Wesley Study Bible by Abingdon

The Wesley Study Bible: NRSV
Publisher: Abingdon Press, 2009
ISBN-10: 0687645034
ISBN-13: 978-0687645039

I wish to thank the good people at Abingdon Press for sending me this review copy.

The first thing I noticed about the Wesley Study Bible was the abundance of study notes.  The study notes seem to be geared toward the average reader of the bible, which makes it very accessible to the average person.  One is not required to have a theological education to make sense of the study notes.  I would also like to point out that occasionally some of the study notes also contain what John Wesley believed and practiced. So it is not just the Wesleyan core terms (which I will say more on) that make the study bible Wesleyan.  However, personally I would like to see even more of Wesley’s commentary.  Why not?  It’s a Wesley Study Bible.

The other thing I noticed were the boxes containing explanations of Wesleyan core terms, and there are more than 200 of these terms. A small handful of these terms include: Christian Conferencing, Circuit Rider, Conviction of Sin, Convincing Grace, Evil Tempers, Free Will, Grace and Works, Holiness of Heart, Itineracy, Means of Grace, Offices of Christ, Sanctifying Grace, Social Holiness, etc.  I think this is one of the most useful features of this bible because they open up some of the terminology related to the Wesleyan tradition.   I would consider this an educational feature of the study bible and it is most fitting.  One such Wesleyan Core Term, “Prevenient Grace”, states:

Wesley followed the idea of prevenient grace (pre-venire, to come before)—that God’s action, not ours, is the beginning of the process of salvation, followed by the necessity of our response.  Wesley believed that God’s universal offer of salvation was analogous to natural conscience whereby everybody knows the difference between good and evil.  However, Wesley said that such a discerning ability was not natural but the result of God’s enlightenment in every person’s mind.  Thus, we are enabled by God to respond freely in one of two ways—respond positively and accept this distinction between good and evil, realizing that we must repent of our sinful ways, or respond negatively, reject such knowledge, and continue in our sinful ways.

I am glad to see this because many people who may call themselves Wesleyans or Methodists may not even understand the meaning of such terminologies.  I sure didn’t but I’m not Wesleyan or Methodist either; however, it gave me a good reason to learn.  Some study bibles based on specific theological traditions do not have much content about what the founding personalities believed and practiced.  As a Wesleyan-Methodist study bible, I am glad to see notes on what John Wesley believed.

There are also nearly 200 Life Application Topics.  These are useful for the practical side of living out of one’s Christian faith.  It runs along similar lines as the Life Application Bible.  Here’s an example from one such topic on pride:

Pride is arrogance and conceit and manifests itself when we delude ourselves into thinking we operate under our own power.  We assume and live as if the world revolves around us instead of our will and way revolving around God.  Pride was the downfall of the first man or woman in the Gen account.  Pride always comes before a fall!  On the other hand, humility looks to God admitting we don’t have all the answers or solutions, but we submit to God’s will and way knowing God knows best.  This is wisdom, and the wise always find joy and lasting fulfillment with God and others.

This Life Application Topic feature further reinforces this bible as a practical study bible. The average persons or readers of the bible who desires to live out one’s faith in society will find this feature helpful in applying scriptural principles to daily living.  There are also nineteen colorful maps in the back of the bible.

The Wesley Study Bible is based on the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation of the bible.  It is one of the best, if not the best, formal equivalent translations available today.  I rely on this translation because it is very accurate and reliable.  It will certainly not be outdated for a long time.   It is also the first translation of choice in many United Methodist churches.

The general editors are Joel B. Green, Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and Will H. Willimon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church who is also an outstanding preacher.  As I turned the pages near the front of the bible to see the editorial board and contributors, I noticed that the people on the editorial board and contributors were from a mix of mainline United Methodists and evangelicals of the Wesleyan and Nazarene traditions.  I believe this makes the Wesley Study Bible one of the most diverse within the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition.  I do not think other study bibles based on specific theological traditions have been able to pull together contributors from a broad spectrum of theological worldviews, but this one manages to do so, which is admirable indeed.

I recommend the Wesley Study Bible to all interested bible readers who want to study the written word of God and receive input from a Wesleyan-Methodist viewpoint.  The very helpful features will deepen one’s theological understanding, and help one apply biblical principles into their lives.  I’m sure you will enjoy the Wesley Study Bible and find it a valuable resource.

It can be purchase online from Cokesbury, Amazon or ChristianBook.com.

11 thoughts on “Wesley Study Bible by Abingdon

  1. Indeed, Kevin, NRSV is a great translation. I don’t know enough about who controls it to know if an update is likely or not. But I would suspect that within the next decade pressure will grow in the academic and mainline church communities sufficiently that work will start on either an update or a new translation. It would be sad if a lot of work went into a new translation, worse still into multiple new translations, when an update to NRSV would probably be better for everyone.


    1. an update to NRSV would probably be better for everyone\

      Exactly. I don’t think it would affect the NRSV but to call it an “update” and NOT a “revision” might also save everyone a headache.


      1. I’m not sure about calling it an update. I would think that significant revisions are necessary. And introducing them as an update without publicity, as happened with the NLT update, is likely to confuse a lot of people. Also I’m sure the publishers prefer to call something a revision as they sell a lot more copies.


    2. I believe that Bruce Metzger (1914-2007) kept the NRSV on a fairly sane track. The National Council of Churches controls the translation. If they can update it along Metzger’s principles, it would be best. If the uncontrollable urge to translate it according to the latest theological biases prevails and God becomes “mother” it will nose dive!

      Since N.T. Wright is going back to teaching, perhaps he could be persuaded to take on the oversight!


      1. Thanks Payton. NT Wright? That’s an idea. He certainly has high qualifications as a theologian but I don’t know how much experience Wright has with bible translations. From what I’ve read, I don’t think he is a bible translator. Two different types you know. But he does favor the NRSV and dislikes the NIV.


  2. Peter, you’re right, it could use some updating. And even though it’s 20 years old, it’s still a great translation and maybe even better than many of the newer ones out there. I hold the TNIV and NRSV as near equals but the ESV is still trailing the NRSV in some respects, and there’s a gap, so it needs to catch up. But the ESV is still a great translation.

    Peter, do you think there may be a chance that the NRSV might not see an update?


  3. [NRSV] will certainly not be outdated for a long time.

    I disagree. This 20 year old translation is now showing its age, in both its scholarship and its English language. It needs to be revised, or is in danger of being rendered obsolete by the NIV update (assuming that remains gender accurate) and by other regularly updated versions like ESV and HCSB. Whether it actually will be updated is another matter.


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