The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible runs to over 2200 pages. Its dimensions are 9.5x7x2 inches and it weighs over 3 lbs. Although the notes would be useful for queries on the street, it is probably not for open-air preaching!
What is the aim?
The ‘Welcome’ explains the aim as follows: ‘What you hold in your hands is both the Bible and tools to help you understand the Bible’. This aim of enabling users to read with understanding is met to the extent possible in one manageable volume.
What do you get?
You will have the Authorised Version in a comfortably readable print, plus the following in readable but quite small print:
(1) Introductions: There are short introductions to each Bible book, covering authorship, date, theme, purpose, synopsis, and an outline which is also printed in the notes beneath the text. Thereby, page by page, you know your exact location in relation to the overall scheme. This is your onboard, literary satnav.
The introductions to the poetic books are particularly useful, and the one on the Psalms, among other details, helpfully explains those Hebrew words in the inspired inscriptions that people wonder about, such as Maschil (teaching), Upon Mahalath (sickness), Alamoth (virgins), Shiggaion (wander), and others.
(2) Notes: The brief explanatory notes, page by page, aid understanding of the text, dealing with word meanings, biblical customs and other factors affecting interpretation.
On the first promise of the Redeemer (Genesis 3:15), the notes explain: ‘The singular, seed, points to one man (4:25; cf. Galatians 3:16), the champion of God’s people who will bring victory over Satan by his grace (Romans 16:20). But the serpent would nevertheless strike him (“bruise his heel”), so that salvation comes through suffering’ (p.13).
This sets the tone for the volume, which is replete with the theme of spiritual conflict and victory through Christ, the crucified and resurrected Saviour.
(3) Applications: Helpful devotional thoughts for personal devotions or family worship are included for each chapter. Thoughts for Matthew 1 include the following: ‘Jesus’ saving work is at the forefront of the Gospels … Sinners of all stripes and dyes can find in this God-man a qualified and able Saviour.
‘His spotless life of obedience and his payment of the price for sin resulted in a complete and effective salvation. Are you trusting in Christ to save you from sin?’ (p.1357). Doubtless this volume would be of value to both saved and unsaved readers.
(4) Articles: Useful one-page articles are interspersed through the volume on relevant topics, related to God’s being, creation, sin, Christ, salvation, the church and the doctrine of the last things. In connection with Christ, the articles cover his offices, incarnation, states, satisfaction of God’s justice, and resurrection, among others things.
There is a valuable supplement at the end of the volume, with the following contents:
(1) Practical: There is a series of articles giving guidance for Christian living, covering topics such as coming to Christ, prayer, worship, fellowship, self-denial, coping with criticism, family worship, respective duties of spouses, raising children, work, leisure and other interesting topics. These are all very practical and could be used with advantage for pastoral visits and group study, as well as essential personal reading.
(2) Historical: There is a survey of the last 2000 years of church history, with one page for each century. It does not sound much space for 100 years, but this is a splendid overview for anyone to make a start with, and provides key markers of the progress of the gospel and development of the church. Readers are likely to want to read more church history and biography after studying this synopsis.
(3) Doctrinal: Over 100 pages are devoted to important historical confessions, going back to the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. Masterpieces of the Reformed heritage are also included, such as the Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort and Westminster Standards. For those with the capacity, memorisation of all that can be achieved will furnish the Bible student with a personal ‘random access memory’ of biblical doctrine for instant retrieval!
(4) Biblical: There is a one-year Bible reading scheme, based on four chapters a day from different books, which is manageable for those determined to get through the Bible in a systematic way.
There are several indispensable charts of money, weights and measures for easy reference. There are 100 pages of concordance that might help in finding references, where you recall only a word or two of a text, or to assist with word studies. There are also 14 colour maps, giving appropriate geographical information for the different biblical periods. (The one on the Exodus is rather ambivalent concerning the crossing of the sea.)
What are the strengths of this volume?
(1) All in one: The entire Bible, with useful notes and helps are in one volume. The Trinitarian Bible Society is committed to publishing the Scriptures without notes, and there is good reason for that stance, since the gap between the inspired Word of God and the best annotations in the world is unbridgeable. But this fact is recognised by the publishers and is drawn to the attention of readers in the second paragraph of the ‘Welcome’.
(2) Reliability: Throughout the volume, there is an absolute commitment to the truth of the inspired Word of God. An introductory article, ‘The King James Version: its tradition, text and translation’ (pp. xiii-xix), explains that the AV has been used because it is based upon the ecclesiastically preserved Received Text that has been in use in the church through the centuries, and because the AV was translated on a formal-equivalence basis that has stood the test of time in use.
(3) Faithfulness: The contributors uniformly maintain a conservative evangelical stance in dealing with such matters as creation, authorship, interpretation and dating. The issues are dealt with in a way suitable for the general reader. The notes and articles are concise and plainly written in understandable English.
(4) Comprehensiveness: If you were on a desert island, with but one book and no iPad, you would be glad to have this volume. Not only would you have a reliable Bible translation, but also the brief distillation of our Reformed heritage in introductions, notes and articles to help you understand it.
What are the limitations?
A great deal has been compressed into this one volume but this publication is not a substitute for Reformed commentaries. The contributors’ material is necessarily brief and follows their chosen approach to a book.
In the Old Testament, for example, the Song of Solomon is approached as allegorical. In the New Testament a cyclical approach is taken to the Book of Revelation and one would have to look elsewhere for traditional historicist insights.
It also goes without saying that the reader cannot expect the degree of devotional application to be found in Matthew Henry’s Commentary, which runs to multiple volumes in the full version.
Some chronological charts of Bible history would have been a further enhancement.
This volume gives you a reliable Bible version, and helpful tools to find your way round the Bible, together with devotional prompts and other helps. If this is what you want, I do not think you will be disappointed in what you get for your money. It is worth considering giving this as a gift, to younger folk and others.
The pressures of life easily crowd out regular Bible study, but this volume provides a systematic reading scheme.
The BBC and others peddle a lot of theological and religious liberalism, to which this volume provides an antidote. Confessional Christianity is on the wane in many quarters, but access to a wonderful heritage is provided here. Practical holiness of life needs all the prompts it can get and the articles on practical Christianity are helpful to this end.
Consequently, this volume can undoubtedly help with these strategic needs of our present generation.
Reviewer’s note: Reader’s should be aware that The Reformer (May/June) commented that Protestant interpretations had not been upheld for Matthew 16:18 (the ‘rock’) and Romans 6:1-4 (justification), and in the article on Regeneration. The Reformer reported that Dr Beeke has responded that these errors will be corrected in the next edition.