ESV Literary Study Bible

The Bible uses several types of literary forms including genre, literary imagery, metaphors, plot, setting, stylistic and rhetorical techniques, and literary artistry. Although the Bible contains these types of writings, they’re not usually discussed or pointed out. Crossway’s ESV Literary Study Bible focuses on the literary aspects of the Bible. It not only provides notes that focus on biblical literature, but it’s done in a way that works as a reading Bible. This edition is an update to the one that Crossway released several years ago. This is ISBN 9781433568718, cloth-over-board, made in China.

Crossway provided this Bible in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review, only an honest one. All opinions are my own.


This Bible is available at (affiliates)



and many local Bible bookstores


Table of Contents

  1. Video Review
  2. Materials
  3. Typography
  4. Book Introductions
  5. Study Material
  6. Maps
  7. Conclusion

Video Review

Table of Contents


The cover is burgundy cloth-over-board with gold printing on the front and spine. The gold printing includes a styled border and lines between the text. It looks like a book you’d expect to see in a library. The liner is thick gold paper with a styled design. It’s Smyth sewn and has no trouble staying open to any page. It includes one 1/4″ single-sided ribbon in burgundy to match the cover. The ribbon is long enough to pull to the corner to open the Bible.

The paper seems to be the same that Crossway uses for other study Bibles. It feels to be in the lower to mid-30s in GSM. It’s white in color and has no glare under direct light. The show-through is just noticeable, but I didn’t find it to be too much to be distracting. It has a smooth texture that’s just rough enough to be easy to turn.

Table of Contents


The ESV Literary Study Bible follows a design that’s similar to the ESV Story of Redemption Bible. The 2016 ESV text is presented in a single-column, paragraph layout with commentary placed in a paragraph within the text in a smaller font. A line divides the start of the commentary from the text. Poetry is placed in stanzas. The text does not include section headings. The header shows the book name, chapter, and verse number in the outer margin. The page number is placed in the center. Translation footnotes are placed in the footer in a small font.

The font is a 9-point in black letter. The print is medium-dark and it’s highly consistent throughout. The level of darkness is easy to read in any light and I find it ideal for reading for long periods of time. It has around 14 words per line and it’s line-matched, so the lines on both sides of the page line-up to reduce show-through. Poetry looks great in this layout, which is to be expected in a layout with 14 words per line. The text is clean and works great for reading.

The commentary is about an 8-point font and looks different enough from the text that it’s easy to tell which is biblical text and which is not. I like this design. I found it easy to ignore when I just wanted to read, and it’s easy to know the portion of text it corresponds to. Even though it has commentary notes, it still works well as a reading Bible.

Table of Contents

Book Introductions

The book introductions are unique. They do cover the base features of the books, but they include a general introduction that covers the literary forms of the book. Introductions also explain the genre, plot, etc. They take a couple of pages and include several sections. Many include sections that are unique to them or unique to the genre of the book. I found them to be well-written and informative. They provide some basic information that helps understand the book but they also dig deeper into the literary forms of the book to help you better understand the book’s genre and unique features.

Features include:

  • At a Glance
  • Format
  • Genres
  • Unifying Elements
  • Tips for Reading
  • Format and Distinguishing Features
  • Inferred Literary Intentions
  • Theological Themes
  • The Book as a Chapter in the Master Story of the Bible
  • The Book as a Master Story of the Bible

Table of Contents

Study Material

Most of the study material is a paragraph that is placed within the Bible text. It also includes an introduction in the front, a glossary, and a reading plan that’s based on the literary forms.


A detailed introduction shows the types of literature that are contained in the Bible. This is a large article that goes into great detail about all of the genres. It introduces the topic and then discusses:

  • What it means that the Bible is literature
  • Approaching the Bible as literature
  • Fallacies about a literary approach to the Bible
  • Twelve literary features of the Bible
  • How to use this literary Bible

Each section includes multiple points and goes into detail about each one. I found this article fascinating and well worth reading. It helps set up the commentary, so the notes will make more sense.


The commentary provides 1200 study notes that focus on the literary elements of the Bible. They’re short (most are a paragraph) and include a title, a reference for the portion of Scripture they correspond to, and the notes. They mostly discuss the types of literature for specific portions of Scripture, pointing out patterns, structure, etc. They show key factors of passages that point to the types of literature they are and provide insights on them. Many show how they fit within the context of Scripture. Some include information on how a passage has been interpreted. I especially like those of the Psalms. Each psalm has one that works like an introduction to the psalm. I enjoyed reading them for this review and I’m looking forward to reading more.


The Glossary of Literary Terms and Genres is 14 pages. It provides definitions of the various literary terms found in the notes of this Bible. Many of the definitions include illustrations from the Bible. The glossary provides a list of sources where you can learn more about the terms. The definitions include the types of writing and terms such as plot, archetype, battle story, epic, lyric, narrator, rescue story, royal psalm, etc. I found this glossary fascinating. It provides information about all of the literary forms of the Bible in one place.

Daily Reading Plan

The daily reading plan takes you through the Bible in one year. Rather than a standard reading plan, it divides the readings by literature types. It provides a table with the month and day, then four readings. This is an interesting way to divide daily reading. I’ve already started a reading plan for this year, but I look forward to trying this one. When I come back to the ESV for my yearly read-through, this will be the Bible I read.

Readings include:

  1. Psalms and Wisdom Literature
  2. Pentateuch and History of Israel
  3. Chronicles and Prophets
  4. Gospels and Epistles

Table of Contents


Maps are printed on thick, semi-glossy pages. This is a reduced set of maps with only four. They’re printed in two colors, with tan and half having a blue tint and the other half having a green tint. Maps include distance, routes, water, cities, and territories. They’re really nice maps, but being a cartography nerd, I’d like to see more maps rather than fewer.

Maps include:

  • The World of the Patriarchs
  • The Twelve Tribes of Israel
  • Palestine in the Time of Jesus
  • Paul’s Missionary Journeys

Table of Contents


Crossway’s ESV Literary Study Bible is an interesting Bible. it’s made well and the size is great for carrying and reading. Although it does have notes, it looks and feels more like a reading Bible. This makes the ESV Literary Study Bible a hybrid that works well for both uses. It looks similar to the original, but the design is cleaner. If you love reading and learning about literature, then you’ll love ESV Literary Study Bible. It’s especially well-suited for Bible teachers, writers, and those who love to read.

Table of Contents


This Bible is available at (affiliates)



and many local Bible bookstores



Crossway provided this Bible in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review, only an honest one. All opinions are my own.

About The Author

Randy A Brown

WordPress writer by day, Bible reviewer by night, pastor all the time. And there's also that author thing.


  1. Ted

    Is this the exact same as the 2007 ESV Literary Study Bible with a different cover?

    • Randy A Brown

      I don’t have the 2007 edition to compare, but looking at the photos on Christianbook, the notes don’t have the same colored background. I’m not sure if there are other differences.

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