their biases do not affect the task of translation. Others are blatant in their intentions—their express purpose in translation is to promote their theological view. Examples of translations in which the translators have let their personal theological views override their obligation to translate accurately are the ESV [hyper-Calvinism], and the NAB [Roman Catholicism—not to be confused with the NASB, which is a multi-denominational translation from the conservative protestant perspective]. Coming from a conservative protestant background, I admittedly reserve my recommendations for those translations which also represent a conservative protestant theology. So you will not find me recommending such translational travesties as the NRSV, or the REB, both of which are liberal to the extreme.

The second consideration is choosing a translation according to the theory of translation followed: formal [literal] equivalence v. dynamic [functional] equivalence v. paraphrase. For a more detailed explanation of these distinctions, I refer readers back to my previous blog: “Scripture Pt. 4 – Translation Theory,” which is found at:…slation-theory/

There are other considerations as well which are minor but still merit consideration: (1) text format [verse v. paragraph], (2) binding [genuine leather v. bonded v. imitation leather v. hardcover v. paperback], and (3) other features.

Other features include such things as study notes, cross references [marginal v. center-column v. read-along], concordances, maps, charts, tables, outlines, thumb-indexing.

Just to let you know how my recommendations are weighted:

1: In terms of translation, my highest preference and recommendations are for a conservative protestant, multi-denominational, formal equivalence translation [such as the NASB or NKJV]. While I will refer to other translations occasionally, such as dynamic equivalent translations like the NIV, ESV, or HCSB, my use of them is limited as more of a commentary and to examine how others may draw different conclusions of the meaning and application of a text based on their translational choices. I have absolutely no use whatsoever for paraphrases such as The Message, the Good News Bible, or the Contemporary English Version.

If it comes to a choice between the two, I will prefer the NKJV over the NASB. I have touched on this issue in two previous blogs: “Scripture Pt. 3a” and “Scripture Pt. 3b.” For the reasons stated there, I prefer a translation based on Byzantine priority concerning the manuscript evidence over a translation based on Alexandrian priority concerning the manuscript evidence. The NKJV, while not strictly based on Byzantine priority theory, does carefully note the instances where the Textus Receptus deviated from the Byzantine text, and the Alexandrian text deviates from both the Byzantine and the Textus Receptus. No other translation does this.

2: In terms of text format, I prefer a verse format over a paragraph format. Bibles which follow the verse format are becoming fewer as new editions of versions which appeared originally in a verse format [the NKJV and NASB] are now being issued in paragraph format. Unfortunately, these are getting harder to find. [See paragraph which follows]

3: In terms of bindings, while genuine leather is the gold standard [with morocco leather being the platinum], there is a new synthetic being used by many publishers called “LeatherSoft” which not only looks genuine, but has a better feel than bonded leather. It has more flexibility than genuine leather [so Bibles stay open in your lap better], plus it appeases the animal rights crowd. In addition, one can purchase [if available] a Bible bound in LeatherSoft, in many cases, for less than half of what the same edition would cost bound in genuine leather. I would only recommend a hardcover if one plans to use the Bible for a second Bible, and not one’s primary study Bible. I would never under any circumstances recommend a paperback Bible.

4: Study notes are helpful, with some cautions. I know there are some Christians who take the viewpoint that it is some form of blasphemy to put study notes in a Bible. I am not one of them. The Geneva Bible had copious notes of commentary included with the text when it was first published in the mid-1500s. Those notes, or more precisely, King James’ loathing of those notes, were the primary reason he acceded to the Puritan’s insistence on a new translation at the Hampton Court conference in 1603. At the same time, while the principles of translation being followed insisted that it be published without any form of notes, when the KJV was first published in 1611, it contained over 6,000 notes noting variant readings, alternative renderings, and explanations of texts the translators had difficulty with.

The cautions when using a Bible with study notes are: (1) The notes are not to be equated with the text, (2) consequently, they are not inspired or inerrant, and (3) they should never replace original research in Bible study. I have known believers who thought the study notes somehow represent an infallible interpretation of Scripture. They don’t. They represent that particular writer’s or editor’s best understanding of a text at the time. And many editors/writers of a particular study Bible have no qualms about emending their notes as their understanding of a particular Scripture matures. For an example [if the reader can find it], I encourage readers to compare John MacArthur’s notes on 1 Timothy 3 from the first edition of the study Bible which bears his name with current editions.

5: I prefer marginal or center-column cross references over read-along references. I think having the references inserted into the text itself is just plain confusing.

So with that groundwork, let’s proceed to the review.

First, a word about the abbreviations/codes indicated in the review:

CC = Center-column references, a system in which cross references and certain notes appear in a center column between two columns of text [as used in the MacArthur Study Bible and the NKJV Study Bible].

C/P = Charismatic/Pentecostal theological slant, which is the belief that certain manifestations of the Holy Spirit are not merely normal, but mandatory for the church to experience today.

Cs = Cessationist theological slant, which is the belief that certain manifestations of the Holy Spirit ceased being normative after about 100A.D.

D = Dispensational, a theological perspective which teaches that God has revealed Himself successively via different covenants and has instituted different economies dictating how faith is properly demonstrated/expressed within those economies.

Ec = Evangelical conservative, a theological perspective which asserts that Scripture is authoritative because it is fully inspired by God and is without error in all it affirms.

El = Evangelical liberal, a theological perspective which asserts that Scripture is authoritative based on church traditions and creeds, but questions/denies that Scripture is fully inspired by God. This perspective also asserts Scripture is infallible on matters related to faith, but may be in error in matters of history or science.

SC = Side-column references, a system in which cross references are placed in columns to the sides of the text. The text itself may be formatted as either a single column [as in the “classic” format of the reference edition of the NASB], or in double columns [as found in the Scofield III editions of the Scofield Reference Bible, the Ryrie Study Bible, and the Thompson Chain Reference Bible].

P = Paragraph, the format in which text appears in paragraph style, this is the format followed by the ESV, the HCSB, the NIV, and the NLT.

R = Reformed, although proponents identify themselves as Calvinists, this is distinguished from proponents of dispensationalism [who also identify themselves as Calvinists] by also adopting an ecclesiology called covenantalism because of the proponents’ assertion that there has only been one covenant/dispensation since the Fall. This theology is also known as “Replacement” theology because proponents also assert that the Church has displaced/replaced ethnic Israel as the chosen people of God.

Rr = Read-along references, a system in which cross references appear in the text itself following each verse [as used in the Open Bible].

V = Verse, a format in which each verse is structured as a separate thought unit. This is the format followed by the KJV and, until recently, almost every edition of the NKJV and NASB.

I will be following each review with a rating between 0 and 5, 5 being the highest and 0 [zero] being the lowest.

In no particular order:

Scofield III Reference Bible [Ec-D-Cs Perspective]: The cross references found here are more similar to the topical chains found in the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. However, because the Scofield has different doctrinal emphases than the Thompson, and the chains do not cover the same subject matter, I think one can safely conclude that, although Scofield and Thompson shared the same perspective on how to approach Scripture in allowing it to be its best interpreter, Scofield did not copy Thompson’s work since Thompson’s first edition was published in 1908 and the first edition of the Scofield Reference Bible was published the following year. The Scofield is unashamedly dispensational in his ecclesiology and eschatology, which makes it suspect to many detractors.  The only problem I have with the Scofield Reference Bible is its notation on Genesis 1:2, which, in the original edition, espouses a theory called the “gap theory”–which taught that all prehistoric life was destroyed in a cataclysm [believed to be Satan’s rebellion] and that what follows is not actually the creation of the earth, but its re-creation. The Scofield III corrects this.  While at one point this was available in six different English translations [the ESV, the NASB, the HCSB, the KJV, the NIV, and the NKJV], it is now only available in the KJV, the NIV, and the NKJV. The NIV follows a paragraph format while the KJV and NKJV use a verse format.  In addition, I feel the topical chains are much easier to follow in this than in the Thompson.  The references are SC.  This is also available in Spanish.  Rating:  4.5

Holman Study Bible [Ec-D-Cs perspective]: This Bible is rather surprising coming from the Southern Baptist publishing concern. My recent encounters with members of the denomination had led me to believe that many of their distinctives were being cast aside–especially the tendency to abandon reformed soteriology [the Biblical view] in favor of a people-pleasing pelagianism. A review of the notes shows a very consistent view of reformed soteriology, coupled with a dispensational view of eschatology and ecclesiology. The page formatting is the most eye-pleasing of any study Bible I’ve ever encountered [advertising itself as “The Only Fully Color NKJV/KJV/HCSB Study Bible”], and it contains many full-color photographs, maps, and illustrations. In addition, the text features verse numbering and links to cross references and marginal notes in blue–which makes it a bit less confusing than verse numbering and links which appear in black lettering. The only negative I can find with the formatting is the red-ink used for the words of Christ is a bit too bright, almost garish in hue–but this is minor. The text is formatted as paragraphs instead of verses–another negative, albeit minor. The cross references are center-column. As indicated, this is available in the KJV, NKJV, and the HCSB. A Spanish version is available in the RVR. While it is a hard choice, and I can strongly recommend this, I still find my main preference in currently available study Bibles to be the MacArthur Study Bible. Rating: 4.5

Ryrie Study Bible [Ec-D-Cs perspective]: Although it shares a similar theological perspective to the Scofield III Reference Bible, the notes in the Ryrie are more detailed, and it uses a conventional cross-referencing system rather than a topical chain system. Many who espouse covenant theology also deride Charles Ryrie because they accuse him of advocating a heresy called antinomianism. A careful reading of Ryrie’s teachings shows the accusations to be false, but I would concede that he is not careful or nuanced in drawing a distinction between justification and sanctification in his soteriology. Moreover, his views on what he considers to be “false additions to faith” in the “Synopsis of Bible Doctrine,” are contrary to what is expressly taught in Scripture.  Because he promotes a poorly-expressed view of salvation, along with his continued refusal to accept correction on the issue, I cannot recommend his study Bible. While not as egregiously heretical as Dake’s Reference Bible and The New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, it lacks the merits of stronger offerings from the MacArthur Study Bible and the NKJV Study Bible.  This is currently available using the KJV, the NASB(95), and the ESV.  Rating:  3.0

MacArthur Study Bible [Ec-D-Cs perspective]: This edition is more stridently cessationist than either Ryrie or Scofield. This is available in the ESV, the NKJV, the NASB(95), and the NIV. In addition, MacArthur is more polemical in his notes. On the plus side, the notes are more detailed and prevalent than in either the Scofield or Ryrie. MacArthur is also more consistently reformed in his soteriology, while remaining avowedly dispensational in his eschatology. I have to mark this edition somewhat lower on my evaluation because the abundance of notes, the small type and the paragraph format combine to create a somewhat crowded looking layout which can be overwhelming. The referencing system is CC.  Also available in Spanish.  Rating:  4.6

Reformation Study Bible [Ec-R-Cs]: This is an updated and revised version of what was formerly known as the New Geneva Study Bible. While the former edition used the NKJV text, this uses the ESV. Stridently cessationist, Calvinistic and anti-dispensational, the tenor of the notes are not explanatory or expositional, but polemical. The goal of this edition appears not to be so much promoting growth in Christian character as it is arming amateur theologians with ammunition for debates with non-Calvinists and dispensationalists. As with the MacArthur Study Bible, the small type size, the format of the text, and the abundance of notes makes the page layout daunting and confusing. The referencing system is CC.  Rating:  2.0

Thompson Chain Reference Bible [Ec]: This is available in the KJV, the NASB(77), the NIV, the NKJV, and the ESV. All editions except for the NIV and the ESV follow verse formatting. The NIV and ESV editions format the text in paragraphs. Frank Charles Thompson, a Methodist minister in the late 1800s, spent over 20 years developing this Bible, which does not use any type of expositional or explanatory notes, or promote any type of theological slant. Instead, his efforts were expended in developing topical chains to promote the premise of allowing Scripture to explain Scripture—that the Bible itself is its own best commentary. The fact that this has now been in print continuously for over 100 years, with only minor revisions, speaks to its enduring usefulness. The topical chains, while not exhaustive, are superior to most cross referencing systems which simply note similar words or phrases occurring in other texts or reference to parallel passages. That said, while the philosophy behind the Thompson Chain Reference Bible is outstanding–its execution is, at times, inconsistent–at least in the NKJV and NAS77 editions.  One copy of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible I had was so poorly bound, I had to replace the cover less than two months after purchasing it.  In addition, while Thompson did not use his topical chains to advance a theological agenda, his successors in the work have appended several articles dealing with theology in the back of the Bible and those articles tend to promote a Wesleyan-Holiness soteriology in a curious blend with something approximating [but not openly advocating] replacement theology. Finally, the formatting shows a lack of editorial discernment, at least in the NKJV edition.  The font is too small to be read comfortably, and in many cases the layout looks amateurish and sloppy– words are not divided between syllables when necessary at the end of a line of type, but simply run from one line to the next.  To their credit, however, the editors welcome informed and constructive criticism and are working on the defects as they come to their attention.  The topical chains are SC.  So, even with its flaws, it can still be a quite useful study Bible.  This is also available in Spanish.  Rating:  4.1

NKJV Study Bible [Ec-D-Cs]: As the name suggests, this is available in the NKJV only. The text uses paragraph formatting. Although the editors/writers on this promote a cessationist view of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, their comments in this area tend to be more irenic than those of Ryrie or MacArthur. If this edition has any theological weakness, it is that regarding doctrines such as election, the writers/editors tended to equivocate and did not really indicate which view they thought to be correct. The same weakness is seen in terms of eschatology and how it effected their notes covering the book of Revelation. As with the MacArthur Study Bible, the small print size, abundance of notes, and text formatting all contribute to a page layout which can be daunting and confusing. I consider the MacArthur Study Bible to be better simply because MacArthur does not equivocate on those issues of election and eschatology.  In 2014, this edition was revised to put some of the notes and charts in color, and it is now called the NKJV Study Bible, Full Color Edition.  The use of color, while a pleasant formatting addition, is still not as extensive as that shown in the Holman Study Bible.  The cross-referencing system is center-column.  Rating:  4.2

Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible [Ec-D-Cs]: This is available in the KJV, the NASB(77), the ESV, and the NIV, and, as of November 10, 2015, the NKJV.  The KJV, NKJV, and NASB(77) editions use verse formatting of the text, while the NIV and ESV editions use paragraph formatting.  All editions underwent major revisions in 2008.  Imagine if you will a Bible which contains English text, with parsing codes to the Greek in the NT and Strong’s numbering codes for key words in the Old and New Testaments and appended in the back are expository dictionaries for the coded Hebrew and Greek words.  While this puts language tools into the hands of those who have not been trained in the original languages, this Bible tends to prove the old adage that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  The parsing codes [which basically show how the word was used grammatically in the Greek NT] are not explained adequately.  While there is a key [and a bookmark] which state what the codes mean, they do not explain how the grammar affects the translation or meaning of the text.  For example, the Greek preposition en has a different meaning when used with a noun in the genitive case than it has with a noun in the dative.  [For an example of this, see my blog “Where’s Junia/s?”]  It would also have been more helpful if the editors had provided some parsing keys for the Old Testament.  For these flaws, it is still quite useful as a basic tool for researching the original languages.  The 2008 edition of the KJV updates some of the obscure archaic usages and changes the Greek forms of Old Testament names [such as Isaias and Jeremias] in the New Testament to their Hebrew forms [Isaiah and Jeremiah] for the sake of uniformity–although this may be a moot point since they have now issued this study Bible in the NKJV.  It also provides a quick reference for word studies when I am pressed for time and don’t wish to dig out my lexicons and grammars to look up the information. It would also be more helpful if the NASB edition used the 1995 updated translation instead of the rather wooden and lesser regarded 1977 edition.  I do not know how the NIV edition will fare now that Biblica [the organization which succeeded the International Bible Society as the copyright owner of the NIV] is telling licensees that if they do not upgrade to the 2011 politically correct revision of the NIV, they will lose their licenses to publish that version.  Cross references are Center Column.  Rating:  4.5

Life Application Bible [El]: Available in the KJV, the NASB(95), the NIV, the NKJV, and the NLT. Only the NASB(95) uses verse formatting of the text. The other versions use paragraph formatting. While acknowledging the authority of Scripture, the notes display a clear rejection of the doctrine of inerrancy by their denials of such events as a literal six-day period of creation and a global deluge. By inference, the editors suggest that Jesus was a liar for teaching that the creation and fall of man and the flood were historical events. My personal view is that Christians are better served without reference Bibles like these.  Rating:  1.0

The NIV Study Bible [also the NASB Study Bible] [El]: Only slightly less liberal than the Life Application Bible, but the annotations still show a dismissal of key events in the Old Testament as not being historical events.  Rating:  1.2

NKJV New Spirit-Filled Life Bible [Ec-C/P]: In English, this is available only in the NKJV. [It is also available in Spanish.]  The annotations promote the heresies of dominionism and “word/faith” [aka “name-it/claim-it] theology. Given the editor of this edition is Jack Hayford, and his standing as a minister in the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, which rejects such teachings, it is difficult to comprehend how and why he allowed his name to be associated with this project.  Rating:  0.5

Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible [C/P-D]: Available in the KJV and the NKJV. Finis Jennings Dake was a pentecostal teacher/preacher who asserted that the layout of this Bible was given to him directly from God. The claim is difficult to reconcile with the teaching in 1 Corinthians 14:33, that God is not a God of confusion, but of peace and order. The layout is not only confusing, the typeface is so small as to require a magnifying glass to read it. Annotations may start on one page and then the reader is directed to another page elsewhere to finish reading the annotation.  It is also difficult to reconcile with the fact that when the NKJV edition was released in 2013, the page formatting and layout was completely different from the KJV edition.  It would seem to me that if the page layout was dictated by God–wouldn’t the publisher in effect be committing blasphemy by adopting a different format and layout?  Also troubling is that Dake was a segregationist and racist who believed that the unforgivable sin was integration. Moreover, he held heretical views with regard to the Godhead, teaching that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were each separate gods [as opposed to the Christian doctrine that Father, Son and Holy Spirit were three distinct Persons in one Godhead] and that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each possessed a supra-physical body, soul, and spirit, each having all the attributes and fullness of Deity. The fact that this Bible continues to be sold 50 years after its initial publication is an indictment on the lack of sound teaching, sound thinking, and gullibility of some who call themselves Christians.  Rating:  0.0

And there it is, my picks of study Bibles which are beneficial—with a few which I simply include as examples to be avoided at all costs. And if someone gives you a Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, the best recommendation I can give you is to burn it.

Although there are many other study Bibles out there, I have chosen to include only the ones with which I have had experience, and which are still in print. You will notice that no study Bible currently in print merited a 5.0 rating in my reviews. While those which received Ratings of 4.0 or better are excellent, and those I have given ratings of at least 3.0 to 3.99 can be useful, there is only one edition I would unreservedly give a rating of 5.0, and it is, regrettably, no longer in print.  Suffice to say if one has the opportunity to obtain a copy of what has been published as the Believer’s Study Bible or the Holy Bible, Baptist Study Edition [they are the same Bible, published at different times under different names], s/he will have a great treasure indeed: doctrinally sound footnotes in a page layout which is not cluttered and easy on the eyes.

*Except as noted, all Scriptures are from the New King James Version (NKJV). Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The NASB was initially published in its entirety in 1971 and underwent revisions in 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and most recently in 1995. Although most study Bibles which use the NASB text use the 1995 edition and are noted as NASB(95), a couple, having originally been issued prior to the 1995 revision, did not renegotiate licenses with the Lockman Foundation to use the 1995 edition and are designated as using the 1977 edition with NASB(77).

§For example, in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the English verb “letteth” meant to hinder, prevent, or restrain. Now the verb in English means to allow or permit—a meaning which is totally the opposite of its meaning four hundred years ago. Another example is the verb “prevent” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 in the KJV. Four hundred years ago it meant to go before, to precede. The current meaning of “prevent” is to hinder or stop something from happening.


About davestheology

I found a book that was kind of worn, But to my surprise, not a page was torn; It had a title, that I could not read, "Red Letter Edition" was all I could see.
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34 Responses to Study Bibles reviewed

  1. Grace4Life says:

    Excellent Reviews! Overall, you would say Scofield and Ryrie are the best?

    • Actually, the Ryrie Study Bible would be about fourth on my list of preferences. The fact that the 2012 revision changed the format of the NASB editions from verse to paragraph is a big minus from my perspective because it makes the page more cluttered appearing. In addition, while he does not place the statements in his notes, the articles in the back contain statements concerning the nature of salvation which are poorly nuanced at best, heretical at worst. [Basically, his statements suggest that Ryrie believes that one can profess Christ as Savior and thereby receive eternal life without ever acknowledging and submitting to Him as Lord.]
      If one prefers verse formatting over paragraph formatting for the Scripture [and this is a matter of personal preference, not any type of doctrinal issue], I do recommend the Scofield first and foremost since this and the Thompson Chain Reference Bible are the only study Bibles available in the NKJV which preserve the verse formatting–but the tradeoff is that the Scofield will not have the detailed notes the other editions will have. This applies only to the NKJV and KJV editions.
      If one is less concerned with the formatting of the text, and wants more detailed notes, I recommend either the NKJV Study Bible or the MacArthur Study Bible over the Ryrie since neither of those Bibles reflect the deficiencies displayed in the Ryrie Study Bible with their presentation of such key doctrines as repentance and salvation.

  2. Grace4Life says:

    Hey Dave 🙂
    I think I take the Ryrie position which I do not believe is a wrong position, though I have not read what you are referring for I don not believe. Let me explain brother.
    I believe as Ryrie does, that what saves is a conviction that one is a sinner (repentance)…
    and making a willfill decision to trust in the atonement of Christ alone to save. Meaning that repentant sinner is satisfied that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ alone is enough to save him/her. That sinner places their faith in Christ’s work alone. Once one does that, I beleive their will be fruit, there will be a desire for the Word of God. That sinner will never be sinless, but there will be some fruit at sometime somewhere.
    I believe that is what Dr Ryrie believes.:) To add anything other than conviction that one is a sinner and child-like faith in the atonement of Christ alone as sufficent to save, would be works.
    Here is where it gets tricky as I see it brother. MacArthur seems to imply that one must also resolve to forsake all sin, “Take his cross etc.” Here’s the rub Dave: None of us beleivers have forsaken all sin, none of us really take our cross if we are honest. We have the two natures, and they constantly struggle. Now, if one is saying that they question a conversion that has no fruit, I would agree we should question. Ryrie and I agree that believers will have some fruit somewhere at some time. Fruit comes abiding in Christ, and I believe that new nature we receive when we trust on Christ alone will bear fruit of some kind. Personally, I do not think a true beleiver could deny Christ, but a beleiver by all means will struggle with sin. That’s the key struggle….those dead in sin do not struggle they love their sin. As beleivers, we as Paul, “do the things we wish we didn’t “(Paraphrase)” I tend to take the position he has expressed in his great book “So Great Salvation”
    Example: Let’s say smoking is a sin, must one trust Christ and give up smoking to be saved? I say no…when one is saved God will deal with that sin and chasten. Same with immorality, could one trust Christ alone and then proceed in an immoral relationship? Yes, but if they have trusted CHrist, they will chastened. I think to say anything other than that makes salvation trust in Christ plus man’s effort in giving up sin and surrender.

    • I think you may have misunderstood Ryrie and MacArthur on what they believe concerning repentance.
      In the section of his study Bible called “A Synopsis of Bible Doctrine,” Ryrie lists the following as what he considers to be false additions to faith: (1) Surrender to the Lordship of Christ, (2) Baptism, (3) Repentance, (4) Confession. [Ryrie Study Bible, NASB 1995 Edition, p. 2073] Either Ryrie is wrong or the Bible is since Ryrie’s teaching contradicts several passages which link what he calls “false additions” as integral expressions of saving faith. [Acts 2:38; Romans 8:5-11; 10:8-13; 1 Corinthians 12:1-3; 1 Peter 3:21] Although Ryrie claims he is not promoting the heresy of antinomianism, it is easy to understand why he has been charged with that, given the implications of his soteriology. Ryrie believes repentance is unnecessary for salvation and that people can never repent of sinful behavior and yet still be saved because they have claimed Christ as Savior. At the heart of Ryrie’s view of saving faith is the fact that, like others who follow what has become known as Keswick theology, [such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Young Life, and Youth for Christ], saving faith is reduced to mere intellectual assent to some propositions which is expressed through an unbiblical process called “reciting the sinner’s prayer.”
      MacArthur, does not believe, as you assert, that one must forsake all sin in order to be saved. While that is the claim which Ryrie and Hodges make in their writings, they do not quote MacArthur and after studying the writings of both sides for over 20 years on this issue, I know that is not MacArthur’s view and either Ryrie has not understood MacArthur on this point, or he is deliberately misrepresenting what MacArthur has written. MacArthur’s view is that of Scripture, repentance is a translation of the Greek word metanoia, which means a complete reversal in conduct and attitude. MacArthur fully admits that our obedience is imperfect and always will be this side of heaven, but the genuine Christian will be growing daily in conformity to the character and conduct of Christ–unlike Ryrie, who has expressed himself inconsistently in the matter. In Basic Theology, he expresses the belief that one can be willfully unrepentant, never show any evidences of Christ-like conduct, and yet still be saved, because he recited a sinner’s prayer and therefore God is obligated to save Him. On the other hand, he claims in his study Bible that “true Christians” will not desire to sin. He wants to have it both ways and he can’t if he is to be true to Scripture.
      Basically, this points to significant differences in Ryrie’s theology and MacArthur’s. While both claim to be Calvinists, Ryrie’s views on partial depravity, conditional election, and unlimited atonement along with eternal security represent an odd syncretism of Arminianism and licentious gnosticism. The only tenet of Calvinism which Ryrie holds to is the doctrine of eternal security.
      At the heart of the issue is this question: Does faith precede regeneration, or does regeneration precede faith? The testimony of Scripture and MacArthur are consistent on this point: the unregenerate person is incapable of expressing saving faith. Therefore regeneration always precedes saving faith, which will express itself in contrition, repentance, and acknowledging the Lordship of Christ. Ryrie disagrees.
      Thanks for bringing these points up. I’m going to have to re-assess Ryrie and move him to the bottom with the Dake and Hayford Bibles.

  3. Grace4Life says:

    I see all those things: repentance from sin, wanting be christ-like, hating your sin etc…are RESULTS of Salvation not causes of salvation, Would you agree? I think there WILL be fruit., sometime somewhere! Is that more a MacArthur view or Ryrie?

    • The issue is not, how does MacArthur, Ryrie, you or I see it? The issue is: What does the Bible actually teach? In the first place, there is no place in the Bible which teaches repentance, submitting to Christ as Lord, confession as temporally and logically separate from saving faith. That is an artificial construct imposed by people who follow the Ryrie-Hodges soteriology. It can only be derived from eisegesis, reading something into the text which isn’t there, rather than through sound exegesis [drawing out] from the text and then deriving theology from what the text actually says.
      Moreover, there are distinctions in terms which Ryrie oversimplifies and distorts in referring to salvation. Salvation involves three distinct [but not separate] aspects: justification, sanctification, and glorification. Temporally, these aspects represent three tenses of salvation: justification-past, sanctification-present, glorification-future. Ryrie’s error is that he believes and teaches that people can be justified and glorified without ever being sanctified.
      You say that you “think there WILL be fruit, sometime, somewhere!” Ryrie would disagree with that view, because his teaching is that a person can lead a perfectly non-productive life in terms of producing fruit, yet still be saved–again, a throwback to Keswick theology, which is unBiblical. Jesus said that any one who doesn’t produce fruit is cast off to be burned because that person is not really abiding in Him [not a true believer]. In John 15:6, Ryrie, in his notes on this passage, states that Jesus is referring merely to the physical death of a believer and loss of reward. The Greek actually suggests the branch was never alive in Christ to begin with, and therefore is properly viewed as not truly a part of His body. Jesus refers to something being gathered up and burned only twice in the NT, here in John 15:6, and the parable of the wheat and tares, where the tares were gathered up and burned at the end of the age in Matthew 13:30. Since the phrasing in the Greek is the same, it is exegetically sound to interpret this passage as MacArthur does, that Jesus is referring to the eternal separation of the unbelieving, false professors of faith, in John 15:6 AND Matthew 13:30, instead of requiring a special meaning, as Ryrie’s interpretation would necessitate. MacArthur’s interpretation is also supported by W.A. Criswell in the Believer’s Study Bible, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Matthew Henry, Don Fleming in the Bridgeway Bible Commentary, John Gill’s Commentary, A.T. Robertson in Word Pictures in the New Testament.
      I would not agree with your statement that repentance, etc, are “results” of Salvation. I would say, as with Scripture, that these are EFFECTS or evidences of saving faith and that these are all grace-gifts from God because there is nothing in us which can produce these things. This is the reason I stated earlier that the heart of the matter is this: does regeneration precede saving faith, or does faith precede regeneration? MacArthur takes the position of the Protestant Reformation, that regeneration must logically precede saving faith because the unregenerate man has no capacity to express saving faith. This is where Ryrie’s claims to be in concert with Reformation theology are proven to be false, because in his view one must declare faith via intellectual assent before one can be regenerated–something which Romans 8 makes clear is simply not possible. Ryrie also makes the conceptual error of confusing a logical progression with a temporal one. The logical progression would be: regeneration-faith-repentance-confession-submission-sanctification. Note that this is a logical progression and not a temporal progression. In terms of a temporal progression, these would appear in human terms to occur almost simultaneously.
      Ryrie also fails to adequately distinguish between positional sanctification and progressive sanctification. His view of sanctification sees it as neither positional or progressive. Like everyone else who follows Keswick theology, he views sanctification as a secondary, optional, instantaneous work of grace by which the believer achieves maturity instantaneously, rather than something which occurs initially with justification and is progressively displayed as we mature in Christlike character and conduct. Scripture, on the other hand, presents sanctification as something which is positional [how God sees us in relation to the unredeemed] from the instant we are regenerated, and progressive [how we display our faith outwardly] as we mature in our conduct and thoughts in conformity to the will of God, as it has been revealed through Scripture. The scriptural view of sanctification is what is taught by John MacArthur and denied by Charles Ryrie.
      So to your statement that you think there will be fruit, sometime, somewhere–the answer would be that such a view is neither indicative of MacArthur or Ryrie. Ryrie would say, “there MAY be fruit, sometime, somewhere, but not necessarily and it is not required.” MacArthur would say, “there will be fruit, starting from the moment you show evidences of saving faith–but not at some indefinite time and place in an undefined future.”

      • Grace4Life says:

        You have given me much to think about You are correct,.It really isn’t about Ryrie and MacArthur. They are men, both I’d say good men, but fallable!

        I agree it is never what Man says but what the bible says. Thank you for the good discussion.It is hard to di-sect what happens at conversion, but I like what you said. For example I knew I was sinner since I was a child, I just did not understand what had been done for me. The moment I was made aware of what Christ had done for me and I trusted in his work alone, I have not been the same. Perfect? Oh not even close 🙂 My goal now is to be pleasing to HIM, as a lost man it was to please ME. Now am I always pleasing to HIM? No! But that is my underlying desire. I remember after trusting Christ, a hunger for His Word etc.
        I am daily amazed by HIS grace, that he would take the punishment I deserve.
        God is amazing, his Grace is abounding to a sinners like us.

        This brings me back to the topic of discussion. Study Bibles, those like us who hunger for God’s Word like good resources. One thing about the Scofield 3 is that there are not notes everywhere. It explains certain doctrines etc, but doesn’t take away from the text of Scripture. Scofield 3 is very good. I like the NKJV and NASB also. Do you have a preference for either?
        Have you looked at the KJV Study Bible by Nelson. Our churches uses KJV, and many use that study bible.

      • Grace4Life says:

        Like everyone else who follows Keswick theology, he views sanctification as a secondary, optional, instantaneous work of grace by which the believer achieves maturity instantaneously, rather than something which occurs initially with justification and is progressively displayed as we mature in Christlike character and conduct. Scripture, on the other hand, presents sanctification as something which is positional [how God sees us in relation to the unredeemed] from the instant we are regenerated, and progressive [how we display our faith outwardly] as we mature in our conduct and thoughts in conformity to the will of God, as it has been revealed through Scripture.
        I disagree with Keswick’s view and see as the latter view you espoused here.
        I have a problem though friend with statements like “You cannot cling to your sin and be saved” How MUCH sin must you not cling to? And what do people mean by cling?
        Can a big dude who clings to eating too many hamburgers still be saved? I don’t mean to be trite but I do not understand those statements. What about pride, jealousy, anger?
        Perhaps you can define what you that means.

      • I think the secondary definition of “cling” applies to the word “cling” as used in this context. According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition, that meaning is: “to have a strong emotional attachment or dependence.” In other words, we cannot maintain a strong emotional attachment to [dependence on, or enjoyment of] sin and rightly consider ourselves to be saved. I think the better word here than “saved” would be “justified.”
        When we are regenerated and justified, those emotional attachments are broken. Does that mean we become instantaneously perfect, and never sin again? No. But it means the emotional attachment, the dependency, the enjoyment of those activities we once reveled in is broken–we have a new master and our desires are to please Him, not the master of the old man who died when we were regenerated.
        Paul covered this in Romans 6-7. In Romans 7:13-25, Paul even details the struggles he faced with habitual sins. Paul was justified, sanctified, and maturing, but he recognized that he was not “victorious” [to use Keswick terminology] over an unspecified, habitual sin. But at the same time, he was not clinging to his sin in the sense of deriving any pleasure from it. Every time he stumbled, he loathed what he was doing. In his own words in 7:24, he felt wretched.
        Keswick theology presents a sense of false security and at the same time, presents a false hope for release. The Keswickian view is that until one has experienced a second work of grace and is sanctified, by which the believer receives a full and complete victory over any and all habitual sins, one should not worry if one continually falls into those old sinful patterns. This places the blame for those habitual sins on God for not releasing the so-called “carnal believer” from bondage to those sins. So the “carnal believer” can go merrily about his or her business sinning all he or she wants because the Keswickian view is that they are not accountable until they seek and receive the second work of grace.
        The New Testament, on the other hand, presents us with the fact that because believers have been justified [judicially declared righteous before God], positionally sanctified [called and set apart to live daily for God]. That means the believer will be daily picking up his cross, dying to self. Will he be tempted to pride, jealousy, anger, gluttony, drunkenness, immorality, perversion, etc.? Yes he [or she] will. But at the same time, because s/he has the Holy Spirit indwelling him or her from the onset of regeneration, he will not enjoy the sin, and will continually strive against temptation.
        Which view presents more hope for the believer who stumbles? I firmly believe the Biblical view does, because it means we have power from the moment of regeneration to resist temptation, without having to go to tarrying meetings and plead for a second blessing. It also means that we humbly recognize that as redeemed humanity, we will struggle daily until either our spirits exit our bodies in physical death and go to the Lord, or we are glorified at His coming.

  4. Grace4Life says:

    I found that you answered the NKJV and NASB question on your blog. Great insights.
    You also answered the KJV issue as well. KJV Only-ism in an unnecessary yoke to put on a believer, especially a new believer and is overall dangerous at least, heretical at worst.
    However for those attend a KJV church (Not KJV Only but a church that just uses KJV,) the Nelson KJV seems to help make the arachiac words easier in the maragins, that is helpful.
    I do not agree with all the notes in ANY study bible, but the Nelson KJV Study Bible can be very helpful.

    • You make a valid point when you stated: “I do not agree with all the notes in ANY study Bible.” That is why I have stated in the article that we must remember that only the text of Scripture is inspired and inerrant, not the explanatory notes. At the same time, I feel it is a disservice to the body of Christ for someone to promote a Study Bible with notes which at best reflect a poor understanding of basic, essential, definitional Christian doctrine [or at worst deny those doctrines]–which is why those Bibles do not rank high on my list.
      It has been over 15 years since I have seen the Nelson KJV Study Bible. From what I recall, the notes were written and the project was overseen by faculty members at Liberty University and this was originally published as The Liberty Study Bible. As I also recall [unless it’s been revised] the page layout makes it quite easy to read because the text and the notes use the same font-size and the font size is somewhere between that used in a “regular” Bible and that used in a Large- or Giant-print format. I don’t recall having any issues with the contents of the notes, but then 15 years ago I was not yet informed enough concerning the problems with some of the notations and features in the Ryrie line of study Bibles.
      If you might entertain another suggestion, you might also consider the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible in the KJV. The 2008 edition updated some of the more obscure and archaic language and also conformed NT usage of OT names to the OT.

  5. Grace4Life says:


    It seems Dr Ryrie’s view of Sanctification is not Keswick but Chaferian (Lewis Sperry Chaefer). For more info. please go here

    Not trying to be contentious, I just hate to see a good scholar like Dr Ryrie gets labeled falsely.
    Perfect in his study notes? No! Then again no human expositor is.
    Your need to move his Study Bible higher on the list if only for the excellent cross-referneces and nice size print. 🙂
    I appreciate your blog and just wanted to make you aware.

    • I went to the link you provided and read the article. It is deficient in that, while claiming [based on Ryrie’s own statements] that his view of sanctification is Chaferian and not Keswickian, the writer fails to back up the statement with explicit proof as to how the views espoused by Chafer, Ryrie, Walvoord, Hodges, et al, differ from the view of sanctification promoted by the Keswick movement. Perhaps Ryrie did so in the article cited, perhaps not. The work cited in the article is no longer in print.
      It really is irrelevant however, because a comparison of his views on sanctification, as published in such works as Basic Theology, Balancing the Christian Life, and So Great a Salvation with those published by such writers as William Edwin Boardman in The Higher Christian Life (1858), Hannah Whitall Smith in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (1875), and Andrew Murray in The Deeper Christian Life (1895) prove the claims of Ryrie are false in this regard. In addition, Chafer, Walvoord, and Ryrie, have been prominent in the American Keswick movement, which lends credence to charges that Ryrie is not being completely honest about the roots of his doctrine. His responses to others when they have pointed out errors in his teaching are unbecoming to a scholar of Dr. Ryrie’s attainments.
      I agree with your assessment that Dr. Ryrie, as well as other human expositors such as Dr. MacArthur, Dr. Radmacher [general editor of the NKJV Study Bible], Dr. Criswell, etc, are not perfect in their study notes. This side of glorification none of us will possess perfect knowledge. That makes it all the more crucial for teachers such as Ryrie, MacArthur, etc, to be humble enough to accept correction when there are proven errors in their theology and correct those errors, even if it means a public admission of being in error. I have witnessed Dr. MacArthur do this on several occasions, both in electronic and in print media. I have even seen changes in the notes between the first edition of the MacArthur Study Bible and the current edition to reflect growing maturity and study into the word–something Dr. Ryrie has never done.
      As for moving the Ryrie Study Bible to a higher ranking on my list–if only for the excellent cross-references and nice size print. I must respectfully disagree and refuse. In the first place, the cross-references are no more excellent than those found in other study Bibles. In fact, the Ryrie Study Bible utilizes the same cross-referencing system found in the basic reference edition of the NASB as it was originally published by the Lockman Foundation in 1971–it actually has fewer cross-references [and fewer notes–the current edition of the Ryrie contains only 10,000 notes, the current edition of the MacArthur Study Bible contains 20,000 notes, the NKJV Study Bible has 15,000 notes] than the MacArthur Study Bible, and the NKJV Study Bible, both of which being products of Thomas Nelson, have adapted the cross-referencing system developed by Jerome Smith in The New Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge. In the second place, since the formatting of the NASB edition of the Ryrie Study Bible was revised in 2012 to a paragraph format, the font size has been reduced and the pages appear less appealing.
      At the same time, I place a disclaimer on these rankings that these represent my opinions alone based on 40 years of study and familiarity with the study Bibles ranked. These represent the opinions I would give to any student, friend, or family member who would seek my advice on the purchase of a Bible and my rationale for recommending some while not recommending others. I would not put the Ryrie in a category of completely heretical such as I would with the Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible and the Dake’s Reference Bible–but at the same time I’m not going to recommend it to someone because I believe his view of sanctification expressed in the notes and supplementary articles, while not in the realm of rank heresy, is certainly lacking in Biblical support.

  6. ValiantHeart says:

    Thank you for your reviews, Dave. It helped to convince me to obtain a Holy Bible, Baptist Study Edition. Should arrive next week and I can’t wait to dig into it.

    • I hope you find it as edifying as I have since this has been my go-to study Bible for over 20 years. [BTW, Tony Garland at also considers this the best study Bible–] Given the scarcity of this edition coupled with Zondervan/Thomas Nelson’s refusal to issue new print runs, the cost being charged on places like e-bay will only continue to rise. Because of its scarcity, the study Bible I next recommend is the MacArthur Study Bible. Although some dispensationalists fault MacArthur for what they consider his failure to give due consideration to the distinctions between covenants and dispensations, I consider this to be a minor issue compared to the weak presentation of crucial doctrines such as election and repentance as evidence of saving faith found in the NKJV Study Bible, and the outright false declaration that one can be saved without ever repenting of known sin found in the Ryrie Study Bible. Criswell’s understanding and presentation of election, repentance, and regeneration mirror that of MacArthur. The only fault I find with the MacArthur Study Bible is its use of a paragraphing format for the text of Scripture rather than the verse format found in the Holy Bible, Baptist Study Edition.

  7. Brian Mart says:

    Hey Dave,

    I just read your review on study Bibles and decided to take your advice. So I got to looking around and found a brand new, leather bound Believer’s Study Bible… and ordered it. I also looked around for a concordance and found there is one available, and it doesn’t have Greek or Hebrew dictionaries. What do you do for a concordance? I am also curious what resources you find most helpful to do word studies. And finally, I would like to get your opinion of the ESV and HCSB study Bibles. Thanks for doing the reviews; it looks like I will have to spend some time reading your other posts.

    • Brian,
      While there was a “Complete”concordance produced for the NKJV, it has been out of print for over 10 years and Thomas Nelson has been inconsistent in their commitment to providing top-notch study aids for the NKJV–at one point they were firmly committed to publishing an Exhaustive Concordance to the NKJV, with an announced publication date of May 1, 2009. Then, one month before the scheduled release date, they announced that the planned concordance had been scrapped. Since then, their responses to inquiries on the matter have been rather cavalier and dismissive.
      So when it is necessary to use a concordance for studies, I fall back on Bible software and use their concordance features. One of the best I’ve found is a Bible Study library called “The Word.” It is available for free, and has available numerous add-on modules for different Bible versions [including the ESV and HCSB] and also offers the capability to parse the English text and link them to Strong’s numbering system–much like the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. The only caveat is that some of the add-on modules are free [like the ESV and HCSB], while others require payment of a fee [like the NKJV and NASB]
      As far as the ESV and HCSB study Bibles go, I have to say I would not recommend the ESV study Bible for two reasons–the first being that I do not consider the ESV to be that good of a version [better than the NIV, but not as good, in my opinion, as the NASB or NKJV]. The second being that I disagree with the ecclesiological [replacement theology] and eschatological [preterist a-millennialism] views promoted in the notes.
      As for the HCSB, when the project was first announced, I was behind it because it was to have been the first translation published which was going to follow the Majority Text for the NT, but when Art Farstad [the first general editor for the project] went home to the Lord a few months after the project started, the new editor scrapped Farstad’s plan and elected to use an eclectic, critical text. Like the ESV, I find it to be more literal than the NIV, but less literal than the ESV, NKJV, or NASB. As for the HCSB Study Bible, I have not had the opportunity to review the notes and could not comment. I find it interesting to note that Holman has also issued an edition of the NKJV which has the same study notes as the HCSB Study Bible, only using the NKJV text.
      My suggestion would be to evaluate a Study Bible for the content of its notes, that instead of looking through the whole Bible, simply look at the notes for key passages: Genesis 1 [do the notes promote understanding the passage in terms of a literal, six-day creation, or do they equivocate in the direction of seeing Genesis 1 in terms of theistic evolution or as some sort of allegory?], Genesis 6-9 [do the notes treat the account of the Flood as literal, world-wide, and historical, or as some sort of localized, allegorical, mythical occurrence?], Jeremiah 31:35-37; 32:37-44; 33:19-26 [replacement theology based on allegorical interpretation vs. God keeping His promises according to normal rules of interpretation]; 1 Thessalonians 4/Revelation [pre-tribulation Rapture and Pre-millennial Second Coming futurist interpretation according to normal rules of language vs. a-millennial/post-millennial Second Coming preterist interpretation using allegorical, interpretation. Also look at how the notes deal with key doctrinal issues such as election and repentance.

  8. Paul B. says:

    Hi Dave,
    I have the Baptist Study Edition w/Criswell notes and agree it is really good. There are currently several available on Amazon at reasonable prices.

    • Paul, thanks for the comment. I just checked on and, as of 0630, CDT-US, on 04/30/2014, they do not show any available copies of the Holy Bible, Baptist Study Edition. I also checked for available copies of the Believer’s Study Bible [same study Bible, just released under different title] and they show 17 used copies with prices ranging from $91.48 to $255.60, and 5 used copies with prices ranging from $316.95 – $399.98. Since one can purchase a copy of the MacArthur Study Bible from an online retailer such as CBD for less than $60 for an edition which includes thumb-indexing. Since MacArthur’s notes reflect the same theological concerns as Criswell’s, that is the reason it holds the second highest position in my list of recommended study Bibles. It also presents a more affordable and readily available alternative to the Criswell, although I do wish the MacArthur used verse formatting instead of paragraph formatting….

  9. Dr Gracewin George says:

    Hi Dave,
    What are your comments of “Dr.Warren.W.Wiersbe notes on The Transformation Study Bible”?

    • Hello,
      I’m not really familiar with this study Bible. But it appears to be an edition targeted to a limited audience. I say that for two reasons. The first reason is the publisher, David C. Cook–which is primarily known as a publisher of Sunday School and VBS materials, not Bibles and other Christian literature. This is in contrast to such study Bibles as the Ryrie Study Bible, which is published by Moody Press [in KJV, NIV, and NASB versions] and Crossways [in the ESV version], or the MacArthur Study Bible, which is published by Thomas Nelson/Zondervan [in the NASB, NIV, and NKJV versions] and Crossways [in the ESV version].
      The second reason for my saying it appears to be a study Bible destined to have minimal impact is the fact that it has been yoked to a translation which is considered very minor [the NLT] which is more like its predecessor [the Living Bible] and a paraphrase than a true translation–being aimed at an audience with a grade school reading level of comprehension.
      With all that said, I have to say that I did look at some excerpts available on It does not give me enough information to comment on Wiersbe’s theology as expressed in his notes, but from what I know of Wiersbe through reading some of his BE commentaries and from listening to him when he was the teacher in residence on Back to the Bible, I would expect that there would be very little to differentiate his theology from that of Charles Ryrie–holding an Amyraldian view of justification, a Keswick view of sanctification, and a discontinuous view of the operation of the Holy Spirit in the Church today.
      At this time, and for whatever my opinion is worth, I would not recommend it–but that is primarily because of it using the NLT than from any disagreement with the content of Wiersbe’s notes. It seems to be an odd duck–a study Bible with notes targeting adults with a high school level of comprehension tied to a Bible version targeting upper elementary grades in reading comprehension.

  10. Bruce McAfee says:

    who are you? you question your readers reasoning skills if they prefer the KJV. That’s not a winning argument.

    • Mr. McAfee,
      I believe you have not read my blog carefully and have missed the point I was trying to make. Read the paragraph carefully in context and note what I actually wrote and not what you think I meant. I did not question the reasoning skills of people who merely have a preference for the KJV over other translations. I specifically questioned the reasoning skills of people who [and I am quoting from the article directly] “venerate the King James Version in a manner which even the translators who brought this into being would find objectionable….”
      There are wide semantic and theological gaps between someone who has a preference for the KJV and someone who venerates it to the extreme of making unsubstantiated claims for the text [such as claiming that it alone of any translation is now the inspired, inerrant word of God; that it is the best translation which has been or ever will be made; or that people who use contemporary translations are lacking in spiritual discernment or apostates.]
      I have a great deal of respect for the KJV and the men who translated it, but I do not venerate it or consider it to be the final word in Bible translations.
      There is much we have learned over the past 400 years concerning the nature of the Greek and Hebrew languages, the transmission of the text, and the background behind the writings which were completely unknown in 1607-1611, when that translation was made.
      What I am specifically stating my opposition to is a cultic view of the KJV which has come to be known as KJV-Onlyism.
      If one reads carefully the writings of the men who made the KJV–specifically the forward titled “From the Translators to the Reader” [which unfortunately is no longer published in contemporary editions of the KJV]–one sees that the translators themselves claimed no supernatural enduement for their task, and that they recognized its imperfections.
      And since you are coming into my blog uninvited to question me, perhaps you should state what your qualifications are. In other words, who are you that anyone who reads this should give a rip about your opinion?

  11. Tina Carlson says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I became a believer in Christ 5 years ago and I am just now learning how to read and study the Word. I had no idea how many variations of the bible were out there. Your rating system and break down was incredibly helpful. I had already bought a new bible before I read this (NKJV Holman Study Bible) and I was questioning my purchase since I have been hearing wonderful things about the Macarthur Study Bible. After reading your post, I feel I made a good choice but I still plan on saving up to purchase the NKJV Macarthur Study Bible.
    Thanks again.

    • Ms. Carlson,
      May you grow closer to God as you seek Him through His Word. Either Study Bible is an excellent choice and will serve you well. I would recommend that when you purchase the MacArthur Study Bible you purchase it in one of the “leathersoft” bindings. I believe from my experience that, while leather bound Bibles may be considered “classier,” the leathersoft [also known as durasoft] binding is more durable and flexible than leather.

  12. mykgreen says:

    Excellent synopsis and discussion on study bibles – greatly appreciate it. Have you an opinion on the Holman Study Bible? Other bloggers put it up there with Macarthur – but I’d like to hear your take as I consider the options. Thanks!

    • Yes, the Holman Study Bible is the second bible listed in the reviews. It is an excellent study Bible and either it or the MacArthur Study Bible are the editions I recommend before any others as a general purpose study Bible. In terms of formatting and layout, I would rate the Holman Study Bible ahead of the MacArthur Study Bible. The theological content is very similar although the notes in the Holman probably lean to a moderate [4-point Calvinism] while notes in the MacArthur are consistent with 5-point Calvinism.
      What it basically boils down to are two issues: cost, and which one facilitates Bible study?

  13. mykgreen says:

    Thanks Dave – and sorry for the confusion, you must think I’m thick. By the time I was done with the whole blog – I had convinced myself your Holman review was of the HCSB (only) – which I thought might have different notes than the Holman NKJV. I see my error now. Thanks for the great blog and detailed explanations! BTW – which study notes do a better job objectively discussing or explaining controversial doctrines – such as the gap theory, etc.?

    • No, I don’t think you’re thick. You’re asking questions and that shows an eagerness to learn.
      As to your question concerning which study notes do a better job with discussing or explaining controversial topics, I would have to say that it depends on the topic. The Holman Study Bible, has the best notes on Genesis 1, but the notes on Revelation, although slanted towards dispensationalism, tend to be weak and tentative, almost as if the writer was embarrassed to admit being a graduate of DTS. The notes in Romans 8 on election are also tentative and weak, while the notes in the MacArthur Study Bible are clear and concise and MacArthur has strong presentations on most of the major doctrinal issues. I attribute the weakness of the notes in the Holman to the fact that it is published by a company which is essentially the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention and, as such, the notes reflect some divergence in Southern Baptist theology since many Southern Baptists now are theologically closer to Wesleyanism than they are to their Southern Baptist roots when it comes to issues such as human free will over God’s Sovereignty in election.
      There is no perfect study Bible–simply because there are no perfect humans to publish one. But that said, that does not diminish the work of godly men and women in preparing the study Bibles available, although I obviously believe, for theological reasons, some have done better than others.
      In the long run, the best advice I can give you here is talk to your pastor and other Christians whom you know and whose judgment you value. Find out which study Bibles they recommend and use, and why.

  14. mykgreen says:

    one more question if you don’t mind – what’s your favorite study bible that is least on the Calvin scale (besides the Baptist ones you mentioned) any obscure ones, and why don’t you mention the Harper Collins, Oxford, Open, etc? Too exhaustive – or they don’t even rate in your view? Thanks again.

    • Probably the least Calvinistic study Bible that I would recommend would be the Thompson Chain Reference–although I do that reservedly, not so much because it isn’t Calvinistic [Thompson was a Methodist pastor], but simply because the layout and formatting of the text is amateurish and sloppy from the printings I’ve seen. The chain-referencing system is very useful in adductive Bible study.
      As for the Open Bible, I think it has many good and useful features, but I simply did not review it because it is no longer a major edition with a large following and also because I find the end-of-verse cross-referencing system used to be confusing and tedious…
      As for the Oxford Study Bible and the HarperCollins, those have a liberal bent which is designed to lead people away from godliness and do not promote the increase in godliness–the editors/commentators deny key doctrines such as the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, the substitutionary atonement, man’s depravity and view Revelation as simply a symbolic presentation of the struggle of good vs. evil. They also use the highly flawed NSRV translation, a translation so biased against using “male gender” language that it rewrites and reinterprets vast portions of scripture to meet a feminist agenda.

      • mykgreen says:

        once again great info. thanks so much for taking the time to provide your very helpful insight! I shall seriously contemplate it.

  15. Ben says:

    I loved your article and responses to the questions, and I was impressed by your knowledge of McArthur’s, Ryrie’s, and the many other commentator’s, theological positions. Your articulation of biblical doctrines and varying positions was brilliant, without obfuscation, and quite enjoyable to read. I completely agree with you on justification, sanctification, and glorification, and it was refreshing to finally read something on the internet that espoused a biblical position on these topics. However, I feel I should point out, and I am sure you are aware, that not all amillennialists are preterists: some are pre-tribulationists, some post, and some partial-preterists. And lastly I would argue that Covenant Theology isn’t replacement theology. I wish I could find a study bible that honestly and fairly presented all of these various eschatological views, with the exception of full-preterism; because the bias on these views are rampant; i.e., your lack of recommendation of study bibles that don’t agree with your eschatological view.

    God Bless,

    • I don’t believe I have ever stated that all amillennialists are preterists. I did state in one of my replies to a comment that my understanding of the notes on Revelation in the ESV Study Bible is that they lean to an a-millennial and preterist interpretation of Revelation. My understanding of preterism suggests most preterists lean more to post-millennial eschatology.
      I also find it difficult to believe that amillennialists could consistently hold to any pre-tribulational eschatology. My understanding of amillennialism is that they interpret the millennium allegorically as being the church age. And I base my understanding, not on what dispensationalists have written on the subject, but the writings of two amillennialists themselves and my personal acquaintanceship with a third. One of those writers is William Hendrickson, who wrote a commentary on Revelation promoting the amillennial viewpoint called More Than Conquerors. The other writer is the late Gareth Reese, who was professor emeritus of New Testament at Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Missouri and authored a comparison of the eschatological views called Let’s Study Prophecy.
      My third source on understanding amillennialism is the late Robert Lowry, who was professor of New Testament at Lincoln Christian University when I was pursuing my MA in theology 20 years ago.
      As for the idea that there are amillennialists who believe in a pre-tribulation Rapture, I would like to know what specific writings espouse that view because my understanding of amillennialism is that those who hold to such a view basically view the entire church age as being both the millennium and the Great Tribulation. Of course they have a different view of both because they believe that the tribulation is not a time of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth, but rather a purging of the Church to separate the wheat from the tares–which is why many dispensationalists believe amillennialism, historic [mid-trib, and post-trib] premillennialism promote a form of salvation by works.
      As for my lack of recommending study Bibles which don’t agree with my eschatological views, that should be expected. I would not expect an amillennialist or a post-millennialist to recommend the MacArthur Study Bible, a Ryrie Study Bible, or any other Study Bible promoting dispensationalism. Moreover, the notes I have seen in study Bibles which do promote other eschatological views tend to not only be dismissive of dispensational views, but do so in a pejorative manner which mocks and demeans those who disagree with them. The late John Gerstner and his acolyte R.C. Sproul have gone so far as to say they do not believe dispensationalists are really Christian and that they teach a false Gospel. So why would/should I recommend people spend money for a Bible in which they are demeaned and insulted?
      As for Covenant theology not being the same as replacement theology, again, I would like to request your sources for that information, because every Covenant Theologian I have read: Gerstner, Sproul, Allis, Hendrickson, equates the Church with Israel, even to the extent of calling the Church, “the New Israel.” The theological terms is “supersessionism,” meaning that in Covenant theology, the Church has superseded [replaced] Israel as the covenant people of God.

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