My dream study Bible has been born! I am on the verge of crying and jumping for joy! Crossway has announced that Dr. Leland Ryken (English professor at Wheaton College, noted author of several prominent Biblical literature books, and the literary stylist of the English Standard Version Bible) and his son, Dr. Philip Graham Ryken (the noted pastor, author, and theologian) have teamed up to create what could be the magnum opus of each one’s work: The Literary Study Bible, due to be released this September.
Why am I so excited? Because, according to the ESV Bible Blog, this new study tool “approaches the Bible as literature and shows how the application of literary tools of analysis helps tremendously in reading and understanding the Bible. Readers are introduced to the literary features of each book of the Bible and to each section within each book.” Indeed, from the downloadable brochure, I find myself faced with a taste of a study Bible which both satiates my desire for great literary analysis of the biblical prose and poetry that the studies for my B.A. in English indwelled in me and, at the same time, encourages me with a refreshingly reverent view of the scriptures as the true story of God, given by God. I am encouraged also by the fact that Leland and Philip published Ryken’s Bible Handbook (Tyndale House Publishers) last year, which has instantly been one of my top resources in personal study and teaching preparation (as it also contains great literary analysis by the elder Ryken). Of course, the icing upon this sweet cake of divine literature is the translation used by the Rykens, the English Standard Version. Leland Ryken did a masterful job overseeing the literary style of this translation, truly creating a masterwork of modern English prose reminiscent of its King James ancestor, while the translators worked diligently to make this one of the best word-for-word accurate translation ever produced. These things have led me to use the ESV for about three years now. It is the translation of my personal study and meditation, as well as the translation I use when teaching my students. I am glad that the study Bible which seeks to indulge us in the Holy Scriptures’ literary value is being based upon the modern translation with the most literary beauty and accuracy.
During my Bible as Literature college course as an English major, I was subjected to books by Robert Alter and others throwing the most liberal, critical literary analysis on the Bible possible, often going against good sensible literary reading. I am incredibly thankful that the great Doctors Ryken have sought to finally give the solid Christian believer who happens to appreciate the literary value of the greatest story ever told the chance to dive into the divine epic for all it’s worth. If the preview brochure is any indication, I will be recommending this new study edition of the ESV to my closest friends, family members, colleagues, and students.