We live in an age of informational riches. The world is literally at our fingertips—at least in the form of text and images. Nowhere is this more evident than in the study of the Bible. There is nothing more precious than understanding, believing, and obeying the Word of God. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). We have so many resources available to help us understand the Scriptures that the choices are staggering. A Google search on study the Bible yields 70 million results. One website features over 1,700 options under the category of Study Bibles.
Given all the choices out there, why would I devote a huge chunk of my precious time to editing a new Study Bible? The answer goes back to a napkin. To be more precise, it was some notes scribbled on a napkin while I had lunch with Michael Barrett. As we ate and chatted, we were surprised to discover that we both had the same dream of a Study Bible that combined the classic text of the King James Version with notes explaining the biblical and experiential teachings of the Reformation. God has used these teachings to save sinners and strengthen believers for centuries, and our passion is to see them proclaimed widely today. Later I talked with my colleague at seminary, Jerry Bilkes, and learned that he had the same dream too! Both Dr. Barrett and Dr. Bilkes are published scholars in biblical studies, and I have spent my life studying the theology of the Reformers and Puritans. The three of us joined together to form the core editorial team for the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible. Pastor Paul Smalley has also served as an editorial assistant throughout this project. I had no idea how much work this would be, but I am profoundly grateful to God for what has come of it.
My friend and fellow student of the Puritans, Mark Jones, has said that this is “a Study Bible for the heart and mind.” I think that summarizes it well. There is plenty in this Bible to instruct your mind. Thousands of notes, introductions to every book of the Bible, and fifty articles on major teachings of the Christian faith form a constellation of lights illuminating the landscape of our lives. Over a dozen pastor-theologians contributed to the notes, and many of the articles are adapted from the writings of Reformers and Puritans like John Calvin, William Ames, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards. In the back of the Bible you will find twenty one-page articles giving snapshots of each of the first twenty centuries of Christian history, adapted from summaries by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, as well as classic creeds, confessions, and catechisms that the church has used to summarize its faith through the ages.
What excites me most about this Study Bible is the way that it speaks to the heart and feeds the soul. This of course is what the Lord desires for us: that the Bible not rest lightly in our minds but sink its roots deeply into our hearts to change our lives (Deut. 6:6; Ps. 119:11). To help readers to bring the Bible home to the heart, every chapter in the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible has notes for personal and family worship. Whether you are reading the Bible in your personal devotions, or reading it with your family, these sections will help you answer the question, “What does this chapter mean for my life?” Furthermore, we have place three dozen additional articles at the back of the Study Bible on how to live the Christian life. They speak to everything from placing your faith in Christ through marriage and family life to facing death with hope and peace. These articles will not only help you, but they will also equip you to help others, whether you are witnessing to a friend or talking to your son or daughter at home.
Some people might ask, “Why the King James Version? Isn’t that really old and out of date?” The KJV or Authorized Version is old; just a few years ago it celebrated its 400th birthday! And the English language has changed in some ways, which is why the study notes explain the meanings of a number of old words. However, most of the KJV is still quite understandable. In fact, the language of the KJV has shaped English so extensively that it is hard to appreciate much of American and British literature without knowing this classic text of the Bible. As one historian said, without the King James Version there would be no Paradise Lost, no Pilgrim’s Progress, no Negro spirituals, and no Gettysburg Address. Our culture has declined significantly in the last century with the dumbing down of our discourse. Reading the KJV strengthens our literacy.
Furthermore, the KJV is a very reliable translation; it gives a literal rendering of the original Hebrew and Greek words. It also presents the full text of the Scriptures as they have been handed down to us, whereas more modern translations tend to cast doubts on precious parts of the Bible like Christ’s forgiveness of the adulterous woman (John 8).
The KJV is far from out of date; one recent study indicated that when among those Americans who read the Bible, fifty-five percent of them read the KJV. The proportion of KJV readers is even higher among African-Americans (79%). This is obviously a translation that God is still blessing. Whether or not a person reads the KJV as his primary Bible, certainly it is a translation that one should consult, and the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible is a set of tools that we pray will bless many different people across the spectrum of English-speaking Bible readers.
As I look at the Study Bible now, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at what God has done. What started as scribbles on a napkin has become 2,200+ pages, the fruit of five years of labor by a team of editors, contributors, and many others. Without disparaging the resources available in other Study Bibles, I am convinced that this Bible brings a unique contribution of instructing the mind, feeding the soul, and helping readers to discover the Reformation roots of the evangelical faith. (For a free sample, go here.)
In this age of informational wealth, indeed informational overload, we are in danger of losing our focus and dealing with the Word of God in a superficial way. The very multiplication of options can trivialize the absoluteness and preciousness of the truth. Please join me in praying that the Holy Spirit would use the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible to root and ground people in the knowledge of Christ, for the glory of God in our lives.
Editor’s Note: It’s no surprise. The KJV is one of the oldest and the most widely read English translation in the world. This upcoming weekend, our friends at Reformation Heritage Books will be giving away a few of these Study Bibles on the BLB blog. Check back to enter.