ESV Archaeology Study Bible vs. NIV Archaeological Study Bible

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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.

Statistical Comparison

ESV Archaeology Study Bible

NIV Archaeological Study Bible

Version English Standard Version New International Version (1984)
Publication Date 2018 2005
Publisher Crossway Zondervan
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
Font Size 9-point 8-point
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.  I’m glad I learned this now, as I was looking at purchasing the hardcover ESV Study Bible – Timeless Edition, as I prefer hardcovers, but will be avoiding Crossway hardcover Bibles for the foreseeable future. The binding of my NIV Archaeological Study Bible is far more robust and remains intact years later, after far more use.

After only eight months of light reading each morning, the binding on the ESV Archaeology Study Bible literally started to fall apart.

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:

ESV Archaeology Study Bible Layout
NIV Archaeological Study Bible Layout
NIV Archaeological Study Bible – Introduction to Daniel
ESV Archaeology Study Bible – Introduction to Daniel
NIV Archaeological Study Bible – Article on the Date of the Exodus
ESV Archaeology Study Bible – Article on the Date of the Exodus
ESV Archaeology Study Bible – Article on the Date of the Exodus













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.


Disclaimer:  Bible Archaeology Report is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.


  1. […] Dr. Ortiz, recently co-founded the Lanier Center for Archaeology to offer doctoral program, field research through Lipscomb University  Previously he served for 20 years as a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, before they decided to shut down their archaeology program.  He has published articles in numerous journals, and contributed to several books.  In particular, he wrote the study notes for Joshua-Ruth in the ESV Archaeology Study Bibe. […]

  2. Both books are available for the Olive Tree Bible app, which I highly, highly recommend. The app is available on all platforms – Android, Apple IOS, PC, and Mac – and syncs almost instantly. Paper is fine, but the app allows highlights of any kind and color, notes with links and tags and a wide variety of icons, and you can drill down in so many ways it’s incredible. If you, Bryan, aren’t currently using the app, I highly recommend you check it out as it’s an invaluable and irreplaceable tool of amazing usefulness. I use the app daily on an iPad and frequently on my PC. The interfaces are very similar. I use the Chronological LASB NLT Bible frequently for getting down the sequence of events, which is complex. Once you’re in, you’ll see its extreme advantages over paper.

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