The Bible is the epic story of the unfolding plan of God over the course of the history of the world.
To help tell that story, Crossway created the ESV Story of Redemption Bible. This new Bible leads readers on a journey through the redemptive storyline from start to finish, with conversational commentary written by pastor Greg Gilbert.
I asked Greg about his experience working on the commentary and his thoughts on the result.
What prompted your desire to help create the Story of Redemption Bible?
One of the greatest joys of pastoring a church has been the opportunity to preach through most of the 66 books of the Bible. As I’ve done that, not necessarily in order, the beauty of the one great story of redemption has just grown brighter and brighter. If you read it correctly, the Bible isn’t just a handbook for life or a collection of pithy proverbs; it’s a story, as grand and moving and tragic and glorious as any you’ve ever heard.
I want to help Christians understand that story better, feel its tensions and drama, and revel in its glorious conclusion. I hope the ESV Story of Redemption Bible will help to do that!
What makes the Story of Redemption Bible unique from the dozens of other kinds of Bibles we see being published?
The unique thing about the ESV Story of Redemption Bible—besides its stunningly beautiful design—is that it puts the storyline front and center. My job, as narrator, is to act as a kind of tour guide as we make our way through the vast mountain ranges, so to speak, of the story of God’s redemption of the world. The point isn’t so much to find “nuggets” of application here and there, but rather to walk through, understand, and feel the whole narrative, to sweep our eyes across the mountains and take in what God has done.
To that end, I walk along with you, showing up in the text at certain intervals to explain what’s going on, what’s about to happen, and why it matters, all with the hope of helping you keep the thread of the story and not get lost and frustrated in the details.
Another unique feature of the ESV Story of Redemption Bible is that if you start in Genesis 1:1 and follow the notes’ instructions, you’ll end up reading all 66 books of the Bible, but not in canonical order. Instead, we read each minor prophet at the appropriate point in the story—when that prophet was actually preaching—and the result is that instead of being a clump of context-less judgment at the end of the Old Testament, the minor prophets come alive as an integral part of the larger history that’s unfolding.
Think of the whole thing as a trek through the Himalayas, with your very own guide to help you through!
When you started working on this project, did you have a particular audience in mind?
The project actually started as an idea for a Bible for brand-new believers, but honestly, as I made my way through the Bible with my focus entirely on the narrative—the drama, characters, hopes, dreams, prophecies, songs—I realized that what I was learning and feeling was far more than just “good reminders” for me (as Christians like to say!). I was seeing the Bible in a new light, feeling it in new ways, and it was massively encouraging to me.
The ESV Story of Redemption Bible will be useful for any believer, new or not. To be sure, it’ll take some work and investment to get the whole benefit of it. Setting out to read all 66 books of the Bible is no small thing! But that’s really the best use of this Bible. Sure, you’ll get some benefit from the notes, I think, just by spot-reading. But the whole point is to start at the beginning, work to the end, and revel in every glorious, tragic, and redemptive moment of the story.
One of my personal favorite aspects of the Story of Redemption Bible is the look and feel of it! Tell us a little bit about the design work behind this project.
I actually didn’t have anything to do with the design, so I feel like I can be over-the-top in my praise of it. . . I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The design team mentioned at one point that they wanted to give it the feel of a “one-volume Lord of the Rings,” and I think they did it. The gold-leaf, intricate designs, maps, graphs, and charts—not to mention the 66 circular medallions for each book of the Bible—really make you feel like you’re setting off on an epic journey.
This Bible doesn’t so much have the feel of the desk and study. It has the feel of adventure. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to!”
How do you see this project serving the local church?
I hope this project will help people understand and love the One Story of the Bible more deeply. It is such a shame that so many Christians and churches spend so much of their time digging around in the dust looking for “nuggets” when spread out before them is the majesty of the mountains, if they’d just lift up their eyes and look!
I hope this Bible will help Christians do that, and I pray it will also help pastors communicate that epic story in their own preaching. Ultimately, Christians don’t need another practical suggestion on how to make this Tuesday better than last Tuesday. They need to have their breath taken away by seeing what God did, over millennia, to save them from their sins.
Greg Gilbert (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of What Is the Gospel?, James: A 12-Week Study, and Who Is Jesus?, and is the co-author (with Kevin DeYoung) of What Is the Mission of the Church?
Zach Barnhart currently serves as Student Pastor of Northlake Church in Lago Vista, TX. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently studying at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, seeking a Master of Theological Studies degree. He is married to his wife, Hannah. You can follow Zach on Twitter @zachbarnhart or check out his personal blog, Cultivated.