In 2018, the ESV Archaeology Study Bible released to great fanfare. It was only the second specifically archaeologically-related study Bible, coming some 13 years after the NIV Archaeological Study. Both are excellent resources for those who wish to see the biblical text in the light of ancient near eastern archaeology. Having used my NIV Archaeological Study Bible for years, and the ESV Archaeology Study Bible for the last eight months, here is I how I feel they compare with each other.
|ESV Archaeology Study Bible||
NIV Archaeological Study Bible
|Version||English Standard Version||New International Version (1984)|
|Editors||Dr. John Currid and Dr. David Chapman||Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr and Dr. Duane Garrett|
|Number of Pages||2048 pages||2336 pages|
|Number of Study Notes||over 2,000 study notes||8000 study notes|
|Number of Articles||15 full-length articles||520 short articles|
|Number of Photos||400 full-color photographs||500 full-color photographs|
|Number of Maps and Diagrams||0ver 200||Detailed charts and many in-text color maps|
|Red Letter Ed.||No||Yes|
Binding and Paper
I have the standard hardcover in each version. The ESV Archaeology Study Bible has a classic, academic look with a matte finish. The NIV Archaeological Study Bible has a more “mass-market” feel with it’s glossy photo cover. Preference is a subjective thing, but I prefer the ESV Archaeology Study Bible’s cover to that of the NIV Archaeological Study Bible.
The ESV Archaoelogical Study Bible is also available in Trutone imitation leather and genuine leather bindings. The NIV Archaeological Study Bible is now out-of-print, but it was available in Duotone imitation leather, bonded leather, Top Grain leather, European leather, and Renaissance leather bindings.
The ESV Archaeology Study Bible has a paperweight of 36gsm, and it’s pages are opaque. Translation: it has a nice feel and you don’t have to worry about the text from the other side of the page annoyingly bleeding through. The paperweight of the NIV Archaeological Study Bible feels about the same.
UPDATE: I began reading the ESV Archaeology Study Bible each morning in January 2019. After only eight months of light reading, the binding started to wear significantly and come apart. When I reached out to Crossway I was informed that their hardcover Bibles do not have any sort of warranty. The binding of my NIV Archaeological Study Bible is far more robust and remains intact years later, after far more use.
Layout and Font Size
Evaluating the layout of a professionally published book is always subjective. If one likes a simple, minimalist approach, then the ESV Archaeology Study Bible will be preferred. On the other hand, the one who likes many graphics will appreciate the layout of the NIV Archaeological Study Bible and its imitation ancient-looking pages.
The ESV Archaeology Study Bible has a larger font size than the NIV Archaelogical Study Bible, and because of it’s minimalist layout, is easier to read.
Both Bibles give a set of study notes that illuminate the historical background of the text. Both make frequent note of the key archaeological finds that relate the relevant passages. Both have excellent articles supplementing the text. Both give good overviews of each book of the Bible. As such, both are good resources for the layperson who wishes to get the cultural context of each passage.
The articles in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible are arranged in five general categories: Archaeological Sites; Cultural and Historical Notes; Ancient Peoples; Lands and Rulers; The Reliability of the Bible; and Ancient Texts and Artifacts. The articles in the ESV Archaeology Study Bible are not grouped thematically like this, but cover much the same information.
If I were to generalize, I would say that the notes and book introductions in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible are more in-depth, while the ESV Archaeology Study Bible has more maps and diagrams throughout to illuminate the text.
I will admit that I was disappointed in the ESV Study Bible for inexplicably leaving out the latest research on Ai in Joshua 7 & 8 (an area I have an interest in). They only considered the older theory of et-Tell as the site of Joshua’s Ai, despite the numerous problems with this identification. On the other hand, nearby Khirbet el-Maqatir, which fits all of the biblical requirements and was excavated from 1995-2016 by the Associates for Biblical Research leading to its identification as the actual site of Joshua’s Ai, was not even mentioned. This sort of omission is inexcusable.
Perhaps the best way to compare the content of the two is to show you pictures of each side-by-side:
If you’re looking for a good, general overview of the relevant discoveries in biblical archaeology, the ESV Archaeology Study Bible is the way to go. It is up-to-date and easily available.
If you’re looking for a study Bible that is a bit more in-depth, try to find a used copy of the NIV Archaeological Study Bible (it’s out-of-print), or download the Kindle version from Amazon.
I always recommend purchasing books and Bibles through your local Christian bookstore to support local businesses. You can also purchase them from Amazon using the hotlinks provided.
Note: Neither Crossway, nor Zondervan gave these Bibles to me and neither asked me to write a review. All of the opinions expressed above are my own.
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