You may have noticed over the last week I kept posting pictures of the new ESV Reader’s Bible Six-Volume Set from Crossway. They were gracious enough to send a review set my way, and pictures seemed more apt to capture this Bible than my descriptions.
I implied in my posts that I was working through a reading plan. The particular approach, the Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers, was something I stumbled upon in Justin Taylor’s annual Bible reading post from last year. I modified it slightly by moving to a new volume each day and leaving Sunday open. Since we are talking about Bible reading rather than Bible study, Sunday might end up being a good study day. Or, Sunday could be a second round with a rotating volume each week.
The first thing you notice when you crack open the Pentateuch volume is that there are periodic headings, but no chapter numbers. I was expecting no verse numbers and for the text to be laid out like a typical book. I wasn’t quite expecting uninterrupted text for page after page. Throughout Genesis at least, the toledot sections give you a good idea where the various headings show up in the text.
This trend continues into the Historical Books. With both of these first two volumes, it really does feel like a more natural book reading experience. In the original version of the reading plan, you read back to back days in the Historical Books. However, I moved on to the next volume.
In the poetry books, the Psalms are split up by actual psalm. There is also a move obvious division between the internal books of the Psalms. Job on the other hand is a little bit of a bear because the section with the friend’s dialogue runs without headings breaking it up. Both Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon seem much more readable in a single sitting in this format. Because you don’t necessarily have to start with the first book in each volume as part of this reading plan, I actually began with Proverbs (see previous point about Job).
You’ll notice I did something similar in the Prophets by skipping ahead to the minor prophets. I’m going to try to read each in a single sitting on the days I read this volume. Then I’ll go back and pick up with Isaiah or Jeremiah most likely. That is part of the beauty of this plan, in that you don’t have to stick to consecutive books, you just are trying to read in different genres each day of the week so you are taking in the whole counsel of God over time. And if you miss a day, you just move on to the next volume.
The headings return in the Gospels and make this volume the most user friendly for short reading times. Given the missing chapters and verses, you may notice more connections in the layout. For instance, the “sandwiches” in Mark might stick out a bit more when you read through with typical paragraph headings disrupting the text.
Finally, the main thing I noticed in the Epistle volume is that each is treated like a unit and so has no headings. This appears to suggest you should read each epistle in one sitting, which is honestly a great idea. Once again, you don’t necessarily have to start right off with Romans, but you certainly can.
In terms of an overall assessment, I think ESV Reader’s Bible Six-Volume Set ought to find its way under numerous Christmas trees in a month or so. The $100 price tag is obviously high, but because of the aesthetic appeal and potential impact to your Bible reading, for most people it might be worth it. I received this copy free from Crossway but if I hadn’t, this would probably be the only thing on my Christmas list.
You obviously don’t need this particular multi-volume Bible to do the reading plan I outlined above, but it certainly helps. If you’re looking to change things up in your daily (or semi-daily) reading, definitely check out (and by that I mean try) the plan. And then decide whether the multi-volume Bible is something you’d like to invest in. Or, you know what? Just decide whether to invest in this Bible for yourself or someone who you know would love it.