I wish to thank the precious people at LifeWay for sending me a copy of the HCSB Study Bible to review.
Broadman & Holman has entered the study bible market with the new HCSB Study Bible in 2010. This is a very good study bible. As a perused through the HCSB Study Bible, I was taken in by its use of color in highlighting of subheadings, study notes, and cross reference verses. It uses an orangy-tan color to give it that old rustic papyrus look—a tasteful use of color. The various colors give good contrast makes it easier to locate verses. What makes most other reference bibles inconvenient and difficult to use is when the cross references look like “one big blur” of numbers and verses. The HCSB-SB’s blue contrasting of verse numbers makes it much easier to locate the verse you are reading. The solid horizontal yellow bar that highlights the alternate and literal translations acts as a natural page divider. This breaks the page up so the reader can quickly find the bible text above and the study notes below. I like this.
The font size of the bible text is reasonable and not too small and is similar to Times New Roman. The study notes font size is a smaller type of Arial is readable. The bolded text of key words is good too because it breaks up the “one big blur” factor. The tan-brown subheadings is easy to read and helps the reader to locate the topic of the biblical text. In the paper department, the bible paper used is not too thin, which is good. Some study bible paper is so thin that they can tear easily if you’re not careful. The paper in this one is a decent weight. For a bible that has 2280 pages, it is on the heavier side but it’s not difficult to carry around.
The construction of the HCSB Study Bible is very good because the binding is Smyth-sewn rather than glued so I expect this bible will last a long time. All of the glued bibles are cheap to make and begin to fall apart after the glue dries up. How can you tell if a bible’s binding is Smyth-sewn or glued? Lay it flat and if the pages stay flat, then it is likely Smyth-sewn. A more sure way to tell is by examining the edge of the binding from either the top or bottom view, if you see sections of pages folded into many sections, these sections are sewn together. If you see some glue, it’s just to tighten it up but not to hold the page together. However, if all the pages look like they are individually glued directly to the glue (similar to paperbacks), and you don’t see any small sections of folded pages, then you can be sure it’s a cheap glue job.
The text uses a two-column layout. This is fine for me. Some people prefer a single-column layout but I’m fine with two-columns. What is important for me is that the inner biblical quotations (intertextual quotes from other books of the bible) are indented. This helps the reader to know when a passage or verse is being quoted by another biblical writer. For example, the writer of Hebrews quoted Psalm 95:7-11 in Hebrews 3:7-11. The quote text from Psalm 95 is bolded in Hebrews. This is a good feature I really like about the HCSB-SB. I think it is important when you are doing a study or exegeting a passage of text. A careful exegete-reader wants to easily determine where the inner biblical text originates from. Moreover, given the good visibility of cross-references, the reader can quickly locate the inner-biblical text.
Another feature that is useful for the exegete-reader is the word study of key words or family of words showing the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of the 175 Hebrew key words and 133 Greek key words. It also explains the definition and expands upon how the word is used in other instances in the bible. If you like AMG Publishers Key Word Study Bible but you’re too lazy to flip pages to really use it to its potential, then you might like this handy feature.
Each book introduction includes circumstances of writing (authorship, background); message and purpose; contribution to the bible; timeline; structure; and outline.
• There are 18+ hand-drawn color illustrations, plus many more color photos in various places throughout the bible.
• 20 charts, plus many more charts placed throughout.
• 62 maps, plus 8 full-page maps on thick paper in the back of the bible. In the maps and illustration category, I would say that it is even better than the other major study bibles.
The contributors to the study notes are some of the top evangelical scholars. These include Ed Blum, Robert Yarbrough, Andreas Kostenberger, Duane Garrett, Walter Kaiser, Tremper Longman III, Carl Anderson, plus many more. The essays are also contributed by some of the top evangelical scholars George Guthrie, Robert H. Stein, Mark E. Dever, Daniel B. Wallace, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, plus more.
The contributors to the study notes are evangelical first and they seem to be largely from a Baptistic background. That is very obvious in looking at the list of contributors of the study notes and essays. I get a very strong impression that the study notes of this study bible are primarily written by Baptists, and secondarily by evangelicals. If you are Baptist, and prefer a baptistic theology, then this study bible is for you. Dr. Edwin A. Blum is the general editor of the HCSB, and is the executive editor of the HCSB Study Bible, is not Baptist, but the overall tone of this study bible is still Baptist and conservative evangelical—either dispensationalist and Calvinist.
Will the majority of contributors being Baptists be a barrier for this study bible? I don’t think so. Most evangelicals are familiar with baptistic theology and we receive Baptists like any other evangelical Christian. On the other hand, if Broadman & Holman wanted the broadest appeal for the HCSB-SB, they might want to broaden their scope of contributors. There are many other evangelicals other than Baptists, e.g., Wesleyan, Alliance, Pentecostal, Holiness, Nazarene, Ev. Presbyterian, Free Methodist, Mennonite Brethren, Evangelical Free, plus many more.
This is an excellent study bible. I definitely put this study bible up there in the same league with the ESV Study Bible and NLT Study Bible [added: and Concordia’s Lutheran Study Bible]. Broadman & Holman did a very fine job putting this together. I am sure this will become one of the premier study bibles as people begin to take more notice of it.