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.

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.

Content

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:

esvmatthewtext
ESV Archaeology Study Bible Layout
nivsamplepage
NIV Archaeological Study Bible Layout
nivdanielintro
NIV Archaeological Study Bible – Introduction to Daniel
esvdanielintro
ESV Archaeology Study Bible – Introduction to Daniel
nivexodus
NIV Archaeological Study Bible – Article on the Date of the Exodus
esvexods1
ESV Archaeology Study Bible – Article on the Date of the Exodus
esvexodus2
ESV Archaeology Study Bible – Article on the Date of the Exodus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

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 Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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